Most writers remember the day that they said aloud, “I want to be a writer.” If you don’t remember one momentous occasion it’s because it happened several times. You had to convince yourself, and everyone else around you, that it was a possibility. To your own admission, the idea didn’t come out without a certain level of skepticism as to whether or not becoming a writer, and solely a writer, could be accomplished.
In a world that depends on social media for its linguistic prowess, it may be hard for those of us who made the study of language our primary concern to see our own value when hashtags pervade everything we read. But knowing how to wield language with ferocious veracity is a talent. Social media is a gift for showcasing that talent. Social media is in fact the key to successfully exhibiting yourself as a writer. Here are a few tips on using social media to your advantage:
Compile your resources and materials
Before you can embark on a writing career, it’s important to put together a portfolio. This shouldn’t be your old school manila folder. This is an online portfolio. Include your resume, which you should build to showcase any previous writing experience. Gather every article you’ve ever written into one locale. If you don’t have electronic copies, scan what you have and save them electronically. You’ll need these for any potential freelance gigs in the future. At Your Library has some great resources and ideas for going about creating an attractive and interactive online portfolio. The first way to jumpstart your freelance career is give yourself a professional look with your portfolio.
Know your strengths as a writer
The “Jack of All Trades” does not exist. Everyone says that it does, but it doesn’t. Figure out what it is that you know. If you are currently working, chances are that you know a good bit about your current position. Write about topics that are pertinent to your position, or consider continuing your education to build up your strengths in a field that already interests you.
If you spend your free time secretly scouring the local art museum, write about the collections you are seeing. People who are passionate about their subject will be able to get others passionate about their subject. That is of incredible value when you hit the social media sphere. It’s good that you started this process by building a portfolio because you’ll be able to see and compare your writing.
Go through and make a list of what areas you are really good at writing about, and which you aren’t. When you are looking for jobs, you’ll be able to know with confidence that certain areas are more your style. This is also a great time to review your weaknesses and which areas you need more material on and need to work on. For example, if you have no news type articles, you might want to spend some time beefing up that section.
Do social media research
Find out exactly what every new piece of social media has to offer. If you don’t know what a tweet is, find out what a tweet is. If you can’t figure out why it matters if a Facebook group has 5 “likes” or 5000, figure it out (hint: you want more “likes”). Do some reading.
Spend time surfing the net. Get an idea of what it means to be involved in Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Pinterest. Topsy is an excellent tool for finding out what topics are trending on the web, what topics have already passed, as well as who the leaders are in each of those topics. This will make you more marketable because you’ll be up-to-date with the latest trends. You can also find jobs this way because often times, people will tweet or post what they need done! The third thing you should do to jumpstart your freelance career is become familiar with the online world and prove that you can be a part of it.
Create an online persona
Decide which media outlets will best work for you, and start creating your social media career. Whatever you do, you’ll want to be able to easily manage and maintain each outlet you’re using. It is often suggested that you create accounts that are separate from any current personal ones you may be using.
There’s no need for your professional world to know what you look like when you get out of bed in the morning, unless you’re writing about sleep patterns for the sleep-deprived. Follow this old school mantra and you’ll be good to go: If you wouldn’t let your grandmother see it, don’t put it online. It’s slightly modified. WinePressPublishing’s Blog has some great advice on how to go about building your online self. Showcase your writing on your Facebook page and tweet news worthy related posts. This will show that you know what you’re talking about! The last step was to learn about it all, now put that to use and show off your stuff.
Participate in online writing groups
Search for freelance groups who are available as resources for learning about writing, finding gigs, and connecting to people who have similar interests, the latter of which is crucial. Social networking is just that: a place to network. Use the online writing groups to connect with people. Comment on articles that are of interest to you and start conversations with the authors. Building relationships with the people in these online groups will enhance your knowledge of various subject areas. These groups of people will give insight into better ways to express yourself through your writing, as well as better ways to market what it is that you are writing.
Ask your fans and followers for feedback. Learn what posts and topics have created the most interest and movement on your sites. Make sure you respond to every comment so they know you care about what they say. This may sound tedious, but if you respond to them, they’re more likely to come back and respond to you.
In fact, the more interaction you have with your fans and followers, the more credibility you have when you ask to be a guest writer on someone’s blog, or ask to write an article for a local newspaper. Better yet, you’re at an advantage when someone asks you to write for them. Learn to create content that requires feedback. Ask questions, be funny, hit emotions, use infographics, strive to be memorable.
Jumpstarting a career into freelance writing can be a challenge. Learning the ropes of online social media can feel just as impossible. But when the room grows silent, and the barely-audible snickers pass away, you’ll realize that climbing the ropes to a job you love is well worth the climb, and social media has just made it easier.
To get your career as a freelancer started, you should follow the steps above. By gathering a selection of your writing you learn your strengths, work on them, showcase yourself and connect with others on social media and writing groups! The whole time you’ll be learning what you have to offer and how you can improve, and that’s how you jumpstart a career! Good luck!
Image by The Daring Librarian