Making the Most of Your Inventory

Eight great ways to earn a profit from work you've already done!

One of the neatest things about writing for a living (even if it's only a part-time living) is that we get to re-sell our inventory.

"What inventory?" you ask.

All that information you have stuffed in file folders and computer files. You know -- the interviews you've conducted and transcribed. The how-to tips and advice and backgrounders you've gathered from all those experts whose brains you've picked. The statistics you've dug out of government studies and academic research. The anecdotes you've collected from people who have experienced what you've written about.

Chances are, you have a bulging manila or hanging file folder for each article you've written, stuffed full of "inventory" -- some of which you used in the article, much of it sitting unused.

And not using that inventory is what keeps so many writers from earning a decent living -- because time is such a precious commodity for the writer. You are limited by the number of hours in a week or a month as to how many projects you can research and write. But all that "inventory" hidden away in those folders is virtually time-free. You've already spent the time to gather it.

About all you have to do now is package it -- which means your time invested in the next uses of it could yield way more per hour than your original project did. Or, you can sell it for less and still make the same amount per hour invested.

So how do you use your inventory? Here are eight ways to resell your research material:

1. Use the information from several related articles to make others. Let's say you've written a bunch of articles about all the tourist and vacation spots in your area or state. Pull out those spots that cost the least and put together an article on "10 Fun Weekends for Frugal Families."

2. Look for different audiences for the material. For example, you've researched the dangers of poisonous house plants for a child safety article. In the process, you discovered that many of these same house plants present similar dangers to pets. Use the basic information again for a similar piece targeted to puppy owners. In instances like this, you may need to make a few extra phone calls to obtain some quotes from a veterinarian or two, but the time investment will still be minuscule compared to starting a brand new topic from scratch.

3. Look at different age groups. Information on the damage the sun's rays can do to the skin could be slanted to a baby care magazine, a teen magazine, a seniors magazine.

4. Keep a list of reprint markets that buy articles in your field of interest. Once you've sold first rights to a piece and it's been published, offer reprint rights to other publications and websites. This can be especially profitable, because you probably will not have to do any additional research or writing.

5. Cannibalize your articles. Look at your sold articles to see where bits and pieces can be resold as fillers or stand-alone photos and captions or quizzes or "10 Ways/Tips" pieces.

6. Look for non-competing magazines that have different readers with common concerns. For example, if you've written an article for a pet store trade journal on dealing with shoplifting, you can reuse most of the material in an article for a sporting goods trade journal. Similarly, an article on family values or dealing with tragedy written for a Baptist magazine could likely be reslanted with little effort for a Presbyterian magazine.

7. Pull out your articles every few years to see which can be updated -- probably for the same magazines. You see these articles regularly -- such and such revisited 10 years later. Where are they now? What has happened in the last three years? These articles require a bit more work than the previous six, but the sales are usually easy and the research quick because you already know where to go for it. Plus, a nice chunk of the new article will be a recap of what you wrote the first time around.

8. Consider other media. If you've done several articles on one subject, consider reusing the material in a book, a column, a seminar, an audio tape, a newsletter, and so on. So think about scheduling a day or two every month, or one week every quarter to review your inventory and parlay it into profits.

Dana K. Cassell has published more than 2,000 articles in nearly 200 publications, and has authored or ghostwritten several books, including Food for Thought: The Sourcebook of Obesity and Eating Disorders (Facts On File) and three e-books for (How to Market Your Freelance Article Ideas for Maximum Income, How to Set Your Fees as a Freelancer or Independent Consultant, How to Market Your Writing or Editing Skills, and How to Break in as a Freelance Writer). Dana is also founder of Cassell Network of Writers and webmaster of

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