Finding work as a writer can be a challenge, and the road to a full-time writing job is daunting. Does this story sound familiar?
Three years ago, I graduated from college with little idea of what I wanted to do for a living; I knew I wanted to write, but thought finding a writing-related job was unlikely, especially considering the job market at the time. After striking out in the classifieds and online job boards, I decided to go old-school: I started flipping through the phonebook.
I called any business that seemed like they might need my skills, mostly shooting for secretary work since I’d spent years working part time as a secretary through high school and college. Little did I know that one phone call would lead me to my current occupation as a content specialist.
While luck and timing definitely played a role in my career path, anyone can apply the following lessons to their search for a professional writing job.
1. Let the right people know you’re looking
Going through the phonebook didn’t get me my first job, but it did get me my career. One of my cold calls was to , where I spoke with the owner. They weren’t hiring, she said, but asked me to send my resume for her to keep on file. I made sure to let her know that I was interested in using my writing skills to do marketing work, and she kept me in the back of her mind.
Telling the right people that you’re looking for work helps them keep you in mind for future opportunities. The right people are editors, project managers, and even CEOs of smaller companies — those people with the power to recognize your writing skills and make a decision to hire you in the future.
2. Keep in with your community
No matter what kind of work you want to do, there’s a community surrounding it, whether online or offline. Getting involved with that community will help keep you in the minds of those who are in a position to hire — or who might be someday, or who know someone who is. It also helps you learn about the community and what skills you need to develop.
Even though I was working a job completely unrelated to online content, I became involved in the local and online communities by blogging and attending workshops and conferences. I’ve even been told that one reason why I was hired for my current role is because my company’s owner kept seeing me at events she attended!
Another option is to ask for an informational interview with one of the people you’ve identified as your “right people.” Ask if you can buy them coffee to talk about how they got where they are and what skills you need to develop to work for them or someone like them.
3. Learn the trade and get tangible evidence
Even if you think your writing skills are perfect, there’s room for improvement. Between grammar and knowledge of other areas related to your work, there’s always more to learn. On top of learning, developing a portfolio or examples of effective work should be part of your path towards a writing career.
Working on learning SEO and how to blog effectively was an important aspect of scoring the job I wanted. I worked on my personal blog, learned basics of SEO, applied those lessons, and then had tangible numbers of improvement. During the interview process, these numbers told the company’s leadership team that I was good at what I did.
What lessons have you learned through your own search for writing work?