By Chris Pepple, Writer-At-Large, Southern Writers Magazine
So, you’ve published something or at least headed in the right direction. Your career is taking off. It’s the perfect time to write more to build your portfolio. You’ve heard people say things like:
· be a guest blogger to get you name out;
· start your own blog;
· stay active on social media;
· find freelance opportunities to build your portfolio.
As we build our careers, all of this advice is helpful. But there’s also something else we can do to build our portfolio and help build up our communities. We can give back as a writer. Many small nonprofits can’t afford to hire a writer, but they need to get their stories out there. They need staff interviews done for newsletters or clients stories written so donors know who they are helping. Nonprofits need stories to help reach donors and survive.
This is where we as writers come in. We can give back (and, yes, we benefit, too, because we are building our portfolio). It’s a win-win situation. But, you say, people are always asking me to donate my time without paying me. True, so you have to develop some guidelines and stick to them or you will never be paid for your work. Here are some of the boundaries I have set up for myself:
· Only donate one article a month or one every three months as you are able. I stick to this policy and I limit the article to 750 words.
· All interviews must be done by phone or email. If you don’t set this policy, you will be driving quite a bit to track down someone for an interview.
· Set an extended deadline. You need time to get your own work done, and you may find that you have to focus on your projects longer than planned. Give yourself a little extra time before promising someone something quickly that you aren’t getting paid for.
· Make sure you receive a copy for your portfolio. A digital copy usually works best. You can load that into an email for a job requesting samples of your work. Get permission to use the piece as a sample of your work if you are going to load it onto your website or onto a site such as LinkedIn.
· Don’t feel guilty saying no to someone. If it’s a group you want to work with later, get contact information and promise to let them know when you have time. Otherwise, just politely say you wish you could help.
We can all find ways to give back to our communities. If we each use our gifts and talents to help build up others, we will all profit.