There’s never been a better time to write for a living. Everyone needs content—web, mobile and, yes, still good ol’ hard copy for newspapers, magazines and slow boat mail blasts. If anyone’s ever said you have a knack for writing, stick with it, you can (eventually) live well off your love of the written word.
There are myriad ways to approach your writing career. I’m a sports writer/journalist turned web/marketing/technical writer. If you’re naturally creative (like me), entertainment/sports/advertising jobs will usually be more fun but pay less. Tech companies and financial institutions can typically afford to pay web and technical writers higher salaries. “Doing what you love” is always the best way to go, it just depends on your lifestyle needs and priorities. Follow your heart but don't ignore your head. I know, deep.
Enough chit chat. How about a tidy little tip list you can skim through? I’m like you, and most people—an impatient reader.
- Build your portfolio. Write for free. Write for pennies. Get published in no-name pubs. Get feedback from “good” writers and get better. If you’re still in college, write for your school newspaper and other publications. Writing is one career where you have no excuse for “zero experience” upon graduation. You should have at least 10 solid pieces you can send to potential employers from your phone as you bake in your cap and gown.
- Launch a website and post your portfolio and testimonials. You’ve heard that “people hire people they know”. What better way for a company (where you don’t have connections) to get to know you than to read your work and see how brilliant people think you are? You’ll also save a ton of time directing people to your portfolio link. Oh how many hours I’ve wasted digging up attachments to email recruiters and hiring managers?! Be 2018, not 2000.
- Connect with as many LinkedIn creative recruiters as possible. Max yourself at 30,000 connections ASAP. I’m not kidding. These beautiful people keep you employed. I did it. You can too. Click click click. Tap tap tap. Get to it! Impersonal? Nope. Smart. Some headhunters will almost become friends and help you for years. Others will be one-and-done’s. Regardless, always respect and appreciate their time and help.
- Get (legitimate) LinkedIn recommendations from current and past employers/clients. Already mentioned above, and extremely important. Eventually you’ll get work through people you forgot you worked for. The better reputation you build, the more doors will open, many times when you need it most. And always write a recommendation in return. Nothing looks more selfish than "20 recommendations received, two given.
- Market yourself. Outside of my family life, I’m an introvert. You may be too, and many writers from good families and good schools are taught to be sweet and humble. That’s all well and good but if you need to make a living (especially in California) you have to hustle and shamelessly self-promote. My resume is always active on LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, Careerbuilder, and Dice. I advertise 24/7 internationally on Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, Backpage and more. All of the above can be done for free or very inexpensively. There are tons of writing jobs out there. If you’re not applying to 100 or more per day (and fielding calls from recruiters for 12 hours straight), you’re not trying hard enough. Get used to rejection. Eventually you'll be declining work.
- Don’t burn bridges. Most of the writing jobs I’ve worked have come from California, Texas, New York, Arizona and Florida. There are lots of jobs but the writing industry can be a small world. Always do your best, leave contracts on good terms and thank employers for the opportunities they gave you. (They could have hired 100 other writers.) Not everyone will like you, and the feeling might be mutual, but always move on professionally.
- Know your worth. Yes, you need to pay your dues writing for free or cheap. But once you have, never look back. Keep track of your salary history and (nicely) be clear with potential employers about compensation expectations. Many companies value creative talent and act/pay like it, while others expect you to invest 10+ free hours on an interview process. Trust your gut. Don’t be taken advantage of. Always politely, tactfully and professionally negotiate for the highest salary possible, remote work, or whatever helps you produce your best. Don’t worry, you won’t lose an offer. You and your words are worth it.
Thanks for reading, and best of luck to you! If something above helped, please share.
Want to know more? Please contact me. Career advice for $200 per hour, payable via PayPal, Venmo or Google Wallet.
Kidding. ; )