When I wanted to get into writing professionally, it was instantly obvious that I had nothing to show to any potential publishers or clients. Like most people who had found writing to be their passion, I had spent much of my life writing but had very little to show for it. Nobody was going to care that my poetry had made it into a high school magazine back in the day or that I had filled quite a few notebooks with rhymes and short stories.
I read quite a few books on the subject, but I didn’t find a whole lot that helped. I plunged in headfirst and did the best I could, and I managed to start building up a pretty decent CV. There are still many more things I want to add to it, but considering that my freelancing business currently keeps me glued to my desk, I would say it’s doing the job.
Make a Portfolio: Even if you don’t have any credits, you can still show off your writing skills. Put together a portfolio that represents your best pieces in all genres you have worked in. This gives a potential client or publisher an example of your abilities even if nobody else has given you a chance before.
Start Local: Local businesses often need a little bit of help with brochure copy, web content, or blog material. Call them up, ask for the office manager, and tell them what you can do. It’s a great opportunity to get a little bit of experience under your belt, as well as a reference to throw on your resume.
Use Your Connections: Do you know someone who runs their own business? Have you noticed that your buddy’s website is consistently filled with typos? Offer your services! You can work out payments or maybe barter for their services, or even just do some work for free in exchange for using them on your resume. (Please, please don’t ask your friend if you can use him as a reference without doing any work. I know people lie on resumes all the time, but that doesn’t make it right.)
Freelancing Websites: The first time I tried eLance (now Upwork), I was completely discouraged. It seemed impossible to land jobs, and most of the listings I saw offered very little money. I gave up and didn’t think about it for a few years. When I came back, I had more motivation since I had quit my job and gone back to school. I started out with several jobs that paid literally next to nothing ($5 or $10). Don’t overlook these opportunities, because they show up on your job history on your profile. They prove that someone gave you a shot and that you did well! Soon enough, I was landing much bigger jobs and finding plenty of work. Many people put down these websites, claiming that they are a complete ripoff for freelancers. I have acquired several jobs that paid $1,000 and up, so I tend to disagree.
Start-Up Magazines: If you’re looking for some publishing credits, start submitting to smaller, start-up literary magazines. These are usually based online, require no reading fee, and have less competition for publication. While they might not hold as much weight as some of the larger mags, they’re a great place to start.
Get Outside Your Comfort Zone: Just because you have never done something before doesn’t mean you can’t. When I got my first offer for a ghostwriting gig, I was terrified. I had never done anything like that before, and now I had committed to writing an entire book! I dove in and did the best I could. My client was very happy with the work, and ghostwriting is now the vast majority of my freelance work. If someone offers you a job, go for it!
Take every opportunity you can to build up your resume. It’s going to take some time and lots of calling and emailing and submitting, but it will happen.