Look around you. There are writing-doors waiting to be knocked on.
If you love to write, you no doubt love words. And, if you love words, you no doubt respect the rules that govern them. In other words, you know your grammar.
Depending on the type of writing you do, you just might find work available in your community…in places with doors you’ve never considered knocking on. You mind find work, for example, in your local churches, small businesses, golf clubs or political offices. Make a list of all the places that send out notices or communications or advertisements on a regular basis. Add to the list of possibilities the many non-profit organizations or societies in the area as well as the schools, museums, gyms, and so on.
“What kind of work is available?” you may be asking. The kind of work that enhances the communications issued by the companies and coalitions all around you. That work could range from helping a firm draft a mission statement to proofreading on a contract basis to devising curriculum for adult education classes.
KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN
The trick to looking for gigs in all the right places is to be observant. Here’s what I mean. A while ago, I received a promotional flyer from a consultant who bragged, “At XYZ, each of our associates are committed to providing error-free work.” Did you spot the problem? In the very sentence that claims the group will not make mistakes, there is a mistake! (“Each” is a singular pronoun, one requiring a singular verb. “Are committed” should be “is committed.”)
I contacted the consultant, pointed out the mistake, and offered to proofread future communications for $10 a page for simple proofreading and $25 a page for editing that might include, for example, syntax or stylistic changes. Considering what it cost him to have all the embarrassing flyers reprinted, my fee was a mere metaphoric fly in the ointment he was offering to potential clients.
Similarly, the head of a local non-profit recently sent out a request for donations. One line of the email said something like this: “The underprivileged in our community have many needs. Our agency can fix it with help from people like you.” When asking for money, charitable organizations have to be crystal-clear. And the preceding example lacks clarity—the reader can’t tell what the pronoun “it” is referring to.
When I taught writing classes, this is the example I used to illustrate the importance of ensuring pronouns have clear antecedents.
An elderly village blacksmith was teaching his trade to a young apprentice. “Watch me carefully,” the old man said. “Do exactly what I tell you to do….I’l heat this iron until it’s red hot. Then I’ll put it on the anvil. When I nod my head, you strike it with the hammer.”
The young man did exactly what he was told to do. Now, he is the village blacksmith.
ESTABLISH YOUR “STREET CREDS”
I recommend you start small, and inexpensively, when you contact organizations …landmark societies, schools, businesses, hotels. The list of prospects is long, and need not even be local. The trick, of course, is finding the writing that needs to be improved. Without specially showing how you can help the organization avoid mistakes and embarrassment, you will have a harder time being hired. If you can directly quote a line such as “Each of our associates….” your value will be increased.
Once you’ve earned your “street creds,” you can offer to do more and different kinds of work for the first enterprise and for others as well. In time, you’ll find you can earn a healthy annual income from a wide array of employers. I was first made aware of the survival-via-multiple-income-streams approach when working with an editor for one of my books. A deeply religious woman, she had originally volunteered to proofread her church’s monthly bulletin while remaining at home with her young children. Word about her talent spread, and within a few years, she was providing her editing services, at a reasonable fee, to virtually every church in town. Her many satisfied clients were subsequently happy to serve as references, once her children had started school and she was ready for a full-time job outside the home.
DO YOU AGREE WITH ALI?
It would be hard to disagree with Muhammad Ali’s assertion that “service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” If you wish to continue paying rent, you could offer your services at no charge to the organizations whose work you admire or support. And, if your circumstances require you earn a living in order to pay the literal rent, you could have a combination of paying jobs and pro bono jobs. Ideally, you are rich enough to make one choice or the other.