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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

How to be an Expert...

If you want to make decent money from freelance writing, it helps a lot if you're an expert on something.

It's obvious really when you think about it. There are lots of people around who want to write and are reasonably good at it. But the number of such people who are also experts on any given topic is much, much smaller.

Publishers and editors, however, love experts. They know what they're talking about (usually). They give their pages extra credibility. And readers love to read what they have to say. Consequently, if you're a writer and an expert, you can expect to make a lot more money than if you try to sell yourself solely on your writing talents. It's really just a simple matter of supply and demand.

OK, I hear you say, but what if you're not an expert on anything in particular but you still want to make a good living as a non-fiction writer? Then you will need to MAKE yourself an expert in one or (preferably) more fields.

Of course, you have to be realistic here. You're not going to become an expert in brain surgery or nuclear physics without many years of study and practice. But there are lots of topics you CAN become reasonably expert in with just a bit of research. You can then "leverage" this until you really do become a fully-fledged expert in the field concerned.

Here's an example from my own experience. A few years ago I received a mailshot for a "win the lottery" system. I was quite intrigued by the promises this made (trap all six winning numbers from 20 and you're guaranteed at least one £10 winning line, or some such), and set about devising a similar system of my own.

Having done this, I offered it to a mail-order publisher in the gambling field. He liked it, and asked if I could provide more. This led to a regular monthly commission in the newsletter concerned.

I was now seen as a gambling-for-profit expert in some quarters, so I decided to offer my services to other newsletter publishers in this field. I ended up writing regularly for four different gambling newsletters, plus occasional jobs for others as well. And because of all this regular work, modesty aside I have become something approaching a "real" expert on at least some aspects of gambling for profit.

Of course, this is just one example. As readers of my "Write Any Book in Under 28 Days" will know, one of my other areas of "expertise" is writing about careers. I got into this on the very flimsy basis that my first-ever job after leaving uni was a year spent working for Birmingham Careers Service as an information officer. That certainly didn't make me an expert on careers, but it was enough to give me a chance to get started in this field, and once again one thing led to another...

So I'd say, if you want to make more money as a writer, start selling yourself not just as a writer, but as a writer/expert. And if you're not an expert on anything right now, don't worry. Use whatever knowledge you have as a starting point, and develop it into real expertise. Or just pick a topic you're interested in, and make it your business to learn as much about it as possible. Almost anything will do - from programming server-side scripts to model boat building, salsa dancing to folding table napkins. Once you're an expert - or at least, once you can persuade an editor you're one - you'll find that those better-paid jobs suddenly become far more achievable.

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