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Entering the writing field, whether you aim to be a journalist, a copywriter, or a novelist, has never been easy, but coupled with a slumped economy, it almost seems impossible to secure a lucrative career as a wordsmith. If you have passion and talent, you’re already at an advantage, but none of that matters if you have nothing to show for it. It’s a vicious cycle: those without experience can’t find jobs and finding experience without a job can be incredibly difficult.
As a fresh graduate, equipped with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a passion for writing, I was determined to secure a job in my field. Instead, I spent a year and a half waitressing and taking on odd jobs where I could while spamming marketing companies with resume-filled emails. Not until I realized that potential employers didn’t want to be told about my love and aptitude for writing, they wanted to be shown, did I earn the opportunity to work as a full-time Creative Copywriter.
So how do you let employers see that you’re the writer they’ve been searching for? Here are the top 5 ways to show your dedication to writing and create a name for yourself – all of them possible to do while holding a less than desirable day job.
Write articles for every publication you can, as often as you can! In many ways, freelancing looks just as good on a resume as a full-time position does. It not only produces writing samples for you to present to potential employers, but it also shows resourcefulness, good time management, and your ability to adapt your writing to multiple styles.
Check out the writing category of craigslist.org’s ‘gig’ section, sign up for freelance communities (like elance.com, textbroker.com, or cloudcrowd.com), pitch your stories to papers and magazines, and email their editors, requesting to be added to their freelancer list. Oftentimes, online papers will regularly provide their freelancer list with ideas for potential stories so that you can fill a need they already have. Start small and local with community-specific publications like Patch.com.
Network and create strong ties with editors, other writers, and other creative types in general. It often helps to “know someone”, even when securing freelancing jobs. Build off of the relationships you already have, attend professional networking events in your area, and join local clubs and associations.
Staying in contact with other writers might afford you the opportunity to collaborate with them or accept jobs that they’re unable to take on. Remain accessible to others who aren’t in your direct field as well, for example, graphic artists, advertising gurus, etc., and let them know that they can turn to you when they’re in need of copy for their latest email blast or to accompany a design. Remember, however, that relationships require more than expecting favors without offering your own resources in return.
Maintain a Blog and a Social Media Presence
Online presence is paramount as a writer seeking employment. Create and regularly update a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blog as you would write for an employer or assignment – don’t use it as a place to rant, but as a place to showcase your talent.
Find an Unpaid Outlet for Writing Presence
Writing for an online or print ‘zine’ or other start-up media outlet can be a great way to exercise your skills. Websites that are just starting out are often looking for writers to build up their content archives in exchange for helping to build your resume; even if articles aren’t always compensated for, you can still send them as ‘published work’ in your collection of samples when you apply to full-time positions.
Write, Write, Write
A published piece of writing holds certain clout, but the beauty of being a part of such a creative field is that it’s possible to continuously create and improve on your own time. Practice writing as often as possible, even if it’s with the intention of never showing anyone else your work (stories, articles, poetry, one-liners). You’ll be improving through repetition while creating concepts that may evolve into something worthy of publication later.
In the moments that you don’t have the inspiration to conceive new ideas, go back and critique your old work and others’ work. After reading and reviewing other writings, rewrite them using a different style or angle to broaden your skillset.
Following these five tips guarantees a skilled, yet not corporately experienced, writer a chance to build their resume and sample portfolio. Take them, use them, and make them your own! If you have additional tips for the unemployed writer or these tips worked for you, please let us know.
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