PWA Picks … the best writing on writing

The week of October 14th marks a full month of Occupy Wall Street. It will also be remembered for kicking off our inaugural PWA Picks post – or we can be hopeful. On a monthly basis, PWA will highlight one writer to essentially play media show and tell.

This week I found myself at the tail end of one project and on the cusp of the rest of my life. When you don’t have a lick of work lined up, fear sets in. And when that happens, I start checking out articles on how to write a better resumé, how to market myself, how to charge for what I do, and so on. So here’s what:

Dragging your resumé into the 21st century
PWA member and “Pressing Your Buttons Since 2007” blogger Laura Roberts, took a decade-old article about how to write a writer’s resume and brought it into the 21st century. While presenting your perfectly formatted, 100-percent cotton, wove-finish, watermarked paper resume in a leather binder was so the 00’s, Roberts explains that in 2011, an online portfolio is the way to go. “Clips, like resumés, are entirely digital these days. Potential employers want to see links to the places you’ve been published. They want to see reputable websites, brands and publications they’re familiar with, or at the very least some really well-written content on lesser-known (but not self-published) sites.”

So don’t do this.

What to pay a writer
While at her site, I also checked out this post on what to pay a writer. If you’ve seen Carolyn’s post on October 10, you know that content farms and even some print publications want to low-ball you into submission. For companies that are morally responsible enough to pay a fair wage, this is the page we should all be on. In case you’re wondering how to work with a professional writer, consider some sage advice from Roberts: “Don’t assume I’m free (as in available). Sometimes people will just drop emails in my inbox, saying “I need this by tomorrow night!” And I mean completely out of nowhere. Yes, people I don’t even KNOW (not to mention people I’ve never done business with) are somehow assuming that I will get right to work, dropping everything just because they threw it at me.”

By the way, I’m free. (Call me!)

How not to be a good writer
Now that I’m reading about how other writers work, I started stumbling on how other writers really work and some of it is just plain ugly. A recent article by writer Jim Romenesko reports on a topic that seemingly has no end in sight: internet content producers who think it’s okay to publish someone else’s writing word-for-nearly-every word. It’s not cool people. It’s also not legal or ethical. When I was an editor at one such content farm based here in Austin, I was shocked at how some writers believe it’s okay to regurgitate press release copy, maybe change a word or two and call the article original and unique. I had to school quite a few young people there and needless to say, I was not long for that position.

Does your online presence sabotage your career?
Finally, I came across this Gawker piece about how my online presence could sabotage my chances at landing a gig. It occurred to me long ago that potential employers are probably searching for my Facebook and LinkedIn pages. And they’re not looking to read my writing samples, they want to see how I behave in the real world. This article confirms it. “Nine out of 10 employers report using social media to screen prospective employees. 7 out of 10 report rejecting candidates based on their social media presences—and roughly the same number report accepting candidates based on their social media presences, too.” That’s why, if you go to my Facebook page, you’ll likely be bored to tears. Also, I don’t go out much.

What did you think of these articles?

Riki Markowitz founded PWA in January 2011 and launched it as an independent organization in September 2011. While a city girl at heart, Riki lives in rural Austin with PWA’s official mascot, Marcel Proust– a black toy poodle. Riki is also proud to have designed her own online portfolio without help.

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