by Christie Halmick
The next time a non-paying writing opportunity slithers by offering fame, exposure, and good karma stop and answer this question: Is there something better I could do with my time and writing talent than give them away to a stranger? I think so.
Here are 10 respectable ways to channel your non-paid writing time into fame, exposure, good karma, and eventually, money.
Number 1: Write a Big Fat Resume (BFR)
List all the writing you’ve ever done. Include the clip’s title, subject, client, where/when it was published, and what writing skills you used. List computer skills, education, jobs, and hobbies. The BFR is for your eyes only. Please, don’t attach this to a job application. Update regularly.
Number 2: Write the Samples You Need
Examine your BFR. Is it sparse? Rewrite the brochure your insurance company sent. Don’t feel squeamish about adding “fake” projects to your portfolio. It’s your writing, your talent, and it represents what you can do. Just work to replace those “fake” samples with bona fide ones ASAP. Find a nonprofit that supports one of your favorite causes, look here: VolunteerMatch.org or Idealist.org and donate your writing talent. You won’t get cash, just karma, and a writing sample. If nonprofit, pro bono work is a little bit to “free” for you, consider helping a relative or friend, instead. Give their business a witty new ad. They might not be able to pay you to write, but you could trade services.
Number 3: Write and Build Your Professional Website
Who better to write this than you? Find a freelancer’s site you admire and get inspired (but don’t be a copy cat). Check out Kristen King’s site for a great example. Find a web designer, trade services to get your site up.
Number 4: Write an Application Template
Don’t start from scratch each time you send out a query or job application. Create an application template (save as a draft email and in word processing format). If you are having trouble figuring out what to put in your template, look back at your last few submissions. What information (skills, contact info) did you repeat each time? Create multiple templates to highlight separate skills, if needed.
Number 5: Write the Perfect Pitch
Read “The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock: The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Selling More Work Faster” by Diana Burrell and Linda Formichelli. Use what you’ve learned to make the application template you created shine. To increase your success rate, tailor each submission to the specific job opportunity. If the job ad asks for experience training baboons to write SEO, look back at your BFR, if you need a reminder of your stint at the zoo.
Number 6: Write and Send More Submissions
Always apply to paying gigs first. FWJ lists paying writing jobs five+ days a week. You can search on your own at: 23 Places to Find Freelance Writing Jobs and Freelance Blogging Jobs or via FreelanceSwitch. Use the querying skills you learned in Number 5 and templates you created in Number 4 to speed up your application process. The more applications you send, the better your chances of landing a paying project.
Number 7: Write Your Own Blog
Create your own exposure and bylines while build an awesome blogging portfolio. Pick a topic that you love, or a niche you want to break into, and get started. You might even get famous or make a living from your blog, like professional blogger Darren Rowse. Go to his site for advice on starting a blog.
Number 8: Write for Your Favorite Blogs
Contact your favorite blogger, introduce yourself, link to your blog, and pitch a guest post. Watch for opportunities like this contest to get involved and get your name (or number, I’m #7, by the way) out into cyberspace. Use Google’s blog search to find blogs that speak your language.
Number 9: Write for Fame and Fortune
Flash fiction, poetry, novels, blogs, journalism; whatever your writing passion, there are contests and grants (many with no entry fees) for all types of writers. C. Hope Clark’s blog and her website, FundsForWriters.com offer the latest scoops on these opportunities. Just think how the words “Award Winning Writer” will inspire prospective clients to open their wallets.
Number 10: Write for Free Publicity
Did you expand your services or win an award (see Number 9)? Draft a press release about your newsworthy accomplishment and send it to your local media. You might be surprised by the free publicity you can get. Logo designer Jeff Fisher explains how he uses press releases for promotion. His advice applies to writers as well.