Posts filed under Design

Building Your Professional Website & Online Portfolio: 13 Things You Need to Know

If you’re pursuing a career as a professional writer, having an online portfolio is an absolute must. When we say “online portfolio,” what we mean is a website that showcases your work, the same way you would in a binder of newspaper clippings (does anyone do that anymore?!).

Having an online portfolio allows you to direct potential employers to a single, permanent space where your work will always be accessible. It won’t get ruined in the rain and it will never go out of date (if you update it regularly, that is!). Even more importantly, it improves your professional online presence and creates a platform on which to market yourself, which is really what finding a job is all about. Plus, it shows how tech-savvy you are—a huge selling point alone!

There are so many online tools available, many of which are even free. But regardless of which one you choose, consult our expert checklist below to ensure your online portfolio is polished, professional and effective!

Relevant domain:

  • Having your own domain name doesn’t cost much and it shows that you are serious about being a professional! Use your own name, a business name, or a short phrase that reflects your goals. Remember, it’s all about marketing yourself and creating something memorable.

Aesthetically pleasing design:

  • Treat the design of your website as part of the portfolio itself. You want to show potential employers and clients that you have some web skills, but don’t worry—this doesn’t mean you have to become a web developer or a coding expert. Many designs are already built for you, and you have the option to customize them if you want. Also keep in mind that what is ‘hip’ in design is constantly changing. You don’t want a site that looks like it was built in 2005—things have come a long way since then.

Professional headshot:

  • Making a good first impression with a professional headshot is crucial. Think of it this way: you’re the product you’re trying to market! This doesn’t mean you have to be a model, but getting your photo taken by a professional photographer—or even a friend with a great camera—is an investment you won’t regret! You can use this headshot in countless places, and it might be the first impression someone has of you and your brand. Lots of writers skimp on this, but it is absolutely crucial to your online image and the way you will be perceived. If you don’t care about representing yourself well, then how well will you be able to represent someone else?

Your resume:

  • Whether listed directly on the site or provided as a PDF, including your resume offers an excellent way for potential employers to get a quick picture of your experience. Even a link to your LinkedIn profile is a good option.

Portfolio:

  • This one is obvious at this point, but if you are going to bother making a website, then it needs to showcase your work! (You’d be surprised at how many professional websites lack this…) Include photos of completed projects, samples, screenshots, links, videos—whatever you have! It’s best to include a caption with each piece that at least details when it was created and what your contribution was.

Contact info:

  • You don’t have to give away your soul here—a simple e-mail address that you regularly check will suffice! We definitely recommend against sharing your address online unless it’s an actual office and you want people to find you.

Optional:

Description of services:

  • If you’re looking for freelance gigs, then you’ll want to include a list of your services and a brief description of each. Some freelance professionals choose to list their rates and fees directly on the site, while others prefer to keep that information confidential until they speak with a potential client directly. Either way, it should be clear from visiting your site what you do!

Testimonials:

  • If you work with freelance clients, then this is a wonderful way to show off your street cred! Of course, some people take these with a grain of salt (who would post a bad review of themselves on their own website?) but it does show that you’ve worked with real people.

Dead pages:

  • Oops! How did that happen? Test every link on your page—it doesn’t look very professional if you send someone to your portfolio and an important page is broken.

Unfinished design:

  • Don’t send anyone to your site unless it’s completely finished! Once you start a page, finish it.

Out of date information:

  • Did you get a new e-mail address? A new job? Have your work responsibilities changed? Is 2008 the last time you made an update? It’s a good idea to give your portfolio a glance every few months. Consider adding a website updating schedule to your calendar.

Faulty links:

  • Unfortunately, links to other websites do become inactive, and when they do, there isn’t anything you can do about it. But don’t let that deter you from including them on your site. Just be sure to test the published links periodically.

