No one particularly likes writing for exposure. But when you’re trying to break into a niche, build your portfolio, establish an online presence and get the kind of experience you need to earn paid writing jobs, it’s necessary. It doesn’t have to last forever – and really, in the beginning, it’s not so bad.
As you probably already know, there are a lot of people out there who will have no problem letting you write for them for free. Here are a few places online where you can find free writing opportunities to help get your writing career, slowly, off the ground.
Ed2010 is a networking and mentoring network built for aspiring writers and editors. Its job listings include everything from full-time writing and editing positions to freelance work to, yes, unpaid writing and editing internships. Jobs are either on location or remote, so if you can’t pack up and relocate, there still could be something there for you.
I found one of my long-term clients through Ed – I’d recommend it to anyone having trouble finding opportunities to write stuff online. It’s a great place to find niche opportunities, e.g., if you want to write about fashion, parenting, health, etc.
Blogs in your niche
Many blogs either offer or are primarily supported by guest posts – posts from random writers who want to add their voice to a particular blog they like and/or resonate with. Having a blog of your own first does help give you some leverage here – more than one person has approached me through Novelty to guest post for them.
You can’t always depend on other people to seek you out, especially if you’re still working on growing your presence. Bloggers are used to being bothered about guest posting – it comes with the territory. Just go for it – you never know what could happen. I get message requests on LinkedIn all the time asking me if we guest post here (we don’t). Speaking of which …
I’m not a LinkedIn expert by any means, but the day I changed my featured headline to Freelance Writer/Editor, I started getting message and connection requests from people in the appropriate field. Including several “recruiters” working in PR whose job it is to literally link you to writing opportunities – most of them “for exposure,” but if this is what you need, it’s a pretty sweet start.
I haven’t found much success with finding more creative jobs on LinkedIn, but in terms of networking, it’s definitely the place to be. I can’t speak to finding paid freelance work through here, because I’ve honestly never looked, but I’ve heard it’s pretty rotten. It doesn’t hurt to connect with people, join groups, do some professional publishing and see where it takes you.
I launched my professional writing career at the age of 20, when I started an unpaid internship hosted by an online magazine. Many online magazines that also offer writing internships are designed for students – because, believe it or not, some people do understand that no one should ever work as an unpaid intern once they graduate from college. It’s a great way to get your name out there, get experience working with editors and practicing how never to miss a deadline.
Even if you’re not a student, though, many web-based magazines don’t pay their freelancers but still welcome wannabe writers – so go ahead; pitch some stories. Even smaller publications can help you give some much-needed sustenance to your writing portfolio. It’s better to have published articles in a variety of places – it makes your experience more diverse, and shows that you’re good at reaching out to people who don’t know you exist.
When you’re looking for exposure opportunities, my best advice is to pick blogs, websites and publications that you’re actually interested in working with. Don’t just grab at anything that comes your way – I’ve ended up writing a lot of generic productivity articles that way, all for free. Your niche is your center. It often helps to show that you’re focused in your writing – a little variety is okay, but it starts to make you look a little desperate if you’ll write about anything just to have your name on it.
Where is the best place you’ve found opportunities to write for exposure? Did these opportunities help you get any paid experience later on?
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.