Being a columnist for a magazine or newspaper definitely has its rewards, and not just financially. For a start, it helps establish you as a writer that can be depended on to deliver the goods. Editors and readers both know they can rely on you to come up with an interesting article each week or month your column is published.
Having a column also establishes you as a writer with a niche you are knowledgeable about. For example, I have established myself as being able to write about gardening and nature. When I lived in Tenerife, I had a column in the Tenerife Sun in which the natural world was my specialist subject matter. A photo of me sporting a green goatee beard added to the column’s appeal and my public image. It worked to my advantage because members of the public would recognise me as the man with a green beard who writes about nature in the Tenerife Sun newspaper. Several times I got approached by people who had recognised me like this and who had stories for me to cover. I remember writing one about the preying mantis and a man who had a bush in his garden he wanted to prune but it had several mantises on it.
Mediterranean Gardening and Outdoor Living April 2016 Issue 24
If you get known as a writer on a particular subject it makes it easier to get more work in this line. I am currently writing about gardening and the natural world for Mediterranean Gardening and Outdoor Living magazine. When I had been living in Tenerife, another publication that gave me work was Living Tenerife magazine, in which I had had a monthly gardening column.
Again, it was Tenerife that provided regular work for me as columnist for the weekly Tenerife Weekly, in which I had a page in which I wrote about gardening and nature. I also supplied the photos for this and had no problem getting some great ones to illustrate my articles.
But my first experience as a columnist was when I was a writer for Big Issue Cymru back in the late 1990s. In this magazine that is sold on the streets to raise funds for homeless people, I mainly wrote social interest stories. The Big Issue has a wide circulation and being a regular writer for it established me as a writer and helped me make a name for myself. Big Issue Cymru had reviewed my music before so I was already known to the publication as a singer-songwriter and local performer. At the time I was living in the Ely housing estate in Cardiff, and so when the Big Issue started calling me “Bard of Ely” it was a title that was apt. I have used it as a stage name ever since.
As a writer I have found being a columnist helpful in other ways too. My experience as a columnist has taught me to be able to make deadlines and also to make sure I proofread my work before I submit it. Also, knowing I have future articles to write in a particular niche, means that I am always on the lookout for topics I could cover. In my daily life I often make notes about something I see that would make a good story. I don’t have any problem getting inspired as a writer. Having a column helps stop the dreaded “writer’s block” because it keeps you thinking about what you can write about in future and it is easy enough to find subjects to describe.
Being a columnist is part-time work too, which is another advantage because it leaves you free to be able to commit to other jobs and writing projects. I like it that way!