Spelling or grammatical errors:

  • You may be a writer or an editor, but you’re still not perfect. Call in a favor from a co-worker or ask a friend to proofread the text on your site—the last thing you want is for a potential client or employer to catch an error when you’re the one claiming to be the grammatical expert!

No matter where you’re at in your career, an online portfolio is not only a huge professional asset, but it’s also a super convenient way to get your name out there! Creating one may feel like busywork, but trust us, the investment will pay off.

Need some inspiration? Check out the links below for some of our favorite online portfolios (all from Dear English Major contributors!):



READ MORE:

Lisa Boosin: Senior Advertising Copywriter & Freelancer

Name: Lisa Boosin

Age: 42

College & Majors/Minors: CSU Fullerton for undergrad degrees in Philosophy and Communications; started (but quickly abandoned) an MA in Political Philosophy; MA in Communications with an emphasis on Advertising

Current Location: Los Angeles, CA

Current Form of Employment: Full-time advertising copywriter, with a lot of freelance advertising work on the side.

Where do you work and what is your current position?

My main gig is Senior Copywriter for the Advertising and Brand department at UnitedHealthcare, the big health care company that’s a subsidiary of an even larger company. My department is basically the in-house advertising agency. I write/contribute creative concepts for a pretty broad spectrum of projects, including the traditional things you think of when you think of a copywriter, such as print ads, radio ads, billboards, web copy, and brochures. Many of these jobs entail concepting (a word that I expect will make many English majors cringe), or sitting around, sometimes by myself, or with other writers, art directors and graphic designers, to come up with overarching themes or concepts for campaigns. There’s a very social component to it but obviously, if I need to write a 16-page brochure, I work on this by myself, but I still have to juggle my coworkers’ demands. And since I’m the Senior Copywriter, that means I coach the other copywriters, work on (and enforce) our brand standards, and make presentations to our internal clients.

My job before this was at The Orange County Register. I was brought on to develop and edit a youth lifestyle publication as part of the paper’s Newspapers in Education program. Oddly enough, this publication “belonged” to the marketing department, not the newsroom. My only newspaper experience had been in high school, but I think my strong writing skills, combined with the fact that my boss liked my advertising background (I was working at a small advertising agency when I was offered the job at the Register) helped me seal the deal.

As the managing editor, I worked with a small staff to develop an editorial calendar; I did a lot of research on relevant trends and news; I wrote articles; I selected content from a wire service and then edited those articles; I assigned stories to interns; I worked very closely with a photographer, setting up photo shoots, giving input on art direction and then selecting photos; and since it was part of an educational program, I occasionally did outreach to high schools and a few youth groups.

In addition to being the managing editor of the publication, I also contributed to the Register’s in-house marketing and advertising department. Eventually, the publication was phased out, and I went to the advertising department full time.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different). 

I have always been lucky – well, maybe not really – in that jobs either fall into my lap or I get into a job and get opportunities to expand my role. For example, at my first real advertising job I was actually hired as a graphic designer! It was a job I could totally do, even though I had just gotten out of college with my communications degree and previous experience copywriting – it was just that I was at a point where I needed a job; I hadn’t had any luck finding copy work, and this place was willing to hire me to do design and production work. Of course, once I started, I kept reminding them, “Hey, I write copy! Hey, I write copy!” And eventually they let me.

The Orange County Register found me through a recruiting service. They saw my advertising work, which included brochures and long-form, and recognized that I could really write. Initially, I was brought on as a freelancer, so they could make sure I could really do the work. After a period of a couple months, I was made an offer to become a full-time employee.

My current job, I started off in a much different role: as a proofreader. I’d just been laid off from the Register, and I was FREAKING OUT, I’d never been laid off and I was like, “WHAT IF I NEVER GET ANOTHER JOB?” A few weeks later, I got a call from a recruiting service, asking me if I’d be willing to take a proofreading/copy editor assignment at a large health care company. To which I responded, “OH GOD YES, ANYTHING, I’LL TAKE IT.” And then, just like I did at that first advertising agency, I kept gently prodding my manager and reminding her that I wrote copy. She wrangled me a few assignments. The department had never had a copywriter before, so once people started hearing this service was available, copy jobs started rolling in, and it finally got to the point where I could just be the copywriter.

