Posts filed under Self-Employed

Sam Slaughter: Fiction Writer & Brewery Social Media Manager

Name: Sam Slaughter

Age: 26

College & Majors/Minors: Elon University - BA, 2009, English/Creative Writing & Anthropology. Stetson University - MA, 2014, English.

Current Location: DeLand, FL

Current Form of Employment: Fiction Writer and Brewery Social Media Manager

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I currently work as a social media manager for a small craft brewery in DeLand, Florida. Starting this fall, I will also be an adjunct professor at the institution that I received my MA from. In addition, I do copywriting or editing for a few different people in town on a client-to-client basis.

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

I fell into one, and for the other it was just as easy. I’ve always been interested in beer, wine, spirits, brewing, et cetera. From the time my college roommate and I attempted and eventually made abysmal homebrewed beer, I knew that it was always going to be something that I circled. In stories, I think Flannery O’Connor was the one that said you had to have your characters circle the same drain, or something to that effect. Alcohol, both making it and writing about it, is my drain. When I moved out to Montana for Grad School 1.0, I called all the wineries in the area and asked if they’d teach me. One place got back to me and did so. When I got down here, my boss’s husband knew some people that homebrewed and invited me over on a day they were brewing. I brewed, then did it again and then again. I stuck around. As they began to visualize a brewery, I was always there. I made the beer, I poured the beer, I drank the beer. With previous bar experience, I was/still am necessary to the brewery in the sense that I know more about the beer than most and I can also sell it better than most (an ability to play with words helps this out a lot). I may not be able to talk to strangers face to face on the street (the writer part of me coming out), but I sure as hell can sell you a pint of craft beer from behind a bar.

For the position with the university, I asked. After graduating, I was trying any and everything to find a job that would allow me to pay my bills. Teaching appealed to me—I’d co-taught a class while a grad student with my mentor and I have other teaching experience (City Year, an Americorps program)—so I sent an email inquiring about open positions with my university. Thankfully, they had some, I interviewed and now I’m preparing to fly solo with my first college class.

To address the last part, it all happens by networking. In such a small town, it isn’t hard to be known for your words. When you make enough acquaintances who then learn you can write and write better than most, copywriting jobs occasionally pop up. Business isn’t booming, but by asking people if they could use better copy for websites or whatever, you get a job here and there. It keeps me writing a variety of things and it, who knows, could lead to other freelance gigs in the future. I just keep asking and letting people know I’m available.

What was another job that was important in your career? 

Practically, an important job was working for a newspaper as a beat reporter. Two years after I graduated from Elon, I moved from Montana, where I'd spent a year floundering in graduate school, back home to New Jersey, where I took the job as a reporter. I learned a couple of things while at that position. First, I learned to write in the very basic, journalistic way that I had neglected to do throughout college. Working as a reporter for a small weekly, you learn to strip away any of the fancy bells and whistles of language in an effort to paint a simple portrait of, say, a town council meeting. In defense of town council meetings, though, there is no place for fancy bells and whistles. 

Not so practically, a job that sticks out for me is a summer I spent working as a gravedigger. You can call it a cemetery groundskeeper or a lawn facilities technician or some other fancy title, but I was a gravedigger. I used a shovel and I put people in the ground. It sounds harsh, I know, but it was also the perfect opportunity as a writer to learn. This job, and any other not-so-important jobs I’ve held over the years, especially ones that are more manual labor than intellectual labor, allow for time to think. I plotted stories while I worked, even if I never wrote them. I catalogued details of place. I tried out dialogue while I was out amongst the headstones weed whacking.

I try to balance practically and impracticality in my life if for nothing else than to remind myself that I need to make mistakes or I’m going to lead one hell of a boring life and more importantly a life not worth writing about.

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

I wish I could say I did something specific. I didn’t though. Like I said earlier, I just happened to circle the same drain a lot. Really, there were two drains, so maybe this has to turn into a simile more like two planets, some gravity, and a ball in the middle. I swung from one orbit to the other and back in a figure eight pattern for a long time. Similes aside, I knew from a young age (eighth grade or so) that I wanted to write. I knew later on that I wanted to be around alcohol. Whatever I was doing, I kept those two things somewhere in my mind. They weren’t always in the front, but they were there. If your passion is strong enough, you learn to mix it into your everyday life. That’s all I did. I made sure words and booze were around all the time. The booze part is more difficult than the words part, but you learn over the years how to do it. As long as you know you haven’t forgotten about it—and the sheer fact that you remind yourself not to forget about whatever it is being the proof of that ( I think that’s how that works)—then you’ll be fine. Find your passion and don’t let it go.

