Becoming a content writer has not only helped me pay the bills as a young writer, but also introduced me to many fascinating and talented people, allowed me to contribute on some exciting, thought-provoking (and at times, very challenging) projects, and empowered me to develop skills in a craft that I enjoy.
Whether you are thinking of pursuing a path in professional writing or are looking for a stepping stone towards becoming a marketer, becoming a content writer is a journey that leads through many terrains.
In this article, I will highlight some notable steps that I took led me to where I am now. It’s hard to say which steps will take you the farthest, but if you put in the work and take the opportunities that come along, you never know where you would end up.
Go to school
This seems like a dumb tip, but hear me out. I’m not saying that you should go to school to get a degree and be in debt. I’m saying that you should go to school so you can meet likeminded people, practice your craft in a safe environment, share your work with industry professionals, and participate in councils, event planning organizations, and clubs that are in need of your specific skill set.
It was at Douglas College where I worked at the student newspaper, the Other Press. It was there, as a staff writer, where I had to turn in work every week that I learned to hone my craft and start thinking of myself as a professional. I made a lot of mistakes there, but luckily, there were safety nets and supports for me to do so.
For that very reason, I would encourage you to start your content writing journey by attending a few courses and getting involved with the student body.
Start your own blog
The fact that you are reading this means that it worked… somewhat. Starting your own blog, to me, is the most important step in becoming a writer in the modern world. There are still many print publications that are seeking writers, but many organizations that require content and copy are online or in digital formats.
Author and serial entrepreneur, James Altucher often speaks about choosing yourself. In the beginning, you are going to face a lot of rejections, especially as you try to get your work published on “legitimate” and “credible” sites with high traffic numbers. That is going to take work, but until then, it is critical that you stay positive, keep active, and choose yourself.
A blog is in your control. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t sharing the content and nobody is reading it. What matters is that you have a place to start practicing, getting into the habit of publishing regular content, and developing a portfolio.
When an employer does come knocking at your door and asks if you have any samples, you can easily pull out a few links on your blog and share it.
If you detest the idea of starting your own website for some reason, you can start writing on a platform such as Medium.
Outreach to other content writers
This step is going to take a bit of courage and may come across as spammy if you do it without tact. The main goal of this step is to put yourself out in the world, claim that this is what you want to do, and get on the radar of those that are currently doing it.
Content writers are not celebrities… well, some are, but most aren’t. And if you reach out to them with a genuine interest in their work and process, they will happily respond to you. This is a great way to stay active on your path to getting the job you want.
Research companies that you are interested in. Find blog posts, land pages, email copy, etc. that you enjoy. Find out who wrote it. A few clicks should reveal the answer, if not, contacting the firstname.lastname@example.org of the business never hurts.
You can also use a tool called hunter.io to discover email contacts of different businesses. The way I did it was through LinkedIn. Say what you will about LinkedIn, but some of my earliest opportunities came from that platform.
Pitch to online media or business blogs
This is where it starts getting real. At the start, you want to start developing a portfolio with some notable publications that have published your work. These can be online media outlets or a blog from a business in an industry you are interested in.
Yes, you can certainly continue writing cover letters and sending in your resume, but if that is all you are doing, you are not developing, you are not improving. Don’t wait until you get hired to start working. Have a freelancer mindset right away, because simply put, you should never allow yourself to get too comfortable. Even when you get that sweet salary job as a content writer, there is still a lot of room to grow. It’s important to have that mindset at the start and commit to the hustle.
Start by creating a list of places you want to contribute. Read the publications and start typing in your own ideas. Do a quick search with the publication name with keywords from your idea in Google just to confirm that it hasn’t been written about yet. Then start writing your pitch. Pretend like you are on their payroll and you need to come up with 5 ideas every month or if you are wild, every week.
If your ideas and writing are good, then they’d be stupid not to hire you or at least give you a good reference as you continue your job hunt.
Meet with other creatives
Why would you care what designers, photographers, entrepreneurs, filmmakers, painters, and anyone else is doing? Well, they probably need a writer in their life and they don’t even know it yet.
This world is interconnected and all creatives are linked together. Often designers are desperate to find a writer to help them fill out a website or a poster. Where do they go? They can go onto Fiver, sure, or solicit their network and see who they find. You need to be in the network.
Plus other creatives are usually cool people that you yourself can draw a lot of inspiration from.
Profile new companies
This last method is near and dear to my heart because it is the one that landed me my first salary job. I don’t know if it will work for you, but if I got something out of it, surely you can replicate it.
New companies want attention. It doesn’t matter what industry they are in, they are desperate to get the word out. They need writers. They need you to help tell their stories. When new companies send out press releases, respond to them. Get an interview with the CEO and learn about the mission.
Every company has a problem they are aiming to solve with a unique selling point. Show them that you understand what they are trying to accomplish and then write a piece about them and share it wherever you can if you can’t get it published on a local publication… which I’m pretty sure you can if you tried.
This is your foot in the door. Here is where a profile can turn into an internship, into a contracting job, and into a full-time position.
For fun, here is the post that started it all for me.
Content writing is not a glamorous job. It’s a job for those who are hungry to learn, enjoy the act of constantly creating, and evaluating the performance of their work in the world. It’s for those who are always seeking to grow.
Good luck on your path. I’m confident that you can make it. If you are seeking any advice, please do hesitate to leave a message in the comments.