How to Become a Columnist: Writing for Profit
Today's "I Want to Be" Series features Myscha Theriault, a columnist and blogger, and the founder of The Lesson Machine. Myscha co-authors a weekly column, The Frugal Traveler. It has been published all over the world, including in The St. Petersburg Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Sacramento Bee, and many other news outlets.
How long have you been a columnist?
Almost a year and a half. Time sure flies when you're having fun!
What led you to start or pursue a nationally syndicated column?
Well, I noticed that travel writers were starting to be let go from newspaper departments. However, I knew that those publications would still be needing access to travel content even if they couldn't fund salary and benefit packages along with the travel costs. So approaching a syndication service seemed like the logical next step.
Are you full time or part time? If part-time, do you anticipate switching to full time?
While the column only takes up a portion of my work time each week, I do in fact write full time for a variety of clients as well as on my own projects.
How do you market your column?
To be honest, the column is more how I market my other projects. We are given a generous tag line with which to mention the other projects we've launched and books we've written. So it's a great way to get the word out when you have something you've worked hard on that you want the world to know about.
What is your favorite part of doing a column?
Getting to meet the new travel experts I contact to provide information and insight into various travel topics. I'm a traveler at heart, and it's what my husband and I do as a main hobby. So when I get to work with a new source, I'm always psyched to hear about what cool travel things they're doing. One woman was bicycle riding with her husband and children from Alaska to Argentina. That was impressive.
What one question do you get most from people about your column?
Once it goes live every week, the people who provide expert tips and advice want to know where they can go to find the column. You know, a comprehensive list. The truth is, it's carried in so many places coming up with a comprehensive list is pretty difficult to do. So I usually advise them to use search engines to track down certain passages from the article. After a couple of weeks of having run, they'll have a pretty good list of clips that they can feel good about showing their friends and family.
What one myth or misconception do you want to dispel about having a column?
That it's easy. Or glamorous. People meet me assuming that I get to spend my weeks like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. The truth couldn't be further from that. Not only is it hard work to put together a great column, but my day to day life is pretty hum drum. I struggle to keep up with laundry and dishes. I grocery shop and put dinner in the crock pot. And I clean up dog drool.
Sure, we travel whenever we can. But while we're not above an occasional spa getaway and love touring Europe, much of our travel is to parts of the world that are still struggling to develop. Bouncing through Cambodia while sharing a dusty bus with chickens isn't anyone's idea of glamorous. Although we did have a great time in that country. Even in Europe, things can get difficult. My husband and I don't do package tours normally. We travel independently. Which means we don't have things pre-arranged and often get lost on the day when it's most inconvenient. We still have a great time, but it isn't necessarily the posh experience most people think it is.
What advice do you have for others who want to get into a similar opportunity?
Don't underestimate yourself. If you've got a great story or are an expert in a particular field that you know people want to know about but don't see covered in the papers regularly . . . pitch the editor. You never know when they just might say yes.
What is the first step?
Start writing. Start a blog. Find some blog buddies who write about similar things to share links with when appropriate. Once you've got some depth on your blog as far as content goes, then start the marketing process.
Want to know more? Check out Myscha's writing skills at Wise Bread, The Lesson Machine, We Be Sharin', and Trek Hound. Find her on Twitter and Facebook! Thanks, Myscha!
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