Online, Everything You Post Is a First Impression

Think before you publish.

Before you post that comment on Facebook —

Before you write that caption on your Instagram photo —

Before you hangrily reply to that email —

Think.

If this were the first thing your future editor saw, what would it say about you?

Because “my privacy settings protect me” doesn’t say much. You should never assume that anything you post online is private. If they’re not already teaching this in school, they should start soon.

These same rules apply to professional writing, you know. Even if you’re not “a professional” yet. While it’s true that many of your clients and editors will focus on reviewing your writing samples, you also should never assume that they won’t also Google you or stalk you on social media. And if you’re applying for a “real” writing job — guess what? It works the same way as any other job. If your online presence isn’t clean, you’re not moving on to any stage of the hiring process.

But this isn’t even just about what you post personally or the tweets that come from your “professional” account. What you write and publish also makes a difference. You can either let it ruin your chances of success, or you can use it to your advantage.

Hiring managers don’t tell you why they picked you, the same way editors won’t always disclose why they selected your piece over someone else’s. But your online presence has almost everything to do with it these days. If you can’t prove you’re worthy online, why should anyone pick you to publish anything under their brand?

Every single time I publish something — here, or on behalf of any other publication I contribute to — I consider who’s watching. Not just the people I hope my words are helping, but also those who might be tracking my work specifically. In no way am I saying I’m anywhere near awesome enough for someone to spend valuable hours doing that (ha). But what’s the most important rule on the internet? You never know who’s reading or why.

I do not publish viral-worthy essays about my personal life. Many people do, and many of them do so for good reasons, like helping or inspiring others. But I do not need the entire world knowing every single thing that makes me vulnerable or could someday be used against me somehow. The harder it is for people to find that stuff by searching online, the better.

I do not comment on articles or social media posts unless doing so is, essentially, beneficial for my career. If I have insightful comments to make about a new nutrition study that’s being reported on, for example, I will do that — it is a credibility booster (if you do it correctly and for the right reasons).

I find no value in talking about myself online unless it’s somehow beneficial for a very carefully selected audience. Because if I’m trying to get a book published at some point, and people are looking for reasons to trust me, I’d rather give them reasons to do so, not provide them with reasons to reconsider me.

It’s just an example. But sometimes I look at things people post online, even under obviously fake names, and I wonder what makes them think it’s ever OK to do that. Do most people just feel completely safe on the internet and assume they’re fine?

If you want to impress a potential editor, agent, or client, the most important thing to remember is that everything you post online counts as a first impression. You never know who’s paying attention. Though I hate to say it, because I’m all about transparency, as a writer, you’re under an obligation to act as your best self online as much as possible. Especially when you’re trying to get hired to do any kind of writing job.

Be mindful. Be yourself, but think before you publish. Always.


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.

How to Write a Lot (without Burning Out)

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In the professional writing world, it pays—sometimes literally—to be able to write a lot in a short period of time without completely melting your brain.

Every once in awhile, it is important to take breaks and let your mind recoup. But there are a few ways you can work toward getting better at writing more without feeling brain dead at the end of the day, and we’re here to share some of them with you.

We’re going to focus on professional writing in this post—online publishing, articles, blogging—but some of these concepts can also be applied to some areas of creative writing, too.

Draw inspiration from your experiences, knowledge and/or expertise 

If you’re pursuing a professional writing career, there will be times you’ll have to write about topics you’re not completely familiar with—which yes, means you’ll have to do a lot of research to give your project credibility. But outside of work, you have the freedom to write about what you know best. Always take advantage of the opportunity, even when writing seems to be wearing you down.

It’s easy to ramble on and on and on about your so-called field of expertise, and sometimes that can be a good thing. When we write more, we train ourselves to lay out our points and arguments in an organized manner before trimming them down to a much more appealing 500 words or less. 

Write about things that interest you, when you can

There’s a good reason anyone and everyone can start their own blog. Not just because it’s easy, but because it allows people to write about whatever they want, whenever they want. This is why starting a blog is an excellent starting point for writers interested in making headway in a specific field. If you can practice writing more often by writing about things you really like writing about, you’ll find yourself writing more, at pretty decent quality, without feeling completely drained afterward.

When you write about what you know, which you can easily balance with learning more about what you don’t know so well in order to be able to write about that, too, it feels a lot less like work. Your “I’m writing this because I have to” attitude gets to go take a much-needed nap for a few hours.

Diversify your publishing mediums 

Publishing often on your blog is an effective strategy; consistency is one of many keys to writing success. But sometimes even that can start to feel a bit tedious after awhile, even if you genuinely enjoy doing it. It’s important to expand your horizons if you want to show you can write a lot and still write well.

Keep publishing on your blog, but also be on the lookout for other writing opportunities, even small ones. If you have some professional advice, LinkedIn is a nice way to self-publish. Is there a magazine looking for how-to articles on subjects you like? Are there blogs in your niche you can apply to guest post on?

Sometimes, the more work you give yourself, the more productive, and prolific, you’ll be. Just start small, and don’t commit to more than you can handle. Start off with your own blog and maybe another outlet, and grow your audiences there, then see where you can go from there, and if you have room in your schedule to fit it in.

The key to writing a lot, generally, is to make it a priority. But always remember that taking time to rest is still important. As you get more and more used to writing in large quantities (while still paying attention to quality, of course), you might have to schedule time to not write, instead of the other way around.

This is a good thing. If you take some time to practice how to best make it work for your life and schedule.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.