Sunday, October 14, 2012

Use your blog to find paid writing work: 5 tips from Problogger panel

Blogging conferences are crazy places. So much energy, so much information, so many bloggers in one place. For me, the pure joy of attending one is simply being with so many people who understand immediately when I start talking about posts and wordpress and pings (okay, I don't even understand pings, but you get what I mean...).

Speaking on a panel with Valerie Khoo and Kerri Sackville was a real privilege for me. Both are professional, sensible women who really know their stuff. When we set out to work out the content for our session - 'How to use your blog to get paid writing opportunities' - we were all on the same page and we were all doing our darnedest to give as much value, as much information, as possible to the people who attended our talk as we could.

For those who couldn't make it to Melbourne this time, I thought I'd summarise our five key points. Some ideas to mull over if you're interested in finding writing work beyond your blog.

1. Be clear on who you want to be. Take some time to work out what kind of writing work you'd like to do and then position your blog to reflect it. Make sure your bio outlines any experience you have, and says that you are a writer and that you're looking for opportunities. If your bio says 'loves drinking tea and eating cupcakes', chances are people will pop by and enjoy a warm read with you. If it says 'writer', people may go looking further for other examples of your work. Sometimes the most difficult part of beginning a writing career is accepting that you are allowed to call yourself a writer.

2. Realise that just starting a blog is not enough. A blog is a great place to highlight your writing skills - but you have to get beyond the blog to sell those skills. Use your blog to build networks to help you find work. Make connections on Twitter. Follow other writers, look for editors and publishers. Ask questions. Put your name and your blog in front of people who might have opportunities for you.

3. Ideas matter. If you read my guest post at Styling You, you'll know that book publishers are looking at blogs, looking for book ideas and people to write them - particularly in the non-fiction area. But you still need to let them know you're there, and your blog must have a 'high concept' - an overarching journey that will drive a reader through several hundred pages of narrative.

Magazine editors, on the whole, are not, however, cruising around looking for nice writing on blogs. What they want is a strong idea, pitched directly to them, in a language and format they can understand. If they like your pitch, they will probably visit your blog to see what you're about (see point one about making sure your blog reflects your 'brand'). Ensure you're presenting a professional 'face'.

4. Be prepared to learn. Look to expanding your craft. Most magazine features, for instance, are not written in first person, they are not subjective and they are not intimate. In other words, they're different from a blog post. It's a great idea to do a course in structuring magazine features if you've never written one before. Ditto, writing press releases and other corporate writing if that's the kind of work you're after. At the very least, consider a proofreading/editing course to ensure that any work you do present is as clean as possible.

5. Paid work takes many guises. In our content-driven information age, there are writing opportunities across a lot of different areas, and they're not always where you expect them to be. With an established profile as a blogger, you might transition to speaking work, for instance, which requires you to have a strong 'point of difference' - a clear identity, clear recurring subjects, a clear 'voice'. Start working out your 'elevator pitch'.

Corporate-style work (press releases, websites, annual reports, newsletters) can come from a range of different sources - most of which will begin within your personal network. Ask your local gym if they need a newsletter. Let the mums at school know you can help small businesses with press releases and websites. A lot of people are looking for writers and don't know where to find them. If you don't tell them you write, they'll never find you.

So there you have it. A snapshot of our session. Obviously there was a whole lot more to it, but I hope this gives you food for thought.

To get you started, why not give me your elevator pitch? What makes your blog different to the next blog? In 25 words or less...

[image: from a strip at the Photobooth at the Problogger networking event...]

28 comments:

  1. Thanks for a great summary for those of us who didn't attend. I have years of writing experience, but in academic rather than commercial publications. It's tricky to make the change, and to convince people you can do (write!) different things. You've given me some good ideas :)

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    1. Thanks Lara! Good luck with those good ideas!

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  2. Great tips! Particularly that one about being willing to actually call yourself a writer. You have got me thinking. Thank you.

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  3. I've just blog-hopped over here and I'm really glad I did. This is a great post. Thank you for sharing it.

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  4. Great post! I wasn't lucky enough to attend Problogger this year (I will next year) so I'm really grateful for those who have provided some content from it.

    My elevator pitch is for my website, KiKi & Tea (http://kikiandtea.com):

    A community blog space, a writer showcase, a place for you to share your ideas, opinions and passion. It’s our place, but it’s your space.

