A Writer of All Trades

resume-1799953_1280While I am relatively content in my current position, I still make an effort to scope out new positions at different companies every once in a while. It never hurts to see what other opportunities are out there, and so this morning, I did just that.

But after looking through the results that came up after searching “Content Manager”, I regret the amount of stress and exasperation that I put myself through at not even 10:00 in the morning. Good grief.

First of all, I saw a position for a Social Media Manager that offered minimum wage. Intrigued, not because I wanted it, but because I was wondering exactly how amazing their company must be to pay someone that little, I clicked the posting. Now, I can’t even remember what the company was or how absolutely wonderful they were (which speaks for itself), but I do remember the requirements for the position.

They wanted someone with excellent written communication skills with experience in Photoshop, CSS, HTML, and JS, as well as a Master’s Degree. Oh, and aside from the responsibilities you would associate with the title, they also wanted someone who could write speeches, prepare reports, and, a little cherry on top for good measure, someone who had management experience. For minimum wage.

Next, I was taken on a different kind of journey. This time, the job title actually matched my search for “Content Manager”. A good sign. The posting was fairly straightforward, but there were a couple of typos, which just goes to show that yes, they really do need a Content Manager.

Since the posting looked relatively interesting, I decided to move onto the next phase of pre-application investigation: I reviewed their website. Oh, boy. Here are some of the issues that I can remember:

  • On their About page, the company name was spelled incorrectly (an obvious typo).
  • They had links to their Team, Websites, and Company pages that just redirected back to the Home page.
  • Their social media links also went back to the Home page.
  • They had nothing on the site to indicate that it was under construction.

While this may not seem as bad as my first finding, I felt it was a bit of a slap in the face. Why? Because the hiring company expects applicants to put in time and effort to apply for this position when they can’t even take the time to ensure that their posting is free of typos and to even mention that their site is in development.

And, as a potential candidate, I was decidedly unenthused after learning that I wouldn’t be able to view their site or social media pages. Something that virtually every applicant will want to do before sending in a resume.

Next was a position from a company that not only spelled the job title incorrectly but that I had worked for in the past, albeit in a different department. I’ll be honest and tell you that I looked at this position mostly out of curiosity and not genuine interest.

Now, this posting was a little more subtle in its faults, but it was a perfect example of how writers, communications professionals, and content leads are expected to “do all the things” in a role that should be specific to their skills.

This job wanted someone who would communicate effectively with clean writing and grammar, develop a cross-country marketing strategy, and create content for online, print, radio, and everything in between, aside from a plethora of other responsibilities.

Now, it doesn’t sound that terrible, I know. But the issue with it lays in the desire to have a writer who can create content for so many different platforms. Yes, we writers are versatile, but just because we know how to write for one medium does not mean we can write in another.

For example, writing for radio is a writing specialization. Certainly, any writer who wishes to can learn how to do it, but it isn’t something that we necessarily just know how to do. It isn’t a ready-made skill that we have in a back pocket, picked up while we took a general communications certification or degree.

Job hunting is hard enough on its own, without all of the garbage job postings and unrealistic expectations these postings seem to be looking for. We are writers. We create content. That does not mean that we can also code a website, design branding, kill it on social media, and essentially run the entire marketing department for a company.

And for those of us who can, minimum wage isn’t going to cut it.

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Writers: Making Yourself Marketable

tie-690084_1280There are two kinds of writers: those who only want to write a book, and those who only want to write.

The first kind only want to write on the side while working a different full-time job. The second kind wants writing to be their full-time job. I am of the second type, and lucky for us, the popularity of the internet has opened many new opportunities for us.

But, as the job postings seem to prove, the simple skill of writing is often not enough for you to get the interview. More and more, employers want candidates to have skills above and beyond one profession, and it can be a steep hill to climb.

However, there are a few skills that can help you to stand out amidst the competition that don’t take a whole new degree to learn. If you are seeking an online writing position, try to add the following to your resume in order to boost your marketability:

SEO. Search engine optimization is something that any business producing online content will want. In a few words, it is writing in a way that uses keywords and long-tail search phrases to get organic traffic from search engines. This basically means that employers want you to write in a way that will help their content to get picked up by Google.

It is way less intimidating than it sounds, and employers value keyword research and SEO writing highly. Do some research, learn about the tools that are out there, and familiarize yourself with them. It’ll do you a world of good.

Social Media Management. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social platforms are a norm for almost any company. Many businesses will want to hire a writer who can not only write posts for social media, but schedule, plan, and maintain them as well.

It’s really quite easy to manage a business page, so to get a feel for it, try setting one up for yourself and play around with it to learn the ropes.

Copywriting and Long-Form. Sure, you can write long-form content, like guides and whitepapers, but can you write copy? Copy is essential for ads, social media posts, emails, and more. It’s also not as easy as it sounds. Copywriting can, in some ways, be more complicated than long-form because you are limited in what you can say. It’s sort of like comparing what you can write in a Facebook post to what you can fit in a tweet.

The same goes for the opposite; if you can only write copy, start learning how to produce longer pieces like articles, blogs, and the like.

Although, in my opinion, it isn’t enough to just do a little research in order to learn how to copywrite or write a whitepaper, doing some reading or taking a course can only help you to beef up your qualifications.

Online Writing. Writing for print and writing for websites are two different beasts altogether. While it is appropriate to have long chunks of writing in print, you want online content to be easy to scan and sort through.

Learn the ins and outs of writing for an online audience, and showcase your skills in your samples. This can help a potential employer to see that you’re ready to publish content to their audience.

Editing. Although most people think that writing and editing go hand-in-hand, they actually don’t. If you are a good writer, but you are a little foggy on when you should use an em dash or what a style guide is, you have some room to grow.