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

If you want to be a writer, try to have a job that does not involve writing. It may sound counterproductive, but I felt the least inspired (and the least energized) to write when all I did all day every day was write. When i got home, I had enough energy to go to the gym and then I'd sit around and complain about my job to my family. Instead, find some physical. Use your body and tire out everything, but your mind. Work somewhere where you will interact with people. Even if it isn't something permanent, it'll be useful. Work in the service industry. If you want to write in any sort of genre, this experience will give you settings, characters, you name it. The weird people you will meet when you work at a bar will provide an endless font of ideas for stories, poems, essays, everything. If nothing else, it'll provide an insight into how not to treat other people when you are out to dinner and that, I feel is quite useful in life.

[Sidebar: Working in a job where you write some, I think is also a good thing, though seeing as that is what I do, I recognize that I am bias. I like to think of it like an engine—writing all the time it'll overheat and you'll be left on the side of some lonely highway in North Dakota wondering whether or not a true crime show was shot in the area, but writing some of the time keeps the engine running, and running well so that when you do get to write you can perform optimally.]

To add to that, and this will sound cliché so for that I apologize, but try stuff. Live a little. When you spend all of your time with your nose in a book or sitting in front of a lit screen, you tend to miss out on things. I'm not saying go out every chance you get—that is probably as useless as never going out unless you take damn good notes—but don't be afraid to occasionally interact with others. Most won't bite and if they do, they're probably trying to be playful. If they're not, then you've got one hell of a story if you get out of there alive.

Finally, writing is a job, so expect to always (unless you're one of the incredibly successful and lucky ones) to always hold down two jobs. One you may never get paid for, but it deserves just as much attention if you want to be successful at it. Write and read whatever and whenever you can. Fail at writing and get rejected a lot. Get hurt by the rejection, fume over it, hug a teddy bear or a loved one, have a beer, strengthen your resolve to not let it happen again, then get back to it. It sounds a bit harsh, I know, but if you're not writing with a passion that can overcome that stuff, then why write?

Visit Sam on his professional website and follow him on twitter @slaughterwrites.


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Kat Clark: Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications

Kat Clark: Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications

Dan Moyer Jr.: Screenwriter

Dan Moyer Jr.: Screenwriter

Christine Stoddard: Writer/Filmmaker, Co-owner & Creative Director of Quail Bell 

Christine Stoddard: Writer/Filmmaker, Co-owner & Creative Director of Quail Bell 

Posted on July 17, 2014 and filed under Copywriting, Freelance, Journalism, Self-Employed, Social Media, Writing, Teaching.

Pam Elise Harris: Development Editor & Author

Name: Pam Elise Harris

College & Majors/Minors: Major: Communications Arts and Sciences. Minor: English (last minute decision!).

Current Location: Forest Hills, NY

Current Form of Employment: Development Editor/Author

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I am currently a freelance editor. I development edit novels and educational product. I also copyedit novels and do editorial tasks like art placement or checking Web sites. For development editing, I take a raw manuscript and sculpt it into the final draft that will become the book. This can involve working with authors or freelance editors to guide them in the direction needed. On occasion, it even involved writing. I've worked on a lot of educational Web sites and testing products. I loved writing activities! I loved the challenge of knowing that an activity had to practice this skill and had to be from an activity type that amounts to this many points. With novels, I have delved into the story finding aspects that needed more development, and others that needed to be altered. 

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

My first job in publishing was kind of an accident. I was working as a temp, and I just happened to be assigned to a publishing company. It was one of my first temp assignments where I actually had something to do. They were supposed to get rid of me when the summer intern came in, but I didn't want to leave, and they didn't want to have to find someone else when the summer intern left. So I made my case, and I was there for twelve years. 

I didn't find my current job. It found me. After twelve years of working at my previous company, they decided to discontinue my job. With no other option, I started taking in freelance work.

