How to Gain Journalism Experience (And Get Paid)
It’s almost become a meme just how ridiculous a proposal it is to find a job as a young person with no experience in this modern age. Despite all of your qualifications and experiences, if you’re younger than 25, the odds are that you won’t have much chance of getting your dream job straight away.
You’ve no doubt seen images on your News Feed like the one below too many times to count:
As harsh as it may be, you will usually have to “pay your dues” with unpaid internships and placements until you can gain enough experience to make you a more suitable candidate in the eyes of employers. It sucks, there’s no denying that.
However, if you’re a writer or inclined towards writing, there are so many online opportunities for you to gain journalism experience and earn yourself some money in the process.
As well as being the EIC of CV, I like to think of myself as a games journalist, though I’m perfectly aware that I’m not the most accomplished or even particularly skilled of writers. I write within my limitations and have been doing so since I started writing online at the age of 18.
Six years and thousands of articles later, I’ve decided to share what I did to help me gain invaluable experience and earn myself some money at the same time. Be warned, you won’t turn yourself into a millionaire overnight with a few blogs and emails. It’s a lot of hard work.
Find your comfort zone
“Write what you know” is an old adage that I try to stick to. Don’t get me wrong, as an SEO and digital marketer, I’ve covered an awful lot of topics that I wouldn’t say I mastered. However, for you, as an aspiring writer looking for your voice, you need to find what you like writing about best, which will help you find the right website to contribute to.
Research the market
There are one billion websites out there, so there’s inevitably going to be one that suits you. I knew that I wanted to be a humour (despite not being funny) and gaming writer, so I set out to find websites that would realistically be willing to take a look at my work – IGN and College Humor weren’t even considered.
Write amazing emails
People receive too many emails every day, meaning that they sometimes approach their inbox like it’s a monster to be avoided. Don’t make their job or yours any harder by writing a personable, professional email to publications with all the information they need to consider you.
Here is one of the best enquiries I’ve had about contributing:
– Full of background info
– Shows enthusiasm
– Proves good grammar from the write
And here is the worst:
– Didn’t even bother to find out my name
– Poor punctuation
– “This is the reference from one of the blogging site” ?
– Likely empty promises
Volunteer with enthusiasm
Just like any other field, you are going to need to volunteer your writing to build up your journalism portfolio when you first start out. Find reputable websites within your field that are actively seeking submissions from volunteers to add to your experience. Do a great job and you could be looking at a glowing reference from an editor. Stuck for ideas about where to look? Google “write for us” and then your topic of expertise; you will hopefully be inundated with options.
Build your social media presence
A lot of medium-to-big publishers request that their contributors have their fair share of followers on Twitter and connections on LinkedIn. While this presents a good opportunity for you to impress potential employers, it’s an even better excuse to connect with people that will be eager to read your work. You should also be an avid user of social media user so as to keep on top of breaking news, rumours, and helpful guides for your field of choosing. I have a Twitter account that is purely used to catch story leads as they break.
Chase the money
Now that you have paid your dues with voluntary submissions and have built a strong social media presence, it’s time to go hunt for the websites that will pay you for your talents. Every website is different: some pay royalties (like us), others pay flat fees when your work is published. Payment dates also always vary, so be sure you discuss this with the editor. If you’re trying to become a freelance journalist and are on the lookout for paying websites, I included plenty in my list of 50 Awesome Websites to Submit Your Writing To.
Broaden your output
With enough journalism experience to write for paid gigs, you will want to ensure that you are putting all your eggs in one basket. As much as I love all the contributors here, I always want to see them going out and adding vital experiences to their CV away from us. Only the elite and vastly-experienced earn a living wage from writing for a sole publication, so it’s recommended that you find gigs wherever will take you.
This is a just basic guide on how to earn to some writing experience online. My story may not be the same as yours, but I hope this helps some of you to get on the right path.