I hold in my hand the last excerpt (applause from the audience) … the last excerpt from my forthcoming ebook, Will Work For Exposure. Again, this is my first draft so the standard warnings apply. Anyway, I hope to have the first draft completed in early April, and hope to launch on May 1. That’s the idea, anyway.
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Chapter 1: You’re working for clips
If you’re a new writer, you’ll probably notice you’ll need clips when you try to find some work. It’s kind of like the old conundrum that you can’t find work if you have no experience, but the only way to get experience is to work.
Publishers want to see that you can write and will ask to see some published samples of your work. A club owner may want to hear a demo CD of your band before agreeing to hire you. But what if you don’t have those things?
I probably did this the wrong way. My newspaper clips, if they still exist, are 15 years old. When I restarted my writing career, I needed something to show potential clients. That’s when I started writing a few stories for a startup tech blog based in Great Britain. For free, yes. I needed the clips.
Here’s the deal, though. To get work for a client, most often you need just one clip. Maybe two if they’re really demanding.
I think I ended up writing five pieces for this client, all gratis. If I was half smart, I would have quit at two. That’s all I needed to find clients. Anything more than that is extraneous, and I’m working for nothing.
I was willing to overlook payment this time, because I knew it would help my career. But then, keeping a blog will also give you the clips you need most of the time. I’ve picked up work on the strength of my blog. I’ll admit, the writing was good and let the publisher know what he needed – that I could write.
Just one clip. Maybe two. After you get a client or two, you’ll have paid stuff to show.
My first newspaper job came from two clips I showed from my college newspaper. Again, working for free, but it was an actual class with college credit and everything. Again, in a situation that would help my career.
I’ve found the best vehicle for finding work as a writer is to keep your own blog. Even one of the free ones, such as blogspot.com or wordpress.com will work as long as you’re doing good work. The beauty here is that, even though blogging is usually a labor of love, you still own every word you write.
If you’re pitching a piece for a magazine, the publisher will most likely look at your query letter and decide from that whether you can write. He’ll look at the idea you’re proposing, and make his decision from those two things.
But do you need clips? Certainly. One good one should do the job. But make it a barnburner.
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