The Renegade Writer

How to Make Money Writing About Your “Unmarketable” Passion

A lot of my e-course students and mentoring clients have a passion that they want to write about, but that doesn’t lend itself to many paying markets. For example, they may be interested in writing about raising ferrets, designing tree houses, or refurbishing old mandolins for wandering minstrels. Not much of a market for those topics, is there?

Here’s how my husband Eric handled the problem. Eric is a board game freak — he owns more than 1,000 board games, he used to write regularly for Games and Knucklebones magazines, and he’s the news editor at Boardgame Geek. But with so few game magazines on the stands, it’s hard for Eric to earn a decent amount of money by writing about his passion.

So he got creative and started thinking about non-gaming magazines that would be interested in games. He sold a review of a fight-themed card game to Grappling magazine, a review of a game about evolution to Discover, a review of a sheep-related game to Sheep! magazine, and a review of a fish-themed game to a magazine for aquarium owners.

Anyone can follow Eric’s example to make money writing about their passion. Take your dream topic and look at it from every angle, and brainstorm ways you can slant the idea for a wide variety of magazines.

For example, if your passion is raising ferrets, don’t think you’re stuck writing for the one or two ferret-themed magazines out there. How about a profile of a successful ferret breeder for a local business magazine? Or an article for a women’s magazine (they often run pet articles) on how to choose a non-traditional pet for your child? Or an article for a cat- or dog-themed magazine on how to introduce your cat or dog to a small pet? There are lots of articles on how to introduce a new cat or dog to your feline or canine crew, but I’ll bet there aren’t many on how to help your cat or dog get used to (and not kill) a ferret, rabbit, or guinea pig.

What specialty do you have, and how can you reslant it for a variety of markets? [lf]

Aug 1, 2011 Advice, Ideas

15 Responses

  1. Linda,

    I just read your book, Renegade Writer, and I love your site. There is such great information on here. I am a middle school teacher and I blog about the uniqueness of teaching this age group. What magazines other than teaching/education magazines would look for articles on teaching middle school?

    Thanks,
    Kendra

    • Melissa D says:

      Kendra, almost any city of decent size in the US has parenting mags.

    • Ali says:

      What about parenting magazines about what to expect for their students/children attending middle school? How can the uniqueness of teaching this age group be of help to parents? How can parents help their children learn more in the classroom without bogging down the teaching of the whole group?

      What about potential college students looking to begin their careers as middle school teachers? What could they learn from you?

      Just one or two ideas… Good luck! Sounds very interesting.
      Ali

  2. Great post, Linda. I often say that to make more money, freelancers have three basic options:
    * write more for the same clients
    * write more of the same type of thing (e.g. service articles, SEO work, etc)
    * write more about the same thing (Eric’s approach here–writing about the same thing but for different markets).

    And Kendra, I would think about writing not just for teachers, but for parents. For example, parenting and women’s publications might be interested in articles about how to help your middle-school-aged kids do better in school, or how to enhance their love of learning, or how to help them have a more positive school experience, etc. Don’t just think about writing for teachers; think about what you know about (middle-school-aged kids) and who is interested in them (the parents of same). Good luck!

  3. Kendra, great ideas from everyone here. The main mistake writers make is that they confuse the means with the message. Teaching is a means. But what is the message you’re teaching? What’s your subject matter? How can you extend that to be more relevant to a wider audience?

    I think I’ll write a blog post about this next.

  4. Thank you, Linda. I have several weird little interests that I’ve always wished were more marketable, but now I’ll have to try this idea.

  5. Marissa says:

    This is a great post. I work overseas in the ESL industry but have a major career change coming up this year as I switch over to freelancing. I’ve been trying to brainstorm ways to make my professional experience marketable but without much luck. I’ll try thinking out of the box!

  6. What about blogging? Writers can make a decent amount of money writing for themselves if they build membership sites, or build “starter” blogs and sell them off. Every great blogger has to be a great writer to really succeed, so I feel like as writers more could dominate this practice if they turned their interests into a product.

  7. Jean says:

    Linda, your blog is easily one of my favorites. You tell it like it is and your tips and posts are consistently helpful.

    I have NEVER thought of marketing my niche to other non-related magazines like this! I can’t wait to write down some other angles to my niche and think about articles to pitch to other industries.

    For the record, my niche is video games. Now, I thought I was stuck having to market to traditional video game mags where the audience consists mainly of young males ages 18-35. I’d rather write to other women who play, though writing to guys isn’t a deal breaker.

    With your idea here, now I know I can write to parenting mags about suggestions to good family games children of all ages can play with their parents, reviews on consoles or games focused on grownups like Brain Age, or even how to tell if your child may be addicted. This doesn’t even cover games I could suggest to seniors or games for tween girls.

    Absolutely fantastic. Thanks so much again! :)

    • Wonderful, Jean! I know a guy who is a tech and video games writer, and he’s written on those topics for magazines as diverse as Family Circle, Playgirl, and AARP. So it can be done! Please report back and let us know how it goes!

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