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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tips from Freelancing Experts, Take #1: Write about Technology

I was the organizer of last Friday's ASJA panel (open to both members and nonmembers) on successful freelancing and book publishing at the Silversmith Hotel. The six panelists had plenty of great ideas, tips, and advice for both new and experienced freelancers, so my next batch of future posts will highlight some of them.  

Tip #1: Write about technology. According to Minda Zetlin, author/coauthor of five books and regular contributor to Inc. magazine and the Inc. website, as well as many other online and print publications, technology writers have suffered less from the recession because of the constant demand for stories on the subject. "In the tech world, assignments have not dried up," says Zetlin, "I have more work that I can go after, and there is a lot of work out there--well-paying work." That work ranges from reviewing products to business stories that have a technology bent to writing white papers to ghostwriting


As a freelancer, you may be writing for companies, for markets that target high-level tech workers (think CIOs, or Chief Information Officers), for markets aimed at lower-level tech employees, or for markets that target people who use technology--in other words, just about all of us. (Hey, I don't officially cover "tech" but I've still written stories about the value of tech toys for toddlers, the benefits of downloadable heart rate monitors, and how college students use technology. And that's just the tip the iceberg when it comes to tech-related topics!)   

Zetlin admits that it takes extra effort to pitch a timely tech story (the editors are likely to have covered the latest software, for example), and encourages writers to think outside the box for relevant topics. Years ago she saw a news item about the fact that the average CIO stays at a company for only four years. She used that stat to pitched a story to a national magazine on how tech employees can cope with this kind of turnover as it as likely they'd be dealing with a new CIO every four years or so. 


Her point? "Take something in the news, or something new, and spin it," says Zetlin. "Make it more thoughtful or useful to the audience." That's good advice for any type of topic, but especially relevant when writing about tech.


**Technology is actually one of the "top ten" freelance specialties I address in Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create your own Writing Specialty and Make More Money