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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Reslants, Revisited: The Morris Lions Car Show Lesson

Regular readers know that I'm a big believer in reslants, but as a new freelancer, I had no clue about writing about the same subject more than once.

One of my first assignments as a freelancer was a story on a charity car show sponsored by the local Lions’ Club. The annual event was one of the largest charity car shows in the Midwest, but it had never been covered in The Lion, the organization’s magazine. I pitched the story, and received the assignment. I attended the car show, conducted interviews, shot photos, and wrote a 1,500-word story for my editor. He was happy with the piece, and paid me $500 promptly.

Good enough, right? But consider this: in my fourteen-year freelance career, I have never:

• Written about the Morris Lions’ car show again;
• Written about car shows again; or
• Written for The Lion again.

And that is the problem. To write this story, I spent about 15 hours doing background research, pitching the idea, interviewing sources, attending the show, shooting photos, writing captions, and actually writing and proofing the piece. I learned a lot about cars—more than I ever wanted to know—but I never revisited that knowledge (until my son turned four and became obsessed with all things automotive.) That means I spent a lot of time doing background research and reporting, yet wrote and was paid for only one story.

That's what I call a one-shot, and those are a waste of your time as a freelancer.

Instead, look for ways to reslant, or spin off, your story ideas. This allows you to make the most out of your research time, which is almost always the most time-consuming part of the article writing process.

With my Lions’ car show story, I could have:

• Written a piece about the show for another market, like a local or regional magazine or newspaper;
• Written about car shows for a travel publication or car enthusiast magazine;
• Written other articles for my editor at The Lion. (I’d done a great job for him on my first story—why didn’t I pitch him another idea? But I didn’t. I dropped the ball big-time)

Get the idea? Next post, I'll explore this topic more and help you start pitching and selling more reslants--and making more money in less time as a result.

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New to freelancing and unsure about how to get started--or want to boost your query success rate? Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create your Own Writing Specialty and Make More Money (Kindle edition) will help you identify topics you already have a background in to pitch compelling article ideas--and includes 20 examples of successful queries that sold.