Regarding job and skills testing: There’s not anything like a standardized test to assess copywriting skills, so these days, most companies or agencies want to try out copywriters on a freelance basis, which can last anywhere from a month to years.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career? 

I’ve always done a little freelancing, but for the past seven years, it’s accounted for a bigger portion of my professional life. My regular clients include a couple of smaller, well-respected advertising agencies, and a few of my own clients.

Taking on the extra work forces me to be on my game, time-management wise. And freelancing is like running your own little business: you have to handle billing, project management, marketing, and new business development. As someone with a “textbook” liberal arts education, I didn’t pick up any of these skills in college, and frankly, they do not come easy to me. But they are all worth having.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life? 

I worked all throughout college – not “career” jobs, just retail and assorted office jobs to support myself. (My backstory is that I was orphaned by the time I was nine and my adoptive parents died when I was 20 – leaving me on my own, in a big way, and responsible for hauling my own weight.) Because of the work/school load, I didn’t have time for formal extracurriculars.

In my senior year, I did an unpaid internship at a web design company, mainly writing copy for their clients but also doing some photo editing and coding, and making coffee runs. The most valuable part of this experience was learning what I liked in a job and at a work environment: for example, I came to appreciate how much I value having variety in my days, and that I preferred not having to deal with a lot of different people (which made me realize I do better in smaller companies or departments). I also figured out that I could not work in an environment where I was expected to wear a jacket, pantyhose and heels every day (or ever, actually).

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

If your goal is to be a writer, GO FOR IT NOW AND GO AT IT AS HARD AS YOU CAN, WITH EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT. My not-so-secret secret is that I’ve always wanted a career in creative writing, but because I was on my own, with no outside support at such an early age, I made conservative decisions about my education and my life. I knew I needed to be able to support myself and that being a writer was a big crapshoot. So I never had opportunity to make creative writing priority #1. Pursue your goals with a vengeance before you have a real job and real responsibilities: you’ll have the rest of your life to having a boring, responsible, adult job.

Here’s something else I wish I could tell 20-year-old me: knowing and being able to talk to people is a huge component of success, in just about 99.995% of all endeavors. It doesn’t matter how talented you are or how much ambition you have; you have to be able to connect with people and “market” or advocate for yourself and your work. This is especially true in both publishing and advertising right now. This is hard for a lot of creative people – if it’s hard for you, start practicing now so by the time you need these skills, they come easier to you.

Find Lisa Boosin online: 

My advertising portfolio is at lisaboosin.com. I’m really proud of my work. I’ve worked for some big-name clients, and I’ve also worked with non-profits and public sector clients on causes I believe in, which has been hugely gratifying.

Like I said, I do creative non-fiction on the side and I’m working on a memoir. I’ve done spoken word shows around LA and contributed to a number of different websites. Three of the best examples of my work are:

Posted on April 30, 2014 and filed under Communications, Design, Freelance, Journalism, Marketing, Writing.

Amanda Rinker: Content Manager at OVC Lawyer Marketing

Name: Amanda Rinker

Age: 25

College & Majors/Minors: B.A. in English, Writing Concentration from Clarion University of Pennsylvania

Current Location: San Antonio, Texas

Current Form of Employment: Content Manager at OVC Lawyer Marketing

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

I currently work at OVC, INC. (aka OVC Lawyer Marketing) which is a website development company based out of Chicago, Illinois. We provide website design, Search Engine Optimization, social media, website content, blogs, and more for attorneys located throughout the U.S. At OVC, I am the Content Manager. I mostly handle the assigning and editing of website content and blogs, but I also help out with the web operations duties of maintaining legal directory listings for our clients, creating and updating mobile websites, updating websites, and the upkeep of Google Places listings. Really, I wear many different hats at OVC but my passion is the content. It is a big responsibility to keeping content and blog schedules on track, as well as handling client turnaround on projects, but my passion for editing makes all of the pressure worth it. I love being able to take something a writer compiled, research the latest SEO techniques to implement, and conform the writing to make a client successful and happy.

