About a year ago, I was bored, restless, and casually looking for more excuses to write.
A few months earlier, I had quit freelance writing, tired of the inconsistent work, minimal paychecks, and difficult to work with clients. I already had a full-time writing job. But I wanted something more.
Several weeks earlier, I had subscribed to my first-ever book subscription box. (I was bored, remember?) It was a Star Wars-themed box that sent out monthly books and other cool stuff. I’d visited their website several times and tried very hard to ignore the fact that they had a blog.
I have this habit of wanting to participate in things that interest me. Some people are totally content sitting back and observing, but there’s something in my brain that just says, “Get in there!”
After fighting the urge to reach out to Youtini about their blog — did they need more writers? I was a writer! — one of their tweets popped up in my newsfeed, and all my self-control vanished.
The result was a single tweet that changed my life forever.
I knew several things before sending this tweet directly to the Youtini account:
- They were a small company who had only launched several months ago
- Their mission and niche aligned with my interests
- The writing opportunity, if there was one, would probably be unpaid
- Their Twitter account was highly responsive (as many smaller accounts are)
- I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to at least take a shot.
I’d never sent a tweet like this before — so obviously offering my services as a writer to a company who had no idea who I was. I had plenty of writing experience, but not much in the realm of Star Wars. I knew that if someone saw the tweet, they were going to ask for a writing sample. I knew my chances of landing a spot on their team — again, if there even was a spot — were very low.
But I sent the tweet anyway, after a few careful rewrites and revisions. Why? Because I had absolutely nothing to lose. The worst case scenario would have been that they completely ignored my post, which I was fully expecting them to do. They could have also said, “Nah, we’re not looking for any writers right now.” That also would have been fine.
Typically, you go into these things expecting no results. That way, you’re rarely disappointed. If your tweet or email or Facebook message doesn’t go anywhere, oh well. At least you tried.
I did not expect even a Twitter response. Which was why I was so surprised when the account did respond, and directed me to a contact form, which resulted in an email, a calendar invite, and eventually, a hire.
Keep in mind the team didn’t just say, “OK you can write for us here’s all our login info and super secret company stuff!” I met with the CEO, I sent over my resume and writing samples, there was still a vetting process. It wasn’t just tweet one day, get hired the next. It never is.
I just happened to have the skills, experience, and interest level that matched their needs perfectly at just the right time. I took a chance, and it worked out. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t still be working with these wonderful Star Wars-loving people today.
One final important note I’ll add is that during the interviewing stage of the job, Corey was very clear about wanting to know exactly WHY I wanted the opportunity. When you’ve gone through enough proposals and interviews as a writer, you typically have a good idea of what this question actually means.
They are not looking for answers like: I want more writing experience! I want to make money! I’m bored! Especially not if you’re going to word it like that. They’re trying to measure whether or not you’re going to be a good fit for the position — not just as a writer, but as a person. A real human being.
I got the job because I’m a decent writer. I also got it because I’m very passionate about the subject matter and am a huge team player. The interview gave me the chance to talk about growing up a Star Wars fan and how much the stories and characters meant to me.
Most people — most people that are worth working with, anyway — don’t just want to hire good writers. They want to hire people who are easy and maybe even enjoyable to work with. That’s why you can’t just have good writing communication skills and expect to go far. You have to be able to exist in the real world and approach other people and teamwork with the same passion you hopefully approach writing.
If you stumble upon something that looks like a potential writing opportunity, go for it. Be smart about this, of course. If it’s a big company or a well-known publication, your chances are pretty slim. If you don’t have much writing experience, you might want to get some before reaching out. And if they don’t respond, it is NOT okay to continue sending them emails and messages. That’s borderline harassment. Don’t do that.
Take a chance. You never know what might happen. If nothing comes of it, that’s fine — keep working hard until something does work out. And if you do happen to at least get on someone’s radar, that’s better than nothing. In publishing, it’s all about who you know.
Just remember to be a decent human both online and off. Be nice, polite, and don’t be afraid to show a little excitement. Be bold and brave, and at least act confident. But not TOO confident. If it sounds confusing, that’s because it is. Finding a balance between “I’d love this job” and “HIRE ME OR ELSE” isn’t always easy, I suppose. But guess what? The more you practice, the better. And what better way to practice than to reach out directly to a publication here and there — when it’s appropriate?
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.