Where commercial writers* hang out
* a.k.a. copywriters, business writers, corporate writers or marketing writers…

Seven “Seasoned” Citizens, All “Writing” Their Own Retirement Ticket!
“Commercial” Writing: Good Money, Flexibility, and No Age Barriers
By Peter Bowerman

Indianapolis-based Sally Rushmore, 55, after teaching school, became an at-home Mom for years, writing newsletters for the school and church (for free), and part-time for a non-profit. With her youngest heading off to college, her five-year gig teaching computer courses at a community college doesn’t work anymore. She needed something both more lucrative and flexible, so she can join her husband as he works out of town all week.

She found it in commercial freelancing – writing the marketing materials needed by virtually every company, and which pay far more than typical magazine freelancing. As she explains, “Commercial writing allows me freedom to travel, gives me two cities from which to draw clients, and provides the finances to keep the kids in college.”

Downsizing & Outsourcing
For the last decade, downsizing and outsourcing have sculpted the corporate American landscape. Businesses – large and small – are all doing more with less, with many relying heavily on freelancers to write those marketing materials – brochures, ads, newsletters, direct mail, web content and much more, and for hourly rates of $50-125+. And the “mature” set is taking notice.

The combination of healthy income potential and “on-my-own-terms” lifestyle flexibility makes it an appealing draw for those either nearing or smack dab in the midst of “retirement.” And given the vast array and volume of commercial work out there, for many, it’s simply a matter of re-directing past career experience into a profitable writing direction – one that while not always ultimately creative, pays wages good enough to carve out the time and space for one’s true creative writing passions.

More Lucrative Freelancing
Former teacher Joe Yenkavitch, now 60, of Essex Junction, Vermont, continued his ongoing love of writing after retiring (he’s published a few articles, short stories, and a pre-teen sci-fi novel), but found that the pay for most magazine freelancing, “doesn’t come close to compensating you for the time spent.” So he switched gears, observing, “Once I got over the hang-up that commercial freelancing wasn't creative enough, a whole world of possibilities opened up. I can make decent money, remain creative, and still pursue my next novel.” Other advantages of the commercial field, as Yenkavitch sees it? “I can do it anywhere, as much of it as I want, and it keeps me involved with people and the larger world.

Wanted: All Ages
And what’s not to like about a field essentially devoid of age barriers? 55-year odl Buffalo native Paul Chimera, who makes about 75% of his income from freelancing – much of it commercial – observes, “If you write well, they’ll put you to work – whether you’re a Gen-X’r in sandals or you’re 85. As long as you can still turn out good stuff, that’s all they care about.”

California-based Celia Sue Hecht, 55, echoes that sentiment. Hecht, who transitioned from journalism to freelance PR writing (one arena of commercial freelancing), loves freelancing for the variety, flexibility, and because, “Given that stereotyping is alive and well in some business environments, for older women, this is the way to go.”

Time For Family
Rushmore’s desire to spend time with her husband echoes many accounts from “seasoned citizens” who move toward commercial writing to keep loved ones close while staying active and earning. Don Franks, 59, from Seattle, leveraged 20 years as a broadcast film editor – a deadline-intensive communications field – into commercial writing. With business license secured, talks with accountants behind him and Web site set up, Franks was off and running. He reports, “I’ve done some press releases, sales letters, and now an annual report. I haven’t said goodbye to ‘cubicle city’ quite yet, but that’s coming. The best part? Time to spend with my family.”

And when some, like Wayne Winkle of Ft. Smith, Arkansas, talk about the commercial field as a way to spend more time with family, they mean business. The 57-year-old mental health professional loves to write, was good it in his career, and is starting a commercial freelancing business with his daughter. The flexibility and variety of the work is exceptionally appealing, he notes, adding, “I’m looking forward to the additional income and to seeing my daughter get to be a stay-at-home mom for my two grandsons.”

Is There That Much Work?
Oh, yes. What we see as consumers (e.g., ads, direct mail pieces, consumer newsletters, brochures) is just the tip of the iceberg. That’s called B2C: business-to-consumer. What we don’t see – except as employees of a company – are two huge additional arenas of work. First is B2B (business-to-business), all the materials created by businesses to market to other businesses. And second is “internal communications” – a huge arena which includes many of the same project types, except all within a corporation and for their eyes only. Much of that is outsourced.

And that doesn’t even factor in the vast number of small-to-medium-sized companies (25-100+ employees) with so many of the same needs, but even less likely to have the in-house staff to execute them. Plus the ad agencies, design firms, PR firms and other “middlemen” clients that service the above industries, but in most cases, don’t staff in-house writers.

Writing Ability?
How good a writer do you have to be? Certainly, no one’s going to pay you $60-80 an hour if you’re lousy. That said, there are plenty of fields such as healthcare, banking, manufacturing and technology, which have steady needs for clear, concise copywriting that doesn’t have to be a work of art. Start studying your junk mail, the little newsletter inserts in your electric bill, the rack brochures at your bank. Could you write that?

Indeed, this thirst for more – more work adventure, more quality of life, more excitement – is the hallmark of today’s seniors. 58-year-old Martie Callahan, a secretary-turned-successful commercial freelancer in Preston, Maryland, says, “I can’t imagine doing a 9-5 gig again, nor can I imagine not working at all.”

Planning the next exciting chapter of your life. Looking for a flexible, lucrative way to build on a three- or four-decade experience base? As you read this, thousands of writers are landing countless, high-paying writing jobs. Why not you?

Interested in turning your love of writing into a full-time living? Or a flexible, lucrative "retirement" career? For a free report (AND to subscribe to a free ezine and blog) on lucrative "commercial" freelancing, visit www.wellfedwriter.com. While there, check out the quadruple-award-winning 2010 updated edition of, "The Well-Fed Writer," the how-to industry “standard” by veteran commercial writer and business coach Peter Bowerman. Got a book in you? Forget the publisher - do it yourself and turn it into a full-time living! For a free report, visit www.wellfedsp.com, home of Peter's triple-award-winning 2014 updated edition of, "The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living," which chronicles his self-publishing success (at press time, 70,000+ copies in print and a full-time living since 2001!).  

1086 words

Stay Plugged In!
Subscribe (Free) to

Top Freelance Writing Blog

© Copyright 1999-2009 WriteInc.
Design by Marketing Masters, Ltd.