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

Funny you should ask. I don't really consider this a job, but it is writing related. Back in November 2012, I did National Novel Writing Month for the first time. This was the first time in a very long time that I had committed to writing. That novel will be self-published later this year.

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

This is going to sound bad. Nothing really, which is why I didn't have a job when I got out of college. Always prepare!!

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

Look for opportunities within your chosen field while you are still in college. If you can, do an internship. We had an intern that we liked very much, and he wound up in our freelancer database. We continued to send him work while he was still in school. Internships are a great way to learn practical skills and get your foot in the door. And if you're looking to be a writer, make connections with writer's groups. National Novel Writing Month has community groups on its Web site. They do in-person events. It's a great way to get to know other writers in your area. 

Visit Pam's professional website, connect with her on LinkedIn, and check out her Facebook page!


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Jan Couture: Self-Employed Writer

Name: Jan Couture

Age: 47

College & Majors/Minors: University of Puget Sound, English Major with Professional Writing Emphasis, Economics Minor

Current Location: Derry, New Hampshire

Current Form of Employment: Self-employed

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I just started my own freelance writing business called Content by Couture. I specialize in writing marketing material for insurance and financial services companies. I've been writing printed and digital content for financial services companies for almost 25 years, so I'm a bit of a specialist in this area. I'm really excited to be on my own!

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

My first job was an internship with Weyerhaeuser Company, in their Engineered Wood Products division. I got it through the writing program at the University of Puget Sound. What a great experience it was! I was able to write marketing copy and see how marketing material was put together, working with designers and printers.

I didn't find my current job, I made it myself. I have been writing marketing material in the financial services industry for a long time and have friends at different companies—and I wanted to work for all of them. So, I decided to freelance, so I could do just that!

What was another writing-related job that was important?

All of my jobs have been writing-related, and each have been important to me.  I've had some excellent mentors and bosses who were amazing marketers and writers themselves and I learned a lot from each of them.


Melissa Kravitz: Freelance Writer

Melissa Kravitz: Freelance Writer

Andi Satterlund: Self-Employed Writer/Knitting Pattern Designer

Andi Satterlund: Self-Employed Writer/Knitting Pattern Designer

Erik Hanberg: Self-Employed/Writer

Erik Hanberg: Self-Employed/Writer

Posted on July 1, 2014 and filed under Freelance, Self-Employed.

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!):



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Melissa Kravitz: Freelance Writer

Name: Melissa Kravitz

Age: 23

College & Majors/Minors: Creative Writing, Concentration in Fiction at Columbia University and Modern Jewish Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America

Current Location: New York, NY

Current Form of Employment: Freelance Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work at coffee shops. I work for local papers and national websites including Bustle, Brokelyn, Brooklyn Paper, Thrillist, and many more. (See left hand column for examples and links to Melissa's work online.)

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

By my junior year in college, I was running my own publication, Inside New York. It was a ton of fun but also a huge amount of work. When I graduated, I decided that I wanted to spend more time writing rather than on the management and business side of things. I wrote to editors at publications I liked, bragged about my accomplishments, and begged for assignments. It worked, sometimes. I'm constantly finding new jobs through my network of media professionals and writers, and I've learned to be a bit pushy in offering my writing talents. Have a business card, even if you're not part of a business. It helps.

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

Almost all of my writing has been freelance. I worked as a content creator at a well-known web brand and hated it! Everything was about key words and click-bait and offered no room for creativity. I like to express myself through writing and hopefully produce something that helps, if not entertains, other people. SEO is my enemy.  

Though my dream career is writing fiction all day, I know that's not financially feasible, but I also know that I can still be creative and write meaningful pieces without compromising my mind or my values. 

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

As I mentioned earlier, I ran a publication, which had both print and digital content and became my best friend/roommate for approximately 700 days of my life. Between working and sometimes studying, my extracurricular was sleeping occasionally. I also read a ton of books for my writing classes and always challenged myself with sociology and philosophy classes, which I believe contribute to my way of seeing the world and reporting what I see.

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

Remember why you chose your major! And don't say it was to make a fortune, because you should have transferred to engineering school. You may not know what you're doing after graduation or even a few years out, but you'll figure it out. Plus, you always have books to keep you company. I love reading memoirs by young writers, like And the Heart Says Whatever by Emily Gould, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling to encourage me that success is possible, even if I don't know what the hell I'm really doing with my life.

