Freelance Writer and Photographer
E. Lee Griggs
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am a full-time freelance writer and photographer. My primary area of
work is writing magazine articles and providing the photographs accompanying
Many years ago, in a small high school in Virginia, I had the wonderful
opportunity of having a teacher who realized that I enjoyed telling stories
and writing. He encouraged me to write whenever I had the opportunity.
Shortly after meeting him, I had the opportunity of writing for the local
newspaper as a high school reporter for the grand sum of one cent a column
inch….you can believe that I wrote as many words as possible.
After a stint in the Marine Corps and a vacation trip to Korea and Japan, I
returned to civilian life as a student and news reporter for local radio
stations. I even started my own news network for radio stations around the
Southeastern United States. I would cover news events and report by
telephone. Well before the days of satellite TV trucks and fancy video
cameras. As I progressed with my educational efforts, I came to realize that
writing was my great interest, not going to school
but I was smart enough to remember that all the education I could get
would only help me in the future.
Not making any appreciable money from writing and photography and having
married, I needed to make a living. Two young sons served to incite my
interest in making money even further so I went into business but kept on
writing on the side whenever I could find the time.
Over the years, I had the opportunity to write stories for a number of
magazines and even covered some major news events for the newspapers. I
worked as a radio news reporter for a local FM station and even traveled to
Texas and worked on a small-town newspaper as the local reporter covering
everything from new babies to oil well drilling. I am not sure who went out
of business first – me or the local paper, but when the editor decided to
close down, I returned to Georgia and a regular job.
Over the years, I kept on writing whenever the opportunity arose, always
hoping for the time when I could build my writing business to the point of
self-sufficiency. I knew it would take time and marketing but I just never
seemed to be able to reach that point.
After being in a number of businesses over the years to enable me to pay
my bills and eat now and then, I finally decided to become a full-time
writer and photographer. Giving myself a time limit, I began sending out
queries on a daily basis to every magazine editor I could find. I set a goal
of sending a minimum of twenty queries every week as well as article
submissions. Initially, I could have papered the walls of my office with
rejection notices. I wrote letters to the Editor of different newspapers,
fillers for weekly newspapers, articles on cooking, camping, travel, dogs
and cats, law enforcement and anything else I could think of.
After a few months of doing this, I suddenly realized that I was getting
more acceptances from editors than rejections. “Chief Of Police” magazine,
“Construction News”, “Services” magazine and others began to accept my
articles. I began to do more for each of these outlets and my portfolio of
clips began to expand. My bill collectors stopped calling and my bank
account began to have a positive balance more than two or three days a
Sure, like many freelancers, I had my share of “freebies” but they
provided bylines and writers bios along with the articles. These freebies
helped to build my stock of published clips and I would recommend this
avenue to any new and aspiring freelance writer. Just don’t do too many
freebies or you may be visiting the local food bank to keep from
I am not sure if I have a particular area of expertise. I write a
number of articles for law enforcement magazines and I have published four
books on forensics. But, at the same time, I have done profiles, travel
articles, articles on architectural projects, interviews and more. Law
enforcement is my favorite though. I do enjoy chasing hurricanes and
tornadoes and writing about this, but that is a limited market.
My primary area of expertise is writing what sells. I still send at least
thirty to forty queries every month to magazines that I am not writing for.
Otherwise, I work by assignment and prefer to do so. I have yet to find a
subject that an editor can send me that I cannot write about. Research and
interviewing is a pleasure and that makes life easier for me when it comes
to writing about any particular subject.
At this point in my life, I make an excellent income from my freelance
writing and photography. Public speaking has become another avenue of
expression for me and is supplementing my writing income. I speak on
identity theft, marketing, and security for home and business plus other
I give talks at area high schools and colleges on becoming a writer, which
helps to strengthen my own beliefs. What you hand out returns many times
over. I mentor a number of budding writers by email and telephone and have
seen some of them published and moving toward full-time writers.
My advice to anyone wanting to become a full-time freelance writer –
set a minimum number of queries to send out every week and hold to this.
Write every day
even if simply to entertain you. Keep a daily journal. Write down ideas for
articles every day. Keep a pad of paper by your bed and carry a small note
pad in your shirt pocket for notes. Subscribe to the online newsletters for
writers. Subscribe to every group you can find that list potential writing
assignments. Read the daily paper and clip out anything that strikes your
interest and generates ideas for future articles. Read “how to” books by
successful writers and adapt what you can to your own style. Get very
familiar with “Google” on the Internet. It is a great research tool.
Last but not least, take the time to see what is going on around you.
Stop and smell the roses. Listen to those around you who are senior to you
in age – they have wonderful stories to tell and you may just find another
interview for an article.
Yes, I had to take jobs and make-work as I was growing and learning. Not
everyone will sell a million dollar book or story their first month as a
writer. It is probably much more reasonable to have a paying job in the
beginning while you write at night and on weekends, but it does help to
keep food in the belly while you are building your client list.
You can find a full-time job as a publicist, new reporter, newsletter editor
or whatever in the writing profession -- but don’t let the lack of this sort
of job stop you. If you have a burning desire to become a writer, you
will make it. Something I have lived by all my life; “Whatever the mind
of man can conceive of and believe, it can achieve.” If you can see yourself
as a full-time, profitable, freelance writer – go for it.
**Published Freelance Writer. Some publications include, “Chief of
Police” magazine, “National Locksmith Magazine”, “Keynotes”, “Services”
magazine, “National Genealogical Society Quarterly”, “Construction Equipment
News”, ”Construction Review”, “Blue Ridge Country”, “Time” magazine,
Chronicle-Independent newspaper, The State, St. Louis Post Dispatch,
Chattanooga News-Free Press, Waynesboro News Virginian and other magazines
and papers. Writing includes technical articles, travel, profiles,
genealogy, general interest and political.
Published in numerous magazines including above.
**Authored book on
“Forensic Lock Investigation” that has been adopted as a training manual in
forensic laboratories and investigative agencies worldwide.
published a “Reference Manual for Investigators”.
**Created and taught
training courses on marketing, advertising, sales, and employee
topics include identity theft, business and home security, marketing for the
small business owner, travel and freelance writing.