branching out in writingBranching Out

by Ann Harth


You want to specialise. I know.

Your passion is extreme sports and you're ready to take on the world. You mean to bungy jump in every continent and sky dive over every ocean. You want to manoeuvre rafts through traitorous rivers and inspect shipwrecks with a Great White or two looking over your shoulder. Then…

… you plan to write about it. Not only do you want to write about it, you want to earn your living by writing about it.

It sounds like a dream (or nightmare) come true. Whether your passion is jumping from aeroplanes, eating in five-star restaurants or telling stories to children, if you're a writer, you will write about it. If you have visions of yourself as a fulltime freelancer, you will want to make a living writing about it.

What could be better than spending the days doing the things you love most and the evenings knocking a few articles together?

This can work and, eventually, it may. But when you are first starting out, limiting the work that you accept will limit your opportunities, income and the growth of your own business.

When I decided to work from home, I was focused on writing for children. I prided myself on my amazing flexibility because I was willing to write anything, from picture books to young adult novels. I cranked out stories, chapter books and novels. I entered competitions and submitted to every children's magazine imaginable. Many of my first attempts were rejected but as I learned and fine-tuned my writing, my work began to sell.

Great, I thought. I will be able to support my family doing the thing I love to do most.

Wrong. Kids magazines can pay well but they pay only once. Picture books, novels and stories for the educational market make better money but sometimes you have to wait for months or even years to collect that first royalty. I needed something to fill the rather huge gaps in my income.

The first step was the hardest: Making the decision to expand my title from 'children's author to simply 'writer'. But once I decided, I was amazed at how much work is out there.

How do you find it?

1. Google!

Type in work for writer, freelance writing, writer wanted or any other possible combination for starving wordsmiths. You will get lists of job boards specifically for writers. Prospective employers post their needs on the website and for a small fee you are able to browse through and choose the ones that interest you. I use Elance.  and Freelance Work Exchange . I have found them both to be reputable, easy to use and inexpensive for what you receive.

2. Study.

Take some time to read about the work that is needed. You will find that a lot of people are looking for the same skills, such as:

  • Writing website content using keywords and phrases
  • Ghostwriting articles and ebooks
  • Reviewing books, restaurants and movies

You've never done any of these things? That's okay. None of these skills are difficult to master. Writing is the hard part and you can already do that. You're way ahead of the game before you even start.

3. Learn.

Writing website content using keywords? Discover what keywords are and how to use them effectively. There are hundreds of articles on the net that will give you the basics.

Ghostwriting? Learn to research, do your homework and practice. Read lots of ebooks and articles that can be found on-line. Study the techniques, formats, and fonts. You can do this. Take the information you gather from others and inject your own style and some imagination. The Internet is the most useful tool that writers have. Use it.

Reviews? Read some. Notice the format, the elements of a book or movie that is addressed. Make a list of the qualities that are addressed and then practice. Review a movie that you know well or a book you've read a couple of times. Review last night's dinner and compare the language and style to that of a restaurant critic. Better yet, create your own style.

4. Create a CV.

This is extremely important if you want an employer to hire you through the Internet. The job board sites will offer you a place to submit a resume. Take your time when preparing this. It's the first point of contact. If your resume shouts 'professional' and 'experienced' your chances of impressing the guy or girl with the money are going to increase. Think of every skill you possess and include it. There are some obscure jobs posted on these sites. Who knows? Maybe that certificate in international ponytail plaiting will come in handy.

5. Be professional.

Then you do get your first job, make sure you do the best job possible, even if it's a single article for a pittance of pay. This is the first step to building your on-line reputation. Many job boards ask employers for feedback. If you have a high rating as a service provider, you will receive many more invitations to bid on projects. You may have to take on a few jobs that aren't your idea of perfect or even interesting, but do the best job that you can and you will find that as time goes on, you can be more selective simply because you will have more offers to choose from.

6. Check out magazines.

Query the extreme sporting magazines, but also the pet lovers and gardening periodicals. What are some of your hobbies or interests? Chances are, there is a magazine that writes about them. If you have always wanted to know a bit more about the effect of feral cats on the rainforest in Northern Australia, now's the time to query. Outline an article that answers your questions and submit it to an environmental magazine. When they approve it, find the answers to your always-wondered-about subjects and get paid for it.

For a complete list of periodicals that are produced all over the world, visit . Just perusing the list will probably give you some ideas.


Dive into your passion and write about it. If you can make ends meet this way stick with it, but if you find that the holes in your income are large enough for an adult hippo to float through, broaden your horizons. Keep an open mind and learn to love to learn.

Hang glide nude over a crowded beach in Far North Queensland and sell your story to a world-class magazine. This may be the highlight of your career to date, but keep an open mind. The article you will research next week on lactating beef cows may fund your next sky dive.

Live, learn and write.

Next column: Quotes: How much can I charge?


© copyright Ann Harth. Ann Harth is a freelance manuscript assessor, copyeditor, proofreader and ghostwriter as well as a published author. She writes in all genres of children's fiction from picture books to young adult novels as well as adult fiction and non-fiction. She has successfully completed several text-editing projects for university students and authors, and is the assistant fiction editor of, a  literary on-line magazine. She is also on the creative writing staff of, a website for children.

More information on the freelance services that Ann Harth offers can be found on her website at


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