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  5. Thanks for these tips Allison. They are great. The Problogger conference sounds like it was a great success.
    I have just started blogging and am loving it! I believe my blog is interesting, sometimes funny, yet always real - it is about a journey in parenting, pregnancy, love and life from the perspective of a women from Venus.
    I would love you to check it out - http://alifeonvenus.blogspot.com.au/

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  6. I had so many unanswered questions surrounding paid writing which were mostly clarified thanks to the great panel you were on, so thank you Allison. Looking forward to the erotic novel ;)

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  7. Great post. Point 5 is a winner - there are writing opportunities EVERYWHERE. You just have to be on the lookout. Sometimes you even have to suggest them!

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  8. Thanks Allison for this I was in the other room, great to meet you IRL too xx

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  9. I'm not even finished reading this post yet but love it!! Thanks! I'm a problogger wanna-be!

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  10. Fantastic post Al. Thank you so much for sharing your writing and wisdom. Would love to meet you one day.
    But enough of that sucking up...
    I've recently revamped my writing website (jfgibson.com.au) and have started blogging on a more professional level there which I'm enjoying. I also recently completed the SWC magazine/newspaper writing course which I LOVED, so things are moving along nicely.
    I do like to keep my personal blog, well, personal (lipglossmumma).
    And I do need to work on my elevator pitch. Something to do with experience in business, social media, motherhood and parenting, and writing of non-fiction, fiction and blogging. As I said, working on it!

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  11. Thanks Alison! Was a great panel. Great notes too!

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  12. Great tips, Alison! I wish we had the chance to speak a little more but hopefully there will be a next time. :) x

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  13. Brilliant tips. I think if you stick to your own voice, whatever it is, opportunities come up, often from very unexpected places. For me, someone did a search on 'castlemaine' and 'writer' and my blog came up: a paid article from it. I did my first review for the Sydney Morning Herald because the literary editor is subscribing to my blog. I'm still learning, but loving it.

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  14. Wish I'd been there to hear you wonderful ladies speak - but thanks for the summary!

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  15. Well i had been begging the sky to send me a mentor and i think pink fibro may be a bloody good starting point. I am also sold on those elevator pitches and am off to explore.
    My blog is http://ameliadraws.wordpress.com/ It explores where art and life intersect and how parenting, mental health, family and country life informs the art i create.

    I spose i hope people will like and follow enough to come to an exhibition one day and better yet buy stuff x

    amelia

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  16. and secretly... between you and me I hope that my blog gives people (even just a few) permission and confidence to discuss and enjoy and understand art. I believe the 'art world' has fostered a culture of exclusion and elitism and i think that that is, now let me get the right terminology here... bullshit. So that is the contribution i hope my blog makes x

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  17. Hi Alison. Thought I'd drop by your blog since you're my on line tutor at Sydney Writers (loving the course, BTW). My own blog is about applying what I have learnt as a psych to the world of kid lit, since I am also an emerging children's author. Drop by some time.

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  18. My blog started off as yet another Mummy blog and quickly spun off on a tangent. Perhaps my niche is the tangential ramblings.
    Perhaps there should be a panel on how to get an invite to Pro-blogger.

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  19. Thanks, I have bookmarked this article as I want to come back to it whenever I need inspiration. I have been doing the Footprints blog for a couple of years in my role for a not-for-profit organisation; now I am about to start another blog as part of my brand new business in - wait for it - writing, editing, proof reading, social media etc.

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  20. Thanks for the summary Alison.

    I was in the room but I haven’t revisited my notes yet so this was a nice recap. And even after nearly 10 years of getting paid to be a writer (and blogging about improving writing for business skills), I found some useful tips from that session at pb event - many of which are in my 15 minute a day list ;)

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  21. What brilliant advice! I do really want to be a writer, so glad I found your blog

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  22. Thanks for sharing this advice, Alison, and lovely to meet you! We hear of so many blogging conferences, writerly advice, plus tips and tricks and handy hints out there in the blogosphere so it's really helpful to find a well-written and succinct summary of what sounds like a very interesting panel. Lots of useful things to take away from here :)

    I'm over at In Search of a Life Less Ordinary. Would love you to drop by and say 'hi' sometime. It’s for people who have a passion for living a different way of life and treading a less ordinary path. It follows my journey from the UK through Canada to here. Here's the link - http://www.insearchofalifelessordinary.com/

    Cheers, Russell

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  23. Get post. My blog is...

    A place to talk all things fashion, style, interiors, books, magazines, news & current affairs and all that intrigues and inspires!

    http://jessica-paperdolldiaries.blogspot.com.au/

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  24. Thank you very much for the amazing tips you have shared with us here, Allison. I really do appreciate reading every word you say. Ultimately, a writer must have a great sense of direction and coordination. Having these two characters will definitely make a writer shine. This kind of profession is a must-have in the global market, most especially in the Internet. Again, thank you for this wonderful blog post. Have a nice day!

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Thanks for popping by the Fibro. I love to hear from you!

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