Making it in nontraditional markets

• Session: “Beyond Hook and Bullet Writing: Success in Other Venues”

• Speaker: Tom Huggler

“Yesterday’s market for freelance outdoor material has either dried up, drastically changed, or morphed into an Internet vehicle with new rules and few regulations. How does an outdoor writer make a living anymore, especially in the current economic climate? Here are 15 ideas you can take to the bank.”

That’s how Tom Huggler, past OWAA president and Excellence in Craft Award winner, began his one-hour seminar on opening day of the 2009 annual conference in Grand Rapids, Mich. Following are Huggler’s suggestions of how to make money in tough economic times:

  1. Don’t think like an “outdoor writer;” think like the professional communicator you are.
  2. Cast a wide net and think outside the box.
  3. Tune in to national concerns, some of which already are – or soon will become -major marketing trends: health care, retirement security, the “greening” of America, subsistence food gathering and growing, assisted living, etc.
  4. Find mainstream and fringe magazine-writing opportunities (gardening, travel, bird watching, children). This includes house organs.
  5. Prospect the Internet for gold.
  6. Write a book.
  7. Go local with a PR campaign.
  8. Give birth to brochures, pamphlets and fliers.
  9. Learn how to write press releases.
  10. Try your hand at scriptwriting.
  11. Offer a “work-for-hire” arrangement.
  12. You have photography skills, rechannel and refocus them.
  13. Hitch a ride on the “outdoor shows” express.
  14. Polish your speaking skills.
  15. Teach.

Huggler’s take-home message was for outdoor communicators to diversify and not put all their eggs in one market. Near the end of his seminar he recounted a sobering story to illustrate that point.
“Years ago, I was freelancing for Outdoor Life magazine and making good money,” he said. “I was their camping editor, and one year I made $34,000 from just that magazine alone. But the next year things changed at the magazine, and I took home about half that amount. The following year the magazine changed editors completely and I was out, making exactly zero. That’s how quickly things can change in the outdoor-communications business, so prepare for it,” Huggler concluded. ◊
Reported by W.H. “Chip” Gross

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