The other day I had a mentoring client ask me, “Is it possible to make a living writing only what I’m interested in””
I’d like to answer that question here, because there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.
First of all: Yes, if what you’re interested in is technology, health, business, or a few other in-demand areas — you can make a living writing only what you’re interested in.
But for the rest of you, who may love writing about quilting, or butterfly collecting, or bluegrass music, or auto racing — it may be somewhat more difficult to earn a good living writing about these topics.
That said, there are ways to make more money than you would expect writing about topics that you love but are in lesser demand. For example, you can think of ways to slant these topics so they’ll fit into a variety of publications.
For instance: My husband Eric is the news editor at BoardgameGeek.com, and before that he wrote about boardgames for magazines. There are really only one or two paying markets for this interest — so what Eric did was to match the boardgame to the market. He wrote about a game called Primordial Soup for Discover, a game about sheep herding for Sheep! magazine, and a game about fish for a magazine for aquarium enthusiasts.
That’s a smart move! But keep in mind that even so, Eric did also have to write about topics that weren’t particularly interesting to him to keep his income up.
Now, I’m going to make a crazy claim: I make most of my writing income writing about what I’m truly interested in.
How is that?
Well, part of my job as a freelance writer is to find what’s interesting about a particular topic and convey that to readers in a fun, reader-friendly way. My job is to be interested in whatever I’m writing about.
For example, I recently wrote an article for a trade magazine about cold-water carpet extraction. It’s not a topic I would normally be interested in, but my editor was paying me to be interested.
I interviewed three experts in the industry, and really, nothing is more fun than talking to people who are passionate about what they do — even if what they do is clean carpets. One of the interviews was especially fun — it was with a source who said, “I can talk about carpet cleaning all day!”
(By the way, it’s funny — I’ll interview a top celebrity who’s a bore, and then have a great time talking with a sanitation/janitorial expert.)
Freelancers need to be inherently curious about everything. If your goal is to make a living through freelance writing and you’re doing a lot of marketing, it’s a certainty that one day you’ll be presented with an assignment on a topic you don’t love. If you can become interested in that idea, then yes — you’re earning a living writing only about what you’re interested in.
How about you — do you write about topics that don’t interest you just to pay the bills? Do you have any tricks for making yourself interested in a topic you don’t love? [lf]