Writing is one of the oldest – and in many ways strangest – career paths around. Whether you are interested in writing fiction, non-fiction, novels, articles, webcomics, or movie scripts, there are plenty of different ways to spend your time and effort as a writer. What’s more, it is possible to make a living out of practically any of those, but the competition is almost always tough.
You’ll need an edge if you want to get ahead as a career writer, which is exactly why this article aims to suggest some uncommon ideas to help you get your foot in the door.
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Build a Digital Portfolio of Free Content
Traditional wisdom will tell you that it is rarely a good idea to give away the very thing you are hoping to get paid for. The jury is still out on whether clients are less likely to pay for writers with large quantities of free work or not. However, there are actually many benefits to building a free portfolio like this, many of which are important enough to justify the risk.
Here is a quick outline of some – but not all – of the most compelling benefits:
- You gain a portfolio.
Writing takes time and a lot of work. This is the main reason most writers struggle to build up a meaningful portfolio to demonstrate their work. However, if you write for free online, then you will have a bountiful source of content to demonstrate your skill, all of which is already available to prospective clients.
- You get to practice.
Every writer will tell you that the best way to build your talents as a writer is to write regularly. That is almost true. The best way is to write regularly and for an audience. Practice is invaluable to skill development – and when you are writing work that you are going to publish, then you are going to be practicing for the work you really want to do.
- You gain motivation.
Writing isn’t easy. There is a reason that the most common jokes among online writing communities revolve around the idea that “you should be writing” in one way or another. So, having an external motivator that is consistently pushing you to keep writing and to do so regularly can be a massive help.
- You gain confidence.
Every regular reader you gain for your free content online is a person telling you that your writing is worth their time. That can be a major confidence boost for most writers – especially since you haven’t published yet. The belief that you are able to write well – and to do so consistently – is a major benefit to every writer, and it is one of the biggest boons you can gain from writing online like this.
- You can stay anonymous.
Of course, even with all of these benefits, you might be wondering whether the risk to your potential career is too much of a gamble. If that is still a concern for you, then why not simply do your free writing under a pseudonym; in that case, you would still earn most of the benefits of this approach and avoid the risk entirely. Win-win.
Start a Digital Writing Club
Conventional wisdom will tell you that the only thing you need to do to improve as a writer is to practice. That is true – to a certain extent – but if you want to grow quickly and reliably and break any bad habits as you go, then you are going to need more than just practice.
Clubs are a great resource for aspiring writers of all kinds because they allow you to get active and detailed feedback from people who genuinely know what they are talking about. After all, writers know how to write – and they are often more than willing to share that knowledge with anyone who cares to ask.
In fact, so many writers love the craft so much that an opportunity to get together with a bunch of other writing nerds on a regular basis to really dig into the nuances of writing would probably be a dream come true for most of them. So don’t be afraid to ask other writers that you respect or admire to join a writing club with you. Every writer is looking to improve. Always. They won’t find such a request rude, even if they don’t decide to take you up on it.
Another benefit of a club like this is that you can easily run them online. After all, the vast majority of contemporary writers will work digitally – meaning they will be able to share work digitally with ease – and the only other major hurdle would be internet connection quality. Fortunately, it isn’t too much of a strain on bandwidth to run a video call – and even if it is too much for your network, it isn’t too hard to meet up with a provider like Frontier internet to get something better.
Work with “Professional” Readers
Finally, if you want to get a good idea of what readers do and don’t like about your work, then it might be worth working with a “professional” reader to get the job done. The word “professional” is in quotation marks because it doesn’t necessarily have to refer to an actual career reader. Those do exist – and if you can get direct feedback from someone like that, you absolutely should. However, in this case, “professional” simply refers to someone who reads far more than the average person.
These people aren’t writers. They’re not going to give you a breakdown of techniques or approaches going wrong – and that is incredibly useful. Why? Because most people aren’t writers! If you can get someone to tell you why a piece of writing isn’t working from a reader’s perspective, then that is so valuable to help you understand what a reader is looking for and how to give it to them. Don’t expect them to help you like a writer would because that isn’t why you are talking to a reader.