How long have you been writing? Has writing always been something you wanted to do?
I have been writing professionally for five years. Although I have always dreamed of writing, life seemed to have other ideas. After finishing college, I chose to stay home and with my children. Once they were both in school, I went “back to work.” I started as an educational technician working with children with special needs, but I soon discovered I wanted more. I completed my teaching degree and took my first job as a special-education teacher. Although I loved the job and found the work both challenging and rewarding, my district soon faced budgetary issues and closed the school I worked in. I moved on to teaching eighth grade language arts and social studies and eventually taught Pre-K.
My district again faced financial issues and eliminated the Pre-K program. By this time, I had discovered online writing and after a period of unemployment, I decided to pursue writing full time. I quickly found that the skills and knowledge I had gained as a teacher – along with my other personal interests – served me well for content writing. Educational and instructional writing allowed me to touch the lives of a broad range of people while drawing on my experiences as a teacher and mother.
What books or stories have you written?
My work has been published on National Geographic Online, Hidden Valley, Walden College’s ConnectED Program, Garden Guides and various other sites across the Internet. I am a featured garden contributor for Yahoo! Voices and a new age examiner for Examiner.com. I provide content for private clients seeking articles for their websites, newsletters and business communications.
I also maintain two personal blogs. In the Direction of Dreams is a collection of inspirational quotes with reflections and expressions of gratitude. The focus of the blog is setting and reaching goals by maintaining a positive attitude and employing the principles of the Law of Attraction.
In Due Time focuses on the paranormal and contains a collection of stories and personal reactions to paranormal events. It also includes reviews and reactions to popular paranormal shows seen on television or in the movies. Although the subject may seem a bit eerie, the blog takes a light-hearted approach to the field.
What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as an online writer?
The perception that online writing isn’t real writing creates an obstacle for many new writers. It, of course, simply is not true – but the stigma remains. Overcoming that hurdle takes time, patience, and a lot of explaining to friends and family. Because we spend our days on the Internet – working, researching, and seeking out new writing opportunities – others often perceive it as “playing on the Internet” and devalue what we do.
Breaking into the market is nearly impossible without working for a content mill, which can lead to the misconception that our work is slipshod and unprofessional. Because some writing sites do not monitor or control quality of the submissions to their site, our work may appear alongside work that is unprofessional and filled with both grammatical and factual errors.
Because of these misconceptions – combined with the fact that many new writers are willing to work for low wages to get their foot in the door – many who seek out writers for online content expect to purchase quality articles for a dollar or two.
Finding lucrative work takes time and commitment, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Once established as an online writer, the quality of your work speaks for itself and serves as a convenient portfolio for new clients.
Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a new online writer?
Online writing requires dedication, organization and hard work – just like any other field of writing. There is no quick way to the top – but there are some things a new online writer can do to improve his chances of success.
- Provide quality work every time. Resist the urge to think it really doesn’t matter because the pay is low or you are just writing it for fun. Once your work is published with your byline, it serves as a reflection of your ability and professionalism. Make sure everything you write reflects you in a positive light.
- Write for a variety of sites. There is nothing wrong with writing for what Google now terms a content mill – as long as you produce your best work. However, with the changing face of the Internet, sites appear and disappear without warning. Relying on one site for your livelihood is dangerous business.
- Set a schedule. It may be tempting to think that because you are a freelancer that its okay to simply write when you feel like it and take time off when you don’t. If you depend on income from your writing, setting a schedule keeps you on track and motivated. Treat freelance writing like a job – not a hobby.
- Find your niche. Becoming a generalist who can write on any topic may seem like a good idea, but few of us can write with passion on topics that don’t interest us. Think about what you know and what you enjoy and pursue writing opportunities in those areas.
- Start a blog. Blogs allow you to write with passion about the things that are important to you. Update often, use an authentic voice and don’t worry too much about writing conventions. Good grammar and spelling are always desired, but blogs aren’t formal writing. Keep your blog light and engaging.
Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?
Being a freelance writer allows me to develop my own schedule and work when I am most productive. For that reason, I would say that being a writer has a positive impact on my daily life. The image of the inspired writer pounding away on the keys in front of the flickering fire, as pearls of wisdom roll silently across the page has been lost on me. Perhaps it is because I write nonfiction. Online writing does not provide me with the means of self-expression – but it does allow me to share what I have learned and what I know with those who seek information. It also allows me the time to pursue other writing interests – like my blogs – that do add meaning to my life.
Has writing made you a better person? Was there a point in your life where writing helped you deal with something, a death or a problem relationship perhaps?
My blog In the Direction of Dreams reminds me of what is important in life and keeps me motivated. Seeking out inspiring and motivating quotes and sharing my thoughts with the world ignites the desire to always do what is right – not what is popular. My hope is that sharing my personal expressions of gratitude will inspire others to do so too, and in turn enrich their lives. In that respect, yes, my writing has made me a better person.
Has my online writing made a better person? Perhaps. Through it, I have met some incredible people with remarkable life stories. I have touched the lives of millions of readers whose faces I will never know. I like to believe that I have enriched their lives – if only for a moment – by teaching them something they needed to know. Sometimes that may be how to plant vegetables that provide food for the family, other times it might be to look at the world from another point of view. If that makes me a better person, then yes, online writing has made me a better person, too.
About Nannette Richford
Nannette Richford is a freelance writer who lives in the small rural community of Springfield, Maine where she enjoys spending time with her husband and two amazing children. As an avid gardener, Richford enjoys writing about gardening so others may benefit from her experience.
When not writing or gardening, Richford can be found in the backyard “watching the garden grow” and admiring the beauty of nature.
Keep up with Nannette