I’ve wanted to be a writer my entire life, and I can finally say that I’ve achieved this dream. As a professional writer, I get paid to do something I love every day. Getting here wasn’t easy, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way.
In addition to writing, one of my passions is to help people with their careers by sharing my story and advice. This is why I put together some tips on how to become a bonafide writer.
Step 1: Build a Portfolio
Having a body of work to show potential employers is the first and probably most important step to getting hired as a writer. How can someone discover your talent if you don’t have examples to share? Building a portfolio might sound intimidating, but there are multiple options for you to do so.
Do It Yourself
These days, there are countless blogging tools available at your fingertips. These resources, such as Wix, Weebly, WordPress, and Tumblr, allow you to easily create a free website to showcase your work. Whichever platform you choose, you can quickly customize your site and share your writing.
This is the first step in building an online presence and a portfolio you can show to future employers. By creating your website, you have the complete creative freedom to publish articles without depending on anyone else.
I also recommend creating a career-oriented Twitter account. You can use this to help promote your blog posts and connect with other writers. Having both a blog and a Twitter account shows that you’re active, you put a lot of effort into your online presence, and have nothing to hide.
If you’re not interested in maintaining a blog, don’t worry. You can also write posts on LinkedIn, which has a designated section for articles. By publishing on LinkedIn, your work can be seen by your professional network, who can then potentially share it. One of the biggest benefits of publishing on LinkedIn is that when you start applying for jobs, hiring managers have your portfolio right in front of them.
Get Published Elsewhere
Once you have experience publishing on your blog and/or LinkedIn, use this body of work to help you get published elsewhere. There are plenty of websites out there looking for writers, and you can leverage your portfolio to become a guest blogger.
Below are a few ways I’ve been successful in finding sites on which to be included.
- Do a simple Google search of “guest bloggers”, “blog writers”, “submit article”, or any combination of those terms along with a topic you’re interested in. You’ll find plenty of websites asking people to submit content to publish.
- Do the same search on Pinterest, which has plenty of opportunities as well. One of the best parts of searching on Pinterest is that you can accumulate your results on a designated board. That way, you have multiple opportunities clustered together.
If you search enough, you’ll eventually find an opportunity that works for you. Sure, you may have to submit your writing for free, but this allows you to build a portfolio if you’re just starting.
There are also plenty of volunteer opportunities for you to write for a good cause. I once blogged for an animal shelter, and it felt great to contribute to a wonderful organization by doing something I enjoyed. When it comes to being guest published on websites, your only limit is yourself.
Step 2: Embrace Education
There is no “write” or wrong way to become a writer, and this includes educational background. There are all sorts of paths to take. For some, high school is the end of their academic career. Others get a college degree in biology, decide it’s not what they want, and end up becoming authors. Some focus on writing for their entire academic career and even achieve multiple advanced degrees on the topic. All I can speak to is my journey and what worked for me.
I attended Penn State, where there was a virtually unlimited amount of writing opportunities. That being said, I never wrote for the school newspaper, the student-run magazine, or a college student blog. I didn’t major in writing or journalism, either. I changed my major multiple times and graduated with a media studies degree from the College of Communications.
I did dozens of extracurriculars, most of which weren’t related to writing. You don’t need to have tunnel vision when it comes to writing. I recommend you try a little bit of everything, as I did. If you take advantage of every writing opportunity that comes your way, fantastic. If you only sign up for a few, that’s great. If you don’t even consider writing if it’s not for class, totally fine too. What you do in college can greatly contribute to your future career, but don’t sweat it if you didn’t become the editor of the newspaper or get published all over the university website. There’s a ton you can do, but don’t be scared if you don’t.
That being said, you don’t even have to attend college to create a future career as a writer. You can take a few classes at a nearby community college, meet with a free writing group in your local library, pay for private lessons, or take a few courses online. Seek and you shall find! There are so many options out there. As long as you are writing and trying, you’re on the right path.
Step 3: Meet Other Writers
Networking is important for any career, and the internet has made it easier than ever.
I found an active community of writers on Twitter, which has been helpful in my career journey. The people in the writer’s community support each other, share their work, and give advice about the industry. I’m inspired daily because I’m interacting with writers with goals similar to mine, some of whom have published multiple books. Search #WritingCommunity on Twitter and see for yourself!
Similar communities can be found on LinkedIn, which is an effective networking tool. If you’ve followed the steps above, then you already have a few articles published on LinkedIn and are ahead of the game. You can connect directly with other writers and/or join various groups that focus on writing, publishing, freelancing, and more. You never know who you’ll meet on LinkedIn and how you can support each other.
Step 4: Nail the Interview
I won’t get into the overall job application and interviewing process because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles about that topic. Instead, I’ll share specific tips on how to make yourself stand out as a writer while interviewing.
If you’ve gotten to the interview stage, the hiring manager has most likely already seen your work. You’ve proven yourself to be a great writer with a large portfolio; now how do you stand out among the others?
You should research any company you have an interview with. Check out what’s on their website, get a feel for the existing content, and create a list of potential topics you’d bring to the table if hired.
When interviewing for my current position as a website content writer, I had a preliminary phone interview that gave me an idea of what they were looking for. I then created a list of article ideas and brought it in for my second interview. One of my interviewers said that no one had done that before, which made me stand out amongst the other candidates.
What to Bring
Portfolios are integral for writers, which is why it’s the first step in this article. It’s important to bring a printed portfolio to the interview, even if the hiring managers have already read your content online. Your printed portfolio can be anything from a professionally bound binder with laminated samples to print-out pages stapled together in a manilla folder. It all depends on your budget and the job you’re applying for. Bringing this along will show the company that you’re prepared.
After the interview, leave the portfolio with the hiring managers. This way, they can read it on their own time, pass it around to other decision-makers in the hiring process, and refer to it when they’re making their final decision.
Another benefit of leaving the portfolio behind is that they may remember you. If you don’t get the job, but another relevant position pops up in the future, your impressive portfolio is still on hand.
This has worked for me in the past. I once interviewed for a position, put my all into my portfolio, and left it to the hiring manager. I didn’t end up getting the job, but a few months later, I was called in for an interview. Another position had opened up, and they were still quite impressed with my portfolio.
Step 5: Don’t Worry If You Didn’t Get the Job
If you got hired as a writer, hooray! Mission complete.
On the other hand, if you haven’t yet, there are a few things to do in the meantime. See if you can incorporate writing into the job you already have. Does your company have a blog? Could they use one? You can also continue to write on LinkedIn, your website, or get published elsewhere, so you’re still growing your digital footprint and portfolio.
As with any career path, becoming a writer involves a lot of trial and error. You can follow every step-by-step guide in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. All you can do is continue to move forward.
Along my journey, I applied to dozens of jobs, had handfuls of interviews (professional and informational), worked at a completely unrelated job, and lost all motivation to write at all. I felt as though it was never going to happen for me. That was until I saw a job posting with my current company, Hotels4Teams, and knew it was my chance. Since then, I’ve been writing articles and honing my craft every single day.
I’m often inspired by Richard Bach’s quote: “a professional writer is an amateur that didn’t quit.” This is a simple truth.
If you give up striving towards something you love, you’ll never get there. Continue trying and continue writing. Take steps in the right direction, and you’ll eventually be able to say that you’re a professional writer