The other day I got an email from a reader who wrote…
“I read the job postings frequently and yet, here I sit unemployed with an English/Writing degree. I have had past experience working as a Content Builder for a blossoming internet marketing company but my experience stops there. Even worse, while I was there we were forced to write 40 – 60 articles a month for the same clients month after month. Needless to say, the amount of work and lack of “change” left my articles less than admirable. That said, my portfolio is lacking and now I’m not quite sure where to turn! Do I start a blog? Do I write pseudo articles? Do I give up on writing all together and look for something more stable? I would love to hear your suggestions for a writer with little experience, a poor portfolio, and no clue where to start.”
Being that this is an involved email, with many questions, I figured we’d do a little series about how to get work as a blogger or web writer. It seems everyone I know is looking for work, writers included, so hopefully this series will be useful. Over the next couple (?) of weeks we’ll look at ideas for actually getting work even with little experience, where to look for work, reasons why you may not be finding work, and more.
Before we get going though, I’d like to point out that the questions above are very typical. Between Deb, my co-blogger here, and me we’ve seen hundreds of emails asking, “How do I get started writing? How do I get a gig” and more. After talking to Deb I realized that my start was more trial and error then asking questions. I read books, visited forums, and sometimes talked to other writers. But mainly I applied to gigs and learned as I went. That said, here are some of the resources I used and still sometimes do use when it comes to figuring out what the heck I’m doing…
I went to college: Let me point out that I don’t think college or a degree in writing is necessary to find work as a writer. In fact I don’t even have a writing degree. I have a math degree and as of yet not one client has ever even asked me if I went to college. Still, college helped and here’s why. One, I took a killer web writing class from an expert, Jonathan Price. He’s in New Mexico, but if you’re not, you can still read his book, Hot Text: Web Writing That Works. I highly suggest this book if you want to learn to write decent web copy. Two, I was minoring in professional writing for health sciences, plus took a ton of other writing classes just for kicks. While not all were useful, I gathered tons of tips along the way and more importantly I was forced to write and re-write all the flipping time. Writing all the time is how you learn what works and what doesn’t.
I had a blog: Long before I worked as a paid blogger, I had a basic old Blogger blog. I wrote it for years. This was an ad-free, personal blog, but it really helped me learn how blogs function, what it means to interact with a blog community, and how to write posts that folks love and don’t love so much.
I read some books: Hot Text (see above) is my fave, but I also read plenty of other books about writing. I started out writing for magazines and businesses, but I found that much of the advice from general writing books still motivated me and helped me to get jobs writing for the web. Some of my favorites include:
- Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer: How to Win Top Writing Assignments by Jenna Glatzer
- The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell (probably my fave motivational writing book)
- The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency As a Freelance Writer in Six Months or Less by Peter Bowerman – He has a new version coming out too!
- The Copywriter’s Handbook, Third Edition: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells by Robert W. Bly
- Six-Figure Freelancing by Kelly James-Enger
I interacted with others nicely: I visited forums, mainly Absolute Write, and made writer friends. Honestly, over half my jobs have been leads I’ve learned about from friends. If you’re going it alone make some friends stats and don’t piss people off and burn bridges. I know of one writer in particular who has made such a scene at forums and in the comments of other people’s blogs that no one I know would recommend her for a gig, and that’s a huge liability in the web writing world. Don’t be afraid to be real and give opinions, but if you’re nasty and have a better than everyone else mentality it’ll cost you.
That’s what I did. I used the above resources and applied for work which worked for me. However, as noted we’ll be looking at some more helpful tips coming up. If you’ve got a specific question, leave a comment and we’ll try to cover it during the series.