The Secret Behind Getting Those First Writing Assignments

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Article by Wendy McCance

If you are just getting started as a writer, I’m sure you feel overwhelmed, uncertain and are trying to get as much information as you can on the right way to jump into this field.  I tend to see the same information across the web regarding how to become a writer.  What frustrates me is that no one ever writes about the little things.  Ways to get to your goal faster or how it feels to start a career as a writer.

I pride myself on dissecting the little things that ultimately make a big difference.  Hell, my blog is full of writing advice that I have yet to see discussed in detail elsewhere.  Today, I would like to share a secret about getting off on the right foot and making a splash in half the time.

When you decide to drop a traditional job and go for what you are passionate about, it is scary, exhilarating and can be downright nerve-wracking.  There are constant questions popping up in your head.  When I started my career, my biggest question had to do with the correct way to present myself and appear polished as I searched for work.  Along the way, I came to an important realization and it changed the way I went after business.  The best part was that it worked very well.

What I did was  to confidently go after what I considered to be a big prospect.  I never used online writing sites to find writing jobs.  I found all of my work from my own persistence reaching out to people who weren’t actively looking for a writer.

I have written articles on the value of LinkedIn and even threw in a template of what I would write to a possible prospect.  I laid it all out so that you could take my tips, apply them and see great results yourself.  http://www.searchingforthehappiness.com/using-linkedin-to-find-freelance-writing-assignments/

What I failed to mention was that I was brave.  I aimed high and connected with the best people I could find.  Most of my connections are CEO’s, owners, directors, consultants etc…  The idea was to go after the decision maker, or the person who could put me in front of the decision maker.  I was amazed at how many connections I was able to secure.  The best part was that after some time, I began receiving daily requests to connect to these same type of  high-caliber connections.  It snowballed.  I knew so and so, so I must be someone important in another high-powered connections eye.

Because of the way I went after connecting with LinkedIn members, not only did I get some terrific assignments, but I began connecting to people who had seemed way out of my reach.  Sports figures, TV personalities, owners of sports teams and big names in my local community began to flock to my profile.  I wasn’t just getting good assignments, I was getting good assignments from some dream clients.

It all came down to the way I prospected.  I got cocky and approached people who I felt were way out of my league.  I connected with the people I wished to work with.

Don’t cut yourself short.  Don’t go after an assignment if it doesn’t thrill you.  I believe you will burn out and become frustrated with the process if all you are getting are writing assignments that really don’t thrill you.

What if you don’t have clips?  I struggled with this for a few months.  I froze and didn’t attempt to connect to anyone because I had very little to show a potential client.

Two things helped me get over this hurdle.

  1. I started blogging for our local paper.  Being able to say you are connected to a well-known local paper made a major difference.  Anyone can add a blog to a paper if the paper has blogs on their site, by simply asking.  Honestly, just reach out to the community engagement editor and ask if they might be interested in placing your blog on their site.  It’s shockingly that easy.
  2. My blog also did wonders for me.  If anyone asked to see some of my writing, I could either send them a few of my posts or direct them to my website.  No one ever looked further to see what else I had.  I was only ever asked one time who I had worked for.

About 80% of my clients never asked for anything at all.  They liked my pitch and passed an assignment my way.  I had spent months worrying about having a strong portfolio, or any clips at all to show for months.  It was a huge and unnecessary waste of time.

The best advice I can give you is to just jump in and forget the concerns.  Most worries never pan out and are just a waste of time.  As I built my business, I was able to build a nice portfolio.  When I go into a meeting, I have several examples of my work.  Even so, I never pull them out unless there is an assignment on the table and I have a good example of a similar assignment I can show my client for comparison.  The clips just aren’t needed like you would think.  An example is two recent meetings.  One was with a newspaper and the other with a major furniture retailer.  I was never asked to show my work.  I walked away with a job offer that I ended up passing on and another offer that I accepted.

So, as you begin your adventure, remember to aim high and be fearless.  You will have the same chance of getting a job as you would if you went after these online jobs.  Actually, you will most likely do much better if you are the one reaching out because you have just eliminated any competition.  Your ability to secure the job will be based solely on what you bring to the table.

Here is a partial list of job titles you should look for when prospecting for business:

  • Owner
  • Director
  • CEO
  • President/Vice President
  • Founder
  • Consultant
  • Advisor
  • Talent Acquisition Manager
  • Partner
  • General Manager
  • Social Marketing Manager
  • Senior Community Manager
  • Marketing Consultant
  • PR Consultant
  • Co-Founder
  • Media Relations Coordinator
  • Strategic Marketer
  • Strategic Development
  • Editor

For more information, check out The Secrets to Getting Writing Assignments Part 2.

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Wendy McCance

Wendy McCance is a Michigan based freelance writer and social media consultant. Wendy has gained attention as the founder of the popular blog Searching for the Happiness which can be viewed in 9 local papers online, including the Oakland Press. The combination of writing skills and social media knowledge is what makes Wendy such a powerhouse to work with. Stay tuned for opportunities to advertise, guest post and as always, have your questions answered.

