Depending on your mindset, writing and broadcasting careers can be some of the easiest to launch – or some of the hardest. If you enjoy writing (or video creation) for its own sake, you can start building up your portfolio right now with a word processor or a webcam. But if creative brainstorming feels like a chore to you, you may be letting yourself in for some major headaches. Whether you’re crafting novels, reporting local news, editing online articles, writing advertising copy, shooting documentaries or managing a magazine, you’ll need a strong command of the English language, a flexible way with words, and a talent for finding inspiration in the most unlikely places.
If you think you’re cut out for one of these fields, this article lays out the basic steps that’ll get you started on your journey. Read on to find out where the jobs are – and how to get yourself qualified for them.
Share your work
As obvious as it sounds, the defining characteristic of a content creator is that he or she creates content – and unlike a career in, say, manufacturing or medicine, your career in writing can start with the tools you’re using right this moment: Your brain and your browser. An impressive resume may land you an interview, it’s true – but when it come to proving your worth as a writer, nothing else makes quite the same impact as a body of completed work. So before you start angling for that fellowship or freelance gig, you’ll be doing your career a major favor by making your writing (or, if you’re taking the broadcast route, your videos) available to the public.
If you donï¿½t already have a website, WordPress or Blogger can set you up with a free blog in five minutes or so. The pieces you publish donï¿½t have to be earthshaking or intensively researched – just competently written and free of grammatical blunders. And although thereï¿½s no harm in branding yourself as, say, a world news reporter or a food reviewer, your main goal at this stage should simply be to write (or talk) about whatever excites you. Creativity flows from a genuine interest in your topic – so just focus on making that interest contagious, as if you were sharing it with your friends.
Posting your own content regularly will do more than just help you hook editors, though – it’ll also hone your voice as a writer, boost your confidence in your own work, and give you a reason to brainstorm new ideas every day. All these factors will serve you well as you progress in your career.
Scour media job boards
The Internet is packed with broad-based job websites like Freelancer and Craigslist – but if you want to save time by cutting through the clutter, you’re better off focusing on job boards that cater to your particular corner of the writing or broadcasting business. Not only are you more likely to find worthwhile postings on sites like these – you’ll also face less competition from the general masses.
In the world of journalism job-searching, J-Jobs, JournalismNow, and Poynter.org are all great places to start. For copywriting and copyediting openings, AdWeek’s MediaJobMarket and the (aptly named) Copy Editor Job Board will give you an idea of what’s available. The quality of postings on Broadcast Employment Services can be hit-or-miss, but the site is still one of the most comprehensive broadcast employment resources on the web. And for online media, Mashable Jobs and the ContentWise Job Board both host postings related to a wide variety of content areas.
To find more job boards focused on your own specialty or geographical area, try Google-searching terms like (for example) "freelance journalism job board," "UK copywriting jobs," or "science writing job center." Many of the sites you’ll find may be small and tightly focused – but you’re also likely to run across some larger databases, which may be home to thousands of potential openings in your own area of expertise.
As you scan postings, make notes on what’s expected of candidates in your field – a certain number of published articles, for example; or a certain number of years of work at a journalism outlet. Make these criteria your targets as you continue to expand your portfolio – and over time, you’ll start to notice that more employers are open to discussing your future.
Consider staffing firms
Landing an interview via an online posting often takes time, determination and a few dozen tailored introductory emails – so if you’d like some help in your search, try getting in touch with some staffing agencies. Though many of the positions they’ll offer you will be temporary, they may also surprise you with an opportunity for a full-time writing job – and in the meantime, they can hook you up with some clerical jobs that’ll help keep your rent paid on time.
The largest staffing firms – such as AppleOne and Kelly Services – don’t specialize in any particular industry, but they’ll likely be able to line up some work for you in short order; and they’ll keep in touch with you about writing- or broadcasting-related opportunities for which you’re qualified (as long as you make your goals clear to them, of course). At the very least, you’ll be able to start building up your resume.
Media-specific firms, on the other hand, may not receive such a steady stream of open positions – but they’ll help you target your search more precisely toward the field you’re aiming to enter. Semper International, for instance, specializes in the print, copy, and digital industries. Filcro Media Staffing, meanwhile, focuses on executive-level recruiting in broadcasting, entertainment, communications and media – but may be able to give you a point in the right direction. As with job boards, you can easily track down recruiters that cater to your own area – or at least find out if any exist – by carefully wording a few Google searches.
Get a boost from groups
As you establish yourself in your writing or broadcasting career, you may eventually find it worthwhile to join a professional association, such as the Society for Technical Communication or the National Association of Broadcasters – but for the time being, you’ll probably get more immediate benefits from networking with others of your stripe on the same social-media websites you already use to stay in touch with your friends.
Facebook and LinkedIn both host a wealth of writers’ groups – many of them focused on specific subfields – whose experienced members can help you out with job-search strategies, cheer from the sidelines as you complete big projects, and help you start broadening your professional network. The Facebook groups "Journalists on Facebook" and "The Writer’s Circle," and the LinkedIn groups "Professional Writers" and "Broadcast and Radio Professionals" all include thousands of active members – and with a quick search on either of these sites, you can find smaller groups that focus on your own sector of the field, too.
A few simple checks can help you distinguish worthwhile groups from less-useful ones: Does the group include thousands of members, or only a few dozen? How recent are the most recent posts? Do comment threads fade quickly, or do discussions remain active? Do a variety of people contribute, or just the same select few? All these details can give you an idea of the group’s value – but one thing that should never discourage you is the fact that a group is marked "closed" or "private." You’ve got nothing to lose by submitting a request to join – and if the admins approve, you may get the chance to dialogue with people you’d never have met on your own.
Though all these resources – and many more like them – can help carry your career in writing or broadcasting to the next level, the most key ingredient is your own creativity. Start from that point, produce a steady stream (or at least a steady trickle) of interesting content, and share that content with others, and you’ll soon find assignments coming your way all on their own.
American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) — A large professional association for journalists and other nonfiction writers, whose website includes a job board and a helpful blog.
Society for Technical Communication (STC) — A professional association specifically for technical writers, whose website includes job postings and educational resources.
Employment in the Media — Detailed guides on how to launch your career in a variety of specific media fields.