Lack of experience and lack of confidence are two of the biggest obstacles that any writer can face, but for those who are actively trying enter the corporate writing market these barriers can seem to be nearly insurmountable.
It’s easy to talk yourself out of trying something new. Believe me, I totally understand this hesitation. One of these reasons that I stayed a corporate staff writer for so many years is that I talked myself out of becoming a freelance writer.
It is true that some writing specialties do require more training than others. If you find this to be the case, then you will need to take steps to get the training that you need to meet your goal.
On the other hand, you may be pleasantly surprised to find out that the experience that you already have can be applied to the type of writing that you want to do. This is particularly true if you know that you are a good writer or if you have received lots of compliments on your writing.
A Skills Inventory Can Help
Taking a skills inventory can help you discover what type of writing you are already able to do and what you need to learn.
A skill inventory basically matches what you’ve done with the skills required for a specific position.
There are many companies out there that can provide you with a formal skills inventory, but often these services are pricey. If you are really stuck with your career and perhaps not even sure if you want to be a writer at all, you may find one of these these services to be helpful.
Also, check out this Job Skills Checklist from the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL), which is free for personal use. While the resource is not specific to writing, you may find it to be useful.
Steps for Conducting an Informal Skills Inventory
However, you may be able to conduct an informal “skills inventory” on your own. Here are some steps to take to help you find the right freelance writing job for you:
- Gather at least five pieces of writing that you consider to be your best work. While it would be great if they were published pieces, if you are not currently a freelance writer you can also use nonpublished work such as internal reports for your company.
- Gather at least five pieces of writing that you enjoyed creating the most. Once again, the writing need not necessarily be published. (This exercise is primarily for your own information.) You can use some of the pieces from step 1 if you need to.
- Examine the writing you have gathered for common elements. Look for the following:
- Common topics–Do you always seem to be writing about a particular topic or topics? Are you more comfortable writing about certain topics?
- Common purposes–Do the materials that you’ve gathered seem to have a similar purpose? For example, do you find that you are often explaining things? Or, do you find that your writing is often designed to persuade people to action?
- Common skills–Did any of the writing require the usage of exceptional tools or skills? Was a lot of research required?
- Make a list of your formal training as well as past jobs. Once again, look for common threads. For example, do you have a degree? If so, what’s it in? Have you taken specialized training courses?
You may wish to jot down the answers to the questions above on a separate sheet of paper.
How to Use Your Results
As you look over your answers to the question above you may be able to spot some common elements in your answers.
Did you major in psychology and now you find that your favorite writing pieces are motivational in nature? Maybe your major has nothing to do with your best writing, but you notice that your best writing is mostly persuasive in nature. You may even discover that you love writing jobs that require a lot of research.
The answers to questions 1 to 3 will give you a clue about what type of writing you enjoy doing. The answers to question 4 will help you to identify any gaps in training or experience that you may have.
Have you been hesitating about going after corporate freelance jobs? If you took the “skills inventory,” did you discover any trends that you weren’t aware of?