Ink-Dipped Advice: Where’s The Work?

The short answer is, “Everywhere.”

People need words and those who craft them for almost every aspect of their lives: signs, instructions, web copy, press releases, menus, articles, advertorials, letters, the list goes on and on.

Take a day and write down every time you encounter something with words on it throughout your day. Note what it is and what kind of writing it is.

The work is everywhere.

Convincing the companies to hire you and pay you a fair rate is key.

Skills, Interests, Knowledge
First, be clear on your skills. What is it you want to do? Are you a journalist? A marketing writer? A Public relations person? An editor? A copy editor? A social media whiz? A mix?

What are your areas of specialized knowledge? Areas where you know enough so you can do some quick fact-checking, but you have reliable facts and sources at your fingertips?

What are you interested in?

I became a writer because I am interested in many things, I find the world a fascinating place. I also enjoy working with people who are passionate about what they do, and helping them engage and expand their audience.

If you want to specialize in one area, good for you. Make sure you’re passionate about it, knowledgeable about it, and keep expanding your knowledge. You want to bring your clients knowledge and resources beyond what they have. You are there to put them ahead of the pack, not run with it.

Boundaries
What are your boundaries? Plenty of people say their clients’ politics/beliefs/platform doesn’t matter and has nothing to do with the writing or the quality of the work. I don’t find it that black and white. I’ve worked for some people whose views on many things are vastly different than mine, and it wasn’t a problem. We agreed to disagree on certain things, and none of it was directly involved with the actual work. However, I don’t take on clients whose product/view/mission is something I believe causes harm to others. I don’t care how much they’re paying. I’m not there to change their views (or sabotage them) and I’m certainly not going to promote something I believe is harmful for money. That is my choice.

I’ve also taken on clients and then found, once I’m in deep working with them, things in their business or ethics that I find repulsive. I wind up the contract when possible and don’t work with them again.

Find your line. Know where it is. Know it may change over time. But be aware of it, and have a strong core.

Again, where’s the work?

I like to start local and spread. I used to live in New York. There’s a big client pool there, and plenty of businesses that understand the value of good writing. Some of them will still try not to pay for it, but the pool’s big enough so you can skip those jobs and move on.

I live in a different region right now that does not respect good writing or believe in paying for it. I have fewer local clients, and more long-distance ones.

Find companies whose work interests you
The most interesting, professional, satisfying, and best-paid jobs I’ve landed have come because I found a company whose work interested me, did my research, and put together a pitch to convince them their lives would be better, easier, more productive, and more lucrative once they hired me. I did NOT denigrate the materials that were out there. I told them why they interested me, and what positive things I could bring to the table.

I had to go out and find these companies. I did not find them on job boards or craigslist. I found them either during my research for one of the many projects (fiction or nonfiction) that I juggle, or during my active “hunting time” where I search for companies that do work which interests me, and then research them.

When I research companies, I start locally and then expand outwards. I look at Chamber listings. I research companies that provide services in fields that interest me. I keep on top of press releases sent out by members of the team already working for them. I’m not looking to oust someone from a job; I’m looking at supporting, honing, and expanding what they do.

When I pitch, I do a positive pitch, not a negative pitch. I point out what interests me about the company, what I think they do well, and why I think I’d be a good ADDITION TO THE TEAM. I do NOT tell them their content is bad, the site needs a new design, or demean their employees.

I get several emails a week from people demanding I hire them (they haven’t done their research) and that I should so do because they hate my website, my content, my work. Why would I hire someone who insults me?

I wouldn’t, nor would I expect a company to hire me if I insulted them.

Chamber of Commerce Networking
I’ve landed some gigs from local Chamber of Commerce networking. I’ve lived and worked all over the country, and most of the time, the fee for joining the Chamber is offset with the first job I land from one of their contacts. Chamber members support each other (that’s the point of being a member), and turn to each other first when they’re looking for something. Plus, Chamber members understand the value of words in their business.

I haven’t found that to be true where I live now, sadly. I’ve enjoyed my networking at local Chamber events, but the “we don’t pay for writing” attitude unfortunately extends to Chamber members as well. In fact, where I live right now, more and more companies put out ads calling for a “marketing associate” when what they want is a sales rep to work on commission-only. Those are two different positions, requiring different skills, and I don’t work on commission. I get paid for the work I DO, not on a whim that someone else may or may not pay somewhere down the line.

