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Starting a Press Cuttings Agency

A press cuttings agency makes a living, cutting out articles from newspapers, filing them and sending them to their clients. Do you fancy earning money from sitting at home reading the paper? Well, here's how to set up one of the simplest low cost, high profit businesses around.

Why is a Press Cuttings Agency Useful?

This is a business where you can turn old newspapers into cash. A simple newspaper or magazine article on the right subject is extremely useful to certain people, who pay press cuttings agents big money to send them on.

If you enjoy reading newspapers this will make a great second job, working part time in the evenings and weekends. Although if you market yourself in the right way and provide a good service, your press cuttings agency could grow into a profitable full time operation.

Where Do You Get Your Cuttings From?

Any printed matter is a potential source of clippings. Although which publications you read will depend on the subject and client, the main sources are as follows:-

National newspapers
Local newspapers (including free sheets)
Consumer publications
Trade, technical and professional journals
Company reports and magazines
Press releases

Current publications are listed, along with their addresses and phone numbers, in the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, Benns, or Willing's Press Guide, available in libraries and book shops.

Potential Clients

There is a huge market for press clippings. The key to success is finding people who need them. The list includes the following.

PR Companies

Public relations companies need cuttings for two reasons. They need to know how (and how often) their clients are being portrayed in the media. They also need to prove to clients that their PR efforts are being picked up by the press. The more cuttings featuring their clients they can lay their hands on the better - they show them to clients as proof that their PR job is working.

Businesses

Many small businesses handle their own publicity and will collect any published article that mentions themselves. Positive publicity might be mentioned in future advertising, whereas negative articles (for example, a report of record losses, a strike by workers, or a safety lapse) will be used as a record of details to overcome in future promotional campaigns.

It is mainly larger businesses who use the services of cuttings agencies - others either don't bother monitoring their publicity or collect their own cuttings. Nevertheless it is a big market, and it is generally cheaper and less time consuming for firms to use a press cuttings agency rather than search for their own clippings.

This is particularly the case with foreign companies who may find getting hold of UK publications too difficult or expensive. Press reports and ads relating to other companies are useful market intelligence as they may provide possible sales leads, marketing examples, and competitor information.

Other Organizations

All manner of organizations require press clippings, for similar reasons to the above. You might, for instance, be asked by a theatre company to collect reviews of a touring play, or by a charity to collect cuttings featuring fund raising exploits.

Other press clipping agencies

You may be able to subcontract work from other press clipping agencies. You could take on work when they are busy, for example. Or, they may ask you to cover specific subject areas or publications for them.

These are your main potential clients. However, there are other ways of making money from the snippets you collect.

Getting Started

Now you have an idea of the size and profitability of the market for press clippings, it is time to learn how to run the business. I have already listed the main potential sources of press cuttings.

Ideally you want to find a client, find the right publications, and then start collecting clippings. In reality things won't be that simple. You'll probably need to establish yourself as a quality cuttings agent in order to convince anyone to use your service, so a more proactive approach to finding clients will be needed.

In other words, you will need to start collecting cuttings before you have found any clients. These can then be passed on to potential customers as proof of how good your service is, which may convince them to hire you. Other articles can be filed away until required in the future, either by a client, or by yourself as source materials for a book or article.

A glance at the racks of any newsagent will indicate the massive range of possible sources for cuttings. Simply buying up the necessary publications will be far too expensive, and there are any number of possible subjects you might want to cover. So where do you begin?

Collecting Source Materials

Rather than buying up as many publications as you can afford, start by collecting recently discarded newspapers. Approach friends, neighbors and workplaces and ask if you can collect their old newspapers on a regular basis. Hotels and cafes often buy in a selection of papers for their customers, so it is well worth trying these places.

Another source of articles is your local library, which will keep all the main newspapers, periodicals and magazines. There's nothing to stop you photocopying anything you are interested in. Again, this may save you the expense of buying new publications.

As well as having somewhere to store the newspapers and articles, you need to consider what subjects you are going to concentrate on, since you can't cover everything. Stick to:-

1. Things which might have saleable value (see Potential Clients), and

2. Things you are interested in.

Obviously, any client or potential market will determine the subjects you choose to cut out.

Cutting and Filing Articles

Once you've decided what subjects to cover, obtain some A4 envelopes and write your subject headings on them. Example headings might be the Royal Family, Cliff Richard, or the Vauxhall Motor Company. Next, scan each publication systematically, cut out any article mentioning your subject, and place it in the relevant envelope. These envelopes are then filed in alphabetical order until needed.

Each cutting must be labeled - either write the publication name and date on the back of the article, or glue the cutting to some plain A4 paper and type on the publication and date. The better presented your cuttings are, the more professional the image you will give customers.

Marketing and Promotion

When your envelopes are nice and full, start sending example cuttings to potential clients. Your sales approach should stress that your service is professional and inexpensive, and that you have plenty more cuttings available. Be persistent - with a bit of luck they will decide to use your services. They may pay you for a one off selection of articles or hire you on an ongoing basis.

If they don't bite, either continue cutting and filing articles or amend your subject headings, depending on whether you feel the cuttings are saleable.

At this stage it is well worth taking out advertising. Because most cutting agencies are based in London you could find it advantageous to concentrate on advertising and getting clients in your local area, as there may be less competition. Start by sending out sales letters to PR agencies. Also, put a small, cheap, classified ad in local papers on a regular basis - something like:

"Press cuttings service available covering all subjects", plus your name and address. There are many publications offering low cost or free ads, such as the Writers and Artists Yearbook, so get ads in as many of these as possible. When you have more cash behind you obtain listings in the Yellow Pages and Thomson Local.

Although things might be slow at first, which is why I have explained the cheapest method of getting started, in time you should build up some profitable regular clients. At this stage your job will become easier. You will know exactly what subjects to look for and which publications to find them in, so it will simply be a case of cutting and sending off articles as required.

With a bit of luck your income will be enough to buy new papers and magazines rather than collecting them off your mates and hanging around the public library.

Set your fees competitively to cover stationery costs and other expenses and provide a reasonable profit. To get an idea of what to charge, contact other cutting agencies (under your own name, not your business name) and ask for a rate card.

Conclusion

Although this isn't the most exciting business in the world, anyone who reads a lot will enjoy it, and the market for press cuttings is bigger than you probably first thought. There are plenty of income possibilities from working for clients to sending off snippets and publishing your own articles and books. This is why established self employed agents can earn over 20,000 a year.

Best of all it is a low risk service that you can start from your own armchair, working evenings and weekends, with the potential to become your main source of income. So what are you waiting for - get cutting!

More Money Making Uses For press Clippings

Sending snippets

British publications are interested in news stories from the rest of the world, especially celebrity gossip, funny or bizarre stories, or scandals. There is a lucrative market in passing on these snippets. Tabloid style publications such as the national Enquirer in the U.S. are ideal for such stories. Fan clubs, collectors and hobbyists may pay for snippets relating to certain people.

Publish your own books and articles

There's nothing to stop you using the information collected in your files as the basis of a book or article along the lines of '25 things you didn't know about ...', or '50 royal scandals'. You could sell articles to magazines or publish a book yourself. Celebrities, pop stars and the royal family offer the best scope for such articles, although there are all kinds of possible themes.



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