Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Moonlighting as a Freelance Writer: Earn More and Advance Your Career

"Moonlighting." It just sounds better than "working a second job." And as PR people, we know that words matter. Most of us write in some capacity, we're often good at it, and hopefully we even enjoy it. I know I do. That's why I moonlight as a freelance writer. The great thing about writing is that you can do it anytime and anywhere making it an ideal part-time job. Thanks to technology you can write from home (it's cliché but yes, in your pajamas, if you'd like) plan your own schedule and make extra money all while fostering dreams of being the next James Patterson (hey, it could happen, he started in advertising).  

Thanks to the economy and tight job market more and more Americans are working second jobs, in 2010 the number totaled 27 million according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In my experience part-time freelancing isn’t going to make you rich but you can earn enough to enjoy a nice dinner, a weekend away, or, if you’re like me, to pay your monthly parking bill!

How to start? That’s easier than you think! Make a list of topics that you know about, perhaps fields that you have worked in or been exposed to or hobbies and interests that you cultivate. Search the Internet for publications that cover these subjects. Look at what is out there, contemplate story ideas, then (and this is the most important part) get writing!

Most articles are sold by query letter so don’t write the whole article, instead write a pitch letter selling your story idea, send it out to editors of publications that are a good fit and while you wait to hear back – write more. Writing is as much as numbers game as anything else – have lots of queries out there so you up your chances of getting assignments. Websites are a good place to start, though they often pay less than print publications they need content more frequently and are more likely to take a chance on a newbie. However don’t shy away from pitching the big guns, there are certainly writers who have made their first sales to well-known monthly magazines.

The web has tons of resources and information from e-classes to sample pitch letters and online writers group – any question you could ask has probably been answered somewhere on the Internet. So get Googling! A good place to start and one of my favorite websites is The Renegade Writer (http://www.therenegadewriter.com/).

One word of caution, do be cognizant of your day job when freelancing – don’t exploit professional contacts for your freelance work or use your work computer or office hours for your writing and avoid potential conflicts of interest with both writing and PR clients. If in doubt it’s always better to mention your freelance work to your boss as he/she could easily find anything you publish online. There are many benefits to freelance writing including making you better at aspects of your fulltime job and providing a much needed creative outlet. I’ve never had an employer voice concern about it but you do want to keep it in perspective and until you’re able to leave your fulltime job that should be your priority.

I recently watched an interview with Julie Powell, author of Julie and Julia in which she said that the Julie/Julia project was not really about cooking or blogging but about Julie making time to do something for herself every day. For me writing is that something – it transports and energizers me, and sometimes, just sometimes, it even helps me pay my monthly parking bill. Whether or not you decide to moonlight as a freelancer, I hope that this is that year that you make the time to do something for yourself.

Aimee Cirucci is a Philadelphia-area PR pro by day, freelance writer and college instructor by night. She is the author of more than 20 published articles and three essays appearing in print anthologies. Check out the fruits of her freelancing at www.cirucci.com.

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