At a panel on developing a lucrative side hustle at ASJA (moderated by the awesome Damon Brown), I talked about the importance of using your experience to set yourself apart from other writers. Book authors know we're talking about something called "platform," which in short can be described as '"who are you and how will you sell this book so that the publisher can make money with it". Platform matters for writers of shorter content, too, whether you're pitching an article to a national magazine or sending an LOI to a content company. See, competition is stiff. You're competing against hundreds of thousands (more likely, millions) of other freelancers to get work. Oh no! Before you give up, though, consider that you're not competing against all of these writers at the same time, or for the same markets. Feel a little better? Good. The fact remains, though, that you're still competing against a fair number of them if you're writing for a market that pays well (or even decently). How do you stand out, especially as a new writer? By thinking about something that makes you unique...and something that has value to your potential client or editor. Here's what I mean. I'm a certified personal trainer. I have been since 2007. And I've trained clients as a lucrative (okay, not really) side gig. Hence my presence on the panel. But I am not training clients right this second. Fact is, I haven't trained a client for almost two years. But do I confess this in LOIs, or to editors or agents I meet with? Hell to the no! (I also don't mention that my street slang is typically about five years' behind what people actually say.) I point out that I'm an ACE-certified personal trainer, with a fairly deep background in fitness. Guess what? Most freelancers don't have that qualification. So it sets me apart from the mobs of writers who want to cover fitness. Better yet, most trainers aren't writers. So, who is an editor going to think of when he or she needs a writer to cover something fitness related? Hopefully me. Now if an editor point-blank asks me about whether I'm training clients currently, I'll fess up. I won't lie to get a gig. But it's okay to make an impression that helps you stand out in a very competitive field. You don't have to be doing something full-time, or part-time, or even occasionally to "claim" it. As I said at the panel, "Am I training now? No. But can I say, 'I'm a trainer'? Of course. Hell, I can say I'm a vegetarian. Because right this minute, I am a vegetarian." "Well, we're ALL vegetarians!" added Damon. To which I responded, "Yeah, we're all vegetarians...until the burgers arrive." Mmmmmm....burgers. Oops, I digress. My point isn't to sway the vegetarians to eat burgers. (Though they are delicious once in a while. The burgers, not the veggies.) It's to claim something about your background, experience, or credentials that helps set you apart. That's what I call being unique qualified. It helps you nail assignments and makes you memorable. And most of the time, being memorable is good. **A big welcome to my new readers. If you're serious about making your freelance writing business a money-maker, I suggest my freelance classic, Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition. If you're more interested in getting into ghostwriting and content marketing, I suggestGoodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs and More, Second Edition. If you're brand-new to freelancing, Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Marketswalks you through the process of launching your freelance career.
Finally, if you like your books full of shorter pieces, check out a different format--Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success is divided into five broad sections to help you make more money regardless of what kind of nonfiction writing you do.