“Write without pay until somebody offers to pay.” – Mark Twain
If you are reading this guide, it’s likely that you have written something simply for the sake of writing it in the past; not for a school project or because you were compelled to, but just for the hell of it. This is a good place to start. As with any specialty, the basics need to be nailed down first – you can’t turn a triple Lutz before you’ve figured out how to put a pair of ice skates on.
Here are a few tips to help you get started on your writing journey.
- Check with your favorite places. Yes, people will pay you for your work, but don’t be afraid to farm out your newfound or growing skill for the sake of a little exposure. Local businesses may need new marketing Copy, which is a term for the words that are put into materials like magazine or newspaper ads, and you can offer to write something for a place like a favorite restaurant. If you end up writing something for them successfully, you can then add that establishment to your writing portfolio as a little professional credit in your favor.
- Peer Review Practice. If you’re hesitant to dip your toe in the waters of pro writing, but want to get a feel for it, review sites are an excellent place to try your skills. Head to sites like Yelp.com and type up a missive about your favorite places to eat, or visit to start exercising your writing muscles. Most projects will require you to write from a perspective that is not your own. With this in mind, keep your “training wheel” projects, such as writing for a local business or review site, constrained in the same manner:
“China Garden, a garden of exotic Asian food delicacies, is conveniently situated at the juncture of route….”
As opposed to the “wrong” first-person perspective:
“I went to China Garden last week and the food was delicious! I had no trouble finding it, it was right off of….”
This will help get you in the mindset of writing for the customer as opposed to simply telling a story.
- Don’t plagiarize, ever. Not even a little. Google has special programming that tells it when your work copies even a single sentence from somewhere else on the web. This will trigger a red flag in plagiarism checkers like Copyscape, a very popular program used by clients to screen work for originality. Use other sites for research if you need to, but be sure to put everything in your own words to avoid misunderstandings and site penalties.