September 14, 2009 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever referenced your personal blog as a writing sample for a job?

I've been trying, as of late, to find work actually related to my degree in English. I haven't done any work as a paid writer ever. At best, writing and editing have been small portions of previous employment. But I can't really send a copy of a customer contact letter (or other official document) I edited or wrote previously due to one circumstance or another. Most of the creative writing I have done has been on my various blogs. Content and my affinity for being generally offensive aside, can I reasonably use these blogs as writing samples? Have you ever utilized your personal blog in this way and what were the results? Have you ever hired anyone based on what you saw on their blog?

And obviously if you look at my sites and have design notes you want to give me feel free. I'm all about improvement and I really have no feelings. So go nuts.
posted by SinisterPurpose to Work & Money (14 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Sure, absolutely, that's the purest sense of your writing you'll find. Why wouldn't you use that as a writing sample?

You should be aware that if the only writing samples you have, though, are from your personal blog, your "market value" may be less, simply because there are so many bloggers out there.

Anecdotally, I turned down a job offer recently that specifically asked for blog writing samples (I am an experienced, published writer, and the level of expertise wanted vs. the rate of pay being offered was insulting).
posted by misha at 12:19 PM on September 14, 2009

I have used targeted blog entries as samples and gotten interviews in part based upon that writing. As misha points out though, it's almost always more valuable when applying if you have outside samples, because the fact that someone else has accepted your work and it isn't self-generated, stands out more.

But if you do have a well-crafted set of blog samples, go for it. Also be aware that some places will prefer a more raw, and not professionally edited sample to get a better idea of how you write. Blog posts are ideal for this.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:23 PM on September 14, 2009

When I got a job writing for the TV channel AMC a couple of years ago, it was almost completely on the merits of my self-published online writing.
posted by hermitosis at 12:28 PM on September 14, 2009

I used my blog contributions (Global Voices Online) to get creative copywriting work.

Usually whoever is considering contracting with you can tell if you write by the quality of your email correspondance.

For example, if you want to do some magazine freelancing, the pitch letter is the most important piece of writing. Period.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:40 PM on September 14, 2009

Didn't know if I'd need to say this, but if any of you have any other writing advice you feel germane to this discussion, as KokuRyu has, please feel free. This may as well be as useful as possible.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 12:46 PM on September 14, 2009

I managed to get my current job - and my first in the writing industry - through the strengths of my blog. In fact, it was pretty much a requirement in the area I'm working in. I also let prospective employers look at my university dissertation, which showed I could write longer pieces.
posted by hnnrs at 1:07 PM on September 14, 2009

I got my first full time tech writing job largely on the strength of the blog I wrote at the time. This was in 2000, though, so times may have changed.
posted by jennyb at 1:21 PM on September 14, 2009

No, but I got my last job (in less than 24 hours!) as a result of posting on my blog that I was looking for a job.

So in addition to using your blog as a writing sample, post on your blog about the kind of job you're looking for. Your readers read your blog because they like the way you write. Some of them might be in a position to hire you, or in a position to enthusiastically recommend you to someone who might hire you.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:36 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

I wound up writing a couple of articles for Webmonkey back in the day because of an outrageously acerbic blog a friend and I maintained about the excesses and stupidities of the Dot Com culture. That in turn led to a tech writing gig on a Wrox book... so, yes! In my case it definitely helped that the subject matter of the blog was relevant to the subject matter of the publisher.
posted by usonian at 2:46 PM on September 14, 2009

I'm the Editor of a network of really small blogs. When I was hiring a few freelancers a few months ago, a number of writers sent me links to their personal blogs or Twitter pages. Its a risky move and it didn't get any of those candidates hired here. If there is content on your blog that is less carefully crafted than your actual resume, think very long and hard about sending an editor the link. Also consider the content; is there anything potentially offensive there? (Unless thats the explicit reason for submitting the link with your resume.)
posted by ben242 at 3:29 PM on September 14, 2009

Seconding Ben. If you're blog is relevant to the job you're applying for, by all means go for it. If it's about crocheted kitten uniforms, think twice.

Also, don't assume that what's baseline for you - in terms of politics, language, celebrities, anything anyone can have an opinion about basically - is necessarily baseline for others.

