As print media entered a decline, talent drifted towards the digital world, and the level of competition in the writing industry intensified greatly. Newcomers suddenly found themselves competing for entry-level positions with seasoned pros, and finding an opportunity became an arduous task for the average writer.
If you’re looking to enter today’s digital writing industry, you need to be aware of the challenge ahead of you, and the kind of candidate you need to be to get noticed. It all starts with how you present yourself to prospective employers, and that’s just what we’re going to look at now.
Compose a Basic Pitch Template
While it’s technically possible that you’ll have a great success rate with your pitching and find a full-time gig in no time at all, it’s fairly unlikely, so you should assume that you’ll have to send a lot of pitches before you get anywhere.
Having a template you can tweak for particular cases will save you a lot of time and stop you agonizing over individual emails. That part is particularly important because you can’t get stuck on specific cases. You have to move on and look elsewhere.
Start out with something like this:
“Hi [their name],
My name is [your name] and I’m a digital writer with [your skills and/or experience]. I heard about you through [the reference] and immediately thought that I might be a good writing fit.
I’m particularly good at [relevant thing], and I can offer [useful thing], which could be useful for you and your audience. Here’s a link to my portfolio: [link]. I’d love to know what you think.
Well, I won’t take up any more of your time. I hope to hear from you soon!
You can take things out, add them in, or change them as necessary. And keep it as short as possible while hitting the most important elements. If they consider your points, read your writing and decide they’re interested, they’ll get back to you. No amount of padding out your pitch will convince them that you’re the person for the job.
Identify Your Standout Skills
Today’s digital writer needs to be able to handle a lot of different elements, but some are more appealing to prospective employers than others. Knowing what makes you an exceptional choice will ensure that you don’t commit any time to showing off the wrong talents. You might be able to write backwards, but it isn’t something anyone will want to hire you for.
Try to pick out really specific points. The more specific, the better. Noting that you’re a capable writer won’t really help, because any candidate for a writing position should at the very least be a capable writer. And don’t lean too hard on experience. It isn’t everything — skills are.
Can you knock out solid blog posts in no time at all? Research with remarkable efficiency? Strike a conversational tone so compelling that the reader is inevitably disarmed? Perhaps you’re so adept with SEO-friendly formatting that everything you do is packed with the perfect keywords. If so, that’s what you want to showcase. Technical skills can be especially welcome in digital writers, and technical writers in general are often in demand.
If you can demonstrate a specific skill like one of those, you’ll mark yourself as someone who could be hired and put to good use straight away, which lowers the perceived risk and vaults you closer to the front of the pack.
- Use data and be specific about achievements.
- Share real case studies.
- Show in no uncertain terms how you specifically added value to projects.
Make a Varied Portfolio
A popular approach these days is to create an online portfolio. That way, you don’t need to worry about file formats or compression or email attachment limits — you just need to send a link. Since it’s much easier to click a link than it is to download and open a file, your prospective employers or clients will be more likely to read your work.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to take a lot of work or investment to create a decent portfolio site. There are plenty of low-cost ways to create sites that will handle the basics for you. Then, it’s just a matter of picking a theme and uploading your material.
You don’t need to show people everything you’ve ever written. They wouldn’t read it all anyway. Try to pick out a selection that shows versatility in format, tone, and subject. If you have two pieces that are similarly good and do much the same thing, only show one of them.
Remember that your portfolio doesn’t have to consist solely of client work. You can add personal projects too. In fact, this is often the best approach to take, especially if you don’t feel that you’ve ever had the perfect opportunity to show what you can do. If you don’t have any personal projects, why not work on one between pitches? Everyone respects that kind of initiative.
- A varied portfolio shows initiative and diversity.
- Try to show a broad range of work, and include pro bono pieces too to pad things out.
- Make a portfolio site easy to navigate and use — writer sites are often better kept super simple.
Learn When, and How Often, to Pitch
Something you’ll need to master is walking the line between sending too many and too few pitches, and this comes down to how you select the recipients. It isn’t simply a matter of choosing quality or quantity. You have to find a balance.
If you’re too selective, you’ll let good opportunities pass you by. If you’re not selective enough, too much of your time will go towards low-quality work that won’t benefit you in the long run. There’s no magical solution to this: it’s just something you have to figure out as you go.
What you can do is try to make good contacts in the process. If you get a polite rejection but you think there’s potential there, make a note to try them again down the line. It’s often more a matter of timing than anything else. Catch them at the right point and you might just get a chance to show how valuable an asset you can be.
Be ready to network on social media, in groups, and at events. If you are ready and willing to share work and ideas, you will find it a lot easier to catch people at the right times. People like working with collaborative writers, so make sure you get yourself out there.
The digital writing world is incredibly chaotic, with a huge amount of demand but a similarly-huge level of supply. You can find your place in it, but you need to be prepared to move past a lot of rejections, show some initiative, and give people a reason to invest their time and resources in you over every other candidate.
Kayleigh Toyra: Content Strategist
Half-Finnish, half-British marketer based in Bristol. I love to write and explore themes like women in marketing and content strategy. I manage a small team of writers at a boutique agency.