I was introduced to the owner of OVC, Greg Wildman, back in 2011 through my first freelance job after college. I worked for (then Online Video Concepts, LLC) here and there for two years, adding content and updates to attorney websites. In 2013, I gained a bigger role with the company, and this year I became its first employee. With the 2014 massive growth of OVC, we hired on three more full time employees and even more contract writers and web developers. OVC, INC. has a bright future and I plan on helping to carry the torch.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different). 

My first job was for a multi-faith prayer website (weird, right?). After college, I started dating my now husband of four years so I was determined to find a work-from-home job. He was in the Army and we'd likely be moving around every two to three years. So I cruised Craigslist ads for three months after graduation before I came upon the interesting ad. I sent an email with my short post-graduation resume and received a response from the Chicago-based website. After a Skype interview, I was hired and worked for the website for about a year as a freelance editor eventually managing a team of writers and editing their content for publication and email newsletters. Through this amazing opportunity, I learned HTML, the content management system Joomla, Wordpress, how to publish eBooks, and really just how to be a professional in a virtual setting. I will be forever grateful for this first opportunity I had.

Nowadays, especially when you telecommute to work, employers are looking for writers and editors with a broad range of skills. You can't just be able to write anymore; you have to know some HTML, have worked in the "back end" of websites, know the latest SEO techniques, have experience with social media, and more. Not only do you have to have talent, but you must also be willing to learn how to market yourself. This involves keeping your own online portfolio and making sure it's up to date. For example, my website www.amandarinker.com is not as current as it could be, but now that I have a full time employee position I can afford to let it linger until I need it. However, when I'm in the market for new freelance opportunities, I always make sure to have the most recent articles I've written, live links to social media I've helped manage, etc. Not only should the resume be recent, but having my own hand-built portfolio website also shows my budding web development skills.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

My job after the prayer site was for a digital art magazine/news website. This job taught me the importance of being an asset to a business. For example, I would take calls or push out relevant news stories for our website on nights and weekends. I was the link of broadcasting the latest art, fashion, or book news to our viewers. It was great for learning responsibility and my value as a worker. This editing position also taught me more about interviewing. I would interview innovative creators of art and learn what made them tick, or what their inspirations were. It helped me connect with people even if it was over a computer or on the phone. It can make you stir crazy working in an empty office at home, so this provided some human interaction. Finally, this freelance job gave me more insight on publishing for eReaders like Kindle, Nook and iPad. There are so many different aspects that go into publishing that readers don't think about, such as each eReader must be created in it's own file format. They all don't read the same file and make it look pretty on the screen. That was probably the hardest thing to deal with when publishing the quarterly eMagazine.

I also freelanced for a publisher that released different science-related journals. Specifically, I worked on an academic physics journal. Let me say, it's very interesting to edit around scientific terms and theories that you don't understand. However, I made it work somehow. As a copy editor you pick up inserting that "blank" noun or verb over a term you don't know. Though, I am proud to say that when I see stories about the Large Hadron Collider in the news I jump for joy because I've been editing works about it. Most notably, this job taught me how to work with the Chicago Manual of Style (whereas I was familiar with MLA style in college) and how to use different editing software for journals.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

During my senior year of college, I was involved in the English Department's "BaZaar Magazine," a student publication with articles and reviews written on music, movies, and travel sites. But, my main involvement that shaped my career was my in English Club and Sigma Tau Delta (English Honors Society) from sophomore to senior year. My senior year, I was the President of the English Club and Vice President of our Sigma Tau Delta chapter. Attending STD (yes, it's a great acronym) conferences in different cities, submitting my writing and meeting book authors was the best experience I had in college. I have signed books from Alexandra Fuller, Michael Perry, and Neil Gaiman that I will treasure forever, as well as the memories of hearing them speak about their careers. Not only did these organizations look good on my resume, but they enriched my life and future career with expanding my own writing, learning from others, and gaining relationships with my peers.

