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Career options for a responder with a broken back

Read the response and add your own thoughts in the comments

A question posted recently on Quora asked: After 15 years as a firefighter, paramedic, law enforcement professional and dispatcher, I broke my back in 3 places; how can I make money now?  Retired police officer Tim Dees gave his opinion on the topic. Read his response, and add your own to the comments.

I've earned between $500 and $70,000 per year as a writer, mainly for law enforcement publications and web sites. Strictly writing has earned me as much as $25,000 per year, but that work paved the way to two full-time editor jobs that paid $60,000 and $70,000 per year, with full benefits and a lot of company-paid travel. 

There are three rules for making money in this industry:

1. You have to know what you're talking about.
2. You have to know how to write.
3. You have to be reliable.

Assuming you can meet Requirement No. 1, you further have to be willing and able to seek out and interview other knowledgeable people for source material. You can "write out of your head" only for so long before you exhaust your resources. After that, you have to look for other topics with which you are less familiar. Most of that can be done by phone or email. 

Requirement No. 2 is more subtle. If you've been a [responder], then you know how to write, at least at a minimal level. To be a professional writer, you have to know the rules of English grammar, punctuation, spelling (spell check will get you only part of the way), and organization and structure of a story.

If you're not sure of your prowess, or even if you are, I recommend you take a short piece (500-1000 words) you've written to a college or even a high school English instructor, and ask them for a strict critique. You don't want to know if your work would be enough to pass their class; you want to know if there are any errors or shortcomings. Some people think that editors are there to fix your mistakes. The job does include that, but if there are too many mistakes, they'll find someone who makes less work for them. 

Buy a copy of The Associated Press Stylebook, read it, and keep it on your desk as you write. Most publications use this manual. If you want to save money, but a copy that is a year or two out of date. It doesn't change much from year to year. 

Requirement No. 3 is concerned with getting and keeping customers. Miss a deadline, or, worse yet, leaving an editor with a blank space at press time where your story was supposed to have been will make you persona non grata. Editors also talk to each other, so if you burn one, you may burn yourself out of that editor's circle of colleagues, too. 

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