Visit Melissa's website, melissabethkravitz.com, and follow her on twitter!


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Erik Hanberg: Self-Employed/Writer

Erik Hanberg: Self-Employed/Writer

Kelsey Wiseman: Freelance Editor

Kelsey Wiseman: Freelance Editor

Katie Plumb: Freelance Writer

Katie Plumb: Freelance Writer

Posted on June 10, 2014 and filed under Freelance, Self-Employed, Writing.

Leslie Nelson: President & Creative Director @ VisualConcepts.tv

Name: Leslie Nelson

Age: 49

College & Majors/Minors: English major/interdisiciplinary (English, History, Art 1850-1945)

Current Location: San Diego, CA

Current Employment: President/Creative Director of VisualConcepts.tv, LLC

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I currently run a video production company, VisualConcepts.tv, LLC in conjunction with my husband, Mark Nelson, who is a director of photography. I act as account executive, putting together estimates for video shoots and coordinating them. I also manage post-production, working with video editor and motion graphic designers.

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

Since I had studied overseas in Oxford for a year during college (my entire junior year) I was quite obsessed with Britain so I secured a work permit and went back after graduating. I had a neighbor that worked for a publishing company and she had asked me to help edit a grammar textbook for her over that summer. This was 25 years ago, so it didn't require sophisticated computer skills, but I really learned a lot about grammar in the process of editing this book. After this, she also gave me the opportunity to write about five entries for a children's encyclopedia that I could send back from England and get paid as a freelancer. I wrote about topics such as the Commonwealth and the Industrial Revolution. This was a great experience to learn how to write in an easy to understand manner.

So though I had this income, the publishing company wasn't paying me much so I sought out an internship. I proceeded to get a paid internship working for a small ad agency with four men who had all worked for the big ad agency J. Walter Thompson. It was not easy. I had interviewed at the many of the ubiquitious London temp agencies and gotten nowhere and I had been to numerous restaurants without a hint of interest from anyone. One of my friends from Oxford told me about a start up ad agency. I got to work under the creative director. He didn't throw much my way, but he did let me give him some ideas and taught me how to sell through copywriting and I also got to watch him design. I also spent time talking with the partner that did the marketing research and he explained how market research was done in places like Africa and other international locations. The other two partners included the technical numbers guy who processed the marketing research data and then the president who was more apt to be dishing out Bloody Marys in the morning and hosting plenty of lengthy client lunches at the Cafe Fleur down the street.

I think they wanted to have their agency filled with bright young people because that was what they were used to. However, they had all of their big agency habits, and after 3 months, the stationers came by wanting payment for their letterhead one day and shortly thereafter, my checks started bouncing. So I headed east and became a waitress in Bath, England in a cafe working for Canadians. I finally was able to collect on bounced checks with help from my new employer. This experience and learning to be persistent on getting this payment was one of the most helpful experiences to prepare me for small business.

After working as an intern at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego and for a three-person marketing consulting company in San Diego for about six months upon my return, I decided to start doing freelance copywriting and start my own business. I was 23. Over the course of eight years, I wrote sales letters, ads, business plans, wrote and designed brochures, edited manuscripts and enjoyed working with graphic designers. I learned a lot about how to write sales-driven copy that generated results. Then, after meeting my husband, I had the opportunity to work on a video production, so I dove in and read all the books I could on video scriptwriting. With time, he started his own video production business and shortly thereafter we merged our two companies into one. That was 15 years ago and we're still going. We no longer do print work and my writing goes as far as video scripts, proposals, emails, and web content.

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

Some of the summer jobs and internships I had helped shape my direction. My junior year of high school, I worked for San Diego Home & Garden Magazine. I got to work under the copy editor, where I learned to edit, and then spent some time talking with the amazing editor, Peter Jensen. He really helped me learn how you could use the English language to tell a compelling story in a very natural way. He was a great writer, and could take his readers to different places with such ease. Part of the internship enabled me to write a published article. So I learned how to do a photo scout, seeking out homes in San Diego with attractive, well designed game rooms. I learned which homes had the visual interest in order to be featured in the magazine, and then I got to interview different homeowners and sought out the best content for the article, and ultimately wrote a solid article. The time I spent talking with Peter really helped me understand how important his philosophical love of the written word affected the magazine's content and the company's culture.