To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: mccance.wendy@gmail.com

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17 thoughts on “The Secret Behind Getting Those First Writing Assignments

  1. Pingback: Secrets to Getting Writing Assignments Part 2 - Searching For The Happiness

  2. I keep stumbling on your work via pinterest, but today post by post I’m retrieving information that is so beneficial, and inspiring, and for that I truly want to say thank you from one writer to another because no one else has information out there like this, and it makes the process of trying to chase after, work towards, pursue, and then accomplish our dreams, goals, and aspirations exhausting, and time consuming.

    Yesterday for example I found out just how un-supportive people that are close to us can be when someone stormed in my room, looked at what I was doing online, and said “How is that making you money, are you telling me that you are going to start pursuing this garbage and not make any money rather than finding an opportunity that really works, because it’s apparent that if all you ever do is research writing techniques you aren’t ever going to just start writing.”

    I of course got defensive, but at the same time that conversation killed my own self confidence the longer the conversation went on, but it didn’t stop me, because here I am right back at it today, only today I’ve found information that is actually beneficial, so again, I just want to say; thank you.

    • This comment truly made my day!! Thanks so very much. My daughter wants to be a dancer. She is in her first year of college and she has had to deal with the “good intentions” of others who are trying to suggest she take another route instead of dance. We have had many conversations about this. I understand because, like you said, you get that type of feedback with writing or generally any artistic pursuit. My advice to my daughter was that the people who don’t get it are the people who could never do what she is doing. They don’t have the guts, the vision or the determination to succeed in anything other than paths that have been walked on many times by many people. Sadly, going the way they go about their future doesn’t guarantee any more success and they can live a lifetime without ever knowing what it feels like to get up every morning excited to do what you love most. Just hang in there. The doubters will make you stronger and the satisfaction will be greater when you are doing what you love as well as making a good living doing it.

  3. EVERYTHING you share and help us be better writers, media marketing, and picking up writing jobs have been awesomely valuable to me! I really take heed in all you share here. Now that things are settling, I’ll be coming often to learn more on how I too can write for $$$…..I’ve Put my 2 books on the back burner for now, as my living arrangements here have Zapped my creative Flow. So I’ve been more Focused on learning how to get more writing jobs!

    This is such a good post, I’d love your permission to *SHARE* this blog post on my other Book/Writer Blog http://www.simplesite.com/CatherineLyonAddictedToDimes as my *This Weeks Guest Blog*….just say the word and I’d love to share!!
    Hugs & Blessings,

    Author, Catherine Lyon 🙂

  4. Hi Wendy,

    I wish I would found your blog earlier but as said, it is never too late to have anything right now. After going through few posts on your blog, What I liked most about you is you never cut yourself short, You always aimed high and that is the real secret of your success.

    I have read another post of yours where you have mentioned that you have been offered for new assignment after your 1st client liked your very first job but you dared to refuse that assignment because Finance is not your forte. Yes, that’s the daring act. You have never accepted anything that comes your way and you really know it since beginning about what you are looking for. This is what brings you success.

    On the other hand I must admit that I have learned these things through my ups and downs in this journey. I started with content mills but gradually realized that this will take me no where and I dared to got out of this and today I am successful to have a pool of High Paying Client’s within my wallet who are really paying what I demand as I shifted from quantity to High quality.

    I can’t thank you much for sharing your own story which is very inspiring. Keep sharing

    Liked every post of yours…

    • Thank you so much. When I turned down the finance articles, I just went with my gut. Your name is everything, and I didn’t want to have articles out there that I couldn’t be completely proud of.

      Wishing you all the best!!

    • I hope my articles can inspire and motivate people who are having trouble taking the next step to just go for it. Easier said than done, but we have all been there. To just jump in and fight the fear is so empowering once you get rolling. I wish this experience for everyone.

  5. As always Wendy, a very helpful article, packed full of great advice and pointers. I just need some of your fearlessness!!! In this life you really do have to go out and grab it, nothing is going to come to you! When I started writing full time I had no idea what I was doing, but I had a full length article published in Prima magazine in April (Hearst Publishing, UK) and I have one coming out in Your Cat magazine next month. I’ve also had a short story published which I wrote for a competion. Then I started my blog in January. I have been very worried about having clips and a portfolio but now that I’m on LinkedIn and making new connections I think I should maybe just pursue that more as you suggest. Your idea about contacting the local newspaper is also excellent. Thanks again for all this 🙂

    • You are doing terrific Sherri. I can guarantee you that you have more than enough clips to proceed. My first clips were honestly off my blog. I just had the ability to say that they had been posted in the online version of our local newspaper. I could even give potential clients the link. They would see it went to my blog, but it didn’t sway in looking elsewhere. The majority of my articles are ghostwritten for company blogs, content for websites or flyers for products and services. I can show people the articles, they can even see them online if they wish, but my name isn’t on anything written.

      Trust me when I say to start writing to your connections on LinkedIn offering your services. You will be shocked at how easy it actually is. All the best. 🙂

  6. Thank You Wendy. I have the validation that not even being aware that I have been doing this it is exactly what I have been doing as I have been dipping my toe in the water. Now it doesn’t matter if the water is a perfect temperature or not I have to jump in as I will adjust after I jump in.
    My next step is to create my blog then start writing for the to blogs that I have a job at. Thank you for your sage advice.
    Peace & Happiness
    Jackie

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