Many of us have come to the (sad) conclusion that scoring a major book publishing deal worth millions is unrealistic, and we’ll have to settle for a regular job. But the thing about writing is that it isn’t a regular job. Copywriting, blogging, freelancing, editing, journalism, social media management – these are all occupations that require creativity and dedication, which means they’re made for those few who’ve been blessed with writing talent. But how do you get your foot in the door?
You might think that you need to have a degree to have any chance at landing your dream writing job, however this is not always the case. Although university is great, many businesses are just looking for someone with experience and quality writing. The opportunities for good writers are endless, and if you can build up experience (with a degree or not) then you’re on your way.
Intern and Volunteer
The best advice I can give is to intern wherever you can and volunteer to help out at writing events. Unpaid work might not be ideal when it comes to paying the rent, but the right place can give you invaluable hands-on knowledge, and maybe even paid work at the end of it.
I’ve interned as a journalist, copywriter, blogger and social media assistant, and volunteered as a workshopper, writing prize judge, and even helped with the set up for a crime writing conference. Each job taught me something new about writing that launched me in the right direction career-wise and showed me how to be a better writer.
Many job search websites advertise for internships now, and the best place to look is pedestrian.tv/jobs. This site specifically highlights creative jobs, so it's perfect for finding an internship. You can also try emailing organisations (writer’s centres and festivals, libraries, local creative groups) to ask if they need a hand with any activities; chances are, they need all hands on deck and would love to get to know you!
Be on the lookout for scammers, or people who want to take advantage of free labour. Internships usually last anywhere from one week to three months (usually one or two days a week) and anything more than that could be dodgy. Gain experience where you can, but don’t give your writing away forever.
Get Published Anywhere
Many magazines will advertise online for submissions from people, which could be one-off submissions or regular articles. These publications may also run annual competitions, or know of organisations that do, so submit your work to their writing prizes for a great way to get your work out there (and win a little cash).
Do an internet search, follow writers on Twitter, and email subscribe to writer’s centres to stay on top of current and up-coming submission deadlines.
Write for as many places as you can, because the more writing in the world with your name attached, the better it looks on your resume and in your portfolio.
Getting published is also a great way to make contacts and start networking within the writing industry, especially if you’re a regular contributor or a staff writer; it means you’ll have someone as a referee to vouch for your amazing work, and someone to introduce you around.
In my opinion, every writer should have a blog. It can be anything you want it to be, and not only does it keep you writing regularly but it’s an easy way to get in touch with other writers just like you. The more dedicated you are to your blog, the better it will be. And it’s something you can add to your CV and use as an example of your written (and published) work.
Blogs are easy to start up and WordPress is probably the best platform to use, though Tumblr is another popular option. Connect with other writers, post away to your heart’s content, and use your blog as a means to show potential bosses just how awesome you are.
Keeping on top of news in publishing and writing gives you a broader perspective of how your career dreams fit into the industry. It makes sense that you should know the ins-and-outs of the industry you want to be a part of.
Publishing evolves quickly, and if you’re not aware of its major changes you could be left out in the cold when it comes to finding a job or getting published. It’s also good to be informed so that you can weigh in on discussions with other writers, whether on your blog or through social media (or in real life).
Spend some time browsing the web for good writing websites and blogs that regularly post about writing and publishing. Check out our writerly websites page for an idea of where to start. Many websites have a way to ‘follow’ them, whether through email or an RSS feed.
You can also subscribe to websites using a ‘feed reader’. A feed reader ('The Old Reader' is my preference, Feedly is also quite popular) will put all the new posts from these sites in one place so you can scroll through at your leisure and see what’s new.
Create a LinkedIn Account
This website is ideal for writers to use as an online portfolio. You can add experience, skills, and attach documents or links to your published work and also connect with people to broaden your networking circle (though this isn’t absolutely necessary).
The best part about LinkedIn is that you can easily link your profile into emails, where potential employers can see uploads to your portfolio. It has a neat layout and you can add all sorts of information that you can download into a PDF (if you wish).
Half the battle when getting a job is determination, so don’t stop applying for jobs. It doesn’t matter that you might not tick every box on their advertisement, or that you don’t have years of experience in the field. You’ll never get more experience if you don’t put yourself out there to try new and challenging things, so believe that you can do it (because you can) and send off that application. It might take a while to get a breakthrough from someone, and it might not be exactly what you were hoping for, but try to look at everything as a learning experience.
Persevere, stay hopeful, and remember all the famous writers who struggled through regular life before getting their big break. Most of us just want to write every day, and if we can fulfill that wish, then we’re living the dream!