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Build a portfolio now, just in case you need it later

September 20, 2013

Your writing avocation is something you can use to help you make money. To quote the great Paul Harvey, “It’s true.”

For most professions, what used to be considered job security is something that’s gone the way of dial phones, beepers, and political commentary that doesn’t drip condescension for all who disagree. And no matter what your inventory of skills, if your muse forces you to type stuff every now and again, you have at least one more.

I’m actually the Dread Pirate Roberts and it’s morning. You’re fired.

In other words, when you plan your writing career, you don’t have to confine yourself to just fiction, poetry, or longer-form non-fiction. There are lots of options you can pursue that will help you pay the bills should work’s version of the Dread Pirate Roberts finally follow through on his threat to most likely kill you in the morning.

The list of options is as long as War and Peace, and it’s not the mission of this particular blog post to go through them with you. You know what you’re good at and using Google (or DuckDuckGo, if you don’t want the NSA to track you), you can look for creative options that will help you figure out how your skill set best fits, given your time and passions.

The trick is to get a body of work out there in case you need it. Sure, you can go into an interview with a potential client or employer and tell them you know how to write, but where’s the proof? Where are your samples? Where’s something they can look at to verify your claim?

Given the tools currently available, if you want to get work writing, a body of samples is a reasonable expectation. You can create a blog in about fifteen minutes, and if you think employment issues are a vague potential threat down the road, you can start populating it with a post a week or so. If you can show engagement with some readers, so much the better. You get that engagement pretty easily by getting the word out with whatever social networking you use.

It’s pretty easy to set up a Facebook page and it’s not against Da Rules to invite your friends to like it (just don’t spam them to death). If you can get even a fraction of them to like it, you have a statistic. And if you engage your readers enough that they’ll comment, you have another statistic. And if you post once a week for even half a year, you have content and the proof that when you decide to do something, you’ll follow through on it.

Maybe you’re writing about the aesthetics of sports uniforms, or reviewing television shows you watch every week, or commenting on the state of the Romance genre. (Actually, people have done those things and managed to make a good living at it.) Whatever it is, set a schedule and stick to it. The goal isn’t to necessarily get paid for that specific writing, but to prove that you can write, show it with samples, and show the you can stick with a plan once you’ve put it in place. If you find a way to generate revenue…bonus!

It’s never bad to have an online portfolio. If you don’t, it’s not a bad time to think of establishing one.


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