Following these guidelines will greatly increase your success rate and help you to focus on transitioning writing as a hobby to writing as a job.
1. Write what you know:
This point cannot be emphasized enough…there are a few things any writer can bring to publishers, the marketplace and readers alike…and one of those things is credibility.
A publisher is not likely to respond to an article or book query on an esoteric subject like non-linear equations or string theory pitched by a performance artist. Look to your professional and personal life and experiences. Hobbies are also a great place from which to draw knowledge and experience to incorporate into your writing.
For instance, if you’re a mechanical engineer by trade, there are surplus of car enthusiast magazines, websites, and e-zines. Those are media you should be looking to. If you’re a stay-at-home mom or you race sail boats as a hobby, then look to publications that feature things so related.
2. Find your niche:
The last two examples aren’t enough to concentrate on, because like any other subject being a parent or sail boating is too broad – which means you’ll have to carve out a niche. This doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t be able to write over the broader subject, that will be intrinsic when writing over any subject, but to stand out and you’ll have to be a source of information or insight in a forte within that subject.
For instance, when I wrote Cyclopedia Music Theory I began game planning the book, I looked at other theory books, not for their content, but what their content was missing. I found a couple of things: one was that musicology wasn’t addressed and another was illustrations weren’t always formatted from left to right and also, there wasn’t any explanation of different instruments or percussion theory. Consequently, I wrote the book with those things included.
3. Be consistent and persistent:
Stay with what you know but don’t be afraid to spread your wings. By this I mean once you’ve found your niche and have consistently written within it, beginning to branch out is not only natural and can indeed benefit your writing. There is a small caution here is not to overreach – should you branch out too far, you’ll begin to lose focus not only in your niche, but you’ll not be able to find a balance.
It is therefore critical that you be consistent not only in your niche writing, but writing altogether. Contributing a piece here and there randomly doesn’t set well with publishers and it won’t set well with whatever readership you garner.
If are writing and contributing regularly, moreover querying regularly, you’ll get a lot of rejections and in between, hear crickets. Publishers are flush with queries and that’s why they’re so selective. Even if your piece is turned down, don’t be afraid to rework it and resubmit it. It could be you didn’t hit the nail on the head or another writer was earlier to make the same point.
I’ll use a personal example here: after I wake, get ready and have breakfast; after which, I check my email, take a glance at the days projects, then I do one or two household chores. I do this for good reason: one, chores need be done and two, after reading email and looking forward to the day, not sitting in front of the keyboard and engaging in something entirely different which allows me to brainstorm.
When I get to writing, I typically publish my Balance for Dads blog (which I wrote a day or so before), and then onto the writing gigs I’ve landed.
Next I try to spend my time productively, working on the task(s) at hand and move on. If I encounter a snag (e.g. website goes down or writer’s block), I’ll take a short break to do another chore or two and then refocus.
The next-to-last order of my “workday” is spent search for gigs and networking. And I close shop by writing a piece for my own blog to post the following day.
5. Build your value and reputation:
As a writer, your reputation is invaluable. And to raise your value, you should make your writing not only informative and interesting, but comprehensible. Don’t be pedantic…no matter the subject; keep your writing accessible to all readers.
It’s not advisable to waste your time working on projects that won’t be beneficial either to your value and reputation or financially.
Writing what you know and carving a niche aren’t to mean that you’re stuck on certain subjects forever. You can increase your value by expanding, but writers shouldn’t be chasing money by writing pieces they have no experience or interest in as it will show in their work. Look here for writing jobs.