Thursday, April 30, 2009

A reality check: Content writing doesn't bring enough of them (checks,that is)

I got a big wake-up call yesterday. During much of this year, I've been losing print clients, some big, some small. Many of them simply went out of business thanks to declining ad sales. Others became online only publications. And still others eliminated their freelance-writing budgets entirely.

This has been nerve-wracking. But I've been holding things together. It helps that I also have a full-time, part-time magazine-editing job that pays my mortgage.

Then yesterday, my top freelance client gave me the news I'd been dreading: This trade magazine, too, was cutting back. I'll still get freelance assignments from them. But instead of two a month, I'll probably end up with one every other month. That's a huge, painful drop.

It's sent me back to the world of pitching again. Yesterday I had some success: A real estate agent is interested in having me ghostwrite his blog for him. A newspaper chain may have me write a weekly real estate column for them. And a book publisher might hire me out to write a chapter or two in one of its trivia books.

I felt better at the end of the day, though still nervous. There's no guarantee that any of the above three projects will come to fruition.

What I didn't do yesterday was any content writing for Suite 101,, Demand Studios or any of my niche blogs. When faced with the loss of some very real dollars, the content writing just didn't seem worth it. The payoff is too low.

It reminds me that while experimenting with content writing is OK, relying on it for any serious money is a mistake. When things get tight, it's time to go back to the basics of pitching stories to new publications and reconnecting with editors you've worked with in the past. It's the only way to recover when you've lost a well-paying regular client.

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