Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Will Write For Food

Looking for work as a writer is a funny thing.

They say you can't find work as a writer, but that isn't entirely true. What's hard to do is get paid to do your own writing. There are lots of people out there who are willing to pay you to put their words on paper.

Most of my searching is done via Craigslist. Here is a small sample of the sorts of things I'll find on the "SF Bay Area Writing/Editing Job Classifieds":

Wed Feb 18

Copywriter for Benefit Cosmetics! - (financial district)
Writer for online course development - (santa cruz)

Tue Feb 17

enterprise software marketing - freelance - (SOMA / south beach)

Mon Feb 16

Seeking Freelance Technical Abstractor - (berkeley)
Instructional Designer Role-Play/Simulations (Ad Agency background) - (Cupertino)

The "Instructional Designer Role-Play/Simulations" one is a lot less interesting than it sounds. I don't think I applied for that one.

Of the jobs listed on a given day, I will find between zero and three or so jobs that I think I could do and stand a chance of getting. I'll fire off a salvo of emailed cover letters and attached resumes, make a note of the applications on my nifty organizational spreadsheet (a gift from the Abigail's father) and decide when to follow up with a phone call (if they were kind enough to supply a number) or a second email (much more likely), and that's it. Then, I throw myself into the "Education/Teachers Job Classifieds" and the "Marketing/Advertising/PR Jobs Classified." Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Of course, does anyone really get a job from Craigslist these days? Really?

So, I hedge my bets with conversations. They aren't really conversations, though. What they are is interviews. These aren't the kinds of interviews that get you jobs, though, at least not directly. They are what we call "informational interviews,"an hour to an hour and a half when one of the wise and lucky will agree to share their knowledge with the young, naive, and unemployed: me.

These are a lot more fun. I get to talk to exciting people about their wild and varied pasts. I get cool little hints, fun advice from the interesting and successful, and an excuse to buy myself a cup of coffee and a muffin at a fancy coffee house on Fillmore (if they're already friends of mine, sometimes the wise and lucky buy me lunch!). It's easy to have a good time with informational interviews. It's harder to avoid feeling down when they don't result in anything.

Of course, that's not all I do. I have wilder projects, things even less likely to result in a job than informational interviews, but much more fun.

For example, I blog. If I get a comment on this or another post offering me a job thanks to the sheer geeky brilliance of my prose, I'll take it. More rationally, I hope to build up a small tribe of fans, people who read my thoughts on writing, buy my fiction (when I'm published), and carry me on their shoulders towards success. Some writers have even managed book deals as a result of large online fandoms. Such coups are hard to manage, but they can happen, and if they can happen, they can happen to me.

Similarly, I have a super secret project. There will be no more on that until it's ready to be unveiled.

Ultimately, we are in a depression. Finding work is hard, as a writer, a marketer, a teacher, or anything else, and we all stagger on as best we can. If you can find a way to make part of your search fun, do it.

That's the best advice I can offer, and I'm open to any advice anyone else might have.


Ben said...

I'm a technical editor in a corporate environment. We just hired a new proofreader using Craigslist, so yes, it can happen. Of course, we had probably about 130 resumes sent in, most of them from out-of-work journalists or new English grads. The selection process was tough. Last year when we advertised for the same position, we got maybe two dozen resumes. People are desperate for work, that's for sure.

Crabby McSlacker said...

My Craiglist ad job search procedure:

Peruse ads. See maybe ONE that if accurately described, might not be too awful.

Assume that if it doesn't look awful to me, then there will be hundreds of other better qualified folks applying.

Decide it's not worth it. Return to fantasies of blog-to-book publication.

Realize that this fantasy might actually require completion of book proposal.

Return the next day to Craigslist to look for jobs again.

Hmm, wonder why I haven't found a job yet?

(Good luck with your search!)