The Renegade Writer

How to Earn More From Your Writing Just By Talking About It

By Justin P. Lampert

If you’re like me, every single article you write is a learning experience.

Especially for the large-scale feature-style articles, you put the time in, do the research, conduct the interviews, compile and curate your notes, all before you even manage to put pen to paper. And the entire time, you’re learning.

Maybe it’s a subject you’re totally passionate about. Or, maybe it’s something you’ve never even considered before you got the assignment to write about it. But at this point, you’re a genuine expert.

Now you have two choices: 1) You can hand in your article and move on to the next learning experience without a second glance, or 2) you can capitalize on all that effort and new-found expertise while putting a few extra dollars in your pocket and a few extra credits on your bio.

As a freelance writer smart and ambitious enough to be reading this blog, I’m pretty confident you’re a #2 kind of person.

Let’s Talk

As an expert in the subject matter at hand, why not make the opportunity to share your knowledge with people who want to hear about it?

Every community has opportunities available for people to speak on various subjects. If your article was for a local market, you probably have the appropriate venues right at your fingertips already. Contact the folks you interviewed, the websites you already visited, and the local organizations those folks are connected to. Even if you don’t have a list of names already in hand, though, the answers are only a Google search away.

Locate local groups, organizations, corporations or non-profits who have some connection to the topic you’ve just written about. Review their website and see if and when they’re meeting, holding an event, or planning a program of some kind. Then, contact the folks in charge and offer your services as a speaker for their function.

Even if they’re not planning anything right now, contact them and offer to develop a speech on the subject at their discretion. Maybe you’ll spur them on to putting an event together.

Another option would be to serve as moderator for a panel discussion or debate on the topic. This could allow some experts from the company or group you’re contacting to join the fun, and offer an added benefit for them to take you up on it.

But I’m speaking in generalities right now. Let’s bring it down to a real-life example of how this really works.

How Does it Really Work?

You’ve just completed a 3000-word feature article about the effects of fracking (a controversial method for harvesting natural gas) for a regional environmental quarterly we’ll call the Smith Valley Greenspace magazine. In the course of researching and writing the article, you’ve learned more about the natural gas industry — and the love/hate relationship it enjoys with environmentalists — than you ever expected to know.

You submit your article to rave reviews. It’s going to print in about four months. In the meantime, you start doing some Google searches for local environmental organizations that may be hosting fundraisers, educational events or seminars in the area. Sure enough, you find three different groups that have events planned over the next six months.

You contact them and let them know you’re a published writer with a feature article coming out soon in the Smith Valley Greenspace quarterly about fracking. One of them is especially impressed, because they happen to subscribe to the SVGQ. But all of them keep listening because that’s an impressive enough fact to warrant their attention.

You then let them know you’re looking forward to their upcoming event, and you get a feel for what kinds of subjects they’re planning to cover. Finally, you make your pitch: “I’d like to speak at your event. I have access to some of the most up-to-date information and sources on fracking, and I think your audience would love to hear about it.”

One of the three already has Al Gore lined up to speak, so you missed it by that much. But two of them are thrilled to have an expert available to speak on such a timely topic, and they ask you what they can do to help.

Why This Makes You More Money

This kind of public speaking isn’t going to earn you big bucks on its own. Generally, if a speaker makes anything for giving the speech or moderating the panel, it’s a small honorarium.

But, far more importantly, speaking on your subject offers you multiple opportunities to market yourself as an expert:

  • Record the speech in audio and video formats and offer them in whole or in parts via YouTube, your website, your blog, or via podcast.
  • Obtain testimonials from the event organizers and/or attendees and post them on your site or add them to your media kit.
  • Have the speech transcribed and post it as an article on your site and/or as a sample to mail out.
  • Hand out a brief bio with contact information at your speech to allow attendees to get a hold of you later.
  • Tack “professional speaker” on your bio’s skill list.
  • Be creative and make the moment work for you!

In all these ways, you’re building a platform that consistently brings you up in the minds of others as an expert on this subject.

