• Tammy Layman-Hall

5 Ways Volunteering Benefits Your Freelance Writing Business

Your time is money. Here's why finding time to volunteer matters.

You know volunteering has benefits. As a freelance writer taking time out of your schedule to volunteer could limit your income. Still, volunteering could also increase your income. You just have to make sure you identify how volunteering aligns with your writing business. Here's five ways volunteering at a book fair and media center library benefits your freelance writing business.

You learn who is reading what.

Volunteering in the school library gets you in touch with your audience. I volunteer at least two hours a week as a library aide. Besides that, I volunteer as the Scholastic Book Fair Chairperson for our PreK-8 schools. Volunteering in the school library let's you see what books kids are reading. Likewise, as a bookfair volunteer you see what parents and grandparents are buying for their kids.

You get to see what publishers are releasing.

Likewise, volunteering at the bookfair means you get to see the books the publishers are releasing this season. Still, what kids are reading and what parents are buying often differ. As a library aide, you can share the excitement with a student who has finally moved to the top the long hold list for a popular new release title. Teachers will share their thoughts with you on the new releases and old stand-by favorites, too.

You get time to become intimate with the publishers' backlists.

Also, the bookfair lets you have time perusing the publishers backlists. For me, I get to spend bookfair week sitting in a room surrounded by books talking to parents, teachers and kids. Old favorite titles will reach out to you from the bottom shelves. Book fairs group reading genres and levels together for you. Fairs tend to be one publisher, so the job is easy. This is a wonderful time to see the types of books the publisher publishes. It's also a great time to identify gaps in their catalog.

You get to network.

Volunteering is a major way to network. Book fairs let you chat up parents as they come through with their kids. Through it all, keep your business card handy. Volunteering and being selective in the events that you volunteer for eases the task of networking. Very few people are surprised to find a freelance writer hosting a bookfair. Volunteering takes a lot of the pressure off having to make small talk with random strangers.

You can plan.

Volunteering a scheduled event lets you plan your freelance workload. Likewise, prospective clients (aka parents) will get that you make room in your schedule to volunteer. While it is important to volunteer, it is also important to work your schedule make a living. My personal limit is to volunteer two hours per week each week in the school library media center. For the book fair, I black out three weeks every year.

In sum, volunteering will take you away from your income generating work. Yet, the benefits of getting to know your audience, customers and market are well worth the time away from the keyboard. Savvy freelance writers must learn to set limits on how much they volunteer in order to maintain the balance.

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