Journalism Monetization: How to Make Money with Your J-Skills

by Shawn Smith on September 8, 2009

bank-roll-flickr-zzzack

This is part two of my series about diversifying your income streams. See part 1 if you missed it.

If you read my last post in this series, you’ve likely put together a list of your skills and a few other lists as well. If you didn’t, go back to post 1 and write your lists. Then come back.

Now that you have your lists, finding ways to monetize your journalism background should get a lot easier.

In this post, I’ll give you an 8-step plan for getting started with skills monetization outside of newspapers and a few excellent examples for putting your skills to work. Let’s get started (which is often the hardest part).

Get Off Your Ass!

If you’re looking to supplement or even replace your journalist’s salary, you’re in for a ride. This isn’t easy, but it can be very rewarding.

Here’s my overly-simplistic plan for getting yourself a secondary income:

Cycle time: 6 months

  1. Get an idea for what you want to do; how do you want to spend your time?
  2. Find like-minded individuals who can help (call them Team A … size varies)
  3. Meet regularly with Team A (at least once weekly for 3 months)
  4. Find a common goal or project for Team A. If you can’t find one, find Team B
  5. Determine how project can make $, when and for whom.
  6. Assign tasks and deadlines to team members to achieve team goal (meanwhile, get an LLC and operating agreement)
  7. At 6 months, evaluate the situation.
  8. Decide to go forward or move on. If you continue project, repeat steps 6-7

This process can be done without a team members, but you’ll likely see benefits from working with others. If not for ideas, others can contribute through labor or even administrative work.

This is the most basic plan I can offer. You can fill it up with all the extras and details that you want. Just keep to the 6 month schedule, consistently evaluate your position, and stay on the lookout for opportunities.

Now for the projects.

Getting Beyond News Orgs with J Skills

Obviously there’s a ton of ways to make money with your journalism skills outside of newspapers and traditional news orgs. Depending on your skills you could do anything from *cough* PR and marketing *couch* to website layout design to writing greetings cards.

Hate those options?

Here’s a few ideas that should inspire you:

Idea 1: Same Skills, More Intimate Audience

This idea I’m about to share really blew me away. I’m impressed. And surprised.

So what’s the idea? You.

That’s right, it’s all about you.

Each of us has a story to tell. But few actually have the chance to share those stories, even with loved ones.

Sounds like a good market for a storyteller, doesn’t it? That could be what newspaper writer Claire Cummings thought when she created Remember The Journey.remember-the-journey-pic

Cummings writes “professionally penned life stories” and packages them in framed displays with photos of the subject.

“Traditional publications can’t write about everyone because some stories do not interest the broader community. I’m trying to offer a service that allows everyone’s story to be told,” she writes in a Facebook message to me.

What I like about this idea is how unique it is – and it’s using her J-skills. Cummings has “a real passion for telling the stories of regular folks.” And in this venture, she’s able to use all her skills of interviewing, writing and storytelling she she has honed during her years at major newspapers.

“Navigating the whole business landscape has not been too difficult because I have years of practice in researching new things as a reporter. At the end of the day, most of the skills I need to make my company successful are those of a journalist — accuracy, empathy and good eyes and ears for detail,” she writes.

Options for writers are endless. Get creative.

Idea 2: Give People Something to Look At

Here’s an idea you may have heard of before. It has the same principles as Cummings’ business, but with a different medium: photography.

I’ll be honest. I hate staged photos, unless they are so awkwardly presented that it’s a farce. I hate wedding photos where everyone stands together, stiff and unnatural. Sorry, I really do.

I can bet I’m not the only one who feels this way, since some news-trained photographers have found some room in the crowded wedding and special event space.

Check out Wasabi Photography for an example of “documentary wedding photography.”

Wasabi is made up of several newspaper photojournalists, and they travel worldwide to perform image storytelling.

You can bet I’ll have someone like them at my wedding … wonder if they travel to Thailand? :/

….. Some other ideas for photogs? Try selling your extra pics on sites like iStock. It might not be a ton of money at the beginning, but if you have some good images and can promote them, making a few extra K annually shouldn’t be too far-fetched.

Idea 3: Do it Better!

mashable-techcrunch-huffpost-banner

If you think you can do business better than whatever news org your working for, then do it. Seriously. Do it.

You really might have a better shot at delivering what people want.

The Huffington Post launched on May 9, 2005. It is the No. 1 blog listed on the Technorati top 100. TechCrunch, No. 2 on the Technorati top 100, launched June 11, 2005. No. 3 Mashable launched July 2005. Pete Cashmore, who launched Mashable, was born in 1985. 1985!

These are all huge, high-traffic sites. In their respective circles, TechCrunch and Mashable are the authority on their subjects. and guess what, those sites are only 4 years old.

The point is this, the web makes it almost – *almost* – FREE to start your own news company. If you want to run your own news service, you have no excuse not to.

You have a head start because you’re already a journalist. If you think you can do it better, or at least as good, then do it.

Don’t worry about taking on a huge project. Start with a small niche subject you’re interested in, and TAKE IT OVER!

Idea 4: Teach

teaching-flickr-peiqianlongA number of people I worked with at my college newspaper have entered teaching (including me haha).

Why is this the case? Well, some say the journalist background gives them an upper hand on dealing with stressful situations and getting kids aware of current events.

Plus there’s a ton of opportunities: Teach for America, community colleges, the college you graduated from, community adult enrichment courses, TEFL :), your local library, your local university … or even start your own local group to form a networking space and get consulting gigs.

Teaching is actually a lot of fun, and trust me, the J-Skills come in handy.

NOW GET STARTED!

There’s tons of ways to make money with your J-skills. The trick is to start brainstorming about what YOU can do and take some action.

If the unthinkable (layoff, pay cut, furlough) occurs, you’ll be a lot better off if you have something to supplement your income or give you a stepping stone into something different.

NEXT UP: PROMOTION!

Here’s something I’ve heard from a few journalists:

“I’ve found the most intimidating thing about being in business is trying to market myself and my company. As a journalist, I’ve been taught to stay neutral and avoid promoting anything,” Cummings (Remember the Journey) told me.

In part 3 of this series, you’ll hear a few ideas for promoting your stuff.

awesome images courtesy zzzack and Claire Cummings and peiqianlong.

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