When you first start out seeking to get paid for your writing you enter the Catch-22 of needing to prove you can write for pay in order to write for pay.
What do you do when you’re starting out, haven’t written for publication in years, or are switching industries and don’t have any relevant or current clips?
The answer is simple: Use whatever you have.
When I first started out, all I had was book reviews. So I used them to get a gig with a local paper that involved interviewing local business owners and writing about them.
Some advice is to never use clips from content mills. I say if that’s all you have, use ’em. Especially if they are related to the type of article you are pitching or the type of writing job you are applying for. At one point I was writing for a mill (it no longer exists) on various topics relevant to small business owners. I used those clips when I pitched to editors on similar topics. (This mill had editors and strict guidelines on key words, length of each paragraph, etc. – a lot of mills let anyone write and publish without doing much in the way of gatekeeping, as they are more about producing content than producing quality content.)
If you have a blog, your posts can be considered ‘clips’ – you can use those.
If you have clips from years ago, use those if they are what you have. You may want to explain to the editor (when you submit) why the clips are old, but generally if you used to write to a deadline for publication, you probably still have that skill, so the dates won’t be an issue.
How about writing an article as a sample/example? This may work, as it can demonstrate your writing ability, but editors and publishers want to see your published writing so they can see you know how to write to a deadline, for publication, and/or within a certain word count.
Sending your clips
With the high rate of viruses and malware, I don’t know many people any more who are fond of attachments. So I recommend *not* sending clips as attachments, or hyperlinks. When I send off queries, I mention titles of articles/clips and include the full website link (if applicable and available – and it’s short enough), and offer to send clips in whatever format they prefer (Word or PDF generally).
When you start to publish, keep track of the links to your articles (if they are online). Start a spreadsheet or document so you can easily find what you need. But before sending a link off with an query letter, confirm it still works. Links can disappear or become unusable quickly. Make sure to avoid having the editor find “Page not found”.
If you’re interested in writing for publication, most likely you have some type of writing you can use as a ‘clip’ when you submit a query. I’m confident you’ll be able to land a paid writing gig with the right determination and approach.
Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.