Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Content writing and "real" journalism can co-exist

At the beginning of this year, as I watched an alarming number of my print clients shut their doors or slash their freelance-writing budgets, I made a decision: I was going to try something new.

So I signed up for Associated Content, Demand Studios, Suite 101 and

But that doesn't mean I wasn't going to pursue print opportunities at the same time. So, it's been a busy first part of the year, with me juggling content writing, blogging for business clients and drumming up new print assignments. I'm also continuing to pursue my dream job of writing comic-book scripts. (We all need something fun to write to keep us sane.)

And how are things going so far? Pretty good on some fronts, a little below average on others.

First, the content sites: I've ditched Associated Content. There seemed to be little respect for writers there. I've never gotten started with Demand Studios. Again, though I can't put my finger on it, there's something depressing about the topics they have available for writers. I've written 26 stories for Suite 101, the vast majority of them in the first three weeks after I signed up. In March, while doing very little actual writing for the site, I earned $28 for those stories. At Examiner, where I write about telecommuting, I've gotten off to a slow start. But I do see hope here: My page views are steadily growing. (Though my craven attempt to generate extra page views by putting the words "American Idol" in the headline of a recent post did not bear fruit. Serves me right, though.)

On the "real" journalism side, my income for the first three months of the year is up about 20 percent from last year. So that's good news. The bad news is that I'm sending out more pitches, and writing more stories, to get that income. The other bad news is that two of my highest-paying print clients are cutting back significantly on freelance stories this year. One editor even told me that her publisher had put a moratorium on any stories having to do with solar energy, because that's not where their concentration of advertisers are.

My business blogging is holding steady. I thought I lost one client -- an insurance company -- but he came back the next day and changed his mind. He wants to continue his blog. That's good. The two blogs I write for real estate companies are holding steady. And the one blogging-network job I've kept is doing OK, too, though my page views haven't risen much since the start of the year. This is the one part of my business I'd like to grow the most. But I've had a difficult time finding new clients since the start of the year. I suspect I need to do more marketing.

Finally, my comic-book writing is doing well. I've teamed up with a wonderful artist, and together we've produced short graphic stories that will appear shortly in three different anthologies. I've also been assigned by another publisher to write a comic-book biography of Nancy Pelosi. (Weird, I know. But apparently these kind of comic biographies have become quite popular.)

So, there you have it. That's my busy writing life right now. I'm hoping by the end of this year the content sites and the business blogging begin to produce more income. But you never know.

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