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The Secret to Spin-offs: A Simple Technique for Reslanting your Work
by Kelly James-Enger

As a freelancer, you have a limited number of hours to dedicate to earning money from your work, whether you’re writing part- or full-time. Make the most of it by squeezing as much as you can out of your research.

Reslanting—writing about the same topic more than once, with a different angle—means you’ll spend less time on future stories, which boosts your hourly rate.

It took me several years to grasp this fact, though. Like most freelancers, when I started writing, I dug for story ideas, looked for appropriate markets, and queried magazines. When I got an assignment, I wrote the article. Then it was on to the next idea, the next market, the next story. I wrote about topics ranging from how small businesses could protect themselves from employment discrimination claims to how to improve your memory to animal dissection alternatives to religious weight loss programs. Each story took a considerable amount of time to research, but once I was finished with it, I never revisited the topic.

If that sounds a lot like the way you’ve been working, break yourself of the one idea=one story habit right now. Instead, start thinking about the different ways you can reslant material to different markets. That lets you take advantage of the information that’s already in your head, in your story files, and on your hard drive, reducing the amount of time you spend researching the subject. But if you’ve been a one idea/one story writer in the past, you may have to think creatively to come up with reslants the first few times you do it.

I suggest you brainstorm from the outset. Give it a try:

Write down your article idea here:

What angle do you plan to take with it first? Which market(s) will you pitch?

What audiences might be interested in this information? Don’t just think about whether it’s a topic for men, women, or both. Think more broadly. Is it a subject that parents would care about? Business owners? Fitness buffs? Attorneys? Engineers? Gamers? Seniors? College students? Frequent travelers? Professionals? People on a limited budget? Hobbyists? Residents of California? African-Americans? People with disabilities? Pet owners? Homeowners? Gourmands?

Considering potential audiences, what markets might be interested in this information? Again, think broadly. Consider consumer magazines, trade publications, and regional magazines and newspapers. Even if some of the markets don’t pay that well, a story that takes minimal time to report and write may be worth it.

What angles would be of most interest to each audience and market?

Let’s try an example. Say your initial idea is a story on the benefits of antioxidants for older people, and you have a health-oriented publication like Prevention in mind. That’s a great start, but don’t stop there. How many different angles can you take with the piece? How about:

* A piece for a women’s magazine on the importance of eating fruits and vegetables?

* A story for a parenting mag on ways to help kids eat more produce?

* A nutrition story for a fitness publication about how antioxidants help your body recover from exercise?

* A short piece for a men’s magazine about whether antioxidants like vitamin C help keep your immune system strong?

* A health piece for a general interest magazine on whether it’s more beneficial to get your antioxidants from your food or vitamin supplements?

* A story on local farmer’s markets for a regional publication, extolling the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables?

* A cooking story for a food magazine featuring recipes high in antioxidants?

Get the idea? You’ve now got eight possible pitches instead of just one—and I’m sure you can come up with more.

Try this exercise whenever you’re hashing out a new story idea. You may be amazed at how many different approaches you can come up with for one seemingly tiny kernel of a story idea. Even if you draw a blank at the outset, you’re bound to come across information you can use for other approaches and angles, and you’ll have a leg up when it comes to finding experts on the subject as well. Starting with one story idea is fine, but the more angles and markets you can come up with, the more times you can cover that topic—and make more money for your time.

© Copyright 2004, Kelly James-Enger

Kelly James-Enger has authored more than a dozen books, including Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success (Writers Digest, 2012) and Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writers Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books (CreateSpace, 2010). Check out her blog, Dollars and Deadlines, for practical advice about how you can make more money in less time as a nonfiction freelance writer.

Other articles by Kelly James-Enger :

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