By Tiffany Jansen
I used to write for content mills. I know I should be ashamed of myself, but I’m not.
Working for Demand Studios taught me a lot: sticking to a word count, following guidelines, writing on a deadline, working with editors and, most importantly, that I could earn money writing.
After moving to the Netherlands in 2008, I found myself friendless, jobless and confused.
To pass the time and cope with my newfound expat status, I began actively meeting other expats and discovered that many turn to freelance writing. No work permit necessary and you can do it no matter where you are, how many times or how frequently you relocate.
Building relationships with these expats led me to Demand Studios. Once I realized I could make money writing I started searching for other paying gigs.
I had some clips from DS to get started. Now all I needed were connections.
I discover networking
Enter ACCESS, a non-profit expat organization here in the Netherlands. One of their services is a quarterly magazine which I heard about from a fellow expat writer who had done some writing for them. They liked my clips and introduction letter.
Although they don’t pay, they are an amazing networking source. The clincher was the fact that they produce a very professional-looking publication that would give me more serious clips. Through them, I was able to connect with a staff member at XM Magazine (an expat lifestyle publication in the Netherlands).
Through ACCESS I was able to connect with a staff member at XM Magazine (an expat lifestyle publication in the Netherlands), who asked me to pitch a list of article ideas. They chose two event pieces which I covered for more than $280. Quite a jump from $15 per article Demand Studios pays.
One thing leads to another
Unfortunately XM went out of business. But not before the assistant editor told me about the newspaper The Holland Times. This paper reports Dutch news in English for the international community, and I was eager to try my hand at journalism.
The editor responded to my letter of interest, inviting me to the next editorial meeting. I learned so much from hearing what other writers pitched and what the editor was interested in.
I came to the next meeting armed with story ideas and left with my first assignment. I earn $0.36 per word and have been writing steadily for the publication for over a year.
My editor at The Holland Times introduced me to the Amsterdam City Tours blog. Thanks to her recommendation, I was approached by the blog owners to be a regular contributor at more than $70 a post.
Another connection urged me to contact the editor at expat/travel magazine Transitions Abroad. I got a $100 article assignment, and I now contribute regular expat and travel book reviews to the publication.
As much as I love writing for the expat community, there are simply not enough paid opportunities to make a living. I need to branch out.
I get serious about marketing
With this in mind, I tried cold-calling businesses to offer my services. I quickly learned that businesses here don’t need or want English content, or hire a professional translator to take care of that for them.
U.S. and UK companies prefer to work with someone local, or at least living in the same country. Expat entrepreneurs typically don’t have the funds to hire a writer.
So I’ve turned to pitching magazines. Magazines are often keen to publish work by writers from another country for the unique angle those writers bring. Produce interesting, well-written articles by the deadline, and magazine editors won’t care where you’re based.
I’ve only just started querying, so I’m still waiting to hear if my pitches have been accepted.
Whatever happens, I’ll keep plugging away. I’ve seen that good paying markets do exist and I want to write for more of them.
No more content mills for me. My writing’s worth more than $15 per article.