Step 1: Land an Internship…or Several

To make money writing or editing, you have prove that you can actually do it.

Listing how many manuscripts, short stories, essays, and articles you’ve written on your resume doesn’t prove you’re any good if they’re all as-of-yet unpublished. But being unpublished doesn’t mean you aren’t good. It’s a rather vicious cycle.

Senior year of college, all I had on my resume was an unofficial, unpaid position with my university’s literary journal and a list of server jobs. The solution: get an internship to build your resume. Sometimes, that internship can even become your first paid writing job.

Where to Start:

There are many ways to go about getting an internship.

Ask Someone You Know in the Business: If you’re having a hard time finding any writing or editing internships listed in your area, as I did, you can create your own. One of the best ways to do so is to find someone who works in the industry (preferably someone you know at least on a casual basis, just because it’s a little easier to approach them) and ask them if they could use an intern.

I went to the professor who headed the university literary journal because I knew he had a publishing business. Initially, I asked if he knew of anyone who was looking for an intern, and he gave me a name very quickly. However, to my surprise, he said that if for some reason that didn’t work out, he would be happy to take me on as an intern for his company. I hadn’t expected this because he ran his business completely on his own, and I didn’t think he even wanted an intern. That’s how I became an intern of Professor Russel Helms’ 47 Journals.

I learned to use Adobe InDesign to format manuscripts, and I got to do a little proofreading on the side. I was actually learning skills that could get me a job in the publishing business, which is still a goal of mine even though I am happy being a freelancer at the moment.

Best of all, I found a real mentor in my professor. If I have a question about what my next step as a writer should be, I go to him. Much to my delight, after the internship was over, he turned to me as well. When his workload gets a overwhelming, he calls on me to help him pick up the slack, and he pays me for it! He still gives me the best rates of any client I’ve had so far.

Internships are a perfect way to start making lasting connections in the industry. Just make sure you perform your absolute best and make an impression during the internship period.

Go Online:

One of the greatest things about writing and editing is that you can do it from the comfort of your own home. As a freelancer, I have worked with people in different states and even different countries, all from my couch in my pajamas.

However, when I first started looking for a job, I wasn’t taking advantage of this. My university’s job listings didn’t match what I wanted. When I did Google searches, I was getting lists from places like that either weren’t tailored to what I really wanted or had jobs listed that required years of experience.

One of my problems was the way I was searching. I was typing things like “writing job Tennessee.” Firstly, I had to drop the “Tennessee.” Second, I needed to focus on finding a real site that had the tools to help me, not just scroll through listings.

Forbes has a list of The Top 10 Best Internship Sites you can check out. Personally, I used number 5: I came across it by happy accident when I clicked a link to an online internship editing a fiction book manuscript.

The site has a great search engine that helps you narrow down choices. You can search for internships, student jobs, or entry level jobs. They even have an internship predictor to connect you to internships you are compatible with. I did not have to use it, so I can’t really attest to it’s accuracy. If you use it, please leave a comment on how it went. I wasn’t so sure about the site’s capabilities at first, but it really pulled through. I was hired in a matter of days.

I really wanted a paying job, but I wasn’t having much luck, and when I saw that internship link, the opportunity sounded too great to pass up. I would be doing what I’d always wanted: working in fiction.

That internship turned into a paying job as well. The author was impressed with my work, so he paid me to continue editing a sequel. Once again, an internship earned me a lasting relationship with a quality client.

Start a Conversation with People in your Classes: If you are still in college, start talking to the people who sit next to you in your writing class. You may be surprised to find that they already have a foot in the door of the industry.

A woman in my class enjoyed listening to my stories. She approached me after class one day and said she had a documentary, Serial Killer Groupies: A love story, about women who fall in love with serial killers that had just come out and was possibly going to be aired on a major network. She wanted to extend her research by writing a book on the subject, and she asked me to coauthor it with her. I agreed, and she let me call myself an intern under her independent company, Krause Films, on my resume.

I had a tons of fun, and even though the book isn’t published yet, the work looks great on a resume. I also have a reference who will attest to my researching and writing skills.

Sooner Rather Than Later:

Internships can be found in many ways (and some can even be paid), but the results are the same. They are your first step to networking, and if done right, they can continue to benefit you even after they’re over.

However, it’s best to get started early because if you have internships under your belt before you graduate, you can get paying jobs in the field you want right out of college.



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