Have you ever felt as if people write about the same subjects from the same perspective, all the time? Are you interested in getting some experience in the online marketing world, writing-wise, but unsure of where to begin?
Aside from writing unique, alluring content for online audiences, how can you break into a new niche of readers and subjects?
Furthermore, how can you market yourself as if you were selling a concrete product? Freelance writers need to pay the rent, too!
Here are a few ways to think outside the proverbial box if you’re interested in developing an online following featuring lesser-known subjects or perspectives.
Sports Writing By & About Women
If you’re interested in covering a subject that’s woefully underrepresented, consider writing about women in sports. Many women’s sports leagues, like the WNBA or the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team, aren’t regularly granted very much coverage—if any at all—in the press or the cable networks.
For example, all the pay differentials between women’s and men’s sports teams—regardless of track record—are quite significant, but they’re not extensively covered. This is probably not entirely unrelated to the relatively small number of journalists covering women’s sports.
One interesting angle on sports reporting could be a specifically female perspective on games, issues, or special sports-related events. For example, it could be interesting for writers to cover how particular women have trained and prepared to join a professional sports league—profiling specific players at length, just as many male players have been profiled.
Or they could write a story about the history of a particular Olympic sport or professional sports league that practices year-round. Yes, it’s important for sportswriters to be objective, but it’s also important to back up facts or opinions with cultural references, statistics, and historical events—and these can vary, depending on one’s target audience.
NPR recently covered the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team, who were prepared to boycott the national hockey championships this year in order to protest stalled negotiations for what they cite as a lack of “fair wages and equitable support.” That coverage, in addition to the national publicity garnered by the boycott, eventually inspired coverage on not only Women’s ESPN but also the main ESPN site.
It might have been interesting to read a few op-ed pieces with different viewpoints and opinions of the incident, but given the shortages in women’s sports coverage, there weren’t many pieces on the subject, in general—let alone nuanced op-ed articles.
It could also be interesting to analyze a nationally-read site like espnW to see which sports teams, issues, or stories are not covered in depth, and to try to cover any gaps in coverage that may exist.
Write like a Boss
Yes, there are sites that expect writers to write for free, but you should avoid those kinds of sites unless you’re trying to merely gain some portfolio experience while still employed elsewhere.
Many of these sites that don’t pay contributors could afford to pay people, due to staggering ad revenue, but they choose not to. Why should website developers and graphic designers make money creating site content, while writers accept vague promises of fame and future prestige?
The “portfolio approach,” as discussed by Elizabeth Spiers, is based around one “anchor gig” that provides roughly 80 percent of your income but comprises less than 50 percent of your time. You need to figure out how to pay your minimum bills first, and look for work that allows you to invest “the least amount of time for the highest amount of money,” as Spiers puts it.
Moreover, while they commonly used to charge by the hour—and many still do—it has become more common for freelance writers to charge clients per project to avoid being paid too little for one’s time and efforts. That said, the most common ways to charge clients are per hour, per word, and per project.
You’ll also want to calculate your freelance writing rate, but this task is not quite as simple as it sounds.
In addition to needing to have some writing experience—say at a marketing firm or doing in-house content writing for a corporate client—you’ll need to show that you’re talented and can manage your time well. Be sure to take non-billable work into account, as well: pitching, researching, interviewing, email communication, and invoicing all take several hours’ worth, daily.
This brings us to the pesky financial side of freelancing. In addition to making sure your business revenue exceeds expenses, you need to itemize each service you sell, as well as expenditure on primary activities. You’ll also want to make sure that you’ll be able to make or save enough to live on, during times when cash flow is a bit slower—for example, over the holidays.
Moreover, freelance writers who are self-employed should carefully track all business-related expenses for tax purposes, such as mileage driven for specific writing assignments.
Cover Your Bases
Lastly, if you want to go it on your own, as a writer—both subject and employment-wise—it’s best to make sure your online presence is professional and impressive. This means that, in addition to having a website portfolio site to send potential clients, you’ll want to update your LinkedIn profile and double check your social media profiles to make sure they convey a strong first impression.
Be sure to remove any potentially embarrassing photos or content that may be considered controversial. If in doubt, change your settings to private and only allow professional-looking and flattering photos to be visible to the public.
All these measures are somewhat common sense, but be sure to keep abreast of the latest news in relation to a given blog post, content piece, or article you might be writing for a client, so as to ensure you are providing relevant, timely, and original information.
Analyze all the angles of a story or subject, in order to produce a comprehensive piece of writing. Also, don’t neglect reader comments, when researching a subject online; responding to readers’ responses and opinions of a subject will make your commentary more relevant to everyday people’s interests and perspectives. Your content is also more likely to garner more clicks, likes, and shares, as a result.
What are you doing to stand out from your peers, writing-wise? Share your thoughts and experience in the comments section below!