by, Colleen Szot
This is an excerpt from Unlocking The Secrets of Successful Women (story collector, Joan Kennedy)
“I knew I would be a writer from an early age, and I sold my first article for a dollar at the age of nine. Throughout my adolescence and well into my twenties, I wrote articles for a host of well-known publications: Scholastic, Teen, Highlights, later Redbook, Esquire, Ladies Home Journal. I discovered if I researched and wrote an article with no timeframe attached to it, any newspaper would jump on it, rather than have a reporter do all the legwork. Plus by selling to newspapers around the country, I kept the copyright and the byline and could sell the same article several times over. I wrote stories about the first Christmas tree, the tradition on Christmas cards, the History of St. Patrick’s Day, why fireworks and the Fourth of July are so closely related and many, many more.
I went on to write thirty to forty TV scripts for The Bob Newhart Show, All in the Family, One Day at a Time, and Rhoda. But of those thirty plus TV scripts, I only sold seven or eight. If Redbook rejected an article I had submitted, dozens of other publications would accept my story. But with TV, you simply can’t take a script for All in the Family and re-write it for MASH.
I discovered advertising –or, rather, it discovered me. I was freelancing at a radio station when they asked me to do a public Service Announcement for an anti-drug campaign, which, meant I wouldn’t get paid.I said sure. I did, and coined the phrase, “Don’t be a dope about dope,” which became, “Why do you think they call it dope?” It was parodied on Saturday Night Live, and LL Cool J wrote a song titled, “Why Do You Think They Call it Dope?” You never know where an opportunity can lead.
I went on to work for some top agencies in Chicago. I994, I decided to open my own freelance company. I returned to TV and decided to specialize in Direct Response, creating one-or two minute TV spots featuring an 800#. I was blessed to cut my teeth with the Iconic Nordic Track brand. I have written four George Foreman Grill Shows, countless more for Sleep Number bed, Oreck, AARP, Sharper Image, Tony Robbins, Sony Pictures and many, many more. I wrote the first-ever infomercial for Deepak Chopra, and other shows for Olivia Newton John, Joan Lunden, Kathy Lee Gifford, Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul), and a dozen more celebrities.
The lesson here is to never pass up an opportunity. If you’re an up-and comer, take on occasional spec work, ask for copies of the published or broadcast work, and always, always ask for written testimonials. I have dozens on my website, and even some on my client reel.
Think of writing as something to help you earn a living. Research what free-lance writers are charging on an hourly or per-project basis, and build your professional portfolio to showcase your (paid) talents.
Let’s say you love decorating or touring houses. Did you know you can get paid for writing up creative house descriptions for real estate companies? Are you a foodie or just someone who enjoys gourmet food? Get paid for writing restaurant menus or reviews – enjoy some of the best meals in your town. Are you spiritual? Many ministers and pastors pay for someone to write their sermons, or a column in the church newspaper. There’s also a growing market in writing blogs. Many CEOs, artists, speakers, and other people, simply don’t have the time to write their own blog, so they give a freelance writer a list of topics and pay to have them penned.
What are you passionate about? Find it, follow it and do it, and you’ll never regret it.
The key to success: Success to me was and is doing something I love to do and get paid.
For more information on Colleen, visit:
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/liviacristinalc/3402221680/”>Lívia Cristina</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>