Promote Your Business by
Becoming a Columnist
Camille is an attorney who is looking to promote a career counseling practice aimed at other burned out lawyers. Her first inclination was to place an ad in a law publication. From a potential client's point of view, which do you think would be attract more clients:
A) An ad with Camille's photo along side a snappy headline like "Ready to Make a Career Change? Call Today For Your Free Initial Consultation." Or,
B) A column in that same publication called "Life Lines" that examines such topics as work satisfaction, work-life balance, managing stress, and career change. At the end of each column is a short bio explaining that the Camille is as an expert at helping attorneys make satisfying work/life transitions.
If you guessed B) (the column), you're right! Everyone knows that an ad has one purpose – to sell something. But a columnist is considered to offer unbiased advice from an expert with information to share. If you happen to be interested in using that expert’s services, or perhaps purchasing his or her book, that information is conveniently available at the end of the column.
Becoming a columnist is not as hard as you might think. In fact, with ad revenues down, publications of all kinds are looking for fresh content to help retain subscribers. Your column might run in a local newspaper, a professional association or other niche newsletter, magazine, or online.
To find out if being a columnist is right for you, begin by asking yourself these questions:
~ Am I passionate about my subject? Reader's can tell when a writer loves to share their passion for bird watching, poker, gardening, parenting, or a 1,000 other things!
~ Do I enjoy writing?
~ Am I ready, willing, and able to take on a long term commitment that’s required with a weekly or monthly column? If you aren't sure, consider a quarterly an occasional column.
If you’re still interested, I suggest you get a copy of Charlotte Digregorio's book, You Can Be A Columnist: Writing And Selling Your Way To Prestige. According to Digregorio, being a columnist can help you expand your practice or even lead to lucrative speaking engagements and consultations. A series of columns could also become the basis of a future book.
Digregorio’s book covers such topics as types of columns (creative columns verses informational columns), choosing the right column for you, column structure and writing tips, common pitfalls, getting published, self-syndication pros and cons, guest columns, how to find publications, and more.
If you’re interested in writing for small newspapers, check out a neat little site called SmallTownPress.net. You’ll find handy articles on a variety of subjects like Top 10 Sports Writing Tips, Interviewing 101, and more. I particularly liked Michelle Pearson's feature on how to get started as a columnist for your hometown (meaning small) newspaper.
You’ll also find some good tips on becoming a columnist at 101PublicRelations.com. The tips come from a special report called Secrets to Becoming a Columnist in Newspapers and Magazines which is selling for $9. I didn’t order it, but I did purchase one on pitching article ideas via email. It had some good information. But, at only 10 pages (plus three more advertising their other special reports), I thought it was a bit skimpy for the money. (What 101PublicRelations.com does offer though is a good example of a business built around selling what are known as “information products.” For that reason alone, the site is worth a look.)
Remember, the whole point of writing a column is to establish yourself as an expert in order to build your business. So, don’t expect to get rich from it. In fact, according to writing expert Moira Allen, even the large newspapers rarely pay more than $500 per column.
Moira has written a very informative article on the ins and outs of self-syndication, including the importance of retaining rights to your work. You can find the article and other helpful resources for writers
Anyone can become an expert, just start believing that you have something of value to share, never stop learning about your field, believe that you can, and take that first step.
P.S. Speaking of becoming an expert, I highly recommend Robert Bly’s book, Become a Recognized Authority In Your Field In 60 Days or Less. Bob’s book covers everything from becoming a columnist, to getting on the radio, to writing press releases, to creating and selling information products just to name a very few.
Both books – You Can Be A Columnist and Become a Recognized Authority in Your Field – are both in the featured books section of Changing Course bookstore.
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About the Author
"Profiting From Your Passions®" expert Valerie Young abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at ChangingCourse.com offering resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited in Kiplinger's, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Woman's Day, and elsewhere and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and iVillage.com. An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, Valerie has spoken on the topic of How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are to such diverse organizations as Daimler Chrysler, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Harvard, and American Women in Radio and Television.
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