One of the most common questions new freelance writers ask is, “How can I provide writing clips if I haven’t landed a writing gig yet?”
Many (not all, but many) magazines, clients, and other employers of freelance writers require at least one writing clip before they’ll consider hiring a freelancer. At the same time, most new freelance writers haven’t been in the industry long enough to have any writing clips.
You need to show some writing experience to get hired, but you need to get hired to gain some writing experience.
Classic chicken/egg scenario.
Fortunately, there are ways to acquire freelance writing clips (which are basically just writing samples) much easier than trying to wrap your brain around how a chicken could come to exist before an egg – and vice versa – and the easiest way of all might just be to use blog posts.
My first well-paying and long-term freelance writing job came along when the content manager of a Web publishing company saw my blog. (This was years ago, and really, it wasn’t even my blog; I’d been hired to write a blog for a start-up blog network, and frankly had no idea what the hell I wad doing.)
Anyway, this writing gig turned into a writing and editing gig and before long, I was managing a small team of writers for various projects within the company. It lasted for five years, provided me with valuable writing and editing experience (and references), and helped me make connections with some pretty amazing people.
Thus, I’m a staunch advocate of blogs as tools for showcasing your writing skills.
1. Conduct Interviews
Conducting interviews might be my favorite way to use blog posts as writing clips. Mostly because I just really enjoy interviews, but also written interviews show two different talents:
- Your ability to write a feature article based on the interview (like I did with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’s Paige Hemmis and Kevin Lyman, the founder of the Vans Warped Tour and Taste of Chaos Tour).
- Your ability to come up with relevant and probing questions readers will be interested in reading (Q & A style interviews, like my piece with former White House doctor, Dr. Connie Mariano).
Not sure who to interview? Well, consider your blog’s niche and go from there. If you blog about animal welfare, try to get an interview with a PETA employee (or ASPCA or HSUS – whichever one doesn’t make you livid), or contact someone at your local animal shelter. Blog about the literary and publishing industries? Find new book authors (Twitter is an excellent source) or contact a start-up publishing company.
2. Review Products
Books are my favorite products to review (with Vanity Fair contributing editor Ned Zeman’s mental health memoir, The Rules of the Tunnel: My Brief Period of Madness, being my favorite book review to date), but your product might vary depending on your blog niche.
For example, a yoga blogger might review a yoga mat or pair of yoga pants from a new yoga company. Likewise, an environmental blogger might review a new eco-friendly kitchen cleaner.
3. Write A Weekly Column
A weekly column will:
- Provide you with multiple writing clips.
- Give you some talking points (given the prospective employer or client works in your niche).
- Show prospective employers or clients that you can both stick with commitments and come up with fresh ideas on a regular basis.
Who knows? Your weekly column might even get picked up for syndication eventually.
4. Create A Series
A series is similar to a weekly column in that it’s a block of posts that are in some way related; unlike a weekly column, though, a series ends at some point.
Your series should be relevant to your blog’s niche, but it helps if it’s relevant to current events, too. This is especially beneficial if you plan to use the series as a set of writing clips for potential magazine writing, as it shows the editor(s) you have your finger on the pulse of what society is currently interested in.
I did this with my Half-Blood Prince: Life Lessons series over at Celebrity Psychings. Each post of the series went live during the week following the premiere of the film version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Not only was the series relevant to the blog’s niche, but also it tapped into a wildly popular topic at the time.
5. Guest Post
Keep in mind, the blog post you use as a writing sample doesn’t have to be published on your own blog. If you can land a guest post with another blog – especially an established blog with a loyal readership – do it.
Ideally, that blog (and the guest post you write) will be relevant to your writing niche. For example, I often write about mental health and wellness, so when I wrote a guest post for Blisstree’s former women’s health blog, Lively Women, I balanced my niche with the interest of the blog’s readership: Top 5 Mental Health Concerns for Women.
Have you used blog posts as writing clips? How did it work for you?