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December 09, 2008

Wanted: Writers Who Can Work On the Web

At the Vermont 3.0 Creative/Tech Career Jam back in October, I moderated a panel called "So, You Wanna Write for the Web?" Our panelists included Washington Monthly blogger Steve Benen, EatingWell Media Group Digital Producer Penelope Wall and St. Mike's journalism prof Marybeth Redmond.

The questions we got from the audience were all over the map. One woman wanted to know how to copyright and protect her work on the web. Someone else wanted to know how to find online outlets that will pay for freelance writing.

One of the best questions (if memory serves) came from a woman who wanted to know what other kinds of full-time jobs are out there for writers — if there aren't any newspaper jobs, and there aren't any grant-writing jobs, and there aren't any PR jobs, what can you do? Where should you send your resume?

Here's a belated answer — apply here. I spotted this employment ad as I walked by the proofs for this week's paper; they're lying on the floor in our office. This is from an ad for a Web Content Adminstrator:

BioTek Instruments, Inc. is a world leader in the design and manufacture of high performance, microplate based, life science instrumentation and software used to accelerate drug discovery and aid in the advancement of life science research. We are seeking an enthusiastic and dedicated individual to join our Marketing Communications team as a Web Content Administrator.

The successful candidate will be responsible for maintaining dynamic content on BioTek's global websites and will work with international staff to ensure up-to-date content in multiple languages. This person will be responsible for soliciting information from various sources to ensure fresh and current content throughout the site. Other duties include the coordination and development of monthly distributor e-newsletters, database maintenance, and assisting the Web marketing team with other projects as required.

Don't have the skills to be a Web Content Administrator? Read a book. Take a class. Subscribe to an e-newsletter. Teach yourself to use Constant Contact or SoundSlides. Volunteer to help a non-profit or a small business refine their online marketing strategy and learn as you go. It's much, much harder to learn how to write well than it is to adapt your skills to this new environment.

Of course, you also have to adapt to being in marketing rather than being a journalist, but hey, if that's what it takes to pay the bills...

I'd add two things to the top of that list:

1) Start a blog. It's free personal PR, and allows you to practice your writing and demonstrate your skills at the same time. After all, the blog is the new resume.

2) Start reading blogs. Besides actually sitting down and writing, there's no better way to improve your prose than reading more of others. This is especially true when learning to write in a new style or format. The best way to start reading more blogs is to get a feed reader to read them in. Be sure to open the reader daily, skimming headlines and reading a few articles. As you customize your list of feeds, it will begin to feel like you're reading your own personalized newspaper.

A couple of years ago, my sister was working as a news editor for a local paper, but she could see the "writing on the wall" & joined a local company as a Tech Writer.

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