As a child, I was always writing. I wrote lots of stories, and the summer I was eight, I put together several issues of a neighborhood newspaper, which my father copied at work so I could distribute it to the neighbors. I still have a battered copy of one of the issues.
When I grew up and got a real job, it wasn’t in journalism or writing of any kind, but I always gravitated towards the tasks that included writing. At high school reunions, former classmates expressed surprise that I wasn’t a writer. “You were always writing when we were younger,” they’d say.
In 1996, as a stay-at-home mom, I began a small home-based business giving seminars to women’s groups on thrifty living. I’d read marketing books suggesting that entrepreneurs position themselves as experts in order to get media attention. My goal was to become the local expert anytime frugal living was discussed in an article, so I could have press clippings for my speaker’s package.
I put my love for words to work. Following the guidelines from a book, I began writing press releases and sent them regularly to the local newspaper. I’d usually give the release a timely seasonal slant, offering money saving tips. Within six months, I was in the rolodex of several lifestyle and business reporters at the paper who would call me periodically for a quote.
In July of 1999, I sent off a press release about back-to-school savings. Several weeks later, the editor of the business section called me and offered me a regular column in the newspaper. My column, “Common Cents,” has been running almost three years in The Annapolis Capital and its sister newspapers.
A regular column is excellent training. Whether I’m inspired or not, I need to include take-away value for the reader in every column. I’m forced to come up with ideas week after week, on deadline. It anchors my writing schedule and makes me sit down in front of the computer regularly.
A column gives me credibility as a writer and speaker in the community. It’s also a showcase for my writing, and as I’m now seeking to build a commercial freelance writing business, I’m finding that potential clients know who I am and are willing to consider hiring me on the strength of those columns. As my inventory of written work grows, I’ve begun selling reprints. Other pieces I’ve reworked and reslanted for other markets.
I’m paid $75 for each column, but its worth to me is far more than that. I’ve rediscovered my lost love of words, and that column has been the first step on a new, exciting, and long-overdue journey.
Eileen Coale lives in Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and four children. She speaks regularly on thrift and personal finance. For more information about her work in this arena, visit her website at http://www.eileencoale.com. Eileen also has a freelance writing business, specializing in sales letters, newsletters, brochures, and web content. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 757-0821.