How do I start writing for a living?

How do I start writing for a living?

Freelance writing has traditionally been a low-paying career. It involves a great deal of uncertainty, waiting sometimes months for responses from editors and more months waiting for checks to be sent. Yet, freelancers that are willing to forgo the prestige and glamour of bylines and high visibility markets can make a tidy income doing work-for-hire writing.

This sort of freelance writing generally entails selling all rights to your work and settling for no byline or allowing someone else’s byline to appear on your work. This can be tough for some writers, but those who are willing will find lots of work.

Start by finding a niche market. For me, that market has been health care and patient education. Almost all doctors have to do some amount of patient education. This is time-consuming and the resulting documents have to be kept current as new treatments and therapies become standard. Any small-sized city will have hundreds of physicians, almost all of which will need handouts for their patients. From this market alone, I’ve managed to earn a steady income of at least $14,000 per year for the last 20 years.

Expand the niche market that you develop. Physicians are not the only people concerned with the health of their patients. There are many industries besides the medical industry that are interested in their customer’s health. Private gyms, spas, insurance agents, home health care providers, medical supply houses, health food stores, and dental and optical professionals are also interested in educating their customer base. You will find that doing research in one niche opens up new markets in subsidiary niches. Seek out these niches and focus on ways of presenting your research from your primary niche to meet the needs of the secondary niche. Expanding my niche market has netted me another minimum of $7,000 per year in income.

Broaden your horizons. While work for hire writing is the focus of my freelance career, I’ve also sought out as many ways as possible to resell the research that I do. Often, I’ve been able to sell six or seven pieces of work from a few hours of research work. Other markets for me have been newspapers, trade magazines, web sites, newsletters, and advertising literature. No matter how narrow your niche is, there are going to be many industries with information needs similar to your focus market. Find them and add another $7,000 per year to your bottom line.

Seek out credentials in your niche.

Early in my career, I discovered that medicine and health care were very interesting for me and I could understand the jargon and find resources that supported my writing. Yet, I had no medical credentials what so ever. My first step was to get some sort of formal medical training, even if that training was low level. I took a six-week course at my local vocational school and became a certified nursing assistant.

Certainly not a glamour job and it’s not a career I ever pursued, but I now had at least a minimum credential that assured clients I had some knowledge of the health care industry. From there, I took other short courses in health care, learning all I could. I volunteered to do medical research for a small group of physicians who I could then use as references and sources. Soon, I was a local expert in patient education.

Once you hit this ‘expert’ stage, you will be sought out for projects related to your niche. I have picked up work teaching classes to groups of patients with chronic illnesses that I’ve proven I was knowledgeable about. I’ve instructed health care students on the topic of patient education. I routinely am asked to do medical research work for physicians too busy to wade through journals for the few kernels of information they require.

Turn your niche writing into a service for your focus market. Most markets that you could choose will have trade or professional journals that are targeted at them. Provide your clients with regular opportunities to buy summaries of articles and research pertinent to them. The physicians that I provide patient education information to have educational needs of their own. Each month, I scan the new medical journals and research reports available online for topics that interest my clients.

I compile a list of these topics and fax them to my clients with a price for summary reports of these articles and reports. My clients then fax me backorder for the pieces they would like to have. This effort also opens up new topics for patient education, subsidiary industry articles, and reports, and lecture opportunities. All of my research work is used many times over, pulling as much income out of each bit of research as possible.

Setting yourself up with a continuing stream of business from this sort of writing entails some salesmanship. You’ll need to put together materials that sell your niche market on using you. Focus on the benefits your work will bring to your focus market’s customer base and the time you will be saving your customers by providing them with this service. Your pay off will be reliable streams of income, something many freelancers only dream about.

Setting yourself

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