According to Martie Callaghan, she’s been a writer, unofficially, all her life. “In nearly every past job, I would find a way to wriggle some type of writing into my job description.” Finally, five years ago, the Preston, Maryland grandmother made the break from secretarial work and took the plunge into freelancing. Starting with magazine features, she soon transitioned to the more lucrative “commercial” writing, crafting marketing materials for clients in banking, law, interior design, health care, and more. At 58, Martie is buoyant: “My cash flow keeps getting better, and I’m devoting more time to family and less to work. Commercial freelancing is the PERFECT fit.”
For the last decade, downsizing and outsourcing have sculpted the corporate American landscape. Businesses – large and small – are all doing more with less, with many relying heavily on freelancers to write those marketing materials – brochures, ads, newsletters, direct mail, web content and much more, and for hourly rates of $50-125+. And the “mature” set is taking notice. The combination of healthy income potential and “on-my-own-terms” lifestyle flexibility makes it an appealing draw for those either nearing or smack dab in the midst of “retirement.”
Redirecting Past Experience
Dr. Bill Duhey of San Diego retired from the steel industry at 57, after various management positions and a final stint as editor of the plant magazine. The next year, he began a career as a consultant and seminar leader for companies across North America. At 76, he decided to become a commercial freelancer, reading up on the field and getting busy. A year later, things are going well. Says Duhey, “I have three clients who give me all the work I can handle. I earn a comfortable income, but I’m still young and looking for more work.”
The Joy of Writing
He doesn’t need the money, observing, “When I write for the sheer fabulous pleasure of it, I do it better, and customers love it. Life after 65 is just great!”
At 64, Chuck Belitz, former military contractor and poultry farmer, was president of a small company with five subsidiaries, handling all writing responsibilities for the companies’ brochures, proposals, web content and more. After changing economics precipitated the sale of the company, he launched Inklings Media – disabled-veteran-owned (which will yield competitive advantages). From his home in Munford, Alabama, Belitz will bid writing work from the government and its prime contractors, and offer his services throughout the Southeastern U.S. With military precision, he’s gotten his ducks in a row: “My office is well equipped. I have formed a loose consortium of freelance writers, graphic designers, video producers, and editors from Birmingham to Atlanta. The prospects look good.”
And incidentally, Belitz is employing a long-proven strategy for success in this field: forging alliances with fellow creative professionals in order to offer clients complete end-to-end (i.e. “turnkey”) solutions.
Wanted: All Ages
Scott Koegler of Summerfield, North Carolina spent 15 years in technical management (various CIO positions), writing for computer mags on the side. Two years after a “burnout” exit from the corporate world, Koegler, at 56, continues to freelance, but with a twist. He’s added “commercial” writing to his mix – marketing materials needed by virtually every company, and which pay far more than typical magazine freelancing. He adds, “I’ve landed a couple of commercial jobs, one of which keeps me busy more than 3 days a week and makes my life a dream. Sure, it’s work, but I’m sitting at home, looking out my window as I work. The worst day here is better than the best day in corporate life.”
Bypassing the 55+ Job Search
Doug Dammier, for years a carpenter, and now in flooring sales, is delighted at his early forays into the field – while working at his present job. He recently submitted some copy for a marketing brochure for the flooring company, which the owner loved and is having produced as a “standard issue” sales tool for all salespeople. In addition, the 56-year-old Olympia, Washington native has landed several lucrative assignments from a local non-profit, including over $3000 for a web copy project. He’s understandably bullish: “I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the work I see out there. I’m confident I’ll be working for myself in this lucrative field for as long as I want – no matter my age.”
Of course, others get nudged toward the field a bit more urgently. Hawaii-based Sharon Meindertsma, 56, admittedly ready for a change from pharmaceutical sales, had the decision made for her when suddenly downsized out of her job. She’s reveling in the challenge of her new career, saying, “Becoming a commercial writer has been like being back in college, scary, but excited about at all the opportunity out there. Most importantly, it’s a profession I can pursue for the rest of my life, finally be my own boss and best of all, see what I’m made of.
Food for the Table, Time for the Soul
Former teacher Joe Yenkavitch, now 60, of Essex Junction, Vermont, continued his ongoing love of writing after retiring (he’s published a few articles, short stories, and a pre-teen sci-fi novel), but found that the pay for most magazine freelancing “doesn’t come close to compensating you for the time spent.” So he switched gears, observing, “Once I got over the hang-up that commercial freelancing wasn’t creative enough, a whole world of possibilities opened up. I can make decent money, remain creative, and still pursue my next novel.” Other advantages of the commercial field, as Yenkavitch sees it? “I can do it anywhere, as much of it as I want, and it keeps me involved with people and the larger world.
The Antidote to “Ageism”
For many, commercial freelancing offers a great vehicle for adapting to changing life dynamics, often providing the best of all worlds. Indianapolis-based Sally Rushmore, 55, after teaching school, became an at-home Mom for years, writing newsletters for the school and church (for free), and part-time for a non-profit. With her youngest heading off to college, her five-year gig teaching computer courses at a community college doesn’t work anymore. She needed something both more lucrative and flexible, so she can join her husband as he works five hours from home all week.
She found it in commercial freelancing – writing the marketing materials needed by virtually every company, and which pay far more than typical magazine freelancing. As she explains, “Commercial writing allows me freedom to travel, gives me two cities from which to draw clients, and provides the finances to keep the kids in college.”
Home is Where the…Family Is
And when some, like Wayne Winkle of Ft. Smith, Arkansas, talk about the commercial field as a way to spend more time with family, they mean business. The 57-year-old mental health professional loves to write, was good at it in his career, and is starting a commercial freelancing business with his daughter. The flexibility and variety of the work is exceptionally appealing, he notes, adding, “I’m looking forward to the additional income and to seeing my daughter get to be a stay-at-home mom for my two grandsons.”
Is There That Much Work?
And that doesn’t even factor in the vast number of small-to-medium-sized companies (25-100+ employees) with so many of the same needs, but even less likely to have the in-house staff to execute them. Plus the ad agencies, design firms, PR firms and other “middlemen” clients that service the above industries, but in most cases, don’t staff in-house writers.
What About a Portfolio?
Planning the next exciting chapter of your life? Looking for a flexible, lucrative way to build on a three- or four-decade experience base? As you read this, thousands of writers are landing countless, high-paying writing jobs. Why not you?
Interested in turning your love of writing into a full-time living? Or a flexible, lucrative "retirement" career? For a free report (AND to subscribe to a free ezine and blog) on lucrative "commercial" freelancing, visit www.wellfedwriter.com. While there, check out the quadruple-award-winning 2010 updated edition of, "The Well-Fed Writer," the how-to industry “standard” by veteran commercial writer and business coach Peter Bowerman. Got a book in you? Forget the publisher - do it yourself and turn it into a full-time living! For a free report, visit www.wellfedsp.com, home of Peter's triple-award-winning 2014 updated edition of, "The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living," which chronicles his self-publishing success (at press time, 70,000+ copies in print and a full-time living since 2001!).
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