Stick around the freelance writing community for long and you will meet people who need help with writing materials to run their non-profit organization. I always like to think of it that in the for-profit world, you have to pay your taxes, while in the non-profit world, you have to file your paperwork.
Because of the amount of paperwork non-profits are required to file, the opportunities for a writer are endless. Non-profits use paperwork for licensing, IRS approval, grant-writing, policy making, etc.
So, if you are going to build a business or a career writing for non-profits, what are some things you have to understand?
You Have to Talk About Money
This is the most important thing to consider about a non-profit writing career. Non-profits are often so focused on their vision and mission that budgets and emergency funds take a very low priority in day-to-day operations. Because they won’t think about their finances as much, you have to think about yours and be clear in setting boundaries.
Because of how easy it is to volunteer time at a non-profit, you could easily find yourself earning less than minimum wage, or nothing at all, while working full time.
Look at your budget needs, and don’t do a writing project that violates your budgetary boundaries. If you need to earn $10 an hour to make ends meet, don’t take a writing gig for less. You can still provide high quality writing at cheap, cheap prices like $10/hr. Then it is a win-win for you and the non-profit.
Occasionally, when a non-profit is in an area I want to learn more about or has impacted me in some way that I want to give back more, I will volunteer writing services fully. Volunteering is a choice, but realize that it hurts your ability to sell your writing services later, because you have developed a habit of not getting paid.
Understand The Non-Profit’s Mission
You love hunting, raising and butchering your own meat, and training sled dogs. It is difficult for you to write for the SPCA or the Humane Society. Even if it’s just legal paperwork, passion shows.
Since non-profits rarely pay the same amount as for-profit businesses, your passion needs to match with theirs or you will be miserable. There are plenty of charities that match the passions of you as an individual. Find them, join them.
Love Learning as Much as You Want a Career
Writing for a career is about learning as much as you can, and teaching others what you learn. If you are going to write for non-profits, this is especially true. Constantly learn and apply what you learn to the world around you. Then, use what you have learned and practiced in your writing. Whether you write marketing copy, grant applications, newsletters, tax documents or policies, this attitude will pave the way toward your success as a non-profit writer.
What have you learned about working as a non-profit writer? Leave me a comment below.