When you are applying for a job online, you are up against scores of other applicants. One of my clients closed down the application process after one day and she had roughly two hundred applicants to go through. How can you possibly get noticed in this sea of other applicants?
1. Have a Website
This is so essential. It is also cheap, easy to maintain, and will take very little time to build. Personally, I like Bluehost and their one-step WordPress installation, but any hosting company will do. Even if you have no technical knowledge, setting up WordPress is really quite easy (especially with the one-click method that Bluehost has integrated) and fun. Mac enthusiasts can use iWeb, which I have heard excellent reviews for. Either way, setting up your own website is nothing to be scared of and is hundreds of times easier now than it was even two years ago. In fact, one of the reasons I decided to go into writing rather than web design is the fact that it is now so easy for businesses to set up websites themselves.
A profile page on Suite 101 or a similar service isn’t enough anymore. Besides, you are promoting their brand and not yours. Having your own website is also usually a sign that you are more tech savvy and those looking for tech or web copy writers are going to want to see that you have the expertise. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but if I was hiring a web content writer and the applicant didn’t have their own website, I would immediately discard the application.
2. No Form Letters
While it isn’t a crime to have a form e-mail that you base your e-mail on, as I do for all of my vital information, make sure to add to it with specific items that speak to the particular job that you are applying to. Keep the large words and clever turns of phrase to a minimum, unless they are witty and fun. Less James Joyce, more Jay Leno. Remember that your target audience is typically a worker who sits in a cubicle all day, and anything you can do to liven up their day short of using off-colour jokes will get you in the “maybe” pile.
3. Portfolio, Portfolio, Portfolio
Here is where I really don’t practice what I preach. My portfolio is sadly in need of updating, something I’m sure I’ll do eventually. However, if you find yourself not getting any or very little work, this is a good place to spend time. Go back to your contacts and make sure that it is OK to put links to your work on your site. If it was explicitly a ghostwriting gig, it’s generally not OK to just link to it as your work. If they gave you a byline, a link is a foregone conclusion and you don’t even really have to ask.
What you can do with your ghostwriting gigs is use samples that don’t easily identify the company that you wrote for, turn them into PDF’s, and make them available for download on your site. Do not reproduce work on your site that may be on another website in anything but PDF form, as the search engines may see it as duplicate content and either you or your client may go down a ranking or two due to your seemingly innocent actions. It is good form to run ghostwriting samples by your client to make sure that it is OK to post them on your site. By ghostwriting, I mean brochure copy, sales letters, press releases; anything that does not have your name on it that you wrote for a client.
I have done ghostwriting gigs where the fact that I was even writing for someone else was supposed to be a secret; if that is the case don’t even dream of posting samples from that on your site.
Make sure your portfolio is easy to navigate. There are lots of WordPress plugins out there that allow you to set up a gallery of documents. This one allows you to have a gallery of images and PDF’s that you can expand in a lightbox: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-multibox-plugin/
Whatever you do, give some punch to your portfolio rather than using a boring list. Headlines with descriptions of articles are so 1996; pictures and PDF’s with your article descriptions are much more “punchy”.
Now you have three things to look at to improve on in order to land more jobs if you aren’t getting much in the way of work right now. The more time you spend on your portfolio and website, the better your chances of landing a job. The more time you spend on your introductory e-mails, the more chance there is of you landing that job. It comes down to time, and if you can make an investment of a few hours a week in these three items, you’ll be working so hard you won’t believe that there was ever a time that you were without work.