For college students, graduating is only the first battle. Students must, as graduation approaches, locate a fairly lucrative job in their chosen field of study. This task is often made more difficult by the fact that students need to compete with not only their fellow post-grads, but also with individuals with more experience in the job market.
College students should proactively seek out educational and professional opportunities while they are in school to beef up their resume. The internet has created a unique opportunity for students who wish to pursue a writing based career to practice their craft, potentially earn some pocket money, and beef up their resume.
Don’t be intimidated. If there’s one thing I learned over the last two years blogging, it’s this: lack of writing skill doesn’t always prevent individuals from being published online. If individuals who don’t have the benefit of a college education can be published online, so can you.
The Spectrum of Online Writing Opportunities
There are a few tactics that budding writers can utilize as they begin their online writing journey.
Create a blog. This tactic grants the most control and has the added bonus of allowing you to learn how to utilize WordPress, learn about onsite search engine optimization, and about social media marketing. If the website, flourishes, you could eventually begin to monetize it for a little extra pocket money.
Guest blog. Guest blogging is the practice of reaching out to editors to contribute to the editor’s site. Typically these opportunities are unpaid. These opportunities are more about getting your name out there, gaining experience writing for an audience, and potentially growing a social media following you can later utilize.
Freelance writing. While not all sites offer monetary compensation for publishing content on their site, some do. Freelance writing could be a pretty solid part-time gig for individuals who don’t want to spend their nights or summers flipping burgers.
Finding Writing Opportunities
Finding writing opportunities might seem like an impossible task, but it’s actually fairly easy. Below are a few strategies you can utilize to find writing opportunities:
- Conduct a Google search utilizing the following terms: write for us, guest blogger, guest blog, or write contributor. Using search operators or advanced search could provide new opportunities.
- Search for opportunities in Twitter by typing the term write for us in the search bar.
- Consult articles that have master lists of sites that either accept bloggers or freelance writers.
- Sign up for a freelancer job site like UpWork or Freelancer.com to find new opportunities.
Getting a Sense of the Blog
Whether the opportunity is a freelance gig or a blogging gig, here are a few steps to follow once you pin point a potential opportunity.
Analyze the write for us page (if they have one). This will often tell you what word count they want you to shoot for, what style of writing they would like, and who you should contact.
Double check the validity of the site. Not all sites are created equal. Some webmasters only create sites to monetize them. These sites tend to have no evidence of traffic (reader comments or an active social media feed), possibly a demand for money to post your article somewhere on the site, and a lot of spammy outgoing links. I would recommend steering clear of these sites.
Brainstorm ideas. While you’re evaluating the site, keep an eye on what subjects the website tend to cover. Brainstorm ideas in the subject category. If you’re a tad stuck, you can check out this blog idea generator. Once you have an idea, do a quick site search to make sure you’re not pitching an article idea that has already been covered.
Pitching Editors or Websites
There is no one right way to format an editorial pitch to an editor. The main thing to remember is not to sound like a robot. Editors can receive dozens of writing pitches every day, you should try to give the email some personality or at least some level of uniqueness.
Before pitching the site, check out either the Write For Us page or the Contact Us page to determine if there are any email requirements. Some sites spell out exactly what the email should look like. Failure to meet those requirements could get your email deleted fairly quickly.
Here are a few email tips:
- Always try to address the editor or blog owner by name. If you can’t find a name on the site, check to see if you can find it on their Twitter account.
- Dedicate one to three lines outlining a few of your credentials. How much information you provide is dependent on the website. If it’s a freelance opportunity, I would ere on the side of caution and provide more information.
- Provide one to three article ideas. If you provide one idea, you might want to explain a little more about the potential article.
- Play around with subject lines. Here are a few subject lines I’ve had success with: Editorial Idea: How to Create a Good Subject Line, How to Create a Good Subject Line article idea, or How to Create a Good Subject Line Part 2?
If you don’t hear back after a week or two, you might want to check in again. They might missed the email. Or they might have been uninspired by your idea. You might want to think about pitching new ideas.
Quick Guide to Freelance Taxes
If you do manage to land a freelance gig, you should spend a bit of time learning about your tax responsibilities. According to the IRS, US freelancers need to pay taxes if they earn $400 or more over the course of a year. (If you make less than $400, you should check out Chart C of the Self-Employed Tax Return PDF to see if you meet one of the other requirements.
For freelancers who must pay taxes, when they must pay is also dependent on how much they make. Freelancers who make around $5000 in freelance income (around $1000 in taxes) will need to pay quarterly rather than annually. For a better sense of how much you will need to save, you can utilize this Self Employed Calculator and this 1040 Tax Calculator.
Not paying when you should could result in late fees.
Blogging and freelance writing can be a useful means to develop more experience, make a name for yourself, build new relationships, and earn some extra pocket money. It might seem hard, but the process is more painless than you might think. Get out there and start writing.
Samantha Stauf graduated from college with a creative writing and technical writing degree. Over the last few years, she’s used those skills to write various college, career, and business geared articles.
Graduate of the University of Idaho
Twitter Handle: @SamStauf