Earning a Living in the Writing Industry

Diana Savage will be speaking at NCWA’s April meeting. Read on as she reveals a writing secret!

A journalism class at North Texas State University was discussing how difficult it can be to survive financially as a freelance writer. One student asked, “What do the best-paid writers write?”

The teacher answered, “Prescriptions.”

That option wasn’t available to me when I quit my nine-to-five job in 2008 to become a full-time freelancer. Not only did I need a flexible schedule so I could help care for family members, but I also wanted to write books and articles again for the Christian market. However, this time I lacked someone to help support me financially, and I’d also changed my surname, which nullified the brand-recognition I’d built previously with readers and editors.

In spite of those challenges, I’ve sold dozens of devotions and devotional radio scripts, several articles, and two Chicken Soup stories since taking my leap of faith into a home-based business. The satisfaction has been significant.

The money . . . not so much.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to supplement my income—and continue to hone my literary skills—by working in hidden markets within the writing industry. This new direction also gives me a chance to rebuild my professional platform.

The secret? For-hire writing. My scintillating copy appears in publishers’ media kits, on business and author websites, in restaurant-magazine ads, and in brochures for nonprofit organizations. What doesn’t appear is my byline. I simply take the money and run . . . and cry about my anonymity all the way to the bank.

When I teach classes on this subject, I share tips about specialized niche markets, how I found these jobs, and samples of the projects I’ve done—although showing PowerPoint slides of my best grant-application narratives makes students drowsy for some reason.

Not all for-hire writing moves my freelance career forward, of course. But I can count on every project to make me a better writer. And some jobs, such as editing books for well-known authors and producing press kits for publishers, do solidify important relationships within the Christian publishing industry.

Working out of a home office gives me enough flexibility to pursue income-producing speaking and teaching engagements as well. Another advantage is that I don’t have to share a cubicle with anyone who wants my editing help on Twitter posts or Christmas newsletters. It’s a win-win situation.

While I still can’t write the kinds of prescriptions the college teacher had in mind, I have found a way to benefit from the healthcare industry. A pharmaceutical-company representative who is working on his master’s degree has hired me as stylist/grammarian to make sure his term papers conform to APA style.

Hmm. The next time I go to a drugstore, maybe I should take along samples of my best writing and editing projects. Except for, perhaps, those grant-application narratives.


Diana Savage, principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, writes the Savage Style column for Northwest Christian Author. She has recently served as “book midwife” for two published authors and is preparing to turn her own weekly blogs at www.WoundedChristians.com into a devotional book. For more information, visit www.DianaSavage.com. © 2012 by Diana Savage. All rights reserved.


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