The first travel writing/freelance writing workshop will be held on Sunday, December 6, 2015 at Happen, a co-working space in central Taichung. I’ll (Who am I?) use the day-long session to explain in detail – and provide examples – how to come up with good ideas for articles, pitch those ideas to magazines and other outlets, and then write the actual articles. I’ll also discuss various sidelines (some quite lucrative) which freelance writing has helped me develop.
On the subject of way to supplement your main income, this article by Roman Krznaric argues hyperspecialization isn’t necessarily the best way to find satisfaction in your work. Many people, he says feel, “it makes more sense to embrace the idea of being a ‘wide achiever’ rather than a high achiever. Take inspiration from Renaissance generalists like Leonardo da Vinci who would paint one day, then do some mechanical engineering, followed by a few anatomy experiments on the weekend. Today this is called being a ‘portfolio worker’, doing several jobs simultaneously and often freelance. Management thinker Charles Handy says this is not just a good way of spreading risk in an insecure job market, but is an extraordinary opportunity made possible by the rise of flexible working: ‘For the first time in the human experience, we have a chance to shape our work to suit the way we live instead of our lives to fit our work. We would be mad to miss the chance.’”
Very few of us have talents comparable to da Vinci, for sure, but freelance writing is an excellent way to both indulge and leverage your passion for subjects which may or may not be connected to your day job.
Over the past decade or so, several individuals have asked me how I’m able to consistently sell articles to newspapers, magazines, websites and other clients. Some are simply curious, but others have expressed good-natured envy, saying what I do for a living seems much more interesting than what they do. (They might be right: freelance writing is often fascinating.)
Sometimes I’ve refused to answer their questions. I’ve been too busy, and I’ve thought to myself: “Why should I share professional knowledge which has taken me years to accumulate, to a person who may use it to compete against me?”
When people have said they’re willing to pay me to mentor them while they launch their freelance-writing career, I’ve been tempted, but in the end have held back. I didn’t want to invest time in writing detailed advice about how to come up with fresh ideas for new articles, pitch those ideas to editors, and so on. Writing about sustainable architecture, or the efforts of aboriginal campaigners who are trying to revive a language no one has spoken for well over a century, just seemed much more my cup of tea.
Also, I’ve been reluctant to ask for the kind of money I believe my help is worth. These days, I seldom earn less than US$400 for an article. I reckon that if I spent two full days teaching someone how to do the same, I’d deserve a sum far closer to four figures than three.
What’s changed? An opportunity has come up to teach travel writing and freelance writing at a three-day workshop in Cambodia next year. I’ve begun preparing for that event, and I’m pretty confident about the outline I’ve written. I think I’ve covered all the important topics, and have chosen some good examples to instruct and inspire. But before Cambodia, I’d like to road-test and refine the material. That’s why I’m offering this workshop.
My name is Steven Crook. I was born in 1969 and grew up in the UK. I studied Law at university. Starting in a few weeks, I’ll be teaching people how to get started in freelance features writing and related fields.
Before reaching my teens I nurtured hopes of becoming a writer, but I didn’t do anything to turn this ambition into reality until I was well into my twenties and teaching English in Taiwan. Since 1996 I’ve written well over 700 articles for paying publications; the number of articles I’ve done for free can be counted on one hand. My byline has appeared in CNN Traveller Asia-Pacific, Christian Science Monitor, International Herald-Tribune, Journeys, the inflight magazines of several airlines and other outlets.
I’m an occasional contributor to the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong’s main English-language newspaper) as well as Taiwan government publications. I’ve worked as a newspaper copyeditor and a magazine managing editor (this involved everything from commissioning and editing articles to selling advertising to solving distribution issues). I’ve helped fiction and nonfiction authors complete book projects. And in the past two years I’ve taken on commissions to write about Taipei’s whiskey bars, the ancient Polish city of Krakow, the world’s leading vegetable research center, Chinese traditional foot massage, and other topics. My books include Taiwan: The Bradt Travel Guide. After the publication of the second edition of the guide, New York Times asked me to comment on the growth of environmentalism in Taiwan.