Building your writer’s resume

Starting out as a writer can be an intimidating process. You have no publishing credentials, so automatically feel like you can’t compete for publishing acceptances. You have no experience and worry that this marks you as an amateur. Why would anyone give YOU a chance?

Editors will give you a chance if your ideas are strong and well-presented, and your work is well-written, and you present yourself with confidence.

Remember, editors want to work with writers they feel they can trust. When you are starting out, you must take on the attitude of an experienced writer in order to become one.

Here are three areas to consider when building your writer’s resume, whether you intend to operate as a fulltime freelance writer, or just want to add published works to your resume to set yourself apart from your competition for jobs.

Bread and butter clients. This is for the freelancers. When you operate a freelance writing business (and it IS a business, make no mistake), you must seek out a short list of ‘bread and butter’ clients. These are the people you write for all the time. The people who will call you for the smallest writing job. The ones who use your writing services every month. These are the people who pay you well and on time, thus allowing you to pay YOUR bills well and on time. You need to cultivate a few of these so that you have steady customers as the foundation of your business. These clients might include a local or regional magazine editor, a nonprofit organization, a small company or department of a large corporation, the editor of a trade publication, or a celebrity who needs a ghost writer for various projects. The people who fall into the category of ‘bread and butter clients’ can be an extremely diverse group and will change over time, but concentrate on developing these relationship early on in your business and you will have a solid foundation upon which to grow.

Diversity of publications. Unless you are specializing and concentrating on one particular genre or subject specialty within one medium, you should strive to diversify your publications in order to gain a wider range of experience and to increase the types of publications you can write for in the future. If you can point to a restaurant trade publication that you wrote for two years ago, that editor of a food service trade pub that you just met might be more inclined to give you a chance. If you want to publish a novel and are seeking a publisher, that publisher will be more likely to consider your novel draft if you can show her several short fiction stories published in different literary journals. If you want to publish a memoir, you must understand that you are an unproven commodity in a growing, but highly competitive, field, and publishing houses are in business to make money, which means if you can show substantial and varied creative nonfiction publications (literary journals, web sites, consumer magazines), then you are more likely to be considered seriously. Academic writers can expand their publications by addressing those scholarly peer-reviewed journals first (because those count the most toward tenure and promotion), but can diversify by writing about issues in their specialties in more public venues. The more you publish and the more variety you can work into your publishing practice, the better you will become as a writer, and the better positioned you will be to accept new assignments.

Streams of writing opportunities. This is related to the first two in that you must be open to new and different streams of writing in order to improve your skills, grow your reputation as a writer, and gain attention from editors, fellow writers, and fans. Be open and seek out new opportunities. Read listservs, scour calls for papers and submissions, look at the submission guidelines for your favorite blogs, web sites, and publications. Create works for those places and always have something out. This is how successful writers operate.


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