View Full Version : So how do you break in?

05-14-2005, 04:50 PM
I suscribe to the Absolute Markets Premium edition, but many of the ads for something I might want to try, to bring in some extra income, require "2-3" years of experience or something similar. How does one break in to the copywriting or editor or even proofreading fields without experience? I've written many things for publication, but none of them have given me the kind of experience these sites want.


05-17-2005, 03:06 PM
Good question and one I'm struggling with myself. I'd suggest you check out Peter Bowerman's book, The Well-Fed Writer. He gives specific advice on developing a portfolio. One of his suggestions is to create mockup pieces, based on a pretend client. He also suggests doing volunteer work for a group that gives you the chance to create the material; doing it pro bono should give you more reign in controlling the content and look than if you were being paid to follow client instruction. In addition, his book has much good advice about working in the copywriting field. I don't know what you've had published, but would think that should be of some help.

Good luck!

05-17-2005, 09:33 PM
One way to blast through the gate is to offer your first piece to a magazine pro bono. This is different from "on spec," where you get paid if the editor accepts it. Pro bono is just what it says: fr*e.

I wouldn't do this for big-name consumer magazines, where you're lucky to get published every year or two -- if at all. But for regional publications, trade and business journals, or any magazine that pays fairly and is a good prospect for frequent work, it might be worth it.

The only time you'd do this is when you want to craft a relationship with the editor for REGULAR, REPEAT assignments (at your regular, fair rate).

Your first article is the only reliable way the editor can get a feel for whether you'll work out as a writer for their mag. Your past experience and education are far less important than what you can provide to them now, and the only way to show is to do.

If your first article is good, the editor won't care about your past experience (or "lack" of it). All that matters is whether you can write well, now ... for them.

- Michael

P.S. - Some writers get rabid about being paid for everything they write. That's fine. We're not talking about "writing for fr*e." Think of it as the cost of marketing in order to land a lucrative, long-term client.

05-17-2005, 09:46 PM
Featurewriter has a good point. I've been writing a semi-regular column on business writing for The Denver Business Journal for a couple of years now.

I don't get paid for the column, but it puts my name and face out in front of Denver's business community. I've picked up several new clients from that work.

05-28-2005, 05:12 AM
Here are some tips for you guys (BTW, I've never had luck applying for a copywriting job from listings).

1. Building a Portfolio- not as complex as you'd imagine. Just rewrite some ads and make some samples of your own. There, now you have a portfolio filled with writing samples. You can also do some volunteer work for the local library, local non profit, church, etc

2. Post an ad online or run an ad in the local newspaper

3. Write personalized letters to local businesses, describing your service.

07-09-2005, 04:01 AM
Thanks to Jim for starting this thread and thanks to everyone who has replied because it's all pretty good advice. I used to work in TV commercials as an assistant camera person--to break in, I did my first couple jobs for free for a company I would later do all of my work with. I've since changed careers, but the pro bono thing has worked for me. I'm annoyed I didn't think about trying it for writing for magazines... not a bad idea.

I'm thinking about telling them that they can have my first piece free if they like it as long as they agree to at least listen to my future story pitches.

Does anyone think that's a bad idea?

I'm concerned that putting demands on them (or even accidentally making them think I'm putting demands on them) might harm my chances.

09-16-2005, 10:16 PM
Writing for free is very controversial: "giving it away" can devalue our work as writers. I would do it once or twice to get a clip, but would really try everything else imaginable first. You don't get anything for free from other professionals: dentists, teachers, lawyers. Why should they get our writing for free?

09-18-2005, 10:07 PM
I work as a proofreader. I began with one of those low-paying, part-time student jobs at the community college I was attending, taking courses like technical writing and business comm. I don't have a degree.

Now, I work in games publishing, proofreading game packaging, manuals, marketing materials, etc. It was a combination of my piddly student-job experience, technical savvy, and love of games, I think, that landed me the job.

10-27-2005, 10:26 PM
Another approach would be to do some work on documentation for any Open Source projects (sourceforge.org, freshmeat.net). There are a lot of great open source products out there but the documentation sucks. Great opportunity to have your name associated with a product AND have something to show to future clients.