As writers, it’s always a brilliant feeling when we get paid for our hard work.
When you’re first starting out, getting paid makes you feel like you’re on top of the world and nothing, absolutely nothing can stand in your way! As you mature in your writing skills it becomes a familiar and pleasant routine that just happens to pay the bills, much as if you made money by stepping into a pair of old, comfortable slippers.
But the problem with paying the bills from the words you write is simple and thorny, as all budget problems tend to be. Royalties, the check for the last news article you wrote, and the late payment from the business that hired you to freelance a brochure for them are all notoriously unreliable as stable, steady income. If you’re trying to provide for a family or pay off your college loans on time, one single avenue for your writing doesn’t quite cut it.
Even authors with established reputations and plenty of royalties coming in, think of Orson Scott Card, Kathryn Rusch, and John Updike, don’t just publish books. They also write articles, blogs, e-books, columns and quite a bit more.
The more genres you acclimate yourself to writing for the less dependent you are when one of them fails to produce the money you need on time. Take a trick from the investing world and diversify your efforts and, over time, you tend to get a better, safer return. The answer to the writer’s unstable income conundrum is what I’ve termed writing streams.
A writing stream is simply a method of you getting your writing out into the world, be it the internet, newspapers, books etc. And the aim is to become involved and writing for multiple streams at once.
Here are my own personal writing streams I’m either concentrating on right now or plan on breaking into in the relatively close future. Each of these areas could have multiple articles written about them, so I’m only providing a birds eye view of the possibilities. Perhaps I’ll go into more detail on each stream in later posts, but for now…
1. A blog/website – The internet provides a massive arena for a writer equipped with a solid skill set. The writer trying to become effective without an internet presence has effectively cut off his/her right arm and is slowly bleeding to death. There’s a whole host of resources out there showing you how to make your presence known and put money in your bank account. You can start a blog and place several ads on it. You can create a website and Search Engine Optimize the content. You can write an e-book. The possibilities are enormous! I recommend starting at http://www.problogger.net for information. The wealth of knowledge on this sitee is astounding and you can literally spend days browsing the content.
2. Newspapers/Magazines – Here’s a whole industry built on the shoulders of writers. Dailies, weeklies, monthlies and other various forms of publications need an enormous amount of material just to publish on time. If you want to tap into that incredible potential, a good place to start is your city’s local newspaper. Write some articles for free and after they’ve started accepting you, slowly start charging them. Drop in to say hello and introduce yourself. Create a list of a thousand or more editor’s e-mails and send out a mass e-mail, with your writing attached, telling them who you are, what you’re writing and a conservative estimate on how much you’d like to be paid. If you’ve got a good product and send it to enough papers, someone will say yes.
3. Books – Time consuming and potentially frustrating, but if you can pull it off and write a good book the return on your time investment can be astounding. A good book has the potential to really bring in the revenue. I haven’t personally written a book yet, but it’s definitely on my radar. From the little research I’ve done on this particular stream I’ve a feeling my first book will end up being published in e-book form, just because I don’t want the hassle of traditional publishers. But we’ll see.
4. Freelance Commercial Writing – There are hundreds of business’ out there who need writing done but have no one to do it. Company brochures, image pieces, newsletters and advertising are just a few of the things they need written periodically. The companies without a formal marketing department, or even those with a marketing arm but who simply get swamped from time to time, need you and will pay for your services. If you can put in the time to get on the phone and mass call, do direct mail, e-mail, network and generally advertise yourself efficiently you can create quite a lucrative writing stream indeed. An excellent starting place would be to read The Well Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman.
5. A Job as a Writer – Why not? Actually apply for a job with the marketing division of a company and get a salary in exchange for your writing. Paired with whatever freelancing you’re willing and able to do on the side, you can really have a steady stream of writing going out and money coming in. If you apply for the job with a solid portfolio stuffed with previous projects and articles from some of the streams above, you can really make an impression and grab their attention and, hopefully, the job.
Of course, there’s many, many more writing streams available to a determined and effective writer. Every writer’s going to have to create his/her own personal mishmash of streams specifically tailored to their own personal style. Those above are just my own, as of right now. Have a writing stream I didn’t mention? Or a different twist on one of those above? Comment and tell me about it!