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The Pros and Cons of Column Writing
by Jennifer Brown Banks

I never envisioned myself as a Carrie Bradshaw of “Sex and the City.” Growing up, I was a painfully shy bookworm, who felt much more suited to become a psychologist or teacher. But decades later, through some dead end jobs, discernment, and divine purpose, I became a professional writer. More specifically, I am a veteran freelance writer and popular relationship columnist for Being Single Magazine, and other print and online publications.

Just like Carrie Bradshaw, I provide commentary on important social issues to today’s singles.  I ask the thought provoking, tough questions, and through wit and wisdom, try to make sense of some of the perplexing things that happen between “Mars” and “Venus,” in matters of the heart. (The only difference is the expensive designer sling backs, and the “liberated libido.”)

Over the years, I’ve also written columns on reviews, the arts and other timely topics. I’ve been the go-to guru on many things for many people. And I’ve loved it.

But, just like any other professional pursuit, a career as a columnist can have its advantages and disadvantages. If you’re considering entering this field, here’s some insight into what you can realistically expect before taking the plunge.

THE PROS:

  1. INFLUENCE—There’s something spiritual and magical about writing—about influencing the masses. The ability and opportunity to entertain, enlighten, and impact thousands of people is powerful.

  2. FAN MAIL—I love fan mail.  And I get it often.  The advent of the Internet allows folks from Texas to Timbuktu to read my words, and to weigh in on what they think.  It makes me feel privileged, passionate, and accountable.

  3. CREDIBILITY—Columnists are considered noted “experts” in their designated subject area. Many are quoted in magazines, and some even serve as guest speakers on radio and TV shows.  For example, in 2006, my column writing experience landed me a guest spot on the popular WVON Radio “Relationship Thursday” forum.

  4. PAY FOR YOUR SAY—There’s no greater compliment than being paid for your unique perspective.  I’ve earned as little as $25.00 and as much as $500.00 per column. You can expect to earn in the same range depending upon the budget of the publication and your related experience.

  5. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION—Typically column writers are not subjected to the same editorial scrutiny as other creative peers.  As long as the subject addressed falls within one’s topic category, is written well, and is not offensive or politically incorrect, it will see print.

THE CONS:

  1. YOU MUST PRODUCE AND MEET DEADLINES ON A REGULAR BASIS—Whether your column is daily, weekly, or monthly, you can’t afford to wait until your “muse strikes” to get motivated.  If you miss a deadline or two, your gig will be dead too.

  2. PAY CAN BE LOW—as compared to other fields of writing, like copywriting or technical writing.

  3. CONSISTENCY CAN POSE A PROBLEM—No matter how eloquent a writer may be, sometimes it becomes difficult to come up with new and exciting topics and remain relevant.

Armed with this information, you can make an informed decision and embrace the joys and challenges of today’s columnists.

© Copyright 2008, Jennifer Brown Banks

Jennifer Brown Banks is the former senior editor of Mahogany Magazine. She holds a B.A. in Business Management and blogs at Penandprosper.blogspot.com

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