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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Turn your Kids into Money-makers: Writing for Parenting Markets

Up to your ears in dirty diapers and carpools? If you're a parent, you’re uniquely qualified to write for one of the largest freelance markets there is. Hundreds of magazines, newspapers, and websites constantly search for parenting pieces that entertain and inspire as they inform.

New and inexperienced writers often break into freelancing by writing about parenting issues, and writers who develop a specialty in this area often find that they need look no further than their own families for story ideas.

But writing about parenting and child care is more than simply relating personal experience—parenting writers are expected to keep up on trends, locate and interview experts, and provide plenty of service for readers.

If you’re a parent—or if you want to write about kids and the issues families face—keep these tips in mind:

Present More than One Option
Ask any new parent and he or she will tell you—when it comes to parenting, everyone has an opinion and no one thinks twice about sharing theirs with you (like it or not). If the baby cries, pick her up immediately—or she’ll be traumatized. Nope, that’s the worst thing you can do—you’ll spoil her if you don’t let her cry herself to sleep. Let him suck on a pacifier and he’ll need thousands of dollars’ worth of orthodontia…or take it away from him too early and he’ll need therapy for separation anxiety years later.

And parents face dozens if not hundreds of decisions every day that will affect their children’s welfare. What’s a mom or dad to do? Look to parenting/child care publications for advice, information, and support. That's why the most important rule in writing about parenting is to avoid preaching or implying that there is only one way to do something. Always give more than one alternative and support the parents' right to make decisions for their kids.

Find Supporting Experts
OK, so you’re a parent. But you need more than that to write with authority about parenting and child care. Even if you have personal experience with an issue, you’ll probably need to back up the advice you offer with more authoritative opinions and quotes from experts like pediatricians, child development experts, dieticians, or teachers in addition to including real-life anecdotes.

Remember that editors want experts who are established and well-known in his or her field. Call organizations like the American Medical Association or the American Dietetic Association, and ask for referrals to members who specialize in the area you’re writing about.

Embrace All Families
Parents come in all ages, both sexes, and are of every race, ethnicity and religion. This may seem obvious but too often writers simply assume that their family traditions—such as celebrating Christmas—are embraced by all readers. “

On the other hand, if you’re writing for a publication aimed at a more narrow audience—say, stay-at-home mothers or parents who home-school their children, it’s okay to focus your story on that group of people. Just keep the audience in mind as you write the piece, and remember that parenting writing is often service writing. In fact, “how-to” articles are the most prevalent kind of parenting stories and for good reason.

Include "Real People" Anecdotes
While you may need experts to support your story, don't be afraid to include your personal experiences. Readers may find it easier to relate to someone who’s “been there, done that.”

Your personal story is a great place to start. But because there are so many different approaches to parenting, readers like hearing about more than one person’s experience or opinion in child care articles. A wide range of sources helps ensure that readers will find something in an article than benefits them.

Create New Spins on Evergreen Topics
Many parenting stories cover topics like health, child development, discipline, and nutrition. While these subjects are covered over and over again, look for a new angle or new approach to sell your story idea.

Although you may need to come up with a fresh approach, parenting writers have an endless list of “evergreen” story ideas to choose from. Topics like infant first aid, children’s health, how to choose a babysitter, how to help kids prepare for and succeed in school, discipline strategies, inexpensive craft activities, proper nutrition, ways to talk to kids about difficult subjects…the list goes on and on. The trick is coming up with a new or unique angle..and your kids may give you one without you even asking!

Want to know more about writing about parenting? It's one of the top ten specialties I cover in Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create your own Writing Specialty and Make More Money.