Online journalism is a common career aspiration, and for good reason. Working from home, writing about things that interest you, and accruing a following that looks up to you and your opinions are all tantalizing options for a career that many covet. However, being successful as an online journalist is not easy. There are thousands upon thousands of other smart, talented, driven people gunning for the same job that you are, and for most of them, it will not work out. If you want to be serious about writing online, you will have stiff competition. Read on for some tips to stand out from the crowd and make a name for yourself.
The first thing to remember is that building a following for your writing is a slow burn. If you are going to be a successful online journalist, you will need to start out by working for yourself and putting out a lot of content for free before people start biting. Getting a job writing for a company is something that is almost never available to someone who does not already have a name.
Because getting to the point where you get paid anything at all takes so long, it is important not to put the cart before the horse. Online writers almost universally work a day job to pay the bills while they write on the side. Those that don’t are very successful, or have family or a spouse or savings account supporting their dreams. Do not fall into the trap of thinking you need to quit your job and dive head first into writing. Most writers take a long time to become successful.
That said, your first step is to set up a website. You will want something clean and professional, that does not look like a teenager’s blog. If you have the skill to make your website, go for it. However, that is not strictly necessary. Sites like WordPress provide a great engine on which to build a site that is unique to you while still being clean and functional. Want a newspaper style site then WordPress has that. Virtually any design or template is available.
One of the most important things, regardless of how your website is made, is to ensure that it works on as many platforms as possible. Windows and Mac in addition to Android and iOS are essential platforms to target. Online Journalism is no good if people can’t read your writing. Websites that do not display correctly on tablets and cell phones, as well as computer monitors, are putting themselves at an extreme disadvantage. Reading web content is increasingly done on the go, with people bringing phones with them in the car, on public transportation, or to bed. If your website doesn’t fit a phone screen correctly, you are cutting off an enormous portion of your potential audience. Like this site with giant bean bag chairs, you need to display your product and all content correctly.
Once you have a functional and professional website, it is time to start producing content. Try to focus on a specific niche at first, something that you are very interested in and passionate about. The more particular you are with your focus, the more likely you are to stand out as something fresh and exciting. If you are trying to compete with thousands of other websites with similar content, you will have a much more difficult time than if you have a right hook.
Once your website has some content and is starting to get hits, you will need to cultivate your audience carefully. An online journalist is not only a writer but also a full-time press and PR person. Make accounts on all the major social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on. Link to your social media on your website, and vice versa, and try to engage actively with your audience. Supporting and nurturing your community is essential to keeping and growing an active viewership.
To keep up with the competition, you will need to post new content as often as possible. Internet writing is an incredibly fast-moving and competitive field, and you will need to put in a lot of hours. Since you are likely working a day job as well, this may mean a lot of sleep deprivation and severe nights. Try to remember that this is the hardest part. Once your audience starts to develop, you will start being able to monetize your content, which will take some of the stress off as you can scale back your day job.
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Online journalism is a challenging, but rewarding, job. In today’s world, only the best and brightest online journalists can take off. If you think you have what it takes to become an internet sensation, set up a website today and get writing! Remember that the important thing is to stick with it. As you get more and more articles published, your chances of readers stumbling across your website grow. Eventually, you will have a significant enough following to make a living doing what you love!
Will is the Executive Managing Editor at Feedster. Will and his team from Content HOW work with venture capital, marketing co-ops, and companies to attract and gain qualified leads.
His primary focus on developing a sales funnel for a company and finding out of the box / growth hacking style ways to convert and drive traffic.