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Five Ways to Shine as a Professional Writer

With the growth of social media and marketing techniques like online article marketing, it seems that everyone is a writer of one sort or another. In fact, I've read a handful of articles that assure the reading public that anyone can write. While this may be technically true, those of us who write for a living know that it isn't as easy as it sounds. There is much more to the craft than meets the eye.

With this new realm of competition at our doorstep, I've created a list of ways that can set you apart from those who are merely dabbling in writing or writing simply for marketing's sake.

1. Develop a website. If you don't already have one, confirm your legitimacy as a writer or journalist by creating your own website. It can be as simple as one page which tells who you are, what types of writing you specialize in and how people can contact you. At the other end of the spectrum, it can be a multi-page site that contains bio information, a professional profile or résumé and clips of your work. Regardless of your site's level of complexity, your site will confirm that you are a professional writer with a portfolio and published clips.

2. Create a professional profile. Unless you graduated from j-school and have been a professional writer since your career began, I've found that a traditional resume doesn't cut it. Instead, I developed a two-page professional profile. It looks similar to my résumé, but it only briefly summarizes my irrelevant career prior to becoming a freelancer over four years ago.

It contains sections like relevant skills (writing, editing, marketing); a sample of my client list; my relevant education; and a list of publications and websites for whom I've written. I have this document posted on my website so, when replying to a freelance posting or ad, I can refer the editor or prospective client to my profile without sending an attachment (hint: unless they know you, they won't open an attachment anyway.).

3. Prepare an online portfolio. Whether you include this information on your website or use one provided by an organization like Media Bistro, you'll need an online portfolio of your published work. It can be organized any number of ways, depending on what types of clips you have. On my site, portfolio samples are broken down by type (articles, marketing materials, and web copy).

You could also break them down by publication or media type (broadcast, print, web, newspaper, magazine, etc.) Clips can take virtually any format: you can post them directly to a web page, add a *.pdf or *.doc/*.docx attachment, link to a URL, etc. As long as your portfolio is well organized and the clips are relatively current, site visitors (a.k.a. prospective clients) will be able to find what they're looking for.

4. Proof and edit your own work. Have you ever received an e-mail or letter from a colleague or prospective client riddled with mistakes? Did it make you cringe? This is a common pet peeve of professional writers and editors, including me. I always tell (read: nag) business professionals from all industries but particularly writers and editors to make sure they proof and edit their own work prior to submission to an editor or client.

Of course, the materials are likely to be proofread and copyedited by someone else, too, but if you want repeat business or additional assignments, your work must be top notch and error-free. Because so many "article marketers" are focused on selling their products and services and NOT on punctuation and spelling, your writing will be superior.

5. Hone your craft. Whether you are a self-taught or college-educated writer, continue to expand your talent by investing in quality resources (a good dictionary and thesaurus; Chicago Manual of Style; Writer's Market; The Copyeditor's Handbook, etc.); taking continuing education classes; and trying out different genres (business writing, creative writing, fiction, horror, romance, etc.). You'll not only fine-tune your skills, but you'll have a better sense of where your voice best fits in the writing world.

If you follow these five tips, you will stand out as a professional writer - not as a fly-by-night blogger, forum poster or article marketer - and you will gain confidence in your ability to market yourself and your writing and editing services. Happy writing!


Dana Blozis of Virtually Yourz is a freelance writer, editor and marketing professional based in the Seattle area. In addition to writing for publication, she writes for small businesses and nonprofits. For more information, visit Virtually Yourz.

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