As I have mentioned in previous posts, I recently began seeking opportunities to expand my writing portfolio. The theme of this blog is “Living a Life of Writing,” a phrase which summarizes my goal of spending more time focused on my writing. One way I hope to achieve this goal is to eventually transition into writing full-time professionally.
As a way to build my professional portfolio, I am writing (unpaid) for a couple different non-profit groups. In today’s post, I want to share my experiences navigating the process of writing for various organizations. I expect my experiences to shift as I develop more of a flow with taking on these writing tasks, but I wanted to share my initial thoughts and takeaways. I personally have had a difficult time finding information about “everyday people” starting new paths as writers, so I wanted to include you all in my writing journey and give you some tips that I have discovered.
- Seek out writing opportunities – I searched online for “volunteer writing opportunities” and uncovered a multitude of requests for volunteer writers. There are organizations looking for people to write blog posts about environmental issues, travel articles, descriptions of animals who are up for adoption in local shelters, etc. I had no problem finding a large number of opportunities. Chances are that you will find something you are interested in with just a little bit of digging.
- Choose a level of commitment – I signed up for one position via a volunteer database site. I heard back after just a day or two and got set up writing right away. I have taken on several roles with this group as writer, editor, and recently, blog team assistant. I’ve also signed up with another non-profit (an environmental group) and have begun writing posts for them. At the moment, this amount of work is perfect for me, as I currently have a full-time (non-writing related) job. I would suggest planning your level of commitment before you contact a group. With all groups, there seems to be endless amounts of work, and it is very easy to take on more than you can accomplish, especially if you have other commitments.
- Expect to be in constant communication – Everything you hear about deadlines for writers is no joke. I enjoy interacting with the teams and it is a plus for everyone to be so communicative, but I have definitely had to step up my game in terms of responding to texts and e-mails. Be prepared to connect via several different platforms including texting, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangout, and Skype! Work also comes in last minute, so don’t be surprised if you are typing up something that is due to be published that day.
- Brush up on style guides – The internet has made writing much less formal than it has been in the past. I typically adhere to the constraints of grammar naturally due to developing the habit in school, but as I have begun writing for organizations, I have encountered small details in my writing that I need to brush up on. For example, I was writing a sentence with the number “ten” mentioned and could not remember if it was standard to spell it out or write the numerals (in case you’re curious, it depends on whether you’re writing in MLA or APA format). I’ve also needed to refresh my memory on hyphen and dash usage which, admittedly, are not the most important or exciting pieces of punctuation, but do help clarify writing.
- Research topics – If you are going to be writing about specific topics, especially subjects chosen by someone else, be prepared to spend time researching. The environmental group I am writing for sent me some information about a potential environmental disaster in Brazil, and I found myself researching various terms related to the mining industry and also the geography of Brazil. It is actually fun to research these things, so you will also get some interesting pieces of knowledge.
I hope some of you new writers out there find this post helpful in terms of what to expect when writing for organizations. I plan to post continual updates about my writing experiences, but in the meantime, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any specific questions. The comments section is always a great place to discuss any questions as well, as it gives us all the chance to network with other writers.
Thank you for stopping by, and happy writing this week!