Writing opportunities are out there – when do I get paid?

Some of you will know that I have recently taken the giant step of leaving my 9-5 job and taken up the cudgel of trying to earn a living as a freelance writer.  It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, but due to the complexities of life I’ve never managed it.

So what changed?  Have I suddenly acquired a private income?  Won the lottery? No.  I’ve just realised that at my advanced age (I’m 46), I’m running out of time!  I have family backing (emotional and, to some degree, financial) and now’s the time.

One thing I’ve never had any doubts about it is my skill in writing.  I can craft a good, readable, well thought out article, opinion piece, blurb, you name it.  What I’ve always been very bad at is the marketing side of things.  I know my work is of good quality but can I put that across to anyone else?  Doesn’t it sound like boasting?  One doesn’t want to blow one’s own trumpet (in a frightfully British kind of way).  And yet, if it were a friend or colleague’s work I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend and do everything I could to promote it.

I’ve been volunteering as a writer an sub-editor for Women’s Views on News for over four years.  I started out on general news, graduating into my specialism of women’s sport.  I’m so grateful to WVoN for giving me my first writing chance and they will always be top of my list if I’m volunteering, but if I want more exposure (and possibly payment) what do I do?

There are some incredible (unpaid) women’s sport writing opportunities out there.  I could write all day, every day, about women’s sport, cricket, the politics of sport, equality, media coverage, misogyny and sexism, etc.  But who is going to pay me to do it?  The print media continues to be supremely uninterested in women’s sport – I could turn out an interesting, thought-provoking weekly column at the drop of a hat, but no-one’s ever going to ask me.  Is it worth me even pitching the idea?  If Anna Kessel can do it at the Guardian, why can’t anyone else?

So, I’m considering volunteering elsewhere.  To be part of a team that shares your passion for cricket, football or bog-snorkelling is special.  I’d love to write for all of these sites, but I’d also like to eat.  There’s a particularly scary article by the Sports Journalists Association about working for free, which I try to keep in mind each time I come across yet another excellent website paying nothing.  But it’s hard.  I want to get my work out there.  All of these sites have numerous followers and boast considerable traffic, so why shouldn’t I volunteer?

It’s five weeks in for me.  I’m optimistic.  I’ve published a lot of stuff for WVoN, sorted out my website and blog (you’re reading it), I’m Linkedin and Tweeting like a maniac.  Now I’m considering and planning what to do next.  I have confidence in my product.  I know I may need some luck somewhere along the line, but if I do fail to make an impact, it won’t be through lack of effort.

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4 thoughts on “Writing opportunities are out there – when do I get paid?

  1. You sound like a female version of myself!! I would love to have the guts to do what you have done, but unfortunately the financial element of giving up work makes it too scary for me to contemplate. I will follow your efforts with interest and wish you all the best.

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  2. Really interesting piece!

    There is a close parallel with my own situation. I sold a business in 2008 and followed my heart into sports journalism.

    I got a couple of qualifications, and managed to find some paid freelance work to supplement the plentiful supply of unpaid opportunities, which included presenting sports shows on community radio.

    Over a couple of years I had two or three near misses at interview, but eventually had to admit defeat and return to the real world.

    I have continued to freelance intermittently, but have come to accept that however good I am, aged nearly 50 and not being news office time – served, a full time career as a sports writer is not an option.

    Good luck – unless you are an ex-pro it is incredibly difficult to earn a living.

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    • Hi Paul, thanks for your comment. I feel I owe it to myself to give it a go, but I’m under no illusions. I’m realistic enough to know when to give up and, as you say, go back to the real world. At the moment I’m enjoying every minute!

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