by Patricia Fry
Lydia wrote, “My dream is to quit my job and become a full-time writer. Can you tell me how to get started?”
Jon asked, “What does it take to become a freelance writer? I’m disabled and want to do this work from my home.”
Rachel writes, “I’m a college graduate with a degree in journalism, but I can’t find work. Can you give me some job search advice?”
Whether you’re looking for corporate work, want to write for a newspaper or yearn to do freelance writing or editing, the opportunities are plentiful. If you can construct a sentence and you’re willing to approach job hunting with gusto, an open mind and a lot of creativity, you will find work.
Here’s my checklist for job hunters:
- Subscribe to online writing-oriented newsletters and join online writing organizations that offer job listings for writers. Many of them also keep you current on publishing trends. Here are a couple of resources to get you started: SPAWN (www.spawn.org), Writer’s Weekly Newsletter and website (www.writersweekly.com)
- Network constantly. Attend writers/publishers’ events and ask people how they got their jobs/assignments. Participate in interactive web sites for writers. Find local organizations through your library, bookstores and in the calendar section of the newspaper. Locate online sites using your favorite search engine. Type in “writers groups” or “writers,” for example. I found a potential publisher for a client’s book recently while networking with a fellow writer. Last year, a writer friend suggested I contact an editor she knows about trying my hand at technical writing. I ended up writing a dozen articles for this magazine during that 12-month period.
- Volunteer your writing services. A little volunteer work might land you the job you seek. Offer to write the church bulletin, a company newsletter or a press release for a charity organization, for example. Not only are you gaining experience and adding to your portfolio, but you’re showing off your talent and skills to all of the right people.
- Read the classified employment ads every week and apply for every job that has “writing” in it. Post your resume on some of the major Internet recruiting sites such as monster.com. And search their databases for job opportunities.
- Create a portfolio and keep adding to it. Make copies of your published articles, brochures, etc. to show prospective employers/clients.
- Build a Web site and post your portfolio and resume there.
- Keep writing. Write every chance you get. Practice, practice, practice.
- Be open to all types of writing. You may have your heart set on becoming rich and famous writing your own novel or landing a job as the editor-in-chief for Reader’s Digest. In the meantime, however, accept the work that comes your way. Do some PR work for your neighbor, ghost write a book for a client, revise some technical manuals. Get paid and learn new skills.
If You Want a Writing Job in the Corporate World
- Study the materials from companies for which you’d like to work and see if you can improve upon them. Show your ideas to the appropriate department head.
- Join business organizations and service clubs where you can network with businessmen and women who might hire someone with your skills.
- Sign with a temp agency as a writer. This may be your foot-in-the-door.
If You’re Hoping for a Job With a Major Newspaper
- Hire on at a small newspaper while waiting for your big break. There’s an ongoing turnover at newspapers, so they’re always hiring. This is not a glamorous job, but it’s a step in the right direction. I got my first job writing a business column for a local newspaper. First, I studied the newspaper to see what was lacking and saw a need for a business column. I went out and interviewed a couple of new business owners and wrote up some sample columns. When I approached the publisher with my ideas and my samples, he hired me on the spot.
- Cover a story on speculation for the newspaper of your choice. Watch for the opportunity to write about a local high profile issue and offer it to the newspaper for a fee. Attend meetings and events that aren’t being covered by staff and offer to report on them. Your effort is bound to get the editor’s attention.
Create Your Own Work
- Write articles for magazines. For this profession, you’ll need writing, organizational and research skills as well as patience and a great deal of self-discipline. You’ll also need the following tools: a computer, “Writer’s Market” and “A Writer’s Guide to Magazine Articles for Book Promotion and Profit” (Matilija Press, www.matilijapress.com).
- Become an editor. Start by approaching busy freelance editors and see if they need help accommodating their clients. The editors I know often turn clients away because they’re too busy.
- Find a mentor and be willing to do the work necessary to reach your goals. Many people who ask me for guidance in the writing field are not willing to take the necessary steps.
- Don’t give up your day job. If you need the money and can’t keep waiting for THE job to come along, go to work and write in your spare time. “What spare time?” you might ask. This may be one of those situations where you have to make some sacrifices. I once wrote an entire book in 8 months while working full-time. How? I got up at 4 every morning and wrote for two hours before going to work. I also devoted my weekends to writing.
Use this checklist to generate other ideas. The point is to keep on keeping on. My writer friend, Kathy, earns a living for herself and two sons writing technical manuals. After struggling long and hard to find this job, she advises other writers, “You cannot win if you do not play.”