One question I get asked with some frequency is "so how did you get started writing?" You may be interested in pursuing freelance blog or magazine writing but don't exactly know where to start. Though I started with a degree in journalism, I submit that it's certainly not the only way to launch a career writing. Here's ten steps to take that I've seen work:
1. Start a blog. This is your first stop on the road to getting paid to write. Blogging gives you full control of what you will say and how you will say it. Show the world what you can write and what you're passionate about saying! The world is your oyster. The blog is your step one.
2. Get a copy of the Writer's Market. Pore over it. This annual volume is the bible of freelance magazine writing, poetry and writing contests. It also has a collection of great, informative articles all about the business of writing. You can fork over the money for it or just spend some time at your local library.
3. Offer to guest post on other blogs in which you can provide relevant and helpful content. Can you think of a blog or a website that really resonates with you? Look for their contributor guidelines. Some sites won't pay but if you have a good looking blog with compelling content and a great idea for a post, they will give you a shot. Look you're collecting portfolio pieces already.
4. Master the art of the query letter. This is your pitch. The magazine industry has its own nuances. Make sure your ideas are relevant to the magazine. Show you've read it and you like it. Then pitch.
5. Read On Writing Well by William Zinnser.
6. Get YourName.com. I have several friends in the business who regret that some other joker got their name (ie janedoe.com) before they did. This is a just a good rule of thumb for anyone. Buy your name's URL at GoDaddy just in case. My dad always said: "better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it." A website provides a great opportunity to point potential editors to check out several of your clips in one place. You have full control over this corner of the internet that has your name on it.
7. Spiff up your Linkedin page. Make it clear that you're a writer. Add keywords that people who might be in search of a freelance writer would use when looking for one. Consider eliminating positions you've held that don't add helpful or interesting context to your work story. Yes, I left the fact that I once swept hair from the floor of a salon off my Linkedin page. Gasp.
8. Read Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.
9. Do your research on the people in your network that are in the publishing business. And when I say "network" I don't mean "people you follow on Twitter." I mean people who you know that would be glad to pass your name along to the proper person. Let friends and family know this is the direction in which your career is headed.
10. Keep writing.
Have anything to add to the list? Comment away!