The other major thing I did to prepare for post-college life ("real life" as I call it) was nab an internship at a small Pittsburgh publishing house. This helped me get my hands on manuscripts, allowed me to contribute my own book reviews to their blog, and showed me the ins and outs of a real company. Though I did intern tasks like maintain the stockroom, mail out book orders, and get everyone lunch, I learned valuable editing and business skills from the editors and book designers.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

One concrete statement that I can give to English students and graduates is what I mentioned before: Be more than just a writer or editor. Know your craft but also know what will make you successful. Market yourself with the abilities you should have in today's digital age. Also, be willing to take less money if you want to get your foot in the door. I started off making $8/hour (now near minimum wage) with my first gig. But, I worked hard and made my way up to $10/hr in only a few months, and so on. Today a lot of people, especially in my generation, think they deserve more right out of college, so that's why they might not be working in the field they enjoy. It takes sacrifice and working over 40 hours a week to get somewhere. I'm not saying you may not be worth a higher salary, but to get somewhere you have to start from the bottom and fight your way to the top.

Visit Amanda on her professional website amandarinker.com, check out her profile on OVCLawyerMarketing.com and connect with her on LinkedIn!

Kat Clark: Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications

Name: Kat Clark

Age: 24

College & Majors/Minors: B.A. from Swarthmore College, English Literature & Studio Art.

Current Location: Philadelphia, PA

Current Form of Employment: Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work at Moorestown Friends School, which is a Quaker school for students in preschool through 12th grade. As the Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications, my primary responsibility is storytelling: writing articles, managing social media, designing communications, and editing our magazine. I am also the school’s photographer, which is where my double major really comes into play. For projects such as our Summer Programs brochure or Great Kids video, I’m able to start with a blank slate in InDesign or Final Cut and build the piece from start to finish — I like that I don’t need to choose between writing and visual art. I teach a middle school video production class once a week, and I love doing that.

Last year, I worked at North Shore Country Day School outside of Chicago, where I was their Communications Associate. The responsibilities for that position were similar to what I’m doing now, and I also advised the high school newspaper several times each week and planned events with the library staff. I’m passionate about teaching and community building, so connecting with the students means a lot to me and helps me feel like my work in marketing is meaningful. I believe that all offices of an educational institution should be student-centered, not only classroom spaces; if a student listened in on one of my meetings, I would want her to feel that I’m her advocate.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job.

My first job out of Swarthmore was a paid summer internship in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Museum Education Department. I’m not sure if I can share exactly what the application process was like, but I can say that the interview round was difficult. Working in museum education requires public speaking skills, and my experience at AIC made me more confident. I’m used to being behind the scenes, so presenting American Gothic to a large group of people was important to my growth as a person. It also helped me realize my strengths and weaknesses: I was fired up when talking to local kids about artwork, but I was hopelessly bored when waiting to see a rare print.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

I was Co-Executive Editor of Swarthmore’s daily online newspaper, and that experience kind of reprogrammed my brain. Not only was I obsessed with the big picture (the paper succeeding), but I was also thrilled to spend my free time copyediting, editing images, and dealing with the minutiae of Wordpress. It got me more interested in the details of journalism and new media, both of which are integral to my current position. On top of that, the other students on the editorial staff were insanely talented (Hanna Kozlowska, Jon Emont, Sahiba Gill, Max Nesterak, Monika Zaleska), and I learned so much from them. As John Wooden once said, “Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who'll argue with you.”

