A friend once said he refused to write for free. He was not making any money writing yet, but was working on novel and hoped to land an agent or a publisher with a big advance and contract. I don’t know if this ever came to pass, but I do believe that his expectations were unrealistic.
I can understand wanting to get paid for your work and taking the steps to make that happen, but there we all need to start somewhere. Consider this scenario.
You want to make money writing and have read up on how to find writing jobs, so you start looking through some of those fabulous job boards on the internet. Some projects sound like they are right up you alley so you read what the clients wan: experience and clips of previously published work.
You don’t have any clips because you have not landed your first writing job yet. In fact, you don’t even have a blog because you refuse to write for free.
What do you do?
Read on, because I have some ideas.
Look in Your Own Backyard
Santa Rosa, California has one of the largest writers clubs in California (Redwood Writers Club, a branch of the California Writers Club) where the volunteer opportunities are endless. If you want to copy edit, join the public relations team. If you want to write articles about writing, there’s the newsletter. Our club has editors, novelists, non-fiction writers, short story writers, and the club publishes anthologies where club members are chosen by blind submissions. Being in this club for fifteen years has helped my writing skills grow by leaps and bounds, plus I am surrounded by others in the writing business!
If you are not interested in joining a writers club, how about looking through local publications such a newspapers, magazines or newsletters and offering your writing services for free. If you are interested in learning copywriting, why not call some local ad agencies and ask if you can shadow some of their copywriters and help with some projects. Sometimes pro bono work can turn into paying gigs.
Start Spreading the News
What is the one thing that makes a great book sell like wildfire?
Word of mouth. One person reads a book, loves it and tells someone else, who tells someone else, until all that talking puts the book on the New York Times Bestseller List.
Well, it’s similar when launching a new career. If you tell people what you are doing, then they might know of someone who can use your services. It might be a free gig at first, but it’s important to remember that these freebies will definitely lead to experience and possibly paying jobs down the road.
Do Some Pitching
My number one rule is that if someone has given me a lead on a publication and I write in the required genre, then I never to let that lead go unexplored. A friend asked me to write an article pro bono for a legal publication, which I did, and she also gave me a lead to a larger professional publication. I have queried this magazine with an article idea and I am waiting to hear back. The glass is always half full here because even if a pitch is turned down I have gained experience in putting myself out there.
You can also do some cold pitching. This means finding publications that publish the type of material you write and formulate a query letter with your article idea. A query letter is addressed to the editor, with the first paragraph containing information on who gave you the lead and why you want to write for the magazine. Be clear and concise in your pitch and always close with a line about looking forward to working with the editor.
Create a Website with a Blog
Starting a blog is one of the best ways to showcase your writing skills. It’s always a good idea to write about a subject you are passionate about, whether it be animals, health, or moon dancing. For example, I love animals and am an avid health nut, but the only places I write about these things are on my personal Facebook page. On the other hand, I have been involved in our local writing community for years and write in the law office all day, and I can write about writing until the cows come marching home. Why? Because I love to write.
So, figure out what you love to write about and create that blog, make a schedule to write at least once a week, and share make sure to share your writing on your social media.
Now that you have some ideas about how to build up you portfolio, it’s time to start putting yourself out there! You CAN do this!