New Roads to Revenue for Writers 1

New Bucolic Roads to Writing Revenue

Weathering tough economic times is hard for everyone these days but especially hard on freelancers and those folks that consider themselves artists (whatever the genre.) As our steady markets have dwindled (closing up shop or cutting down on freelancers) the Portland market has also become flooded with a bevy of qualified folks all vying for the same job.  I have friends that once held secure posts at the Oregonian that had to move out-of-state for employment, former editors now dishing local for a mere $0.10 a word or slinging books at Powell’s Books (I’ve done it- it was quite wonderful, actually) and award-winning photojournalists capturing your wedding day.

With Oregon being one of the hardest hit in the nation, in terms of unemployment and the influx of carpetbaggers snatching up our jobs, the creative class here in Portland needs to be even more creative in order to earn a living without turning to whipping up lattes for our huddled masses. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that- I love a good barista!)

Some consider commercial work of any kind selling out while others have turned exclusively to copywriting and are making more now than they ever were as employees of corporations. I find myself in a place in between, unwilling to clock-in at an office but unable to play the part of the starving artist with a 17 month old to feed and shelter. I’ve heard advice from many, ranging from, “Just take any job you can get right now and you can go back to writing later,” to questions like “Do you really consider writing web content ‘writing’?

The answer to that question is- Yes, I do! And the answer to folks who think that they are artists of a caliber higher than me because they refuse to take the kind of assignments I will and consider my work selling out is this– nobody but you know if you are selling out. Me, I’m diversifying.

Any financial planner worth their salt will tell you to diversify. It’s the safest bet to hedge. Now only you can decide the scope and direction of how you will create your new revenue streams but there are quite a few worlds whose circles overlap with the writing world.


These are your bread and butter and what you came to do but what if the outlets you once wrote for have shut their doors and turned off their presses? Now’s as good a time as any to launch that national career you’ve been talking about for so long. Dust off your pitching skills, rummage through your idea shed and send some of these gems off to see the light of an editor’s glowing screen. The more you pitch the more likely you are to land a gig. Talk to other freelancers or pick up a book like the one I have dog-eared and tabbed by Jenna Glatzer called, “Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer.” The more you know what they want the greater your chances for landing that gig. Still too scared to make the big leap. Start smaller– write for national trade publications or local outlets in other markets.  There’s no reason why a Portland writer has to only write about Portland. Maybe you have family in California and you just visited and found a gem of a boutique off the beaten path. Find out what the local equivalent of Portland Monthly is and send them a pitch.


Copywriters can be freelance but many times they are hired in-house. If you can stand punching a time clock and reporting to a building this could be a safe haven to wait out the storm and restore some of your nest egg. Bonus: health benefits and paid time off.  Still want to freelance AND be a copywriter- it can be done. Just look at Jeff Selin, owner of the Writer’s Dojo (a resource and haven for Portland area writers) who is assembling a stable of copywriters.  Jeff started as a copywriter before opening the Dojo’s doors a few years ago.  Now a space for writers to rent time, meet with groups, come to events and share resources the Dojo is offering copywriting services to the businesses large and small.

Public Relations

After years of slogging your way into the hearts and iphones of local editors and publications you now have relationships with press outlets that other new PR people don’t. Add to that your ability to spot a good angle, write clean copy and know what editors want and this one becomes a no-brainer.  If you hang out your shingle on this one though be prepared to network and do a job or two for free to prove your chops and earn you clients. Try offering to promote your favorite local charity’s event  for a mention in the program. It’s a win/win.

Web Content

There is a misconception in the blogosphere that anyone can write a blog. To the contrary, anyone can type a blog and post a few pics of their Egg McMuffin or their irascible cat attacking the furniture– but real content, the stuff people reference and pass on, takes skill. The kind of skills you have. You should absolutely have a blog of your own, that goes without saying (though I just said it!) but you could also look for the many opportunities to create content for business websites and blogs. Some just want conversational style entries others want journalism — real articles written by professionals. Most web content positions are contract and as such they are subject to the usual terms of freelancing.


If you were an online magazine editor this may be your milieu but if not, no worries you can grab a certificate from PSU (one of only a handful of learning institutions in the country that offer such a program) and be up and running. You can use the skills you glean here to help other websites increase their traffic.  Pair it with some killer content penned by yours truly and you have a hit solution for some struggling business to increase their “Google juice!” SEMpdx even offers a scholarship twice a year so, like me, you could take the course for free!


It’s not glamorous but it pays the bills and for many of you former editors it’s an easy gig to land. These positions range from staff to contract and you can work locally or remotely for places around the globe. As long as we’re all writing, we’ll always need editing.  Not proficient in editing or proofreading? Grab your favorite Stylebook (AP, Chicago etc.) and brush up on your skills. If your looking for some grammar motivation pick up “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” by Lynne Truss.

Bottom line is, you’re creative, that’s why you got into this line of work. So put that creativity to use by coming up with creative ways that serve your unique talents, experience and skill set while still keeping yourself employed in the field of writing. Whatever you do though, don’t kill the dream and don’t ever stop writing.

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