What's paissez for you may be outre to employers. Think carefully.
posted by smoke at 3:58 PM on September 14, 2009

What kind of writing do you want to do?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:03 PM on September 14, 2009

What kind of writing do you want to do?

That's a good question, but I'm afraid it does not have a short answer. However, since this is my Ask thread and it seems just about done, I'm going to indulge myself a little.

First off, I'd absolutely love it if someone wanted to pay me for the variety of mid-rare satire that I do on Raging Titter. But that seems unlikely and, in reality, that blog shares more than a few points of commonality with a student art film. It's ridiculously self-indulgent, less than accessible at times, and really more about exploring my creative process than a communication of some greater truth or interesting perspective. No one gets paid for their student art film.

Also, I'd like to write longer thoughtful essays on culture and life like I have been trying to do on Piersona. There seems few places for meditative essays on the moral and ethical questions which films, tabloid culture, and personal experience offer us. That blog is really a nostalgic glance backward before the internet, when not everyone had the ability to so easily give their ideas to the world.

The other two are placeholders for ideals. They are less for consumption and more reminders of what it is that makes my life worthwhile.

Swidlow is the type of longform fiction I like to write. For me, fiction has always been a place to painstakingly explore the darkest parts of my own psyche and world view. Swidlow was really the first from scratch character that I was proud to have created. I would like to continue his story and the four or five other major fictional works I've got haphazardly bouncing around in my noggin.

Also, I am human. I am weak. I've entertained a lifelong interest in screenwriting. The glamour of film has never tarnished for me and the idea of writing for the screen is infinitely appealing.

But blogging, novels, and screeenwriting are just dream jobs. And I, unfortunately, inhabit a more corporeal plane. So what kind of writing do I want to do? There are two answers to that question and they are: any and all.

It's the work itself which appeals to me. The shaping of words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into real ideas. Writing is the basis of democracy. When people read they have options. Options about the methods they employ to understand their lives and the meaning of them. They become freer to form new, bigger and better thoughts.

It has, as of late, been my opinion that writing, like programming, is an engineering discipline. It seeks to control complexity. And life in this world is systemically complex. I want, more than anything, to lend my hand to wrangling the madness of this world into corrals of thought and understanding.

And I want to be able to pay my rent too. :)
posted by SinisterPurpose at 2:13 PM on September 15, 2009

The thing about writing is that there is no barrier to entry - anyone can claim to be a writer, and as a result writers and writing do not have a lot of perceived value, and it is difficult to earn a living as a writer. Even staff writers at the New Yorker don't earn a hell of a lot of money, and most of the published, working writers I know supplement their income as teachers and professors.

Corporate communications can be a stable if not lucrative way to earn a living writing. I liked doing it because I thought it was fun, but at the end of the day I found being called a "writer" was a bit of a career dead end. The thing is, solid writing skills are a powerful tool used in other contexts - grant and proposal writing, sales, business development, etc.

I originally started focusing on environmental issues, but I switched to covering business topics because I really enjoyed the subject, and business magazines paid more. My business writing paved the way for the career I'm in now, while my blogging helped me get extremely lucrative script rewriting work.

My point is, freelancing probably won't pay the bills (unless you are strategic). On an hourly basis, you'll probably earn more more working at Wal Mart. But freelancing, even for low pay, can help you build a bulletproof portfolio you can use for more prestigious and lucrative projects in the future.

For non-fiction, the best tool is the query letter. It should be three paragraphs long, and it should be created with the editor as the audience. The first paragraph is the hook: it should be written in the style of the article you want to write, and it should leave the reader (the editor) with several provocative, unanswered questions.

The second paragraph changes style, and explains the article you want to write - several main points - and why it would be a good fit with the publication. It's a brief summary of and argument for the article.

The third paragraph explains how long the article would be (how many words), and outlines your sources. You request an action from the editor (could you let me know if this is something your magazine would be interested in) and also outline your follow-up action (I will contact you two weeks from now to follow up).

The query letter is usually enough to win over an editor.

Based on your answer above, you may want to query the Del Sol Review - they may like your writing.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:52 PM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

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