Friday, September 28, 2012

Revamping or Retrenchment

As your freelance career progresses, you may find that some of your ideas and avenues for publication just aren’t working out. Do you throw in the towel? No. Instead, you should revamp what you’ve been working on and try again. However, the damage may be severe—markets for your ideas begin to disappear, you’re running out of ideas, or you’re just not as interested in the subject as you were when you started. In this case, you may need to fall back and retrench. And much like soldiers in World War I who did just that to come up with a new strategy, so should you.

Revamping your operation or project isn’t as drastic. You may have to go back and do more research in both your subject and the market for it. Perhaps you’ll need to find some new contacts and get in touch with ones you haven’t heard from in a while. If you've corresponded with an editor previously and received encouraging words but no assignments, send him or her a short E-mail, saying something like “I contacted you a few months ago, and you said you’d be glad to look at other ideas I had. Do you have any stories you're contemplating? If so, can I help?" Reminding editors that you're still available to take on assignments isn’t such a bad one.

Revamping may also mean asking for more pay. No writer gets additional compensation without first showing that he or she deserves it. Keep a special file containing notes on all the best pieces you’ve written for a particular editor. While some editors will increase your pay automatically if you’re doing an outstanding job, others will need a little more prodding. If you an exceptional job on an article, be prepared to ask for more pay the next time around. But always leave yourself a graceful way out if the editor turns down your request. Don't burn bridges unless you absolutely have to.

If you’ve been specializing in a particular subject area and not getting too far with it, perhaps it’s time to take a second look at it. While revamping may also mean developing another specialty, remember that you’ve already put in a lot of time into the one you’re pursuing, and you’ll have to go back to square one if you begin again. Study your target market. Note changes in it and your specialty.

How has what’s happening in the world affected your specialty? After 9/11, the market for travel articles went into chaos. People weren’t traveling and advertisers stopped buying ads, so publications that specialized in travel had to pull back. Some went out of business. Likewise, have the effects of global events filtered down to your locality yet? You may be able to cash in on your specialty in local or regional markets—at least until the national markets recover. The recent economic recession had the same affect on a number of subject areas.

If you're pushing your skills into a new area, it's bound to make others a little suspicious now and then, even if you know you're competent to handle the new situation. Remind yourself this new arena is one in which you're going to have to sell harder than before. Be prepared. Do your research and come up strong.

If you manage to get an assignment in your specialty area every now and then, that should tell you that you should be able to get more. If you’re at a point where some editors trust you to deliver, you're halfway there. Assuming it may take several queries to land one assignment, prepare yourself for the strikeouts and keep after the home runs. Your self-confidence will grow with practice. Success, no matter how slight, whets the appetite as nothing else can.

Occasionally think outside the box. Even specialized publications run general pieces once in a while. Their readers are always looking to save money, travel, manage their lives, etc.

If you're changing specialties, you may have to go back a step or two until you've proven yourself. Move ahead quickly once you've established your new specialty. Be alert for chances to point out to editors that you're now as qualified as anyone else. Perhaps review books in your new field. You’ll not only increase your visibility, but you’ll also add free books to your personal specialty library, saving money in the process.

New technology in electronic books now enables you to further increase your visibility by self-publishing short books or articles in your specialty to sell on Amazon for Kindle. It’s a fact that Kindle has the lion’s share of the ebook market, so ignore Nook and other venues and concentrate on it. This helps provide you with a track record in your new area of expertise.

Sometimes it doesn't make much sense to continue in the direction you’re headed. If you've tried to make a go at a specialty but discovered you've hardly made headway, you might want to  reconsider. Retrenchment may be what's in order, before you get in over your head financially or otherwise. But retrenchment means giving up what you were doing in favor of starting something else. You’ll definitely lose money on this because income won’t be coming in for a while. Unless you have another source of income, only use retrenchment as a last resort. Don’t give up too soon.

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