Welcome to the first in a weekly series on why it pays to do the WordCount Blogathon, which starts June 1. Every Tuesday this month, bloggers who’ve taken the blogathon challenge before are sharing their success stories. The first is Canadian writer and blogger Van Waffle, who explains how last year’s event jump started his freelance career. For more information, see the 2013 WordCount Blogathon. — Michelle Rafter
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For years I dreamed of making a living as a freelance journalist. Fresh out of school, I worked for several small magazines and a community newspaper, so technically I knew what it took. But anxiety held me back.
Some of the inner obstacles I put in front of myself might sound familiar to you:
- I do not have what it takes.
- Nobody will be interested in my ideas and stories.
- The industry has changed too much, I am way behind the game.
I have an annual June ritual at the family cottage: pacing the dock, testing the water with my toe, and reflecting on the meaning of existence before making my first summer plunge into cool, clear silver. It is a rebirth.
I felt the same mix of fear and excitement about writing for publication. Finally, in the spring of 2012, I let go of excuses and dove. The Blogathon was my first swim in a summer of possibilities.
Since then I have become a regular contributor to two consumer magazines and written for the website of one of my dream publications.
Blogging His Way to Paid Work
Here are four ways that participating in a blogging event can help writers find paid work:
1. It forces you to write daily for an audience.
As an introvert, I hesitate to put my words in front of people. Introversion may be viewed suspiciously within our culture, but many great writers are more comfortable expressing themselves in type.
It is the challenge of the creative spirit. We must all find how to balance social anxiety with fascination and empathy. The Blogathon provides a month to approach the world differently by going public every day.
2. You can use it to develop story ideas
I get a kick from interviewing people and turning their words into narrative. Story ideas provide a freelance writer’s currency.
A blogging challenge like the Blogathon helps you look beyond daily routine to see what is remarkable and vital. Explore stories and ideas that interest you. Take a current event or article, respond and put your own words into a post. Share a personal experience so others can relate and learn.
Doing this every day for a month builds new pathways in the brain.
You can also save your best ideas and pitch them to editors.
3. You can use it to network with other writers.
For years I felt isolated. Other writers were out there doing it, getting their words published, while I was silent. The Blogathon brought me into the fold.
One of my favorite highlights of the month was the guest-post exchange, where bloggers trade writing posts for each other’s sites. I teamed up with Joan Lambert Bailey, who writes the Japan Farmers Markets blog, and traded stories about the rivers in our respective cities: Tokyo and Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
I learned what a generous tribe freelance writers are. The vast majority are eager to encourage and even share tips about publications they have written for. Other writers are a writer’s best reference manual.
4. You can use it to create buzz.
One of my biggest thrills of the past year came when an expert I interviewed tweeted that my article about quinoa and the gluten-free diet was an important read for dietitians.
Buzz does not happen by magic. It takes dedication to generate interest in your ideas and how you write about them. Social media provide essential tools. The Blogathon can help you extend your audience beyond pal Bob and Great Aunt Helen.
Last year, it would take me several more months of working with a writing coach and hard effort pitching stories before I received my first paid assignment. The Blogathon turned my hopes into actions and introduced me to the community of freelance writers.