Are you looking for something more than customer service or data entry work-at-home jobs? Do you have a desire to be creative and put your ideas and thoughts out into the world? In other words, do you dream of being a journalist or professional writer?
You can do it and you don’t need a degree. I know this firsthand.
Now, it’s not easy and you’ll need a few things: a good grasp of grammar and spelling; the discipline to sit your butt down at that desk and work rather than fussing over creating the “right” conditions before you write; the ability to find your distinctive “voice” that distinguishes you from others; and the practicality to adapt that voice to the less glamorous jobs you’ll have to take to make ends meet.
Sometimes they just want dry, clinical copy without any personality.
Hot Tip: Make sure you have a nest egg saved up because this is one unpredictable business, and when a writing source of income dries up, you won’t get much if any warning.
Are you still with me? Good. Every writer will tell you a different story about how they did it, but here’s what I’ve learned along the way from being a fledgling wannabe to being a fairly successful blogger and journalist. I’m not writing for The New York Times or Huffington Post, but I’ve attained enough credibility to be able to interview the likes of Billy Bob Thornton, musician Chuck Ragan and most of the cast of “Grimm.”
First, you’ll need to find those media outlets open to new writers. Many of us crusty old veterans cut our teeth on sites like Suite 101 (RIP) and perhaps the largest writing network of all who worked with newbies: Yahoo Contributor! Network (YCN). The latter has been the stepping stone of hundreds of writers, but as of August 1, 2014, they completely terminated their program, so add a big RIP to them, too.
Hot Tip: No matter how many paying writing gigs you have, always be looking for new ones. Even the biggest ones can fall.
These days, many writers are getting their start on sites like Textbroker, Writers Access, Wordgigs or oDesk which may involve an application and writing test or sample, then they help connect you with clients seeking writers. You’re basically working as a freelancer trying to pick individual projects rather than one client with steady work (although you may find that on oDesk.) There is one exception to this format for beginner writing sites: Examiner.com.
Examiner.com compensates its writers based on traffic to their articles. I’d love to tell exactly what their pay is per thousand clicks (CPM) but I’m bound by confidentiality. And honestly, I have no idea because they use some secret formula. That’s right, they don’t state it clearly and it changes frequently much to the frustration of many writers, yours truly included.
Most people don’t make much money there, but a few dedicated souls I know personally consistently pull four figures monthly. But — and this is a big “but” — they work at it daily, producing quality content and marketing themselves. They treat it as a full time job.
If you can’t spend that much time, you may not earn much, but don’t write this site off, because it can offer other rewards.
And that brings me to my biggest tip to getting started in writing: Examiner.com is the best place to get your start as a beginner. Now, I’m not saying it’s the greatest client or even that I am completely happy with it. In fact, I have a serious love/hate relationship there, mostly the latter. But there is no other site that offers a greater opportunity to beginning writers. Sure, you have to apply for titles, but it’s a formality.
And even though the quality of writing there is uneven at best, many publicity agencies and events recognize it as a legitimate media outlet. That means you can get credentials and even interviews down the line, if you make the most of this opportunity to create quality work to show when you ask for press passes and interviews. It is what you make of it. And I can tell you that even now, I still go back there when I want to create a new writing niche. It’s my ground zero.
Hot Tip: The lesson here is that many sites exploit writers. But the key is figuring out how to exploit ’em right back. No pun intended.
Then once you get a few good sample articles, start applying for better positions and building that resume. Being a nonfiction writer and blogger is far from a get-rich-quick scheme — more like a never-get-rich scheme — but if you put in the work and the hours, you can build a career and income writing about everything from healthcare, to celebrity gossip, to sports. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination. And the time and energy you’re ready to invest.
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