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Consider Writing for a Nice Second Income

“Writers may be disreputable, incorrigible, early to decay or late to bloom, but they dare to go it alone.” – John Updike

“We loved your reviews, Marc. I’ll FedEx a contract to you this week. We’re looking forward to great stuff from you.”

That’s what a top publisher said to me in 1994. I had just secured my first paid writing project.

Freelance writing is a great secondary business. I know dozens of freelance writers who make anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars a month to well over six figures a year. And you, too, can get paid to write.

Now, let me assure you – no one had fewer credentials, expertise, or writing savvy than I did when I landed my first writing project. So don’t let that stop you.

One publisher that I submitted a proposal to required writers to have degrees in English, journalism, and/or business in order to be considered for freelance work. (I wonder if the publisher had any of those degrees.) “Our readers expect a high level of expertise and education from us,” he explained.

“But a college degree does not give someone the ability to write a compelling story or article,” I said.

The publisher grudgingly agreed – but he still wasn’t ready to accept my proposal to write for him on a freelance basis. So I suggested that I could write a “test” article for him to see what kind of feedback it would get from his readers.

The publisher was up for the challenge. And so I wrote an article about how the dot-com IPO hysteria would end badly (in 1999).

My article received a lot of feedback … much of it negative, from people who thought my premise was completely off the wall. But the publisher liked it. And he loved that it “stirred things up.” I got the writing gig, and I worked with him for several years.

What do you need in order to be a freelance writer? Two things: passion and persistence.

You’ve got to be passionate and knowledgeable about your topic. If you’re not passionate about your topic, your readers will care even less. On top of that, you need to be persistent about finding and closing deals for paid writing gigs.

Actually, make that three things. In addition to passion and persistence, you need the ability to communicate your ideas clearly – a skill that can be learned.

What you don’t need is a college degree.

A Step-by-Step Formula for Landing Your First Paid Writing Project

1. Identify the market that turns you on.

This shouldn’t be hard. What topics are you most passionate about? The financial markets? Horse breeding? Poker? Internet marketing? Real estate? Commodities? Major League baseball? My first paid writing gigs were website reviews, because I thought the World Wide Web was pretty neat and I was spending a lot of time online.

2. Identify the publishers and paid writing projects in that market.

This is easy. The Internet makes the research simple. You can search billions of documents instantly with the help of search engines like Google. If, for example, you’re looking for publishers that focus on animals or pets, simply enter the words “animal pet publication” or “pet publisher” into a search engine.

The 2007 edition of Writer’s Market lists more than 2,200 markets and publishers looking for writers. You can also look for work online at MediaBistro, CraigsList, and WritersWeekly, among other websites.

3. Write and submit proposals that ooze with personality.

Sometimes you’ll be vying for writing projects with writers who have more experience and ability. So what?

You’ll need to submit a proposal (sometimes a simple e-mail will suffice) that shows a publisher why he should buy your work. Make it easy for him to want to work with you. Let your personality shine through. Write like you talk in real life – not like you do when you’re trying to impress an employer or an English teacher. Personality goes a long way in closing the deal.

4. Submit your work in accordance with the publisher’s guidelines – and beat your deadlines!

Every publication has submission guidelines, and in most cases they are fairly simple. Follow them to a T. And when you start landing paid writing projects, make it a point to deliver your work before the deadline. If you do both of these things, you’ll soon have more work than you can handle.

5. Always be looking for paid writing projects – even when your hands are full.

When you’ve got a steady stream of paid projects at your fingertips, you’ll never have to deal with “dry” times.

[Ed. Note: Marc Charles is the editor of ETR’s Profit Center Dispatch e-letter. Each week, he gives specific details on a business opportunity that could change your life.]