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Nine lessons for starting your writing career

My twenties was the most productive train wreck.

Between graduating college, working for a year, hating work, going back to school, getting a job, getting laid off from said job, waiting tables, rejections, steps forward, steps backward, making good money, making very little money, to FINALLY feeling like all of the chaos amounted to something…you could say I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

Here are nine of the top lessons I learned in my twenties that led me to where I am today in my career. If you’re in your twenties or just starting a career in freelance writing, I hope this can help you!

  1. Your resume and cover letter don’t speak for themselves; you have to do more to show that you’re qualified. I struggled with this for so long. I thought I had everything in my cover letters and resume to show employers that I was qualified and as long as I answered their interview questions well, I had to have a great shot at getting a job offer. Wrong. I had to work really hard to stand out in the job interviews by literally taking a completely different approach. Learn all about my secret interview weapons.
  1. Say yes to a lot of things. It’s frustrating when you may not be offered the job you really wanted or offered a lower salary than you anticipated or an opportunity presents itself that may not be in the industry you wanted…but you have to learn somehow. Especially when you’re just starting out, this is the chance to just do everything you can, try everything you can, and take those experiences with you into every next step of your career. 
  1. Talk to as many people as possible. Network, network, network! You never know who other people know that can lead you to your next opportunity or to just learn more from. This is a great time to meet as many people as possible and build a strong foundation for your professional connections. Creating a LinkedIn profile is a really great start for this. I’ve recently received some great inbound leads just from being active on it.
  1. Don’t be afraid to take a job for less pay for the experience. There are many ways to make money. I wouldn’t have landed where I am today if I didn’t take a nearly $15,000 pay cut for one of my job changes. But that job was so incredibly valuable at teaching me a LOT about marketing and you know what? A little tutoring and GrubGub delivering on the side never hurt anyone for a little extra cash. You have more control over your life than you think. Live humbly and work hard—and remember, that hustle life doesn’t have to be forever, just until you’ve got enough momentum for your next move.
  1. Create your own blog and do marketing for yourself. I can’t stress how much I learned just by having my own blog and running my own social media accounts. They became a playground for experimenting and learning what worked and what didn’t and really growing as a writer. With your own blog and using social media, you have complete freedom to make it all what you wish and that’s where real learning happens.
  1. Make an online portfolio as soon as possible. I put this off for too long, but quickly understood why everyone was talking about it as soon as it was up. When your portfolio is online, you never have to attach 7839894 documents to an email ever again. And even better, prospects can discover you and visit your website without you having to do a thing! It will always be available for anyone to view and prospects can contact you about potential work. Win-win!

Speaking of portfolio…if you really want to “wow” your prospects, take a look at my guide that walks you through a bunch of writing samples you can create on your own to feel confident about showing your worth!

  1. Try out as many social media platforms as possible. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to be super active on every single platform, but become familiar with the popular ones. This will help you when you’re building your personal/professional brand and also if you need to know how to use certain platforms for a client or employer.
  1. Try things that aren’t directly related to writing. I never thought that I would ever be editing videos or creating graphics, but I eventually got there. It’s so useful to have a basic background of skills like these because as a writer, you’ll likely be working with graphic designers and video editors and it’s great to understand their perspective as much as you can. Canva is my favorite website to create simple graphics and I use Pinnacle Studio to edit videos. Give it a try!
  1. Freelancing is a great way to improve your writing since it’s low risk for you and your client. My very first experience freelancing was on UpWork. At the time, since I was so inexperienced, I didn’t get paid much but I got a crash course in how to handle clients and what freelancing meant. This is also where I learned what copywriting was after being hired to write some web copy for the first time. Fiverr and Contra are two other freelance platforms you may want to also consider.

Hopefully this helps you no matter where you are in your career! I truly just stayed open-minded and continued to try new things. It’s a lot of hard work—a LOT—but so, so worth it in the end. As long as you have a strong “why”, you’ll always have a good reason to keep pushing, trying, and learning.

What’s helped you in your career so far? Share below!

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