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Thinking Outside The Box

December 12th, 2020

Between 2003 and 2018 I made a living as a freelance writer, musician and historian. Prior to this I had been in charge of a secondary school history department for over 30 years. I ‘retired’ at 70 in 2018 but the Covid crisis of 2020 led to a reversal in my retirement plans and it was back to work to preserve sanity in lockdown. I also decided to organise properly the work I’d had published when I needed to make money as a freelance. At the time I had stored and catalogued them simply in date order. The new system has enabled me to share with you how I went about making part of my living through freelance writing.

When I started freelancing in 2003 I had already published a number of academic and popular articles on family history and the history of traditional music, song and dance. I joined The Writers Bureau in order to seek advice on how to structure my proposed career. The advice given then proved both helpful and fruitful.

I was rated a competent writer who needed to concentrate on areas of knowledge and expertise and to research possible outlets for the resultant research. I did, and in 2007 was runner up in the WB Writer of the Year contest. I also wrote a number of articles for WB’s Freelance Market News with a view to sharing my experiences – one about my simple web site and another about writing under a female pseudonym. What follows relates to my recent sort out in the hope that it too may be helpful. However, times seem to have changed and paid freelance work may be less easy to get ‘in print’ than in times past.

Between 2003 and about 2013 my main aim was to produce paid articles. After that (and with my pensions) I was less bothered about money and concentrated mainly on writing books while producing articles as a side line. In terms of the articles produced overall there were nine general files to sort. They are now categorised as follows

General articles     150 to 200 including  subject specific (knitting history for Knitting, gamekeeping history for Shooting Gazette), local and regional history in magazines such as Cumbria and Devon Life  and series such as ‘How We Used to Eat’ for Organic Gardening  and maritime history for Nautical Magazine, biographies for BBC History, walks for Country Walking and Countryfile

Family History related articles     178 including 78 on the First World War (mainly across the centenary years) – the majority in the major monthly family history magazines of the day – Family Tree, Family History, Your Family Tree, Who Do You Think You Are? and Ancestors for example.

Travel articles     Over 50 for the Trinity Mirror Group and Johnston Press – appearing in Wales on Sunday, Sunday Sun, Birmingham Post etc.

Weekly magazines     11 short stories and a series of 41 articles on pop music in the 1950s and 1960s for My Weekly under the heading ‘Tea Break Treat’

And there were a few others too.

So the advice given of looking to areas of knowledge and expertise and researching intended publications thoroughly proved helpful. I would add one other piece of advice – keep thinking ‘out of the box’. How otherwise (and to the amusement of my three sons) would Keith Gregson have become My Weekly’s Katie Grayson and Kelly Goulding?


Most of Keith’s details are revealed in the article and other details can be found on his web site www.keithgregson.com. Put “Keith Gregson” into the YouTube search engine for numerous musical adult and child related videos. Keith lives in Sunderland with wife Barbara.


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