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    Becoming an Expert Without Even Trying

    By now youíve probably realized that your dreams of becoming a best-selling author and lunching on the patio of your Bel Aire Tudor mansion in between a massage and an interview with Forbes are taking a little longer than you thought. (If not, what are you doing reading this article?) So, like the rest of us, you are probably in the process of hunting down your latest freelance project in between dashing off to your real job and dashing off yet another query letter to yet another Mega-publisher at yet another posh New York high rise.

    Well, to give you a leg up in finding that next freelance assignment, here are a few tips on becoming an expert, even when you think youíre not:

    Choosing Your Battles

    Okay, letís face facts: Itís pretty hard to be an expert on everything. And if youíve ever taken a look at a list of freelance writing opportunities, youíve noticed that everyone from magazine editors to book publishers, e-zine web mistresses to newsletter news hounds wants an expert:

    • Needed: An expert on Tai-Chi for monthly column . . .
    • Wanted: Expert auto writer for weekly soap derby newsletter . . .
    • Publisher seeks expert on bridal registries for upcoming anthology . . .

    You get the picture. So how do you apply for these jobs, or others just as expert intensive, when you donít have the qualifications? Simple: get them. Letís look at the three samples above:

    Okay, you canít pronounce Tai-Chi, let alone write a monthly column on it. Thatís fine. Realize your limitations and move onto the next listing. Obviously, the time it takes to become an expert on Tai-Chi might not be worth the measly $10 a column this listing may be offering. Winning one battle often means walking away from several first.

    Soap derbies. Hmm, not a big soap derby race fan are you? Well, hold on a minute. Go through your mental Rolodex before moving on. Letís say your son, boyfriend, girlfriend, or sister participates in soap derbies as a hobby. Thereís your in. Mine these friendly folks for information, or at least enough information to sound like an expert when you make the pitch. If you get the gig, youíve got them to fall back on for Ďexpertí opinions as you write the column. If you donít get it, at least you tried.

    Finally, letís look at the expert on bridal registries. Are you married? Ever been to a wedding? Maybe your daughter just got engaged. Maybe you just got divorced. Who knows, either way, weddings, brides, and grooms are something everyone comes into contact with now and again. Donít let the experience go to waste.


    Puffing Up Your Portfolio

    So, whether itís soap derbies or weddings, soap boxes or divorces, youíve combed through your daily, weekly, or monthly list of freelance writing opportunities and found a few that youíd like to go for. Unfortunately, they all require experts and youíre not. Okay, donít panic. After all, youíre a writer. Right? So create a character who IS an expert: YOU!

    For instance, say thereís a new opportunity for educational writers at some high and mighty software company. They need people to write test items for reading comprehension CD-ROMs or some such thing. The work is steady, the pay is good, and youíd like your portfolio to be a little tech-heavier than it already is (or isnít!). So, create a freelance writer who has some educational writing experience:

    ĎMy name is Freda Freelancer and Iíd appreciate it if you would consider the writing samples enclosed for your educational software program as advertised on WriteNow.com. As a veteran educational author, my work has appeared in numerous professional journals, including Parent Power and Kidz Time. My weekly educational column on recycling was a popular favorite in my local newspaper, and my work in public school classrooms has kept me in tune with todayís hot trends and cool lingo for school kids. Thanks in advance for your time and consideration, yada yada . . .í

    Sounds impressive, right? Is it true? Sure. All of it. Letís break it down and youíll see:

    • Educational author: Youíve been collecting essays about your ten-year-old sonís elementary school experiences for years. Writing them makes you an author, and arenít they all about education? Hey, it didnít say Ďpublished educational author,í did it?

    • Parent Power: Donít you remember writing that 300-word essay on kids and violent TV for the local giveaway parent magazine? Sure you do. So dust it off and send it in.

    • Kidz Time: Sure, Kidz Time was a failed e-zine put together by a group of your freelancing friends, but the fifty-three folks who subscribed just loved your entertaining kids poem about cockroaches! Photocopy it, and include it.

    • Weekly educational column: Once upon a time, not so long ago, you submitted several reader columns or letters to the editor about recycling, or the lack of it, in your community. Several of them appeared in the same month. If thatís not the definition of a Ďweekly column,í I donít know what is.

    • Work in public school classrooms: Hey, youíve been a room mother or volunteered to supervise field trips for your kids, right? Well, that certainly qualifies as Ďwork,í doesnít it?

    See how that works? Now all thatís left to do is prove it. Of course, if you donít feel comfortable or particularly proud of your published clips from Parent Power and Kidz Time, spend an evening or two working up a new sample that is more along the lines of what the project youíre pitching requires. Donít worry that it hasnít been published. Just call it your Ďlatest work,í and make sure itís your best!


    Submit Everywhere!

    To make it easier on yourself and add to your Ďexpertí status, start submitting everything youíve ever written everywhere you can. Newspaper clippings, reviews of consumer products on the Web, letters to the editor of your favorite magazine, these can all come in handy when you go to pitch your expert opinion to a prospective editor or client in the future.

    For years Iíve been telling editors that my Ď . . . essays, ideas, articles and opinions have appeared in such well-respected, national periodicals as Good Housekeeping and Better Homes and Gardens . . .í Is this true? You bet. Iím no liar. However, nowhere does it mention that the material that appeared in both magazines were the simple, easy, $50 a pop kind of tips that appear in reader columns such as ĎHoliday Helpersí and ĎCooking Quickies.í Barely a paragraph each, they both had to do with simple and fun alternatives to trick-or-treating on Halloween!

    Hardly hard-hitting investigative journalism, but both magazines are biggies in the industry and have helped add to my professional aura from day one. Letís face it: You ARE an expert! On hard work and determination. On perseverance and ingenuity. Now all thatís left is to become an expert on everything else...p> Copyright © Rusty Fischer

    Rusty Fischer is the author of Freedome to Freelance, available at http://www.writers-exchange.com/epublishing/rusty.htm.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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