Home is Where the Heart Is. Why Not Earn Money Writing About It?

Home is Where the Heart Is. Why Not Earn Money Writing About It?

“They” always say to write about what you know.

And what could you know better than your own hometown?

Where you live can become the source of endless inspiration for your writing, from the quirky characters you see every day to the restaurants you frequent.

You don’t have to live in a massive metropolis to find topics to write about. If you live in San Francisco, New York,or Atlanta, you’ll no doubt have a truly endless array of things to cover. But even in my town of 10,000, I find plenty of stories to cover.

The key is getting to know your community, its residents and businesses. The more you know about your community, the more you’ll find to write about. And the more people you know, the better the odds you’ll get the lead on a hot new restaurant or innovative upcoming festival first.

What types of publications look for hometown stories?

You can write about your hometown for all sorts of publications. Take a look at local publications and see what your options are. Is there a local daily or weekly paper? Or maybe a regional magazine or two?

These types of publications are generally filled with primarily local content, and they are often looking for writers who live nearby to cover stories and issues.

But don’t limit yourself to just local publications.

Major national publications write about people, events, and happenings that occur all over the country and the world. Keep in mind when pitching national publications that it’s often important to tie in broader themes and the national and international implications of your story to appeal to the magazine’s audience.

An article about the local Perfect Pickle Festival is great for the local newspaper, but if you’re pitching  The New York Times, they might prefer a story on pickle festivals across the country or world.

Turn into a hometown travel writer

A little known secret of travel writing is that many travel writers write about their hometown more frequently than any other destination.

Sure, you could hop on a jet and spend a week in Aruba and write about the experience, but would you know the bakery with the best breakfast treats or the perfect spot to watch the sun set? Nope.

That’s why travel publications like to use writers who actually live in the destination they are covering and know  intimately.

What do people do for fun in your hometown? Whatever you enjoy doing, there’s a chance others would love to do it too, and that’s why it makes a great activity to write about. Does your town have an amazing zoo? How about a first-rate children’s museum? Is the local park’s labyrinth exceptional? Is whitewater rafting on the local river an experience not to be missed?

If your town has a booming tourism scene, it seems obvious that you could sell some travel stories. But if your location is more “up and coming,” don’t count it out. Pitch a regional piece or a round-up article, such as a larger multi-destination “road trip” type piece.

Personality profiles

Everyone knows that quirky character who hangs out on Main Street and dances every afternoon. Or the local artist who has an unbelievable (but true) backstory about living for years in the Peruvian rainforest.

When you get to know people, you get to know their stories and you can often see a great story in people who think their own lives are unremarkable.

Consider pitching stories about local personalities, from a charismatic local businesswoman to a beloved youth soccer coach. Find what’s special about community members and convey these stories to publications and show them how their readers would benefit from delving into these people’s lives.

Of course, make sure you don’t have any conflicts of interest in telling these stories. Generally, you shouldn’t write about people who you are close to. If you have any questions about your relationship with a subject, make sure to ask your editor and disclose the relationship when you pitch so they can help you work through any potential conflict of interest and keep your journalistic integrity intact.

Business time

Every community is packed with a variety of local businesses. Why not write about them?

You could write about a local antiques shop, mom-and-pop variety store, farm stand, dance studio, consulting firm, hotel, health and wellness business, or just about any other type of enterprise you could imagine.

Look outside of your normal markets, too, and consider writing for trade publications. For example, I’ve written about local supermarkets for trade publications aimed at supermarket executives.

If you enjoy writing about food and dining, why not pitch stories about local restaurants? You could pitch these to niche publications, trade magazines, national travel and food publications, and even the local newspaper. Since you live nearby and can presumably go to the restaurant, taste their cuisine, meet their chef, and write about the food, service and ambiance first-hand.

Editors are likely far more inclined to assign that story to you than to someone who has never set foot in the establishment.

Whatever you choose to write about, you know your hometown far better than people who come in for a day or week or maybe never visit, instead completing research with phone calls and web searches.

This gives you an advantage when it comes to stories about your community. Put that local knowledge to good use and pitch some stories about the place you know best.

Filed Under: Freelancing
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7 comments

  • Matt Barton says:

    I’ve bookmarked this post because it’s spot-on for something I’ve been thinking about branching into recently. I live in a town that’s a similar size to yours and besides the local newspaper (which mainly covers council meetings and sports) there’s not much coverage that does the place justice. In particular I like the suggestion about personality profiles; and I’ve already got one or two in mind!

  • I used to write for the local free weekly paper. It was only $40 for the article and $5 for the photo, but it was a start, and I learned from the editor’s changes how to make my work more ‘newsy’. BUT – after a great eight assignments, they decided (without asking me) to put a story they assigned me on their online site. When I signed my contract three months before, there was no online site. I picked up the paper at the grocery store, expecting to see my cover story…well…on the cover, and it wasn’t anywhere in the print edition. Okay…it’s online, but the kicker is that they never paid me for it. I had gas/parking/time/talent invested, with no clue that I wasn’t getting paid. And the editor’s attitude was, “You know, we get people in here every day that will write for free.” And I said, “I don’t write for free, especially when I wasn’t told ahead of time.” That was the end of writing for the only local paper, I took my eight clips and walked off to bigger and better assignments for businesses and trade magazines. So – just beware of the local editor’s possible attitude toward freelancers – that we are a dime a dozen and might work for free to see our name in print!

  • Iris says:

    This is a great article that is giving me all kinds of ideas. Thanks.

  • Jesse Creel says:

    Great idea here about writing about the town you live in. For me I like writing about work but I never name names. Like you said in this article be careful if they are ” close” to you. At any rate thanks for the article, I find anything to help stimulate writing ideas is helpful. Because of this article I may write about one of my favorite restaurants where I live.

    • Bernadette Grove says:

      Hey! Loved the article but this comment struck me as well. Do you have any suggestions for an upcoming writer? I have these articles built up (ranging from military life, comedy pieces on public figures, health and wellness) and no idea where to publish them.

  • I think whenever you go for writing with clear approach, then results are really close to optimum. When writing on any topic, your approach should be in a way where your words takes frontstage and earnings or making money from it as backstage, this is where you can find yourself are on a green spot.

    That’s rightly said, the more you know about what you writing about, how much familiar you are about it, the great quality article you will deliver. Jotting down all the aspects of the topic on rough piece of paper before writing, could make things much easier and you will find drastic improvement in your message delivery.

    And when you do this, surely more people will like to read, turning into more visitors, subscribers and offcourse your earnings will take a new high fly 🙂

    Thanks

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