Becoming a Business Writer

A long time ago, I used to be a business writer. After college, I began working for a business newspaper and although I came to dislike working for the paper, it was a great introduction to writing about business and business people. I did lots of writing in that job.

In my free time after work, I was also a freelancer, still writing about business, business people and many other subjects. I never wrote about anyone I met in my newspaper job but there were scores of others who made great articles. Freelancing gave me as much work as I could handle.

Sometimes it was a matter of writing one freelance article a week. On the whole over three years, I got to write dozens of business-related pieces. They covered real estate, office equipment, home furnishings, roofing, shopping centers, videos, physician seminars, freight rates and much more. Some were articles, but the majority of the writing was for news releases, box copy, brochures, sales literature and other pieces of information to help business prosper. I got no bylines, but I did receive lots of checks — and that helped my family budget.

Did I come up with the ideas for these pieces myself? Not at all. The ideas all came from advertising and public relations people who contacted me and asked me to write them after working at my regular job. And when I left the newspaper and began full-time freelancing, they began to give me even more work. Obviously they knew from my newspaper work that I could write and handle the assignments.

All that experience can be, I think, a lesson for other freelancers who want some checks in a hurry. They may not know that advertising and public relations agencies frequently use outsiders to do their writing. That may be because many of those firms are small — often only one person — or because they don’t like (or don’t know how) to do the writing themselves. Although I got a fair share of assignments from the largest agency in town, the majority of my work came from small shops who could not afford to hire full-time writers. Whatever the reason, it was a great way for me to write and get regular checks for doing what I like best — writing. And the pay was good and quick.

To work with agencies, you need to have some clippings to show that you can write acceptable copy. If you don’t have clippings, you might focus on getting three or four articles published as soon as possible.

You could even contribute copy to small local newspapers or magazines (be sure that you get bylines) or offer to do some free writing for a non-profit in order to get the needed bylines. Then you can concentrate on dealing with advertising and public relations agencies.

If I were a new freelancer looking for more writing jobs, I’d make it a point to contact every agency in my area and ask if they use outsiders for writing assignments. Send them copies of your clippings. It’s a good way to get your foot in the door.

It’s also a great way to get started as a business writer. If you like this approach, please let me know if and when you get writing assignments as a result.

Please leave a comment.

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