This guest post is by Emma Merkas of $30 Date Night.
It was my blog that landed me my weekly newspaper column.
I’m a huge advocate of self-publishing, If you know you’re talented at something, and if you have an opinion you want to express, a song you want to sing, or a specific skill you want to teach, go right ahead and do it.
The Internet has more than levelled the publishing playing field—judging by the state of traditional media outlets right now, it’s all but demolished it.
I’d been thanklessly blogging for about 18 months—five posts a week, very little to show for it in the way of traffic, and regular comments … all was going steadily, but not gangbusters—when I received a call from the editor of mX newspaper here in Melbourne.
She’d been reading my blogs and since her relationship and dating columnist had left for another publication, she wondered if I could do for the paper what I’d been doing online.
Yes, I could! Of course I could. I remember jumping around the loungeroom like a complete idiot while trying to keep my voice steady on the phone. My husband wondered what the heck was going on.
Readership of 700,000 across the Eastern seaboard of Australia. My photo and byline printed alongside it every week. My website plugged at the bottom. And an opportunity for a legit writing job…
Suddenly, I was a real writer. A proper, paid, professional writer.
But the column also gives me great new content for my blog.
I have my newspaper deadline every week. Even on my off days, even through my uninspired weeks, and even when I just can’t be bothered writing (every blogger battles it), it gets done. Because it has to.
Which is amazing, because then I get to post it to my blog, giving me steady and quality content for my site and ensuring I’m not burnt out by constantly writing the same stuff over and over again. If I had to rewrite every article on the same topic just so I could publish something, I doubt I’d last very long.
So here are some key points on reusing your freelance content for your own website, based on my experience.
1. Remember: your copyright is your livelihood
If it’s at all possible, retain the copyright on the works you produce for paying publications.
This should generally be standard if you are freelancing for a publication, rather than being employed as staff by the company, in which case they may have legal rights to the content.
The only way you can transfer your copyright is by signing a document. So be careful of what you’re signing!
If you don’t understand the agreement, wave it under the nose of a friend with some legal background (lawyers are a dime a dozen, right?).
2. Understand exclusive and non-exclusive rights
While I do own the copyright to my content, the paper has exclusive rights to my work for a period of time, meaning that I can’t resell or licence the content to any other third party in that time.
However, I am entitled to use my own work on my own website. If you’re not sure about this, clear it with your editor first, or do it as a courtesy anyway.
Always, always credit the publication when you publish on your own site. This creates goodwill and they’ll welcome the cross-promotion.
In my case, after the paper’s exclusivity period runs out, it still owns perpetual rights to my work that the editors can use as they see fit in their standard publications. As my agreement includes a clause that my work should always run with a byline, I’m not too fussed by this arrangement. The more promotion and publicity, the better for me and my website.
3. Give them first jump
Of course, the publication you’re writing for always has the right to publish the works first. In my case, I leave it at least a few days before I go live with my articles on my blog.
As mX newspaper is one of the rare beasts that doesn’t have an online portion, my columns are gone and forgotten—with no digital footprint—along with yesterday’s news. My blog ensures they live on.
Chances are, if a publication has taken you on to contribute work, they’re impressed already with your blog, your work, and your brand. Use that to your advantage when negotiating your contract and get as much access to reuse your own works as possible.
Are you a freelance writer? Do you reuse your articles on your own blog? Share your negotiating tips and advice with us in the comments.
Emma Merkas is the author of the weekly ‘How Was It For You?’ relationships and dating column in Australian newspaper, mX. She is also the co-creator of the $30 Date Night date ideas website and blog. Find her on Twitter @30dollardate.