In businesses where you are not the only writer, you will likely be expected to edit your co-workers’ content, which means that you need to know how to spell, punctuate, and organize a sentence.

Brush up on your skills and edit a few pieces as a volunteer to use in your portfolio.


If you invest time in yourself, you are more likely to get noticed. In a job market that is saturated with educated hopefuls, you need to stand out.

By adding a few extra skills to your resume in your down time, you can up your chances of getting noticed, and you might even get a higher compensation offer.

What kind of writer are you? What skills do you have on your resume other than writing?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

 

Creative Ways to Volunteer

Creative Ways to VolunteerIn my experience, volunteering is essential to building writing skills and references. While it can be a bit of a pain to work for free, it helps you to build your resume and portfolio, which you need to do in order to nab that eventual writing position.

Most people start with contacting local newspapers, magazines, or blogs to get their first gig, but many of these places have been inundated with applications and likely aren’t looking for volunteers. Not hearing back can get frustrating, and I know better than anyone that there are only so many places that you can offer services to.

That’s when you need to start getting creative about who you offer your skills to, and just how you offer them. You may have a specific type of writing that you are interested in, but when you’re first starting out, you may have to relax your grip a little in the beginning.

Think about this: basically everything on the internet is content-based. Everyone needs writers. Turn your eyes to charities, small local businesses, and museums. Read up on how to write social media posts, listicles, how-to posts, informational articles, and everything in between. The more skills that you have to give, the more someone is likely to pick you up.

It’s also a good idea to start a blog or site of your own to showcase what you can do. Look for content that needs a good polish in ads, on websites, social media pages, and so on. You are the superhero of good content; where there’s bad writing, you’re there! When you find it, write a polite proposal that talks about how what you do could benefit the business/charity/individual, and highlight that in return, you just want to build your portfolio.

If that doesn’t work, place an ad yourself. Writing today isn’t limited to online content, you can also use your skills to help people by offering to help write speeches, eulogies, obituaries, wedding vows, and more. This makes for unique content that looks good among your other samples, and it’s also a way to use your superhero writing skills for good.

Again, I know it’s not ideal to work for free, but when you’re fresh out of school, and employers are looking for candidates with experience, you have limited options in how you can make yourself stand out. It also gives you a great opportunity to learn new skills and to make excellent professional connections.

Besides, the holiday season is the best time for giving. Even if you don’t have money to donate, you have valuable skills that may even help to make someone’s Christmas all the brighter. Be creative and be open to new things and you’ll build a strong portfolio in no time.

What volunteering or portfolio tips do you have? What is the most unique writing you’ve done?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Catching A Break

Catching a BreakOften, when writers are portrayed in film, they are already successful. If not, then they are the stereotypical “starving artist”, working a day job that they hate while waiting to catch their big break. Which they usually do.

I started out freelancing, and still do some of it on the side, but it was not at all an easy career. Trying to find clients in my area was my biggest problem, and I received a plethora of suggestions, such as: “You just need to get out there and network!”, or “It’ll happen, you just need to be patient!”. While this advice was well-meant, it was, unfortunately, useless.

“Networking”: seemingly a term that encompasses everything from having ridiculous amounts of success from cold calling and free ads to paying to attend conferences and making “valuable connections” that generally end up as empty promises. It’s not as simple, as easy, or as useful as it seems. The thing is, in order to make connections, you usually have to have an in. For a connection to turn into a client, they have to actually be serious about requiring your services. Making those come together is not always easy.

Then there’s “having patience”. Well, let me tell you right now that just waiting for something to happen does absolutely nothing for you. It isn’t even about taking action and then waiting for an outcome. To succeed at writing, you should never just be waiting. To catch a break you always have to be doing.

A break isn’t going to come to you randomly, at least not in my experience. It will only come if you are out there hunting it down. If you really want to be a writer, you should be trying to:

  • find clients on the side
  • look for one time contracts
  • volunteer
  • submit stories
  • write
  • think about writing
  • edit
  • frequent job websites
  • cold call
  • apply for internships
  • and, a million other things

You will never catch a break just because you write well. You will never catch a break by waiting for someone to find you. Breaks don’t happen like they do in the movies, they happen because you work your buns off to find them. You accept rejection and then let it go, you take criticism and suggestions and own them, you take any opportunity you can to improve your skill and to get experience.

That’s the difference between writing being a hobby and writing being a career. I have no real need to look for more work, but I do anyway. Why? Because I want to make sure that I continue to write about different things, in different ways. I want to make sure that I write the things that I want to, or about the things that I enjoy. I do it because I am always trying to move forward and because writing is my best and most prominent skill.

Though I am, by now, a fairly experienced writer, I still apply for internships with publishers, magazines, and so on. I still write stories and submit them when I can. I still do my best to write a blog every week even when I have to do it over two days in ten minute intervals. I do this because any success that I have had, or may have in the future, is success that I want to own. I want to know that it’s mine because I worked for it and I kept going even when the going was tough.

To catch a break, and I mean to have something good happen to your writing career, you cannot sit idly by and assume that because you have some talent, you will eventually be found and become famous. That’s not really how it works with writing.

The best way to think of it is that you will get what you give. The more effort that you put into becoming the writer that you want to be, the closer you will get. Think of any new offers or opportunities as rewards for your efforts instead of blind luck. You didn’t catch that break because of a fluke, you caught it because you fought for it. You got it because you wanted it. And if you didn’t get it, at least you can say that you tried, and that’s one step closer to getting the next one.

What do you do to better your career as a writer? Is it more of a hobby or career for you? 

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