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Thursday, June 21, 2012
Freelance Toolbox

Take your freelancing to the next level in four steps

By Dana Neuts

Your refrigerator is full, your quarterly taxes are paid, and you’ve got a little money set aside for the client who pays late next month. So what’s next for the ambitious freelancer?

The sky’s the limit, I say. This is the time for you to explore new opportunities, try different writing styles or pitch that publication you’ve always wanted to write for. Take your writing to the next level. Not sure where to begin? Here are some ways to give it a go:

1. EXPAND YOUR NICHE

Many freelancers find success by creating a niche for themselves. This is often lucrative, but as the market changes, some niches lose popularity while others soar. Since you’ve already mastered earning a steady paycheck, consider adding a few niches to your bag of tricks. Mine include business writing, tech humor and community-centric stories, but I’d really like to get into travel writing, so that’s next on my “to do” list. To get yourself started, make a list of topics that interest you where you have, or could acquire, subject matter expertise.

2. ADD DIFFERENT GENRES OR WRITING STYLES

If you are reading Quill, you are likely a freelancer with a journalism background. That’s great, and we’re happy to have you, but you don’t need to confine yourself to just producing news stories. If you are a reporter, try your hand at writing commentaries, an advice column or restaurant reviews. Stir the pot a little. If you’ve always envisioned being a fiction writer, think about what genres interest you — sci-fi romance, historical fiction, Stephen King-style horror? Give it a shot. Take a class. Exercise your creative brain and try something wildly new!

3. START A NEW VENTURE

Are you passionate about your community, model trains, Matchbox cars or maybe international travel? How about starting your own website? With handy (and free) tools like WordPress, it is easy to start your own blog or website to showcase your subject expertise. You can do it strictly for fun, turn it into a revenue-generator or use it as a springboard to paying gigs in that genre or subject.

For example, a few years ago, I started a blog for my community in Kent, Wash. It was a simple blog that has now turned into a full-blown website with more than 10,000 unique visitors each month. It started out as a hobby but now brings in some limited income. I can’t live off of it, but it allows me to write about a subject I love and provides opportunities to report local news and try different writing styles like commentary pieces for which I don’t have another outlet.

4. TARGET THOSE DREAM CLIENTS

Michelle Goodman, in “My So-Called Freelance Life,” recommends freelancers create a top-10 client list — client’s you’d love to have. Over the next six months, pitch those clients, strike up a relationship, do whatever it takes to get your work noticed. Want to help a true crime author research her latest book, maybe see your byline in The New York Times or be a “go-to” technical editor for Microsoft? Here’s your chance.

As you heard in kindergarten, put on your thinking cap — and brainstorm ideas on how you can take your writing to the next level. It will not only be financially advantageous, but it just might add new life and creativity to your work. Good luck!

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