How Your Day Job Can Jump Start Your Freelance Writing Career
Can you believe your “day job” can actually help get your freelance writing career off the ground? Believe it or not, yes! By using writing opportunities that are easier to snag, because you work for the company, you can use that experience to hone your skills, build a portfolio, or even get a paid writing position. Allow me to explain exactly how.
Over my years in the manufacturing industry I was always trying to find a leg up on my coworkers to get that next promotion or pay raise. How could I make myself more marketable to my managers? What could I do?
First, a brief back story on my writing history
I had always been a great writer. Since grade school I’d been writing short stories and poems. At the age of 10 when the first Gulf war broke out and my family was watching the live coverage of the air strikes over Baghdad I resolved to become a war reporter. I never did make it into that war correspondent job and it’s probably best that I didn’t!
The point is I could write. You can too, and probably have a similar story to mine I’d bet. But like me maybe you never got to become a full time writer and wound up doing something completely unrelated to writing.
I didn’t for sure. As an adult I moved on to various manufacturing jobs and production work. That meaning…factory work. No, not exactly the career field for a would be writer is it?
No! But my love of writing never waned. I still wrote a little even though most days I was busy operating machinery or forklifts. It was on one of these days that it dawned on me, the epiphany if you will.
Write for your employer!
Why don’t I write a manual or training guide for my company. I was fed up with the outdated operations manuals and training guides, and they weren’t doing much for training the new employees anyhow.
Through taking advantage of any opportunity I could pitch to my bosses I wrote continuously. I eventually compiled a large collection of Job Task Analysis’s (JTA’s), training manuals, troubleshooting guides, and SOP’s.
I never became a staff writer for the company. But I did get several promotions partly due to my ability to write and show my deep and technical understanding of manufacturing processes and training procedures.
Since I did not possess a college degree it should have been out of the question to be offered a salary position within my company. It’s almost unheard of in todays world. But I sincerely believe showcasing my intellectual abilities as a writer did a lot for my marketability.
What you can do today to position yourself to grab your companies writing work
So, how can you follow in my footsteps? Let’s look at a few pointers that might give you a good place to start.
Audit your companies literature
Analyze everything you can find. Look for what’s missing. Does your company need a training manual? If so write it!
What’s the nature of the existing material being used for training, procedures, etc.? If they’re in bad shape or even laughable re-write them. Trust me, I’ve seen some pretty sad SOP’s or operating manuals in my time!
Search your companies internal job board or website for writing gigs
This is probably the easiest way to find out what your company needs, and if they need a writer. Usually you’ll get the first consideration for the position or project because most employers show preference to internal applicants. If it’s a project to write a website article then pitch your idea just like any other freelance job.
Review you companies public and private or internal website if they have them. Audit them just like the printed literature they use. Find areas you can improve or add material to if something is missing. Contact the web developer or your IT department and voice your interest in assisting with the work. Who knows you might land a position on the website content team.
Pitches not paying off?
If you pitch a few ideas and they’re not well received don’t lose hope. Another idea, if the pitches fall on deaf ears, is to go ahead and do the work. Write the manual and present it to the boss and give them the option to use it or toss it.
If they toss it dig it out of the trash and put it in your portfolio! My personal principle is that there’s no wasted effort, if I write something it goes in a folder somewhere for some future use. Anything you write keep it!
A note on non disclosure and company property
Most companies these days don’t want their internal secrets leaking out. That’s quite understandable.
One consideration to keep in mind is that you may not be able to use your work publicly or add it to a portfolio. If you aren’t asked to sign a non disclosure agreement don’t! I have used excerpts from my work and deleted sensitive information to be sure I don’t inadvertently reveal something my employer doesn’t want publicized.
If lawyers and litigation scares you as much as me it may be worth getting legal advice just to be safe before you share anything you write inside your company.
Experience for your resume
Even if you aren’t able to use any of the work publicly you still gained valuable experience. There’s great value in any work you do as a writer and sometimes the payoff will only be experience.
No matter the case though, you can still list the writing experience and the skills you gained on your resume. For a person like me who spent a lot of time doing blue collar work before freelance writing being able to add something like “technical writer” to your resume is a big plus.
Why not start today?
These are just a few pointers I used to get my foot in the writing door within companies I’ve worked for. The opportunities at different employers are as diverse as the products they sell. The biggest advantage is that you’re not pitching an idea to a company you aren’t really familiar with. The place you go to every day to get the pay check….they already know you! Chances are that’ll be enough to get you some kind of writing opportunity.
How can you use your writing talents to snag a job at your day job right now? Take one of my ideas and apply it today. See what the possibilities are. What ideas or opportunities do you see at your company?
The only thing between you and a fulfilling writing career is a blank page!
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Travis McClain is a freelance writer specializing in web content, copy writing, and trying to be cool like his 7 year old son. He enjoys fishing, hiking, and spending quality time with his son who’s way cooler than he’ll ever be. Travis can be reached at his website GregoryTravisMcClain.com