I’m Writing an Article on Spec: Why I’m Not Scared

I used to absolutely refuse to ever write articles on spec. If I didn’t have a contract in my hands, I wasn’t going to write the article. This is not uncommon: many freelance writers have gotten this advice from on high (freelance writing blogs, forums and so on).

I’m not really at a point where I’m hurting for work, either. In theory, I should still be staying away from the spec article system. So why am I putting together 1,000 words that could easily be rejected?

Writing with Multiple Purposes

Putting together evergreen content is an easy way to increase your freelance writing income: anything that you can sell reprint rights to (either to magazines or through content mills) after you’ve seen it run somewhere else first is a great investment of your time.

But it’s possible to extend that principle. When you’re writing anything these days, considering multiple purposes is just good sense. You can turn blog posts into an ebook, turn old articles into marketing pieces. It is, more than anything else, a question of thinking of the multiple purposes with which you can use any given piece of writing.

I’m primarily talking about writing articles here — this works with other types of writing, but is extremely difficult with something like copy writing. Reusing copy from a client’s site is a big non-no. The only exception I can think of is if you were to collect a couple of different pieces of copy writing you’ve done previously to use as examples in an article or an ebook.

Multiple Purposes for Spec

First of all, I’ve picked the spec markets I’m interested in submitting to very carefully. They do pay well as a general rule, but my goal isn’t necessarily to make money off these articles — the money is more of an added bonus. Instead, I’m interested in raising my profile in some very specific publications. I only write about a couple of topics these days, but I want to make sure that I’m the go-to-gal for those topics. So the spec publications I’m interested in have some sort of prestige associated with them.

Second, I always work on an article with other homes in mind in case it is rejected. Each of the spec articles I’ve put together could easily be sold to another publication, used as a guest post to raise interest in something else I’m doing or otherwise be published right here (saving me some writing the next time I need a post).

I only write on spec under my own terms. I certainly won’t write on spec for a client who has brought me a project — in that direction lies frustration and financial disaster — or for silly contests meant to get someone a cheap first round of creative work. Instead, I make sure any spec work thoroughly benefits me and moves me directly towards my goals.

Image by Flickr user Marcin Wichary

2 Comments

  1. Linsey Knerl   •  

    You’re very brave :) Actually, I’ve been meaning to do this myself (if I ever get the time.) My process is kind of in reverse, however… write the article because I feel moved to THEN search out markets that would accept it on spec or save it in a file for spec requests. You can always tweak it to meet their requests or update it for a relevant market later. Great reminder!

  2. Mars Dorian   •  

    I agree with Linsey,

    you can always adjust your article later. Sometimes the goddess of creativity finds you, and you have to act at that moment.

    You could be writing an absolute masterpiece, just because the creativity is flowing like an endless stream of consciousness.
    If it’s evergreen and super-valuable, you fill a way to publish it.

    There is always a way !

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