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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
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Off the Page...

Writing in Green: How to keep your checking account happy

by Tama Westman

As professional writers, whether we work on an article, story or a full-length book manuscript, finding good editors and regular paying gigs is part of the job. Often self-employed and self-motivated, many of us need to be able to provide for ourselves and our families using our writing as an income source. So, what's the secret? How can you transition from the hobby writer to the in-demand writer? Let's look at a few options:

Fill the bill
We've talked in the past about break-in markets and local leads, and combined with the Internet resources and writers' market guide; I know most of you are savvy enough to have found markets to write for. (If you haven't read past editions and are still hunting for that elusive "in," please refer to archived Off the Page columns for info.)

Once you have an editor willing to work with you, working beyond his expectations will keep you rolling in assignments. For instance, when I first started working for the local newspaper as a feature writer, I made sure to beat, not meet, given deadlines. I submitted manuscripts in the editor's preferred format, and double-checked for spelling and grammatical errors. Not only did I cover the topic requested, but I learned to break my manuscript into sections with appropriate subheadings. This allowed him to efficiently read and quickly identify areas to scrap if necessary for space issues. As a writer, I protect my feelings by never "marrying" the words I put to paper. Instead, I operate from the perspective that I am working for the editor, and his cuts and slices are his business.

Additional attachments, if any, can include high-resolution photos, jpegs of book covers, suggested pull-out quotes and 50-100 word sidebars. This way, if the editor finds he has more room, or that your additional items are interesting, it makes your story look better, and allows you to invoice for more than just the article. (I suggest freelancers negotiate pay rates for photos, sidebars and additional copy or editing beforehand.)

Stretch your scope
Many writers will teach, speak, edit and offer copywriting services for a more rounded writing life. While you work on what you want to write, there are also many lucrative ways to use your specific skills and talents to fatten your wallet. I teach beginning writers at workshops and seminars across the country, and have found it profitable to sell tapes, CDs and booklets to seminar students.

However, when I first started out as a writer, I took on resume writing. In no time, I went from helping my girlfriend get a better job one day to charging a $100 minimum for writing resumes and cover letters. Guided by a plentiful array of samples available on the Internet, I boosted my checking account by employing the very basic of writing skills. Have you considered writing resumes, movie reviews for the Entertainment and Arts section, or Web site copy? What about making your editing services known to colleagues and fellow writers? I spend more time editing than I do writing, but then, because I will edit for others, I spend a good amount of time invoicing, too.

Try teaching
How often have you gotten a flyer in the mail that offered writers' workshops and thought, I could do that? Hey, here's an idea
—follow through with that thought! I started collecting those trade school magazines and community center booklets that pop in the mailbox and developed writers' workshops that filled a hole in their line-up. Topics included something as simple as "how to get your opinion published" to "preserving your memories on paper."

Now, admittedly, these aren't the greatest of titles, but I think my point is well-made that you neither have to be perfect or well-accomplished to get paid for your writing services. At $45 to $85 a head, for a 2-hour workshop, don't you think you could come up with a few topics to teach? With these small, yet profitable, workshops under my belt, it wasn't too large a leap to begin teaching at writers' conferences across the country. Being a gal from Minnesota, I love it when things snowball!

At first, you may find it difficult to charge for your services, but remember, the more you value yourself, the more others will value you. I suggest you consider how much you would be willing to pay for a manuscript edit, professional resume or workshop, and then set your prices just slightly under that mark to start. You'll make more as you go along.

When you consistently meet and beat an editor's expectations, and take the time to develop all your creative dimensions in light of how you may be able to help others, it becomes an easy skip to the bank.

Tama Westman writes the Off the Page column for Write From Home. As a correspondent and columnist, she publishes news articles, feature stories and her column, Cuppa Thoughts, regularly with her local paper, the Chaska Herald. She has served as the editor of the award-winning literary magazine, Haute Dish. Her articles appear in several local newspapers and, nationally in The Gathering and Light & Life Magazine.

She teaches creative writing and poetry classes with the AHEAD program (Achieving Higher Education and Dreams) at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, MN, mentors high school journalism students, and teaches beginning and intermediate writers at conferences throughout the country. Married with two grown children, she keeps her balance with a cup of tea taken in the afternoon in her English garden. Further samples of her writing can be viewed on her Web site, http://www.tamawestman.com feel free to e-mail comments to tama@tamawestman.com









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