In the early nineties, there was a Government initiative in the UK called Every Child Matters, which aimed to have all the child-centred services working together. The idea was that no child would fall through the net, so to speak. Teachers, social workers, and health professionals would all be involved when necessary.
ECM had five principles:
- Stay safe
- Be healthy
- Enjoy and achieve
- Make a positive contribution
- Achieve economic well-being
The problem I identified:
ECM was a fine idea in theory but, in practice, it wasn’t a walk in the park. Just to give you one example, the terms used by different groups meant different things. For instance, when a teacher says a child has been excluded, she means the child has been told not to come into school for a certain period of time as a punishment. But, to a social worker, the word “excluded” means not being able to fully participate in society, perhaps because of illness or poverty. Thus, when Every Child Matters was launched, all the information published anywhere was aimed at agencies, like local authorities. There was nothing that was useful to teachers interacting with kids every day.
Before putting pen to paper, I did a lot of reading of white papers, policies, guidelines, and articles in education magazines. I even asked people I knew who were involved if there was anything for ‘ordinary’ teachers. There wasn’t. I thought this was a shame because the five principles were good ones but kids were unlikely to benefit from them if there was no guidance for teachers on how to address them in the classroom.
What I did:
I sat down, and thought about what would be useful for me, as a teacher of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), which was my area of expertise. I then wrote a paper entitled: Every Child Matters: What it means for the ICT teacher. I made this paper available as a free pdf from my website, and also for subscribers to my newsletter.
It went what we would now call ‘viral.’ Bear in mind that this was in the days before social media was as ubiquitous as it is now. Over 5,000 copies were downloaded.
I was then contacted by someone in a government agency. My document had come to her attention, she liked it and, on that basis, offered me several days’ worth of consultancy work, which netted around $9,000.
I identified a genuine need and I wrote a paper to address that need.
I made the paper available free of charge from my website and newsletter. I would suggest that having a website is a definite requirement unless you have other means of publicising the freebie without spending money on advertising. It’s easy to set up a one-page website using a service like Google Sites. Obviously, having a social media presence would be helpful, too. In addition, if you have articles published by third parties, make sure the freebie and where to get it is mentioned in your bio.
The free paper was downloaded over 5,000 times, it established me as an expert in that field, and it led to paid work. What’s not to like?
Not many writers can make a living solely from their writing. (Figures released this month in the UK put the figure at only 19%.) Therefore, think creatively of other ways to make money. Making something available for free may seem counter-intuitive but (to enlist another proverb) regard it as a sprat to catch a mackerel.
Terry Freedman is a freelance writer of over thirty years’ standing based in England. He publishes ideas and suggestions for writers at www.writersknowhow.org, and writes about literature and life at https://terryfreedman.substack.com.
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