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Pam asks, "I have always loved to write. I, however, never considered a career in writing. I am making efforts at a career change. I am taking a memoir writing class at Gotham City Workshops in NYC this summer. I have always been interested in journalism. I do not want to attend school for another degree. Is it possible to become a Journalist without a degree? If so, can you give me some suggestions as to what steps to take? Thank-you."

Hi Pam,

It is difficult to become a journalist without a degree unless you can demonstrate some unusual writing talent. And you can do that by freelance writing and developing clips to show an editor. That would be your best entry-way into journalism, short of going back to school.

The other option is to apply for an internship at a publication. Sometimes you need to be in school but often that's not the case.

Here are some things to consider if you want to develop published clips:

The best thing to do is to decide what two or three interests fascinate you the most. What do you feel most passionate about? What keeps your curiosity going? If it's travel, then you have a bead on the market you're going to try and write for. The next step is to discover all those publications that will buy material you submit to them. The market books are great for this. If you use the computer a lot go to this site: www.writersmarket.com

It costs about $3 a month but it's worth it. It has a lot of great information and excellent market listings.

The next thing is to look at the professional side of being a writer.

  1. Know how to approach editors with query letters.
  2. Know how to prepare manuscripts in the format they ask for.
  3. Know how to interview and do research.
  4. Know how to study publications to see what editors are looking for in terms of the writing style and content.
  5. Know how to be persistent about getting paid.
  6. Know your rights and how to use those rights properly.

These are some things you learn over a period of time. Be patient with it. The best way to start is just do little pieces, fillers, and things like that. Get some interesting information together, make it entertaining, be thorough in its presentation, and then query a few editors about their interest in it. Be patient until you get your first sale.

I recommend getting two books, as well as the site above:
Writing Freelance by Christine Adamec
The ASJA Guide to Freelance Writing- edited by Timothy Harper

The latter guide is the best I've seen on freelance writer, written by pros. The first guide is for beginners and full of good information.

And clips are the best thing to show someone who is going to hire you full-time on a staff. They want to see what you write, how you write, how you interview, research and the rest of it. So, try to get freelance articles published and then you can take those into the job market for writers.

Good luck in your endeavors!

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