So I don’t work for them.

But Chambers often have open nights to expand membership. It’s worth it to check out yours, meet people (make sure you have plenty of business cards), and then, even more important, follow up a day or two after the event. We’ll talk more about successful networking in an upcoming post.

Twitter
Some of my highest-paid gigs have come from Twitter. Not because all I do is tweet demanding that someone hire me or buy my books. Yes, I do book promotions on Twitter, but that’s not al I do. I engage. I retweet, I reply, I have conversations, I support fellow artists.

Sometimes, I see a positing on Twitter for a gig that sounds interesting. I follow the link, do my research, and pitch. Most of the time, though, gigs I’ve landed from Twitter are from people who liked what I had to say on Twitter, followed my information back to my website, liked how I write, and want me to write for them.

Networking in Professional Associations/Association Job Boards
I belong to several professional associations. Some of them have job boards; some of them put out calls when they need writers. If something looks interesting, I do further research and make my decisions from there. Job boards on these sites tend to have payment and work standards, and don’t accept content mill-type ads.

Writers Market
I prefer the print edition. When the new one comes out, I sit down and read it, cover to cover, making notes on where to pitch. I research the markets that interest me online. If a market still looks good, I put together a pitch or a query (depending on what they want) and contact them. I log everything, so I can follow up or move on.

Media Bistro
They have jobs broken down by region, by type, or by part-time/full-time/freelance/remote. The jobs tend to pay market rates and be legitimate. They also offer classes and networking opportunities.

Companies that offer full-time positions with benefits
If you are looking for a full-time, steady marketing job with benefits in a company, then I would suggest going through the listings on places like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, GlassDoor. Be careful. On Indeed, especially, more and more content mill-type jobs are popping up. Do your research. Most of the jobs on these sites will require you to fill out an online application form and go through an HR department. The online applications are usually geared to more retail or desk drone jobs, not something for creative people. In my opinion, any job application that demands you re-type the job information already included in your resume isn’t worth your time.

Do your research on Salary.com and by talking to other professionals in your field. Don’t expect professionals to talk money on social media — that is a private discussion, unless it’s in a group or seminar about salaries.┬áMany applications ask for the salary for which you’re looking. I hate that question. I prefer salary range questions. I do my research, both on what the range is for the job in my area, and what the range is that they’ve paid previous employees. Far too many companies cut loose good employees when they don’t want to pay them a fair rate, and start again at the bottom or the range or below it. Don’t fall for that.

Referrals
This is my favorite way to land work. I have a great experience with a client. The client recommends me to a colleague who needs a good writer. You build up to referrals by doing good work for legitimate companies at market rate. If you get a reputation as content mill level quality and price, that’s where you stay. Court the good jobs; do terrific work for them, and they will recommend you to others who appreciate your talent and pay fairly for them.

The work is everywhere. It TAKES work to LAND work. How you shape your approach and how you convince the company that YOU are the best person for the job, and have a say in how that job is shaped is what sets you apart and makes you worth hiring in the first place.

2 thoughts on “Ink-Dipped Advice: Where’s The Work?”

  1. Very important point about positive pitches versus negative. On first contact, it’s a terrible idea to tell someone “Your website could use better content.” Best to just wow them with your portfolio and ask them if they’d enjoy a conversation about how best to work together.

    I remember one client asked directly for a critique of his website. After my point-by-point response, he said “Wow, be careful what you ask for.” Even though I was kind and positive in my response (including “Here’s another place you could improve your results” type of advice), he was a little wounded. He hired me and loved the result, but he must have had an emotional connection to the content. It’s never easy for anyone to hear “This isn’t quite right” when they think they’ve done a brilliant job.

    1. It’s really hard when they’ve written the content themselves. It’s tough for them to hear the positive critique if it means letting go, sometimes. On the flip side, I can’t tell you how often I see emails, both to my own sites and to those I work on for clients, where people pitch to them telling them their content is “lame” or “sucks” or some other derogatory stuff. That’s not the way to convince someone to hire you, especially when said pitch is full of errors.

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