You’re over 50. You have years of experience in your field of work and life in general, but your age makes it difficult to compete with younger, less experienced job seekers. How can you take all those years of experience and accumulated knowledge and turn it into a viable income?
Using your knowledge to make money
It was just a few years ago that I found myself in just those circumstances. I’d worked as a bookkeeper in the construction industry for close to thirty years when the construction boom went bust and I found myself added to the long list of the unemployed. Although I was able to find another bookkeeping job, it was at a greatly reduced salary and within a year it was also reduced to part time hours. I started looking for better options for making a living than the accounting field and the construction industry that I’d worked in for so long.
Everyone has a knowledge bank
What I discovered was that all the experience-based knowledge I had accumulated over the years was a valuable resource; one that people would pay me to share with them, if I could communicate it in a form that was easy for them to read and comprehend.
We all have an inventory of this experience-based knowledge to draw upon and one person’s inventory list will be unique from the next person. We have work related experience, relationship experience, knowledge related to our leisure activities and special interests and basic knowledge gathered through years of living life. If you are able to tap into those knowledge banks and transform the information into articles, manuals and other types of written materials, you have an open door before you to a new career called – freelance writing.
The world of freelance writing opportunities
Just as there are needs for writing on all different topics, there are just as many different types of writing content and styles needed. Blog articles and magazine articles aren’t a person’s only options. Technical writing of instruction manuals and product specifications is another area in heavy demand. Writers who are skilled in writing grant proposals are greatly needed in the nonprofit sector. Marketing materials such as content for websites and sales brochures and press releases are in need of people who can conceptualize a business’s strengths and offerings and put them into concise language. Journalism and reporting on current news items is also a special niche that some writers enjoy, but not others.
Honing your writing skills
Those with a degree in journalism or creative writing probably cringed when I mention that I didn’t have any formal training in the writing field. Would it have been helpful to me? Of course! If you have taken college writing courses then you certainly have an advantage over those who haven’t.
However, just like many things in life, if you have some talent in a particular area and are given the opportunity to use it enough, that skill will grow. I may not have written many essays during my years of employment, but I composed plenty of letters, proposals, contracts, reports and other business related materials. I enjoyed finding just the right words to use which would effectively communicate the message our company needed to get across.
Many fields of work require written or verbal communication skills, regardless of whether the individual had academic training in that area or not. In the end, if you have or desire to acquire education regarding composition or journalism, that’s a big plus for you. If you don’t, however, don’t let it stop you from pursuing writing as a career, if it is something you enjoy doing and you have found that you have some natural writing talent.
How to begin a freelance writing career
There are two main areas to be prospected for writing opportunities related to your knowledge bank. One is traditional print material, such as magazines, instruction manuals and newspapers. The other is the internet. Each requires their own approach and one is not necessarily better than the other, though print venues generally will pay a higher rate than internet-based publishing.
On the internet you will find websites where freelancers of any type can find projects being posted by employers looking for subcontractors with their skill sets. There are plenty of jobs posted for writers on all types of subjects. You’ll find requests for articles to be written, press releases, sales letters, website content, e-books and ghost writing of novels and memoirs. Dozens of writing projects are posted every day on these freelance sites from all over the globe. The rates being offered reflect that global community as well. Offerings of $1.00 to $300.00 for the same size article will be found side-by-side. My personal preference for freelance sites are two that offer some payment protection to the freelancer, Guru.com and Elance.com.
In the area of print, trade magazines related to the field you have your experience in can be a very lucrative source of revenue, as they generally pay very well and are happy to find individuals who are knowledgeable about their industry and able to write as well. Regional magazines, local papers and startup magazines are also good starting points for a new writer attempting to break into print. One the best resources available for finding the information you need to connect with trade magazines and other print resources is Writers Digest, which is available in the reference section of your local library or can be accessed online.
Turning your freelance writing into a new career
Freelance writing is a great way to turn existing knowledge and experience into a whole new career or income stream, one that you can accomplish from the comfort of your own home. You do need to keep in mind that, just like any business, it requires research of the industry, hard work, tenacity and good old fashioned TIME to develop an ongoing client base and a steady income.
One of the most important skills of a good writer is the ability to do thorough research on his subject. If you think freelance writing might be that new career you’ve been looking for or just something to bring in extra income during retirement, put those research skills to use, and you’ll be able to find the answers to your questions. They’re all available through the information highway that you are accessing right now.
Written By: Kathleen M. Krueger