Working as a professional writer doesn’t necessarily involve penning lengthy novels — you don’t even need to own a quill.
This is the internet age, and the digital marketing industry offers many fantastic opportunities for wordsmiths to follow their passions and get paid on a reliable basis.
Let’s say, then, that you have a way with words (or at least a great deal of relevant enthusiasm), and you want to become a professional writer in the marketing world.
Maybe you’ve got to grips with the basics of blogging and feel ready to take things to the next level.
How can you manage this? It’s a competitive market, after all, and you’ll be battling some talented candidates.
Well, it’s really a matter of doing the right things, giving yourself the best possible chance, and being patient.
Speaking of the right things to do, here’s my basic advice for getting started:
Cover your bases for skill development
The foundation of any writer is their rock-solid grasp of everyday language.
You don’t need a world-class vocabulary or a poet’s grasp of meter to get writing work, but you do need to have an excellent understanding of grammar, phrasing, and tone of voice.
You must also have solid typing skills at the very least (you might not need to write by hand, though it’s still good to have efficient handwriting in case it ever seems useful).
If you don’t already possess these things, then you need to walk before you run. You have two realistic options: train yourself up through dedicated practice (either formally or informally), or find a company that will take you on and invest in your development.
The latter is tricky, though, requiring you to make a compelling case that you (despite your inexperience) are worth it.
Next, you should think about general versatility when it comes to formats and content types.
You might be tasked with writing short-form copy for PPC ads or social media posts, or long-form articles needed to chase specific SEO targets.
If you haven’t written a particular type of piece before, address that now — write some sample pieces (they’ll be useful later).
Lastly, make a concerted effort to work on your creative writing skills, because the marketing field calls for some inventive prose — there are online courses at Jericho Writers that teach how to write a book that you might find useful, so make the investment if you consider it justified.
If you’d rather just pick things up as you go, you can still make it work, but formal grounding is generally worthwhile.
Create a high-quality portfolio
Experience is useful, as is a passion, and good interview technique can be advantageous — but what will help you more than anything else is having an impressive and well-rounded portfolio.
You’re asserting your competence as a writer, and what can demonstrate it more effectively than a curated selection of your best work?
You might well be called upon to create new pieces for specific interviews, even writing them during the interviews, so you won’t be able to skate by purely through having a great portfolio, but it will make a massive difference overall.
In addition to showing what you can do (both the level of quality you can reach and the different styles and formats you can manage), it will also show something of your character.
When you make your portfolio, then, be sure to give it some personality. Don’t stick to the first generic template you find.
Since you should be creating an online portfolio (it’s so much easier, cheaper and faster to share than a printed portfolio), you have a lot of creative freedom — a site like Portfoliobox will really help here if you lack technical expertise.
The more work you put into the design, the more it will help your chances.
Display confidence and realism
Marketing, being closely related to the slippery sales industry, is inevitably packed with aspiring writers who habitually make lofty claims about their capabilities and the results they can deliver.
And while it can sometimes feel as though these hyper-confident individuals get away with it more often than not, that really isn’t the case.
Sooner or later, it comes down to analytics, and there’s no blogging an escape from a demonstrably-terrible performance.
That said, it’s also entirely possible to go wrong in the opposite direction. If you commit to being 100% practical and realistic about everything asked of you, showing no particular belief in your ability to do better, it won’t motivate people to put their faith in you.
To excel, you often need to commit to getting something done even when you’re not absolutely sure if you can do it. It forces your hand, driving you to learn, adapt, and become a better writer.
The truth — the sometimes-awkward truth — is that you need to show both confidence and realism in equal measure.
Look at it this way: if you’re not realistic, then your confidence is baseless and doesn’t mean anything.
Be honest about your shortcomings, but show a can-do attitude: through avoiding the two common extremes, you’ll stand out from the pack.
Look carefully for the right opportunity
You might feel as though you need to take the first job offer that comes along, but if you want to build a lasting career, you’re better served assuming a more long-term perspective.
Consider that your first position in the marketing world will help shape you into the professional you’ll become: choose poorly, and it will have lasting negative repercussions.
Assuming you’ve done what we’re looked at so far (built up your skills, created a portfolio, and built up a smart level of confidence), you should be able to attract some interest if you cater to the right types of position and are willing to be somewhat flexible in terms of where you work and how much you make — so don’t worry so much about your options.
Before you seriously consider working somewhere, you should research the company thoroughly. Learn about its culture, its work, its history.
Authenticity is a powerful tool in marketing, so if you end up working in a place you don’t like, it’ll affect your work. Wait until you find a company that really suits you, then give it your best effort.
There’s no shortage of writing work in the marketing world, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get it.
Follow these steps to develop your skills and make your candidacy as impressive as possible, then wait for the right opportunity to arrive. Good luck.
About the Author
Rodney Laws is the founder of ecommerceplatforms.io – a website built to enable ecommerce startups and business owners around the world achieve success online.