So You Wanna Be a Writer: Where to Start


There are a ton of resources that can help a writer get started in the craft. Most of them sort of push people who write into submitting and getting their work out there. These websites certainly are inspiring but they also tend to be extended sell pitches for materials. I don’t want to sell you anything but I am often asked about “how to get started” with writing in my personal life. So here’s a quick guide. No courses, no future sells, just practical advice.

This is a first of a series of blogs where I will discuss answers to the common questions I get regarding writing.

Where do I start?

This is the number one question that people ask. You start by writing. It’s important to have one or two portfolio pieces that you can send to perspective clients along with your resume or CV. If you’re just getting started then obviously you don’t have much to put on there or any real samples from clients. That’s fine, all is not lost.

Portfolio Samples

Have you ever done ANY writing? For school, for a local newsletter, and extended Facebook note? If you have something that is a few hundred words that isn’t just about your personal feelings (although those are fine too) then it can be used as a portfolio item. Clean it up, make it shine and save it as a PDF document with your name and information on it.

You’re not likely to catch any big fish with your current random samples, but it’s a start.

What About A CV/Resume?

As for your CV/Resume, don’t turn in the document that you gave to your 9-5 boss. Clients aren’t interested in your typing speed, your ability with MS Office, or your driving record. They want to know what you know about. In this case, this document is a sort of quick stop for your experience. If you’re starting from the bottom, your education and topics that you’re very familiar with should go here.

If you were HR specialist for the last 20 years, that should be included. If you worked in Insurance that should be there. If you happen to work with cars for a number of years, that should be there. If you do have any publications, even if they were done for another job, short stories, newsletters, anything then you should list that here as well. This document isn’t about showcasing skills so much as it is about giving the potential client an idea of your knowledge base.

You’ll need both of these things when starting out as you’ll likely want to apply for gigs that you have a background in. If all you have is a short article that you wrote about the Easter parade for your local neighborhood newsletter, that probably won’t land you a job writing about engine parts. But if you couple that writing sample with a resume that shows you have 20 years working hands on in a garage, it might.

Things You Do Not Have To Do

There’s really only one thing that you do not have to do: Write for free.

A lot of new writers think that when they’re starting they have to write for free to get a portfolio built up. You do not. I would not recommend doing so. Unless it’s something you WANT to do such as a volunteer newsletter, some work for a good friend, etc you do not have to write for anywhere without being paid for it.

Writing for free is a trap that people get stuck in all the time. Don’t waste time with it when there are plenty of people out there that are willing to pay you for your work.

Way back when I started freelancing I used excerpts from papers I had written as samples. My first gigs were with content mills. I took a few of the pieces I had written for them and applied to better jobs. Notice what’s missing? Work done for “exposure”.

Next Friday I’ll be posting how to find and apply for writing work.


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