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Thursday, May 20, 2010

One idea=one story? Wrong!

As a freelancer, you have a limited number of hours to dedicate to earning money from your work, whether you’re writing part- or full-time. That’s why I make the most of mine by squeezing as much as I can out of my research—by selling “reslants” to other markets. I never write about an idea only once. I'm always looking to cover it again for another magazine.

Reslanting is writing about the same topic more than once, with a different angle, for a new market. And it’s a way to work much more efficiently, boosting your hourly rate.

It took me several years to grasp this fact, though. When I first launched my career, I dug for story ideas, looked for appropriate markets, and queried magazines. When I got an assignment, I wrote the article. Then it was on to the next idea, the next market, the next story.

I wrote about topics ranging from how avoiding employment discrimination claims to memory improvement techniques to animal dissection alternatives to religious weight loss programs. Each story took a considerable amount of time to research, but once I was finished with it, I never revisited the topic. Not smart.

Does that sound like how you work? Then break yourself of the one idea=one story habit right now. Instead, start thinking about the different ways you can reslant material to different markets. That lets you take advantage of the information that’s already in your head, in your interview transcripts, and on your hard drive, reducing the amount of time you spend researching and writing your next piece. Sure, you may do additional interviews, but the lion’s share of the work (wrapping your brain around a new subject) has already been completed.

Not sure how to do it? Put your brainstorming hat on. You pitched a specific angle on a particular topic to one market. You wrote the piece--or you're writing it now. Don't stop there. Think about the different angles you can take with the subject, and which markets might be interested in them.

For example, last year I was assigned a piece on the health benefits of gratitude for a custom magazine. (I'd never written about gratitude before, though I am the mistress of thank-you notes.) Using the same basic research and one additional interview, I wrote a piece on helping your kids become more grateful for a major newspaper. Then I wrote a piece on surprising ways to be happy (including becoming more grateful) for a woman’s magazine. Get the idea? The idea—gratitude is good for you—was the same, but by coming up with different slants and markets, I sold three stories based on the idea. And I’m still pitching related stories now.

So break free from the concept that one idea=one story for one market. Instead, think one idea=multiple angles, multiple stories, multiple markets, multiple checks. Reslanting lets you cover a subject more than once, and each subsequent story takes less time to research and write than a wholly original idea. Bottom line is that you're making making more money…in less time.