7 Tips for Getting that Writing Gig

Vision 67

7 Tips for Getting that Writing Gig –

Without an English Degree


Michele Miller

Copyright © 2012, Michele Miller, All Rights Reserved



When I first started freelancing in 2005, I didn't know how to handle the fact that I don't have an English degree. Oh, I was on my way to getting one but I dropped out of college due to a domestic violence situation. But that's a story for another day.

So, how do you get that writing gig without an English degree? Here's what I do. (Keep in mind that there are some gigs where the editor/client refuses to budge and requires that the writer(s) they hire have that degree. There's not much you can do in that situation.)

On the other hand. . . .

  1. Study. You don't have to go to college to study. Sure, you're at somewhat of a disadvantage since you don't have an English professor with a red pen but if you're dedicated to improving your grammar and English skills, studying can make all the difference. (You might even luck out and find someone who is willing to mentor you in this area and share their wisdom.)
  2. Make an excellent first impression. You have one chance to knock the socks off the person reading your email. Make it count. Double-check your spelling, let it sit overnight and proofread it again before hitting send. Be creative, enthusiastic, and very smart.
  3. Build a web presence. This can make a difference, too. If a potential client or editor clicks a link to your website and/or blog you include in your email and they find something well-written with a fresh voice, it can motivate them to give you an opportunity to prove yourself with them. I highly recommend creating a website. You can use WordPress or Blogger for free to begin with. You can also purchase a domain name for around $10. I've noticed a huge increase in responses and opportunities since I polished my online presence with a website. (Note: my website is undergoing a transformation. I am now using my married name so www.micheletune.com will become www.writermichelemiller.com.) I also highly recommend social media. Sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn can bring in new clients or opportunities you wouldn't find otherwise.


  4. Be flexible. Learn to go with the flow. If you wanted to write a 2,000-word feature for the publication but the editor asks you to write a 200-word filler instead, just do it. You can't always start out at the top. Most writers don't. I've accepted that. And, I have found being flexible is something the people I work with love about me. They've said I'm creative, enthusiastic, and responsive to edits. And they know I can work with 200 words or 2,000. I aim to please the person/company I'm writing for. It works for me. It will work for you, too.
  5. Follow-up. Not every writer does this – and it's crucial. Just because you didn't receive a response doesn't mean they didn't like your work. In fact, they may have loved your work and had the best of intentions to get back to you. But life is busy and there are only so many hours in the day. They could have forgotten. It's always worth it to follow-up. It can also let them know you're serious about the opportunity.
  6. Sell Yourself. I know it's hard (for some of us), but you really need to dig deep and find the self-confidence to sell yourself. No, you might not have a big, fancy degree but nobody can be you. (It wasn't easy for me to find the courage to submit this to Freelance Switch, but then I remembered 2009 is the year I'm going to shine in the freelance world as never before.) Make your freelance services sound irresistible. The applicants with degrees might not have the personality and passion you have. A college degree can't buy writing talent – or a personality. Remember the saying: If you've got it, flaunt it.

  8. Market. Have you read that it's not always the best writers who get the most work? That they are getting the work because they market themselves better than the more qualified – or talented – writer? I believe it's true. Marketing myself has been my weakest area so far. But I've made up my mind that this is the year I'm going to step up, speak up, sell myself, and make the best first impression possible.

Some resources I have found useful:

  • Grammar Girl Podcast http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/ (I've also ordered her book: Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.) Mignon Fogarty really breaks the English language down so you can understand it.
  • Funds for Writers (of course!)
  • AP Stylebook
  • Chicago Manual of Style
  • The Elements of Style: The Original Edition by William Strunk
  • It really helps to read. Envelop yourself with well-written books, blog posts, magazine articles. The more you read and the more you study and write, the better your work will be. So, did I forget anything? Do you have an English degree? Do you think they are absolutely necessary for a writer to succeed? Do you have any resources to share that I left out? Have you tried to hide the fact that you don't have a degree?

    Michele Miller has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published in a variety of print and online publications, including Fate, Pure Inspiration, Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, True Real Estate Stories, and many others. Miller covers inspiration, motivation, gardening, health and alternative medicine, and can be found blogging at www.healingwithjuices.com.