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life? 

In addition to the newspaper, I worked for the College’s Communications Office for several years. That experience familiarized me with how communications work at a school, and I also managed the student Media Center at Swarthmore for two years. I think the technology skills gained from hours and hours in the computer lab helped me more than anything else. A generous grant from the Kohlberg Foundation allowed me to have summer experiences as well, and I could not be more grateful for that. I don’t think anyone should be forced to take an unpaid, uncompensated internship after graduating, and many people can’t afford them during school vacations either.

During the winter of my senior year, I also began volunteering remotely for the Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls & Young Women. Our media toolkit was later featured on the radio and in Al Jazeera, and it was a great introduction to the nonprofit world.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree? 

I highly recommend using Indeed and Idealist to find a job the moment it’s posted. Zero in on one job at a time. Look for a connection to the organization, do some thorough research, and submit a customized cover letter and résumé as quickly as possible... then repeat the process. Sending 100 generic cover letters is a waste of your time. You are only looking for one job, so focus on quality over quantity and be a standout applicant.

I also think it's helpful to have fluency in various computer programs (Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office) and be able to specify your skill level on a résumé. Employers will be able to see your writing skills in a cover letter, but it's much harder for them to rate your competency in design or social media, so spell it out for them as much as possible.

Most importantly, don't be a misanthrope. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Always stand up for the little guy. Share the credit with someone else. 

Visit Kat on her professional website katclark.org and connect with her on Facebook and twitter.

Posted on April 8, 2014 and filed under Communications, Design, Journalism, Marketing, Social Media, Writing.

Sara Shepherd: Freelance Writer

Name: Sara Shepherd

Age: 26

College & Majors/Minors: English Creative Writing & Theater

Current Location: Portland, OR

Current Form of Employment: Freelance Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

I am currently working as a freelance writer for a few companies. My “bread and butter” jobs are pretty uninspiring; I recently completed a job where I wrote 400-word pieces concerning the demographic information of different area codes. Not exactly the next greatest novel, but hey, I am making money with my writing and I am able to do it from my home. It's especially great because it allows me to stay with my eight-month-old daughter while continuing to build a professional career.

In the past I have held a couple of marketing positions, one for an engineering company and another through the Department of Defense while my husband was in the Army. In both of those positions I was responsible for turning technical information into readable and engaging content for the public.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job.

I found my first job through Craigslist while I was still in school. It was as a marketing and office assistant at an engineering firm in Seattle. The position was entry level, but I gained the marketing skills and experience that lead me to the freelance positions I hold today. The company was a small engineering firm in Seattle owned by some really nice people. They felt my personality was just as important as my skills, as well as my willingness to learn new tasks. The interview was far more personable than I expected. They were looking for someone who could help them create marketing materials as well as update their website, and were happy I knew a little bit of HTML, Photoshop, etc. That was a really great job. I ended up having to leave when my husband and I were moved to an Army base across the country.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

At Fort Stewart I worked as a clerk for the Department of Defense. It's not as exciting as it sounds– I was actually working at the front desk of a school-age childcare facility. The work could be downright dull at times, because I had to prepare a lot of government documents with very specific guidelines. Eventually a new manager was hired who recognized my skills in marketing and design, and I began taking on more creative assignments. I ended up designing the center's activity calendars, fliers, and I co-authored a 30 page customer handbook. The position taught me a lot about following strict guidelines, preparing official documents, and gave me a low-level security clearance which could have been applied to other jobs, had I pursued it.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

One of the most important activities I did while in college was work for the school paper. The job forced me to learn how to write on a tight deadline and made me more outgoing as I was always having to interview people I didn't know. I also picked up some very marketable skills like Adobe InDesign and Photoshop. Many freelance positions ask specifically for writers with news-writing and journalism experience, and I am continuing to write journalistic pieces for my own website.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

It took me a while to realize this, but writing is actually really hard for most people. I used to say “I should of gone to college for something practical, like a trade skill,” but writing IS a skill! Since entering the workforce, I have encountered some really terrible writing from folks who are professionals in other fields, but simply can't organize their thoughts on paper. As English majors, we have the education and experience to create high quality content that most people simply can't. We also the ingrained ability to think creatively. Don't sell yourself short – you do have a professional skill to offer, and every business needs someone who can write.

