Old, broke, and out of work are a bad combination. You can’t fix old, but working as a paid writer helps with the other two. It took me four years, being more stubborn than a two-year-old, and an old computer to kick the crap out of when things go wrong. Which is often.
I took courses. I read books. I joined writers’ groups. I set up a website, sent out queries, applied for jobs, and got accepted by content mills. I’ve been ghosted, scammed, and done in by technology–because I am a technological dinosaur.
Writers, by nature, are needy and prone to panic. Older writers maybe more so. Most of us were successful at something else. Learning new stuff is difficult–especially if you feel pressure to succeed.
So, here’s what I think I’ve learned about being a freelance writer at age 70.
1. Writer’s Courses: One decent course covers what you need to know. Expecting to find the “magic bullet” with course after course is counterproductive. If you are 70 years old and can’t write, nothing will fix it.
2. “Make Money Writing” books are cheaper than courses. But,they won’t teach you how to write either…even if Stephen King wrote the book.
3. Build a Website. I did. It is beautiful – and nobody seems to care.
4. Find Your Niche. I did. I know more about windows–with glass–than most people. It’s a small niche.
5. Write What You Know. How much do you want to know about egress, Low E coatings, or double-hung sliders? I thought so.
6. Queries and Pitches: Learn how to write these things. I probably sent out 50 before I even got an answer. And, it was a laughing emoji.
7. Content Mills: Are you needy? Panicky? I am still listed on a couple. I wrote a minimum of 6000 words per week for two cents. Do NOT do that!
8. Job Boards. Keep checking publications like WritersWeekly. Don’t procrastinate. Apply now.
A few more things I learned to look forward to:
1. Scams: Be prepared. They happen frequently. I wrote four articles for someone in the Netherlands–or maybe Nigeria. I got no pay, and communication stopped. And, it is too far away to go and introduce them to my Louisville Slugger.
2. Ghosted: I wrote 15 articles for a client and was paid. Then I never heard from him again. WTF?? Check out Jennifer Brown Banks’s August 19th article for a more professional response. Most of us old construction guys tend to have attitudes.
3. Theft: Plagiarism is bad enough. One of my clients had more than a dozen of my articles lifted word-for-word and published on another website. The owner does not exist. I can’t get to him, either.
4. Technology is my biggest enemy. Technology eats my homework. It crashes. It reconfigures my work. And, it makes me feel dumb–regularly.
5. The perfect client does not exist–especially for older writers. Many of us don’t understand half the terms used in the ads. And, the perky made-up words will gag a maggot.
So here are a few suggestions. (I offer no advice because even my kids and grandkids don’t listen.)
1. Never Quit. You may be old, but you’re but not dead.
2. Be Honest. You don’t have to write like J. K. Rowling. Write your best every time. And, be content with what you produce. If you can’t do the job–admit it.
3. Expand Your Niche. You have lived a lot of years and gained a lot of knowledge. Think about what you know and pitch it. I write about construction, homesteading, farming, and lawn care because I experienced them.
4. Research. Learn how to find information and use it effectively.
5. Never Cheat. Not your clients. Not your writing. Not yourself.
6. Dark Rum. It’s the best thing I know to eliminate panic and neediness.
- How A Retired Master Plumber Became A Professional Writer, Newspaper Columnist, And Author! By Gary Sprague
- Writing Behind the “Iron Curtain” of the Old Soviet Union – by Tatiana Claudy
- Am I Too Old To Write? By Cathy Kaufman
- Ghosted by a Former Client? 5 Ways to Bounce Back, and Keep Making Money! – by Jennifer Brown Banks
- 8 Tips to Take Your Freelance Writing From a Side Hustle to a Sustainable Business – by Jennifer Brown Banks
Terry is a freelance writer focusing on home renovations, DIY advice, and construction topics. He writes, or has written, for numerous online sites. He spent over 30 years in the construction industry. Terry admits to being slightly older than dirt. Politically he is to the right of Vlad the Impaler.
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