Most-Have Skills for Starting a Writing Career

What? Oh noooo! Being talented isn’t enough? We need to have a whole nuther set of skills? What? More than one whole nuther set? OMG! OMG!

Well, we have to face the truth sometime, so:

by Kristin Wong

So you want to get paid for your writing, but you’ve never been published. You have no formal experience, and no one’s ever hired you for a writing-related job. The professional legwork that comes with getting paid to write can be intimidating. Honing a few important skills can help you get started.

Writing, the simple act of putting pen to paper, is challenging enough on its own. But most writers have no problem putting in the creative effort. It’s the business side of writing that trips us up—the work that comes with writing to earn a living. Beyond creativity, here are the life skills that will help you launch a professional writer career when you have zero work experience.

Social Skills

Not all writers are introverted, but many of us certainly are. It can be a tough hurdle to jump, but social skills are a necessity when you’re trying to sell others on your ability to communicate with words. Here are a few ways you’ll have to break out of your shell.

Don’t be Afraid to Network

I’ve always hated adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” It implies you can make it simply based on your contacts. While that may be true for some, most of us will eventually have to prove we can do the work, too.

Still, it’s true that many opportunities are given to people through networking. After all, it’s just convenient. If I need to hire a writer, why spend hours looking for one when I already know a handful of skilled ones? You probably already know how to network—meetup groups, keeping in touch with colleagues, communicating with fellow writers, etc. But if you have a hard time doing it, here are some tips:

  • Come up with a networking “quota.” Force yourself to commit to a certain amount of professional engagements per month.
  • In chatting with people, don’t worry about being funny or clever. It’s enough to just be nice.
  • Give before you receive. Offer to help someone out to build your network. A simple gesture can go a long way.

You also want to make sure to be professional, diplomatic and kind. If an editor turns you down, thank them for their time. When you leave a job, stay on good terms with not only your employer, but also the employees you interacted with.

Of course, you’re not guaranteed a gig just by being diplomatic and friendly. But opportunities often arise through networking, and a professional social demeanor goes a long way.

Embrace Social Media

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