The Freelance Writers Connection on LinkedIn’s groups has had a long- running discussion about the dismal opportunities for professional writers today. The questions and comments have been all over the place. The basic question is whether the real problem is with the overall market or just the marketing practices of individual writers. Beginning writers always have been willing to work for less, but experienced writers have used their reputations to demand higher fees. The flood of people who are writing blogs, for content mills, and those who have been laid off have increased the supply of writers while the demand from traditional publications has declined. Is the market for writers moving online or are there still opportunities in traditional print media?
My experience is that prior to the 2008 recession I was able both to get assignment leads from my web site and to write for other web sites as well as local print publications. I’m putting less emphasis on my web sites and blog now and focusing on making new personal contacts. Although I had been a writer and editor, I was new to freelance writing and was not established with a reputation in the national markets. I started by attending the traditional networking at writers’ conferences, where editors and agents often attended either as speakers or to recruit writers. That seems to have declined the past couple of years. They’re just too busy or don’t want new writers.
The discussion on the Folio Group on LinkedIn seems to focus on the business and technical aspects of magazine publishing with almost no consideration of editorial needs. It’s almost as though content doesn’t matter or at least it isn’t a concern of those who post. Perhaps they are primarily involved in the business end and don’t include editors.
In my opinion, it is a difficult proposition to try to monetize a blog. It is a means to attract attention to you and to promote yourself. We had a discussion on our local Triangle Area Freelancers Google group discussion about the Huffington Post and those who contribute to it for free. The consensus seems to be that because of its huge readership, it is a great way to get exposure. To use the cliché, it is part of your “platform,” just like public speaking, email newsletters, etc. I know people who sell “products” from their blogs, but they must have huge readerships and can survive on 3 – 4 percent returns similar to the old-fashioned direct mail print promotions that are still around and successful.
One of the issues that I’ve been researching is whether or not including photography as part of your pitch helps the odds or not. Selling stock photography appears to produce very little income either, but there may be some benefits on a specific long distance assignment. The North Carolina Professional Photographers Association is meeting in the Research Triangle Park this weekend, and I gather that things are tough for them also. Of course, most of them focus on local markets and don’t promote themselves to national magazines. I declined a National Geographic Traveler photography workshop in DC later this month. Although it seems like the perfect opportunity to get an inside tract with that magazine, right now I’m just too pessimistic to make that effort and put out that expense. I’m more inclined to just try and ride out the recession for a few more months.