Business writing is a generic term that covers a wide spectrum. It’s a bit like saying ‘fiction writing’, when in truth, there are different fiction genres. For example, thriller, cozy mystery, contemporary, science fiction… you get the gist.
Business writing is much the same. It covers different industries and types of writing: sales (usually referred to as copywriting), technical and corporate. In addition, it also targets two different audiences: B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer).
If you’re looking to start a career in business writing, it’s best to decide from the onset which audience or sector to specialise in, as it can help make you more competitive. If you are undecided about this, you could start by offering a general business writing service, or to make your life even easier, start by offering writing services in your particular areas of interest. So, for example, if you had an interest in finance or technology, you could start by writing web copy for companies in those two sectors.
How do you get started in business writing?
There are no right or wrong ways to get started in business writing. Most people start in one of the following ways:
- as a freelancer, providing services to businesses or agencies
- as an in-house writer
- as a copywriter for an agency.
Again, there is no one way and most business writers will, at one point or other in their career, spend some time in either of the above scenarios.
Having said that, I would advise you to read some books by writers in your targeted sector, just so you can get a sense of how things work.
The road might seem long, but it won’t be forever
Breaking into business writing will not be easy, but neither is it impossible. If this is your dream, and you’re not thinking of it as an easy way to get money, because ‘business writers make a lot of money’, then you need to be strategic about your planning and how you intend to make a career out of this.
In the first place, are you a good writer? Be honest with yourself. If you know that your skills need updating, enrol on a business writing course. There’s tons of them online. If you’re more of a face-to-face person, then check out your local college for affordable course options.
Second, and this is important; study the work of writers you admire.
If you would like to work for a company or publication, or you would like to specialise in a particular business sector, study the work of people who write for them – Abidemi Sanusi (tweet this – just highlight the text)
Check out their company website, marketing materials and anything you can get your hands on. That way, you get a sense of their writing style and insight into their company culture. After a while, having built up your self-confidence, you can then approach them on spec. You have absolutely nothing to lose by doing this. Remember; the worst thing they can do is say ‘no’, ‘yes’ or ‘maybe later.’
Building up your freelance business writing portfolio
Contrary to popular opinion, it really is not that difficult to build up a professional writing portfolio. The good news is that there is a great demand for writers (yes, even newbie ones), and there are websites such as Fiverr, People Per Hour and Upfront, that you can set up shop, right now, to kickstart your business writing career.
All you have to do is create a profile on these websites and you’re in business, so to speak. Start by charging just below average rates and then, when you’re confident enough and have accumulated enough experience, charge what your services are actually worth.
The good thing about starting as a freelancer on these websites is not just the fact that you’re building your portfolio and making a name for yourself in the industry, you also learn about delivering customer service, you gain project management and marketing skills, and also build resilience as a service provider. These are the things that you wouldn’t learn on your business writing course and that can only be learned on the job.
Where to find jobs as an in-house business writer
The freelance lifestyle is great for some people and not-so-great for others. If you are in the latter bracket, one of the best places to look for in-house business writing jobs is www.jobserve.com. These are mostly project-based roles (three months to a year or more), and tend to focus on marketing communications, but are good opportunities for those looking for a more secure income. You could also try Linkedin, as some organisations and agencies prefer to advertise on that particular platform.
Is it ‘easy’ to break into business writing? Anything is easy if you are committed and you do the grunt work that will help get you to where you need to be. At the same time, it’s also good to get some perspective:
Do not compare your writing journey to other people’s; it’s the quickest way to set yourself up for failure. Concentrate on building your own business writing career and rest assured that you’ll get there in your own time, not other people’s – Abidemi Sanusi
Are you a business writer? What insights can you share with people looking to break into the industry?
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