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

In college, I participated in a lot of intramural sports. I played ultimate Frisbee and tennis at Stanford, and then in England, I participated in Cuppers (the British word for intramurals) rowing, ballroom dance, and swimming and just about any other college sport that I had a change to participate in. Once I returned from England my senior year, I proceeded to organize an Oxford-type ball like they had in England at Oxford University's different colleges. It was no simple task, but we put on a great event in the end and I learned a ton about event planning.

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

Being an English major opens up a lot of possibilities and it's up to you to start cracking open the different doors and peering in to see if there's anything attracting you behind the doors as you consider different career options. Try things out that interest you. Go to a professional association meeting if you want to know more about a particular field. Talk to people working in areas that you are interested in. Offer to take them out for a quick lunch or coffee and see if you share any passions. Read books and blogs about areas that you want to learn more about. Call people up and talk to them and ask them what they do and what they like about their job. Listen and watch those who you admire. I think I learned so much from George Stock, the creative director in England, just by watching him work and listening to him and also from Peter Jensen in the discussions I had with him. Nowadays, I learn a lot listening to my husband explain technical information on camera and lighting gear. This is how you gain direction with a major that is extremely broad. Find out what types of samples you need for your niche or any technical classes you need and then get going and sign up. Also, check back with people you met in the past as you gain new experiences. You never know what new opportunities may open up.

Visit VisualConcepts.tv to learn more about Leslie's work, and take a look at one of their demos!

Posted on May 19, 2014 and filed under Communications, Copywriting, Filmmaking, Freelance, Self-Employed, Writing.

Pamela Patton: Owner, Operator & Chief Wordsmith @ Paragraph Writing Services

Name: Pamela Patton

Age: 55

College & Majors/Minors: Grand Valley State University, B.S. Communications, Aquinas College, MM (Masters in Management with an emphasis on Marketing)

Current Location: Grand Rapids, MI

Current Form of Employment: Owner, operator and chief wordsmith, Paragraph Writing Services

Since 1991, I have been incorporated as Paragraph Writing Services. Here, I do it all, from writing and editing to bookkeeping and petting the cat (a very important responsibility, as she can tell you with her little “pet me” nips).

But I didn’t start out as a writer. I started college as a vocal music major. I knew things weren’t going to turn out well when I couldn’t master the piano, and my voice teacher told me my nose was too small to properly sing in French. So, my then-boyfriend got me a work-study job at the campus-affiliated PBS station, where I discovered I loved to write promotional copy.

But did I immediately switch majors to accommodate my new passion? No! The promotion director got fired, and I landed the position—at the age of 19.

And she lived (and wrote) happily ever after, right? Wrong! New management at the station decreed that anyone in a management position had to have a college degree, which I did not. So I began on a career path that eventually lead me back to college. (It involved a cross-dresser, cocaine, and cleaning toilets.)

Older and wiser, I returned to Grand Valley State University, this time as a communications major. I took copywriting classes, public relations writing classes, business writing classes, and advertising classes, while working part-time at Opera Grand Rapids as promotion director. As my capstone project, I had a wonderful opportunity: To produce a marketing video to raise funds for the opera. I wrote the script, was the voice talent, and worked with a professional video production company.

Two things happened: Fundraising went through the roof, and I was promoted to full-time upon graduation. At the opera, the board president who checked my press releases was also the editor of the local paper, and I received marketing advice guidance from another board member who was the head of marketing for a local furniture manufacturer. Both of these people were great mentors, and I am friends with them to this day.

From the performing arts, I went to banking. I wrote for the holding company and the lead bank where I learned a lot about investments, finance, estate planning, 401(k) s, and just about anything else related to managing money. There, I wrote everything from statement stuffers to annual reports. (Yet I still can't manually balance my checkbook.) It was about this time that I decided to do a little freelance work on the side, and opened Paragraph.

From banking, I went to a multi-level marketing company. I won’t mention the name, but you’ve heard about it, I’m sure. There, I contributed to one monthly publication, three quarterly publications, and a website in need of constant updating. That equals approximately 60 unique ad concepts with clever headlines, multiple articles and mucho web content per month. Topics? Home care, water treatment, health and nutrition, and beauty, cosmetics and skin care. I came out of there as one versatile writer.

