Why freelance sportswriters should blog

Newspapers are laying people off like crazy. Who knew, right? Whether newspapers are headed for a tragic extinction or some form of miraculous resurgence, the reality right now is that reporters and other sportswriters are losing their jobs and looking for work. Some have turned to freelance writing as they look to get by.

For those who have reached this point, they’ve probably already heard that starting a blog is a worthwhile venture. However, this is shortly followed by the fear of writing for free. Get over it.

Mitch Joel of Six Pixels has six ways (kind of, some are very similar) that blogging can boost your freelance career:

1. Blogs can supplement your current freelance writing. Sometimes you have a great idea for an article that editors just don't understand. You don't need their permission to publish anymore... write it and publish it on a Blog.

I’ve been there. You think it’s a good idea. Nay, you know it’s a good idea but those query letters keep getting shot down. So what? Write the story, get your work out there and show the editor they should’ve picked it up. If the story picks up a following I doubt they’d be less likely to pick up an iffy idea next time.

2. Blogs can tell your unedited story. Most editors give freelance writers a specific word count. If you can work out a non-exclusive deal with the publication, you can use your full, unedited version and publish it on your Blog. Warts, unedited, and even over the word count.

They dropped your narrative lede and the best quote. Tragic. So, rework it a bit so you’re not reposting the story they own (if they care about that) and get your readers the full story.

3. Blogs can help you sell more stories. Search engines love Blogs. People on Twitter and Facebook love Blogs. By Blogging and putting your stories "out there" you make yourself more findable, which - in turn - might catch the eyes of some editors and create newer business opportunities for you.

Every single ‘tip’ he provides relates to selling more stories so that label is a little redundant but the text of this graf is important. If you have your stories or story ideas in a moleskin notebook or saved as Word documents on your MacBook, no one but you can find and read them. Maybe there is an editor out there who agrees with you and looking for someone to write a story on why Antoine Walker should still be in the L, you never know. Okay, fine, sometimes you do.

4. Blogs establish you as a recognized authority. The good are good, the great get recognized. Yes, there are millions of Blogs and tons of content being published every minute. Still, those who are truly great do get recognized and do build community... fast. People who establish themselves as such, get noticed and grow their business. Period.

The absolute biggest, by far. If you think you know a subject unlike anyone else, and have been pitching stories on it to every publication you can, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be writing a blog on the subject. It doesn’t matter if there’s already blogs out there on the subject, if you write unique quality content on something, you will gain a following and in turn be seen as a credible source of information (or at least analysis) on the subject.

5. Blogs will make you a better writer. Much like your muscles, in order for your writing to grow and get stronger it requires frequent and consistent exercise. Having a Blog should force (and encourage) you to write more. This is great if your freelance writing business has ups and downs (as most do). Blogging consistently will keep you sharp and keep your mind open to new story ideas.

This one is obvious. If you’re only writing query letters, your writing is not going to improve.

6. Blogs are free. Blogs set you free. One of the hardest parts of freelance writing is the constant rejection. For every story sold, there are handfuls of those that have been rejected. Setting up a Blog is free (it can cost you, if you want to make it more personalized) and Blogs can set you free. The freedom to have a story idea, write it and immediately publish it to the world is an amazing change in how we all communicate (see Shirky's quote again above). This freedom will give you confidence and it will also help you remove that "whiff of desperation" that many freelance writers have when they deal with editors.

Alright, this is more of a summary point but it is true. Blogs are a place to go wild. For a blog to be successful it should likely focus on something as opposed to being your own random observations, but it is a place to make whatever observation you like on a certain subject matter.

In summary, the reason I’ve been so high on blogs and believe strongly in their ability to boost the credibility and provide work for their authors is because I’ve seen it done. I saw TrueHoop’s early stages up until it’s acquisition by ESPN. Henry Abbott was a freelance NBA writer whose company, GekkoBlogs, was aiding in providing content for professional service blogs. He knew the NBA and did some freelance work, having some of it appear in The NBA Finals Program and other assorted hoops programs, before eventually starting Truehoop. From there, things took off.

Of course, Henry Abbott is more the exception and no one should be expect to be hired by ESPN because they started a blog but it’s tough to deny a blog’s ability to build credibility and showcase work.

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