Now, we all know you were already planning to re-purpose a lot of that research material from the original article into a dozen other related articles for non-competing publications across the nation. How much better do you think your chances of seeing those queries approved will be, now that you’re a recognized expert on the subject, with the audio, video, text and testimonial evidence to prove it?

That’s how this tactic ends up making you more money as a writer: by vastly improving your chances of turning every article into a dozen paying gigs while simultaneously improving your professional reputation in the process.

If you, like many of us, have books in your future, any agent worth their salt is going to tell you to build a platform before pitching a publisher. Sure enough, speaking — even on the small, local level — offers a fantastic opportunity to do just that as well!

So, don’t just sit there! If you’re currently working on a big, meaty article, keep your eyes peeled for speaking opportunities you can exploit. And if you’re not, start trolling your clip file for some huge learning experiences from your past and get yourself out there talking about it!

Justin P Lambert is a freelance content marketing specialist and copywriter with room in his schedule to make your blog sound just as fantastic as this one! Take a glance at the site or hook up on LinkedIn to get acquainted!

Jan 7, 2013 Advice, Marketing, Money

21 Responses

  1. While I like the idea of pitching for speaking engagements, I am not quite sure about people accepting it.

    Would events let people speak just because they wrote an article for a magazine? Then I assume journalists can start pitching to speak for just about any event they want.

    People would need to see your experience and that you have walked the talk when you give a speech. Not just that fact that you were a paid freelance writer.

    • Ardash,

      Thanks very much for the comment.

      I agree, there’s a lot more to using this marketing method than just calling and asking to speak, so I probably over-simplified a touch in my article.

      You’ll do need to work on your speaking ability so you can confidently offer to do so, and you’ll likely need to make a lot more calls than I suggested in my example. It’s a lot like querying in that regard: we might send a dozen queries before getting the bite we were looking for.

      But, surprisingly enough, there are many organizations and venues that are absolutely desperate for knowledgeable speakers to cover topics of interest to the audiences they attract. And you may be surprised how impressive a published article can be combined with your offer to speak that comes just at the right time for that desperate event coordinator!

      Thanks again!

  2. Anne Grant says:

    This multi-layered approach is an excellent example of being pro-active about your business. Thanks, Justin, for outlining these methods to use as a writer.
    Even if you aren’t accepted to speak at events for the organizations related to the article, the program chairperson for civic clubs would be thrilled to get offers in filling their weekly or monthly calendar with topics of general interest–as long the concepts were not wildly opposing the purpose of the group.
    As a Rotarian, we hear from authors, environmentalists, poets, non-profit leaders, historians, artists or people with an unusual interest or hobby. You don’t have to be a “true expert” on the subject matter, just familiar enough to speak intelligently and make key points for about 25 or 30 minutes.
    It is the same for Civitans, Kiwanis, Lions Club and similar community service groups.
    Some clubs might have an audience of over 100 and some only 20 or 25. There could be considerably more at a regional meeting.

    • Anne,

      Thanks very much for your comment. You’re absolutely right, like I said above to Ardash.

      I’ve been really pleasantly surprised and grateful in my own experience with how gracious and open-minded most local and regional clubs and organizations are when it comes to speaking events. I’ve had the opportunity to discuss my own writing, some topics of general interest, held some seminars and workshops on improving public speaking and copywriting, and even done a poetry and fiction reading once.

      Without fail, every single group I’ve spoken to has been very kind and supportive, never giving me the feeling I wasn’t quite “expert” enough to speak.

      Thanks again!

  3. Jobi says:

    Thanks for the article. This is something I see myself doing in the future.

  4. Tania Dakka says:

    I never considered this approach. Thanks so much for this eye-opening method to marketing. I agree with what you said in the earlier comments…even if there’s a little more to it than that, it’s an exciting possibility to consider!

  5. Tania,

    Thanks very much for the comment, and for your enthusiasm. What worthy endeavor comes easy, right? It can be a challenge. But, of course, making a living as a freelance writer isn’t for the feint of heart. I hope you’re able to use some of this info to benefit your own career.