But then, I was “globalized. (Laid off.) So I decided to try the freelance life full-time, and here I am today.

One thing I learned during my hiatus from college was the importance of a portfolio, even as a student. Therefore, I volunteered to write wherever I got a chance. I wrote a newsletter for the local ballet company. I continued to write as a volunteer for the PBS station’s annual televised auction. I collected letters of recommendation from my supervisors. Because I was an older student, I made friends with many of my instructors, and would go out for coffee with them and have them critique my work and give me advice.

I have a confession: I wish I had taken more English classes. I wish I had paid closer attention to sentence structure and grammar. You need to know that I began my career before word processing. Before the Internet. Before spell check. Before desktop publishing. I made mistakes along the way and learned the rules on the job. (I worship the ground that proofreaders walk on.) And those rules are important, because you need to know them in order to break them, as we often do in advertising headlines and copy.

So my advice to you is this: Know the rules. (The Gregg Reference Manual is my bible.) Read. A lot. Especially writing in print. Check your facts and then check them again. Don’t believe everything autocorrect tells you. Find a proofreader to worship and an editor who will make your writing better. Develop your own voice. Be versatile. And know that advertising is nothing like “Mad Men” or “The Crazy Ones.”

Pamela has won several awards for her work, including Public Relations Society of America Gold Spectrum Award and Best of Show Award, Apex Award, International Council of Shopping Centers MAXI Award, and numerous ADDY Awards. Check out her fantastic business website, paragraphwriting.com, and connect with her on LinkedIn.

Charlotte McGill: Self-Employed Writer & Editor

Name: Charlotte McGill 

Age: 22 

College & Majors/Minors: English and Creative Writing BA, Writing for Children MA 

Current Location: Hampshire, England 

Current Form of Employment: Sole Trader, offering Professional Writing Services 


Where do you work and what is your current position?

At the moment I am set us as a sole trader with no other employees, so I have the luxury of working for myself. The name of my business is Charlotte McGill Writing Services, and I mainly deal with businesses as an outsourced copywriter or editor. 

In my previous two jobs, while I was technically classed as 'sales' I was actually more of the marketing manager, and this meant I had the responsibility of writing content for the company blogs and websites, as well as managing social media and the marketing department. I found this particularly useful, and when you're going into writing as a professional, having a marketing background is a massive bonus. 

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

Up until University I just worked in retail, so I don't feel this is relevant. I found my first 'real' jobs through an employment agency, which required you to take basic competency tests to prove you could write and count. I was lucky in that I didn't have to interview much before I was offered the job. The main skill the employers were looking for in both accounts was the ability to communicate clearly, come across as personable and enthusiastic, and how good my ability to sell myself to them was. It was these skills that convinced them i would be good in sales, but better in marketing. I always thought the interviews would be terrifying, but once you arrived and realized that they are just normal people, the interviews were relaxed and easy going. 

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

One of the most important things I did during uni was take part in Project Litmus. This was a part of the 'Publishing Project' where students created and published an anthology of their works, from start to finish. We split into sections and all took on different responsibilities. Everyone wrote a piece, it was then given to designated editors (I was the editor of all children's fiction submissions) before being given to the graphics department to be typeset, a cover designed and sent to print as an anthology. I was also part of the marketing department, working on promoting the launch event and a general marketing strategy. This gave me a great insight into the whole process and allowed me to say I had a piece published. 

My uni frequently ran author and career talks, and I attended every one of these. These were a great chance to pick the brains of people who had made it in the business, and get an idea for just how many ways you can succeed in writing. 

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

Make sure you ask questions of anyone who you think can help you. Don't be afraid of looking stupid— we were all there once— but getting advice from people you admire of who do what you want to do is the best way of not only getting ideas of how to move forward, but also to disillusion yourself. Everyone thinks a career in writing will be easy for them because they are great and people will love them, but the truth is, until you acknowledge that it's a tough, competitive field that you have to work incredibly hard in to be successful, you won't move forward. 

Ask questions. Get advice wherever you can. Learn from it, and make a solid plan. Know where you are now, where you want to be, and how you're going to get there.

Visit Charlotte's professional website, CharlotteMcGill.com and follow her on twitter!