Skip to Content

Becoming a writer


Excerpt from 'How I became a highly-paid writer'

Neil Bromage is a writer who has worked out how to make money out of writing. In this excerpt from his pamphlet he shows how he built his writing career through turning to non-fiction articles, developing ideas and finding outlets to sell them to. As a result he made nearly £70,000 last year from his writing.

I decided to approach my local business support agency - the government’s local providers of support to small and medium sized business. I considered that they must have a need for writing skills. I was already teaching five creative writing classes each week for the local adult college and so my skills and references, together with the published work I’d now got would speak for themselves.

Initially, I wrote simple business case studies for them and earned relatively small amounts. But as they saw more and more of my work, the more work they gave me to do. What they began to recognise – and this is very important, particularly to all of those people out there who think that their creative talents have no place in the harsh world of business and commerce – was that all the time I was actually writing about people, not business. It was the people who were important in the things I wrote, not the process, necessarily. During the period I have been working for them I’ve written case studies, newspaper columns, press releases and other general items for staff handbooks, leaflets and brochures. Within the last year or so I have also taken on a much more lucrative contract to write and edit a 12 page magazine every two months. This complete body of work has provided a sizeable part of my annual income.

One of the benefits of working for organisations such as this is that they also have large numbers of clients/customers, many of whom I’ve come into direct contact with. As a result of the work I’ve done for the business support agency I have been asked by a number of their clients to work for them.

One such company paid me to write articles on their biotechnology business. They had, what they considered to be a unique product with a worldwide potential. Over a period of about six months I wrote about the company in the likes of The Times, the Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph and Financial Mail on Sunday. I even got them coverage on TV that was broadcast throughout the world.

Similarly, I was asked by the owners of another business, this time in the agricultural trade to write about them in whatever newspaper or magazine I could. Remember that all businesses want publicity. In this instance, there was more opportunity for writing about the woman at the head of the company, a particularly down-to-earth outspoken type who would make for interesting reading. It’s exactly these types of profiles that are of interest to certain business or lifestyle magazines.

If you check out any magazine you will find that most of them have slots for interviews or profiles. This is probably one of my favourite types of writing and I’ve interviewed a number of leading business people, celebrities and even the odd MP…

The writing I’ve done in the business world has presented many opportunities that I’ve been able to develop in other freelance ways. I might, for instance go to interview a particularly well-known or interesting person for the magazine I write for the business support agency who may well be of interest to other magazines and I’m able to re-sell the interview to them with a small amount of re-writing.

This brings me to one of the most important aspects of developing ideas. What I always try to ensure is that my ideas have "legs", that they are not going to be static, one-off ideas that go no further than the first magazine I approach. Whenever I have an idea I brainstorm it, looking for every possible angle and outlet I can think of. There are very few ideas that will not be applicable to a number of outlets. For instance I’m currently writing about canals as a means of transport. I’ve already done a piece for Supply Management and Financial Mail on Sunday but I know already that other outlets exist for this piece. Additionally, one of the people I have come across in doing the research for this is extremely interesting and has already been featured in the general media. I know that I can place an interview with him somewhere else. I really can’t overstate this need for having ideas with legs too much.

Find out more about Neil’s pamphlet on his website

© Neil Bromage 2001