Who wouldn’t like to make a little extra money nowadays? Especially for writers, with publishers cutting down on the number of books/articles they’re buying, magazines turning more to online than print (meaning typically less pay for freelance writers), and just generally less work available yet more competition for it, we need to think diversification!
Some writers have become rather creative in generating multiple revenue streams for their work. Many hit the speaking circuit, others simply go where the money is (typically corporate writing) while continuing to work on what they love to write, in hopes that one day they can rely on what they love to fully support them. One way I’ve found to supplement my normal writing income is through teaching. Like most teachers–in any area–it will not make you rich in and of itself, but combined with writing and possibly other related ventures, it all helps!
I’d like to share some beginner’s tips of how to break into teaching in the writing industry.
1. Focus on your niche. Don’t try to expand yourself too far right out of the gate. Teach what you know best and what you’re most comfortable with. That might be writing picture books or it might be writing how-to articles. Stay with a small number of topics within your niche until you feel you’ve mastered them, then start expanding your repertoire by adding one or two new topics at a time. The reason this is important is because you’ll gain a larger following when people know that you know your stuff. If you’re trying to teach something you’re not comfortable with yourself, you may end having a short teaching career!
2. Start with small audiences. If you’ve never taught before, don’t hesitate to offer your classes at community centers, libraries, or for local writing or critique groups. You may or may not get paid at first, but this is great training ground to work out the bugs and get a feel from your audience of what works and what doesn’t. If you’re brave, it’s helpful to pass around an anonymous feedback form at the end of your class to see where your strengths and weaknesses are.
3. Record your classes. As soon as possible, work on getting CDs or DVDs made of the classes you teach. At first, you can use a simple voice recorder placed at your podium. When you’re finished, download the audio onto your computer. Once you have a few classes in digital format (either audio or video) put some sample clips on your website for promotional purposes. Always check with the facility director where you speak to see if A/V recording capabilities are available.
4. Online classes. If you’d rather write out your classes instead of present them, design your classes in Q/A format with writing exercises included. You can convert these to PDF files, which can then be downloaded from your website. You can include answers at the end of the document, or you can act as an instructor and have your student email their answers and exercises and you then provide feedback.
5. Develop printed classes. As an alternative to having your classes in electronic form (or perhaps in addition to), design writing classes that can be converted into printed booklets. You can then sell these at writers conferences, off your website, or anywhere you happen to speak.
6. Team with other writers. After you feel comfortable with designing and teaching classes, a good way to give your efforts a boost is to team up with others writers who also teach. You can do workshops together, tag team classes at writers’ conferences, or combine efforts to develop online classes. A big advantage with this is that you can cover many more writing niches when others are involved, and you can use each other’s strengths to develop a more complete product.
If you teach as well as write, I’d love to hear how you got started and the creative teaching ideas you have.