3 Ways to Start Your Writing Career
If you haven’t heard already, I got published on Vogue.com last week. I’m still in shock. And I haven’t been in such since I landed my first New York Times article in November 2015.
I graduated in December 2014, so I haven’t been in the field for that long. I say that to hopefully encourage young writers who feel overwhelmed by the pitching process. It’s intimidating at first, but it’s doable if you do it right.
But before you get to the point where you’re able to pitch national publications, you have to work on your writing. (That’ll never stop. I’m still working on my writing. I have mentors with way more experience than me who are still working on their writing. Anything that’s worth doing takes time.)
Sometimes I see up-and-coming writers asking about getting started in the field. Which begs the classic question: If you need the experience to get work, how do work to gain experience? It’s a tough spot to be in. Here are a few ways you can build up your portfolio and work your way up to bigger publications:
Start a blog.
What’s a subject you’re interested in? Social media analytics? Fashion? Science? Choose a topic you’re knowledgeable and passionate. Pick a unique, relevant name for your blog that’ll lend itself well to Google searches. Select a platform you like (Wordpress, Squarespace, etc.). Come up with a concept that really resonates with people. Building a successful following could attract the eyes of editors looking for new voices. (Think Man Repeller or Rookie).
Find a paid internship.
My internships at NBC Chicago and Crain’s Chicago Business were invaluable to my career. They provided published clips for my portfolio by reputable news brands, connections with editors, and an insider view of how a newsroom operates. In addition to being able to support myself while working there, I’ve been able to freelance a bit for Crain’s after my internship ended. Having those professional clips under your belt will help you pitch to other outlets because it’ll help establish trust.
Send great pitches.
Comb through your favorite publications, and see what kinds of stories make the editors tick. Look for elements like news peg (especially for magazines), the sources, and subjects. Start looking for profile subjects or trend stories that fall within that framework but are fresh and new. Make sure you email the email who oversees the subject you’re writing about with your pitch. Rid your email of any grammatical or spelling errors and include links to any research that supports your pitch. Don't be afraid to pitch! Editors are always on the hunt for ideas.
Hey experienced writers, how did you get started in the field? Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Yes, your email will actually make it to me.)