Earn More as a Freelance Writer by Practicing Sustainable Writing

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Sustainable Writing is the key to earning a living as a freelance writer. Having a regular income as a freelance writer requires multiple streams of income. Managing those streams and keeping them afloat is where the sustainable part happens. Just like the environment, we have to be good stewards of our time and resources as writers and business owners.

As a matter of fact, there’s a lot we, as writers, can learn from the environmental awareness movement. If you don’t believe me, just substitute the word TIME for the word ENVIRONMENT and you’ll be surprised what becomes applicable.

When we think about sustainable writing, we need to have a recycling mindset. We should never waste anything. Say you’re doing research for an article titled, Remodel Your Kitchen. If you pay attention, you’ll find material to write several dozen articles. How about one called New Trends in Lighting Your Kitchen or Using Kitchen Cabinets in the Bathroom. Once you know where to look, the possibilities are endless.

This works with more than just research, you can repurpose articles—change them by 60 percent—and sell them as a new article to another source. Or, don’t change them at all and sell the reprint rights.

Here are some other ways to apply this to your writing.

  • Research – When you research a topic or person for an article or book, keep all your notes. I keep all mine in a single computer file. Within that file it’s important to have a document that lists all the webpages (not just the websites) you’ve visited to get your information. I’ve gotten in the habit of copying and pasting the web address into this document the first time I determine the importance of the webpage I visit. I also keep a transcript and/or notes from any interviews I conduct on the subject.
  • Rough Drafts – Many times when I’m writing an article it will start off way over the word count I need. I keep a copy of that first draft in my file before I start cutting it and revising it. Often I’ve come back to it and pulled parts out for a new article.
  • Related Subjects – I’ve also learned to make a list of possible related subjects while I’m working on an article. Frequently, when I’m writing an article, ideas for other articles will come to mind. When that happens I’ve learned to immediately make a note of my thought. If I wait, the idea disappears.

You can also become a sustainable writer by utilizing topics that are always relevant to the reader, there are called evergreen or GREEN articles. Open any magazine, and you’ll usually see all of these categories somewhere within the table of contents. Of course there are exceptions, but take a trip to your local bookstore and browse through the magazines, you’ll be surprised what you find. Even niche publications will often include articles about their niche, slanted to include all four of these categories.

Green Articles fall into 4 major categories

  • Business/Finance
  • Health/Fitness
  • Relationships/Fulfillment
  • Passionate Pastimes

Here are some possible titles within these broad categories

  • Managing Your Finances in Tough Economic Times (Business/Finance)
  • How to Eat Healthy When Time is at a Premium (Health/Fitness)
  • Re-Learn the Art of Dating by Going Out With Your Mate (Relationships/Fulfillment)
  • Learn to Tithe Your Time (Passionate Pastimes)

The thing that makes these articles so popular is the fact that they answer a felt need for the reader. If you haven’t heard this term before, in writing terms, a felt need is a topic that resonates with the reader. They feel a need to know this information. If you want your writing to connect to the reader you utilize this concept.

Finally, I want to talk about Calendar Articles. It’s critically important for us as writers to build a relationship with our readers—it’s even more critical for a magazine or website to do that. One way to accomplish this is by writing about things that are what relevant to them—again that felt need.

Calendars are a great way to do this. Think about Back to School themes in the fall and the theme of Love in February. Go the extra mile though, and come up with an original slant to the holidays. Or, if you do write about something fairly common, come up with a sidebar that’s got a slight twist. For example, you might write an article during October titled, Pumpkin Carving with Preschoolers. Make it unique by including a recipe for toasting the pumpkin seeds in a sidebar.

But, with calendar articles, it’s critically important to go beyond the major holidays. I’ve sold articles on Breast Cancer, during October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) and on Yoga, during September (National Yoga Month) and on vaccinations during August (National Immunization Month).

I’ve given you a lot of information in this post, so now it’s your turn. How do you practice sustainable writing? Use the comments section below to share your thoughts.

Edie Melson—author, blogger, speaker—has written numerous books, including her most recent fiction – Alone, and nonfiction – While My Child is Away. She’s also the military family blogger at Guideposts.org. Her popular blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month and has just been named as one of the 2017 Writer’s Digest Top 101 Websites for Writers. She’s the director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and the Vice President of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, as well as the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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