by Michael Bedford
Published at 2019-04-08
Starting an editorial career can be a complicated undertaking. Whether pursuing a career as an employee at an established company or starting out on one’s own as a freelancer, it’s important for young writers to show prospective employers and/or clients that doing editorial work comes naturally.
Working as a writer often involves managing a multi-faceted schedule composed of a variety of editorial tasks and deadlines. So, depending on a young writer’s skill set, writing jobs could be just one source of income. Many writers supplement their income from writing with income from other editorial work, sometimes proofreading, copy editing, or indexing.
The most important thing for writers, especially those just starting out, though, is to write as much and as often as possible. Advertising one’s own editorial experience is a freelancer’s key to attracting clients. Similarly, editorial positions at established companies generally go to those who can advertise their strengths to prospective employers.
Finding time to sit down to write can be difficult, especially for young writers. Because that first editorial position or client is often elusive, many of us writers find ourselves supplementing editorial work with other sources of income. Casual or part-time positions in non-editorial employment offer writers opportunities to build a brand while still keeping the bills paid.
I’ve found that in addition to providing a relatively stable source of supplementary income, casual non-editorial work also provides a form of professional downtime that helps refresh me mentally, keeping me interested in writing.
The siren song of the regular paycheque is tempting, but trying to balance a full-time non-editorial position against a budding editorial career is likely to end in frustration and missed deadlines. Writers need time to write, and that time is difficult to find during a 40-hour non-editorial work week.
Online editorial opportunities abound in the digital age. Unfortunately, writers looking for work similarly abound. Unlike some other professional endeavours, though, hard work often pays off as long as one is doing the right kind of hard work.
Online visibility is important for writers whether they’re working on or offline. Owning and maintaining a professional website, then, are key components to growing one’s brand. Blogging might seem like an outdated method of attracting clients but maintaining a regular blog schedule will not only improve a website’s page ranking, which makes it easier for prospective clients to find a website online, but will also provide prospective clients and employers with evidence that young writers have professional experience.
I made my first foray into professional writing when I became a staff writer for the American pop-culture website Monkeys Fighting Robots. Working for MFR gives me an opportunity to write on topics in which I’m interested while growing my brand by writing for a website with more online visibility than my own.
Since writing my first article for MFR in 2014, I’ve parlayed that experience into securing editorial contracts with established companies and freelance clients. And, the more I write, the more interest I attract.
My main professional inspirations are writers whose work I hold in high regard, including Douglas Adams, Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett, Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Stan Lee, Alan Moore, and Mordecai Richler. These writers’ bodies of work give me something to aspire to professionally. But however valuable these inspirations are, support and guidance are generally more important factors for young writers.
I was lucky to receive great emotional and financial support from my family and friends when I started out, but I found my main source of guidance came from employers, especially — shameless plug though this may seem — the editorial team at The Editing Company. Learning the ropes can be a frustrating process, but if you’re on the right team then it can be very rewarding.
As with any career, a lack of professional development leads to professional stagnation. Attending editorial workshops gives writers, new and seasoned alike, opportunities to augment their editorial toolkit.
Membership associations such as Editors Canada (EC) and the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) offer a number of online and in-person workshops for members and non-members alike, covering a variety of topics. In addition to learning new skills, attending workshops also provides opportunities for new writers to network with editorial colleagues.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet for young writers beyond working hard and constantly seeking self-improvement. As I continue to develop my own editorial tool kit, I often find myself simultaneously chuffed and chafed. I bemoan a dearth of clients while I enjoy the work I have.
An editorial career is by its nature always a work in progress, though, so I constantly look forward to the next step, approaching every job with cautious optimism. I may only have a few regular clients now, but those clients value my work. And, having happy clients often leads to having more happy clients, so I look forward to every job I get.
Getting to write professionally is a great privilege, but it’s one that must be earned through lots of hard work and determination, so on “Encourage Young Writers Day,” I encourage all young writers to get started and keep at it. After all, one never knows where the next Margaret Atwood might come from.
Michael Bedford is a freelance editor, copywriter, and performer living in Mount Hope, Ontario. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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