    Thanks again!

  6. Debbie Kane says:

    Thanks for this approach, Justin. As a former public relations professional, I used to work with clients to get speaking engagements. Chambers of commerce, local civic clubs and business affinity groups are always seeking experts to address their groups (and no pay is involved, just an opportunity to promote your business.

    BTW, I like your blog!

    • Debbie,

      Thanks very much for the comment. I’ve always looked at pay for speaking as a secondary benefit that’s way down the list. As you said, the main benefit is exposure and marketing. Just like seeing someone on TV, seeing someone standing in front of a group and talking to them turns on a switch in our heads that automatically raises that person to “expert status” in our minds. And the residual benefits of recording the speech for use as content down the road multiplies that effect even more.

      Thanks again!

  7. Definitely agree – I’ve been amazed at how many opportunities have come up for me, simply because I take the time to mention what I do to the people I interact with.

    Granted, it’s pretty fun to say “I’m a writer” when the inevitable “What do you do?” conversation comes up, but I’ve found that ending these conversations with, “If you know anybody who needs web content written, send them my way,” has led to plenty of interesting leads.

    • Sarah,

      Thanks for the comment! You’re absolutely right. I remember when “I’m a writer” felt weird coming out of my mouth. I always looked down when I said it and often felt the need to justify it somehow by saying something else right afterward. But these days, I’m loud and proud, and that attitude comes across really well from the stage, especially if you’re speaking on a writing-related topic.

      Thanks again!

  8. Erica says:

    I’d never thought of this approach. What a great idea. There’s a lot of freelancing advice out there that vaguely tells you to get your name out there. But this provides an actual method of doing so. Thanks!

    • Erica,

      You’re more than welcome, and thanks for the comment! I’m kinda sick of generic marketing advice for writers. It’s a weird thing, but even though we’re often very good at making other people sound great (like when we’re ghostwriting for them or writing copy for them,) most of us have a natural aversion to tooting our own horn, whether in writing or verbally. Public speaking offers a really nice way to boost our careers without coming across as self-promoters, so it fits the writer’s personality really well.

      Thanks again!

  9. Natalie says:

    I agree with others that this is a proactive method. Anything that helps can be considered worthwhile, in my opinion anyway. I think that public speaking and writing go hand in hand; they both reach out to people with words. I am starting a public speaking course soon as an elective for my degree and will look at it in a new light. Thanks for your post, it was refreshing advice.

    • Natalie,

      Thanks for the comment. Proactive is a good word for it. Instead of hiding behind our screens or even our telephones, we’re getting out there in front of people and actively doing something to help ourselves and others. Taking a speaking course is a fantastic investment in your career! I wish you the best of success in it!

      Thanks again!

  10. Ryan Stone says:

    This is a great article. I’ve actually found in my industry, tax preparation, that writing a good article is important but presenting it is far more important. There are a million articles regarding how a CPA should complete taxes and what to do in certain situations, the way to truly create value seems to be actually discussing these theories in person with prospective clients.

    • Ryan,

      Thanks very much for commenting, and I apologize for somehow overlooking it two days ago! There’s no way we’ll ever be able to eliminate the power of face-to-face interaction, no matter how incredibly technology facilitates our communication. Although I’ve never personally worked with a CPA as a content marketing specialist, I have to imagine that a service as vital and potentially stress-inducing as preparing someone’s taxes relies even more heavily on direct human contact than other technical or informational services.

      Getting out and speaking on the topic provides a great opportunity to mix that face-to-face human interaction with the power of broadcasting content to a wider audience.

      Thanks again!

  11. Melina Moraga says:

    Great post, Justin–I never would’ve thought of it. Now, my mind is swimming with all the possibilities! I’m going to put my presentation together right away…

  12. […] freelance writer and coach to fellow freelancers, Linda Formichelli. ┬áMy article is called “How to Earn More From Your Writing Just By Talking About It“, and it’s about how to use public speaking to enhance and expand a freelance writing […]

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