It wasn’t until many years into writing Mom-Blog that I realized I could start a writing career, my long time dream, by bootstrapping off of my years of blogging. Here is how and what I did to get to where I am now.
Step 1: Don’t Just Blog, Write With Heart – and Edit With Your Brain
My early days of blogging were filled with passion, authenticity and truths – some on a level I wouldn’t share now. Because I started with that intensity, I built up a trusted audience. Making the transition, however, to professional writing while using your blog as your primary resume means you need to pay attention to detail. Don’t just write well, edit extensively, even if that means going back and correcting spelling errors, poor grammar, and lapses in judgment. You should also remove anything that will turn potential employers of: delete profanity, whining, political diatribes to keep your blog above board for prospective clients.
Step 2: Start Writing Off-Site
The best way to build up your reputation is to start writing on other blogs and publications, even if it’s for free or little pay. Help out friends who have bigger blogs with a larger reach, if you have no experience. Pitch bigger outlets that cater to your niche. In addition, there are always networks that accept blog posts from people, such as BlogHer, or you can write on a revenue share or paying site, such as Examiner.com or Demand Studios if you get accepted. This is a great gig to build up some credentials and start earning pay. A few years ago, I blogged for Parent Society, which helped me position myself as a professional.
Need more resources? Here is a list of 101 Blogs to Guest Post.
Step 3: Prepare Your Background
Now it’s time to write your resume. At this point, anything you have in your history that contributes to your skill as a writer or marketer will come in handy. People will also want to know your skill at persuasion, so be sure to add analytics and metrics. What’s on my resume? I include my social media metrics, my background in web design and advertising, my experience in speaking and teaching and my sponsorships – and I update it regularly .
Next, you’ll need at least 3 writing samples. I suggest you set up two of those in areas you want to write about and one generic article for fields outside your interest. Once you start applying for jobs, you will probably need to tweak those articles, depending on what the ad is looking for. I have a larger stable of samples than three; some have a professional voice, some are more casual. When I land a position, I take the article sample I submitted and use that as a framework for future submissions.
Finally, you’ll need a cover letter. Just like for a traditional job, a good cover letter should not only showcase your skills but how you and your particular expertise and voice can help the client. Remember to research the company and their blog to focus the letter around them and use proper article samples. When I get a bite off a cover letter, I reformat it for other jobs which has paid off in getting more responses.
Step 4: Apply for Jobs
My favorite places to apply for jobs are MediaBistro.com, ProBlogger Job Board, Freelance Writing Gigs and my local Craigslist. Remember that as a blogger, you can write on any topic. Just because a topic is out of your field of interest or niche, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply. I know very little about cars, however, I spent the summer delivering over 20 articles on Corvettes and trucks for a client – and she was wildly pleased with my work. However, if an ad said, “car enthusiast,” while I have experience, I would not apply. The key is providing quality research and content curation for those articles.
If you are a product reviewer or brand ambassador, you can also step outside the comfort zone of ghost blogging or running your own column by writing product descriptions or writing for social media. I worked on two product review projects this year, an entirely new field of writing for me. If you have experience with successful search engine optimization, you can also apply to jobs writing web pages. It’s important to review all your skills to see how they fit a writing opportunity.
Step 5: Network, Network, Network!
Some of the best jobs I’ve gotten have been from networking, both with friends and strangers. That means you need to spread the word on your networks that you are now blogging professionally. If you have a LinkedIn profile, make sure it reflects your writing endeavors. If you don’t, I highly recommend you sign up and create one and connect with the people you know. LinkedIn has provided me job offers from both former colleagues and strangers who’ve read my profile.
Tell your friends and family in parallel fields – such as marketing or web design – that you are now writing professionally. I have gotten jobs from friends and former colleagues who were in a bind and that helped build my reputation. As I mentioned last week, partnering with a core group of bloggers can also help land you paid writing gigs.
In addition, start attending conferences and professional events. Because of my participation in conferences, I now have blogged for CVS, MassMutual and Maty’s Health Products. Make sure that the brands you approach complement your vision and voice and have a plan on what to offer them. Many brands are looking for reviewers, so be sure to let them know that reviews, articles and giveaways are paid products and not free. Or, you can start a relationship with a great review and then upsell them additional services such as blog writing or social media promotions.
Step 6: Wow Them With Your Professionalism
Whether it’s a free writing gig to get your name out on the web, a low paying or revenue share project, or a high profile, well paid writing project, it’s up to you to take your work seriously. The minute someone engages you to write, you are no longer a hobbyist but a professional writer – act like one! Edit judiciously and use proper grammar, terminology and a good thesaurus. Respect attribution requirements in photos and links. Read the content policies of any site you are quoting or linking. Meet your deadlines early and warn your client far in advance if missing them is unavoidable. Have a self-hosted blog or website.
If you want to build a serious career, you should go above and beyond these basics. Always promise your client the minimum and then deliver far more than they expected. Make creative recommendations that will benefit your client. For example, if they are not using social media, you can teach them why it will benefit them – showing examples from your own blog is a great start. You might just earn more work from them.
In addition, always build on your pay rates. If times are tight, it’s fine to accept a lower paying gig temporarily but if you’ve already been paid $.10 a word for most projects, do not accept $.02 a word. You’ve already proved your time is more valuable than that.
Step 7: Know When to Walk Away
Professional writing relationships can be tricky. For example, if you’re not getting enough feedback or your client is being inconsistent with pay, demands or other issues that are affecting your work, it may not be worth your effort. This spring, I had a writing gig that didn’t work out. They felt my work was not what they wanted and I felt that I was not given enough support or direction. After leaving, my schedule opened up for a project that fell into my lap soon after. Never underestimate the value of your time nor the fact that not every job is right for you.
These tips will help you get started on the road to professional blogging. Do you have any other tips for professional writing? Please share them here.