No, this article has nothing to do with conifers in the high country. I’m talking about “evergreen” articles: stories and images that are always green and never go out of date. Tropical beaches don’t change over time. Neither do natural landscapes, happy faces, or beautiful sunsets. And I’ll explain how they can make you more money as a freelance writer.
In my early years as a freelance writer and photographer I covered sailing regattas, following the racing fleet in a chase boat and photographing from every possible angle. After the story and images appeared in print, my notes and photos were worthless because regattas in subsequent years featured different competitors, new boat designs, and different winners. Even when I had multiple assignments and made reasonable income by covering the event, I was disappointed not to be able to make further use of the work I had invested.
This same problem kept coming up when I was writing articles about Mexico and the build-out of the country’s West Coast marinas mainly for Norte Americanos as a base for sport-fishing boats, motor cruisers, and sailing yachts. For several years I received assignments to travel up and down the coast to report on and photograph the progress, but within a few weeks of my return home the information was out of date.
I soon woke up to the fact that my images and articles could be investments if I were more intelligent in my choice of assignments. That’s when I began to write evergreen articles.
My story about cruising in Tahiti has been published perhaps a dozen times since I made the initial cruise. Each time before I send it out to a new publication, I make a few phone calls to freshen quotes, update facts, and renew my perspective. Otherwise this original article has changed little since I first wrote it more than 20 years ago.
Sometimes I visit a destination that I will not likely repeat, so I approach the subject in a different way to make it an evergreen article. Such a trip was to Italy’s two most famous ski resorts, Cortina d’Amprezzo and Val Gardena, in the Dolomites. When interviewing the principals of the ski area, I collected telephone numbers and email addresses and said they would be hearing from an American journalist in the years ahead as I updated my information. I photographed the five towers of the famous Cinque Torri group and stayed on the mountain late into the afternoon to catch the setting sun illuminating the rose-tinted mountains. I photographed happy skiers at outdoor restaurants enjoying their lunch and wine. Some of the restaurants are more than 100 years old, so I’m confident the images will be current well into the future. Years later I’m refreshing the quotes and still recycling this article.
When offering an article to a publication, I have to be clear I’m selling only one-time print rights, not reprint rights and certainly not for posting on its website. The heart of my business model is selling the article multiple times as an evergreen, but if it’s online, I can’t resell it. If later they post my article on their website, I protest. On a few occasions, discussions have become testy, at which point we agree to something like posting for only three months and then taking it down.
Writing evergreen articles is simple: avoid dated subjects and events; avoid stories that are still unfolding; and avoid photos of dated styles and work in progress. Today I have 25 to 30 such articles that I continually send out, enough to keep me busy even if I never write another new article.