Visit Sara on her newly launched website, PvE Portland! It features nerdy businesses and individuals who live in and around Portland, Oregon. You can also connect with her via LinkedIn.

Posted on February 16, 2014 and filed under Freelance, Self-Employed, Marketing, Design, Blogging, Writing.

Andi Satterlund: Self-Employed Writer/Knitting Pattern Designer

Name: Andi Satterlund

Age: 24

Major: English Literature

Current Location: Seattle, WA

Current Form of Employment: Self-employed Writer/Knitting Pattern Designer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

The short version is that I’m a self-employed writer who specializes in knitting patterns and knitting related content, but like many self-employed writers, my current job is cobbled together from bits and pieces. I’m both a small business owner and freelance writer. I run a knitting blog and self-publish and sell knitting patterns through my business. On the freelance side of things, I’m a regular contributor of knitting articles and patterns for a tutorial website, and I also write articles and patterns for various knitting magazines.

I originally began writing about knitting while I was in college, and I continued to do it on the side while working another job. Prior to being self-employed full-time, I worked as an associate editor at a small cake decorating magazine where I both wrote and edited content. I spent a lot of time editing cake decorating tutorials and working on web content. Although cake decorating wasn’t a craft I did myself, the writing skills I had developed in college and through writing knitting content were useful no matter the topic.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

My hobbies in college led me to my current career path. I started writing a knitting blog just for fun, and I developed a bit of a following. My readers were enthusiastic about my work and encouraged me to start submitting it to publications. I had my first pattern published by a yarn company my junior year of college, and it was so exciting to be paid to do something I loved. I continued to do it just for fun until my senior year when I began to worry about finding a job after graduating. I began running my website more professionally and started to try to make more professional connections through social media. I went from treating my blog like a hobby to treating it like a part-time job.

 Andi's work was featured in the 2013 Winter issue of Pom Pom Quarterly.

Andi's work was featured in the 2013 Winter issue of Pom Pom Quarterly.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

Like almost all of my jobs, I found my first freelance job by networking, and I suspect I got it through having my blog because it’s like a giant portfolio. I was a member of a message board for knitting pattern writers, and someone posted about a yarn company’s new program to work with up-and-coming designers. I didn’t think much of the original post, but one of my blog readers encouraged me to submit a proposal, so I gave it a try. On my blog I had simple patterns I had written before, and I included a link to them in my proposal, which I think helped convince the company to take a chance on me. Having a wide variety of writing on my blog has always come in handy.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Get experience while you’re still a student! Whether it’s an internship, working on a student paper, running a blog, or getting published— all of it is incredibly helpful when you’re trying to get hired. Your degree gets your foot in the door, but your experience is what gets you work, and it’s a lot easier to find the time and opportunities to get experience when you’re still a student.

My second bit of advice is for content creators looking to build a career online, and that is if someone is profiting from your work, you should, too. The “honor” of getting published by another website or company is not worth giving your work away for free. It can actually be damaging to your career because it’s hard to get rid of a reputation for working for free. It’s the 21st century, and you can get your work out there without a publisher, so don’t let someone take advantage of you. Your work has value. That’s why these places want to publish it. They’re just hoping you don’t recognize the value of your work, too.

Visit Andi on her knitting blog Untangling-Knots.com, follow her on twitter @AndiSatt and check out her knitting tutorials on Tuts+.
 

Posted on February 14, 2014 and filed under Self-Employed, Freelance, Blogging, Design, Editing, Publishing, Writing.