Tips on Becoming a Writer or Editor

editor_writerA friend of mine asked me, “How did you become an editor, and how can someone else get into that type of career?” That’s a tough question to answer because I never grew up thinking I’d be a writer or editor. I didn’t make up my mind on a career until high school, when I decided to explore a profession in TV journalism—either as a reporter or news anchor. At the University of Florida I studied TV and radio journalism, and even had the chance to report the news and anchor a newscast for several semesters. Nonetheless, I didn’t stick to TV journalism. I did give it a try, however. I interned at FOX News and worked at ABC News. Yet, nearly eight years since I graduated with my TV news degree, I am continents away and in a pretty different profession than I expected—Staff Editor of Middle East Content for a leading global consultancy firm. Thankfully, I enjoy my job even if I didn’t anticipate it, and can share some tips for people who are looking to enter the editing and writing field:

blog-Start a blog. With a blog you’ll have a presence online and be able to have proof of your writing ability when applying for jobs/internships (it will also hopefully allow you to improve your writing over time). I would suggest wordpress.com, the platform I’m using for this blog!

-Intern or try to contribute articles to publications. Most publications are in need of content (especially free) so one way to bulk up your portfolio is to send your content for consideration/publishing to media outlets that you’re interested in. So come up with a list of publications you like and then email their editors to see if they’ll accept your content. This can also help you network with people within the industry you want to enter.

-Gain the relevant skills and knowledge. Most people don’t have the time or financial ability to go back to school. Luckily there are many platforms for learning that don’t require much money or full-time attention. One of my favorites is Lynda.com, which offers thousands of intense tutorials on everything from blog writing to fashion photography. To sign up, you have two options—basic membership or premium. Both are relatively inexpensive and worth their fee. On the other hand, Coursera.org provides free classes (including writing and English courses such as English Composition offered by Duke University) from the most prestigious universities around the world. Students who successfully pass a course receive certificates from the university that offered the course (this can help freshen up one’s resume/CV and show perspective employers that they’re not complacent).

A Closer Look: Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is something you may think you know little about. However, you may very well be a part of crowdsourcing and not realize it. If you contribute photos or illustrations to iStock or Dreamstime, design artwork for 99designs.com, write entries for Wikipedia, or write reviews on Amazon.com, you have engaged in crowdsourcing to some extent. Essentially, crowdsourcing is a process that involves outsourcing tasks to a collective group of the public at large. Rather than hire an employee to do the work or outsource to another country, an executive can go online and find the right image he’s looking for, for far less than hiring a professional photographer, as was the case with one subject in this WIRED magazine article. The article explains crowdsourcing by demonstrating its devastating effect on one guy who had much of his work taken away from him. At the same time, crowdsourcing has provided an income for thousands of other people. Nonetheless, the article cites how hard it is for professional photographers to compete with $1-dollar-per-photo crowdsourcing websites.

Executives are not the only ones engaging in crowdsourcing. With the advent of the Internet, the media has begun featuring news produced by citizen reporters or “I-reporters”. I remember seeing plenty of online and TV advertising for citizen journalists both by BBC and CNN a few years ago. These media outlets, which are fighting to stay relevant, don’t have the budget and resources to hire reporters to go across the globe to cover a story. Instead, these outlets can call on residents to be the eyes and ears of a location and bring the story to the media. Indeed, the quality may not be amazing but it is one way to develop content for a struggling media outlet for relatively nothing.

Questions for readers:

-Are you involved in crowdsourcing? If so, elaborate. If not, why not? Are you considering it (this question goes especially to my classmates who have their Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, web design, and SEO skills down, and are in an ideal position to contribute their newly-acquired skills.)?

-Have you ever sought out a crowdsourcing company to get something done?