THE BLOG
10/06/2014 11:22 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Get a Writing Job

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Being in the publishing industry, I'm often asked how I got started. The media industry is notoriously competitive with many job seekers and few jobs. The hours are long and unusual and the pay, huh, what pay? We're talking about publishing here.

However, for all the industries ills, it remains an attractive job option for many. There's the opportunity to meet interesting and successful individuals. I've interviewed former presidents, celebrities, authors, you name it, and I've done it. Most enticing of all, you get to have your voice heard and not as whisper, but as a blaring sound through a megaphone.

Even small newspapers typically have circulations of at least a few thousand, and if you can bag one of the big boys like USA Today, Wall Street Journal, or NY Times, you're looking at over a million readers.

In a world where things cost, the journey to the top can be laborious one paved with potatoes and ramen for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for months and sometimes years on end. Just when you land that job and that first pay check comes in with all its missing zeros, then you'll know whether or not you truly love to write or whether it's simply not for you.

But, I'm not here to give you a list of all the reasons you should choose another industry, I'm here to get you a job in the one, which I adore against all reason. The first and most important tip I can give to any aspiring writer is learn to write, read books on writing and read, read, read. Pay attention and notate the differences in writing styles between magazines, newspapers, and blogs. Note the distinctions between the topics covered and formats of different publications. Publications are brands, and if you want to be part of the group, then you have to learn the rules and follow them.

Second off, write for free. If you want to work in this industry, my industry, you'll have to prove you really want to write. Set up a blog, become part of your school paper or local media rag, anything really, as long as it gets published. It's important your writing be published because, many publications require that you submit clips when applying for jobs and internships. Clips in the publications industry are work samples that have been published. If you have clips, you can apply to jobs and internships; if you don't, then you're out of luck.

Thirdly, if you can intern, do it. Many writers at top publications only got there by getting an internship and refusing to leave. In an industry where job applicants are dime a dozen, who do you think they're going to choose when a job opens up, the one who's been working their butt off in the office and is in their face or some stranger who submitted a resume and cover sheet? You guessed it, the intern. Unfortunately, many internships are only available to those registered in college and progressively more publications are only allowing undergraduates to apply.

If you can't intern, but you still want a job in the industry then freelance. Many writers start off in the opinion columns of newspapers. Publications are always looking for ways to engage with their readerships. How do they do that? They include the public in the paper itself. Lucky for you, while often unpaid, see recommendation two, internships allow for you to garner clips and get your name and story out there.

After acquiring clips, begin submitting applications to become a contributing writer for different publications. If they like your work, and it's enough and regularly paced, you may find yourself with a full time job or a referral to another publication that's employing. Publishing is a small industry; people bounce around a lot. If you can build a clean reputation, you can continue to work, even after the publication you work for goes belly up. This leads me to my final recommendation.

Try, try, and try again. The industry didn't gain a reputation for being hard to crack for no reason. That being said, you can become a paid writer, if you work at it and you follow the steps outlined above. The good news is, you're reading right now, which means you're already doing recommendation one. Now just continue on.