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That First Writing Job


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There’s a hierarchy when it comes to landing that first job. Remember your first job as a teenager? Mine was slinging popcorn and sodas at a movie theater and working as a junior employee at a department store in the mall.

It’s never too late to earn money with your writing talent. I’m 44 years old and have never published a novel, but I’ve written a few that I hope to put out in the world one day. In the meantime, I’ve been working for more than 20 years writing marketing copy and newspaper, magazine and online articles. In my day job as a magazine editor, I nurture plenty of writers who may have never written articles before for regional publications, but a lot of them have backgrounds in public relations, marketing, education, etc. I don’t care if they’ve never been paid for their work before—if they can present me with a solid pitch that will fit in our magazine and show me they are not afraid to schedule an interview with the subject, I will give them a chance and a paid assignment. 

When I first started out as a freelance writer I was intimidated. I was leaving the protection of a stable salary where I could get through the day writing press releases for clients and magazine articles for a university alumni magazine that was one of our clients. I read several books on the art of copywriting and freelancing and was afraid my introverted self would never be able to follow through to nab those paid assignments. Fortunately, I proved myself wrong. These days, there are so many more places seeking writers, both seasoned and new. If you’re not subscribed to the WOW! Markets newsletter that goes out once per month, hop on over and subscribe now on our home page. Every month I read it and find at least five places I want to submit, from contests to literary journals to magazines looking for pitches. 

One of the other interesting things I’ve noticed is that over the past few years, I’ve developed relationships with several people who retired from their careers but are still looking for creative fulfillment and supplemental income. I now have a writer who retired from running her own marketing firm but loves interviewing people and writing articles in addition to her volunteer responsibilities. I offered a retired education professor the chance to write his own monthly history column and he’s loving the heck out of it. One other writer had a marketing and public relations agency for many years with his wife, and when they retired, they started up a gorgeous travel blog. He now writes a regional column and uses his contacts in healthcare to write monthly health and wellness articles for our publication catering to residents 55 and older. And I know who to go to for travel article ideas.

Whether you’re 16 or 65, if you want to write and get paid for it, you can do it. There are more and more opportunities to channel your passion for writing into a career you can be proud of if you know where to look.

Let’s have some fun. If you’ve been paid for your writing, what was your first paid gig? If you are new to starting out, what is your dream publication or project? 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also produces the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. Learn more at her website, FinishedPages.com.

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