Discover more from The Craft by Permission to Write
the craft. building a writing brand.
More like a writing identity, but you get the point. | 11.9.20
Brand is often this haughty word that only really means story or narrative. So, know that as we go through some tips on building your brand particularly as a writer. There have never been more tools at our disposal before which can be both exciting and extremely overwhelming. The good news is, you do not have to utilize every single one of those tools. You just have to put together a mix that works for you and your goals.
And really, that’s where I’d like to start. What are your goals? I think that’s honestly such an important part of this process because way too often we get caught up trying to imitate another writer that we love and find ourselves drifting so far off the path we originally intended. So, what is it that you’re trying to do? Because that dictates which mix of resources and tools you need to utilize most. As L’Oreal Payton recently wrote, for non-fiction, you need a platform more so than you do as a debut fiction writer. But even as a fiction writer, it doesn’t hurt. And as a freelancer, you definitely want to build a brand that leads you to commissions over pitching. So what is it that you want to do? That’s the first step in the journey.
Authenticity is so important to me when it comes to this idea of a “brand.” It’s all about amplifying the parts of you that already exist and not creating something that looks good on an Instagram timeline. So, what’s authentic about you? Some things that I feel are a big part of my professional identity as a writer are community, authenticity, lifestyle, encouragement, and inspiration among other things. Whether I’m showing up in an article, on social media, or at a speaking engagement, those things are always front and center for me.
The point here, in building a brand or identity, is to get where you want to be. Whether that’s on the New York Times bestsellers list or being able to facilitate your own courses or self-publish your book. It’s not about looking like a “cool kid,” but taking tangible steps toward the reality you want to create for your career in writing.
Finding your beat. This is such a hard thing for most writers to pin down. What the heck are you known for writing about? Now, this doesn’t mean that you can only write about one thing. I repeat! It doesn’t mean that you can only write about one thing, but what is a common thread if any? For me, whether I’m writing a script or working on a novel, it’s likely a contemporary story, love is somewhere in the mix though it could be romantic or familial. It’s just my thing. I like the here and now and you may not ever find me writing a historical sci-fi thriller. I mean never say never, but … Anyway, you need to get a ballpark here. Even when it comes to my freelancing, I pretty much stick to personal essays, reported pieces, and interviews that cover lifestyle, culture, and on occasion relationships. Doesn’t mean that every now and then I don’t step out, but again, we’re talking ballpark figures. What’s your beat?
Developing content. If you’re existing in this online world, you have to be a content creator. I know it feels all icky as a writer, but if you don’t just have great connections within the industry already, it’s a great way to be noticed. My very first opportunity to freelance for Essence.com way back when came when an editor slid into my DMs because she read my blog. It was mind-blowing for me and really helped me forray into the freelance world in a bigger way than the opportunities I’d had before. I was creating my own content. Other writers I think do a great job of that are Joel Leon, Alex Elle, GG Renee. I think they do it in a way that feels true to them without taking away the integrity of what it means to be a writer. Now the platform for this content can be social, but I’m also a big proponent for carving out your own corner of the internet, i.e. your own site.
Showing up in writing spaces. Whatever it is for you. If it’s pitching articles to outlets with similar content to your non-fiction book. Or getting published in a great literary journal with one of your short stories. You need to get your name out there as a writer. And sometimes it’s with smaller pubs that champion new writers that may lead you to bigger opportunities. This really helps position you and show others what you are capable of as a writer.
Speaking. Somehow knowing that many of us are better with writing words than saying them out loud to people, folks still ask writers to speak. Crazy right? lol. But it can be helpful to prepare yourself for this portion of things by doing something as simple as IG Lives. Or maybe some pieces on a YouTube channel. And then actually getting booked at a college or hosting your own event. It’s great brand building to also be able to get in front of audiences and talk about your work.
Last but not least, network across and make sure to be building community with other writers along the way. We need each other. Writing is this hard thing that not many other people in our lives tend to do. It’s very helpful to find like-minded people that you can build with and help one another by workshopping and giving valuable feedback. Your relation to other writers will help you be noticed as well.
This is not at all an exhaustive list, but some things I’ve found to be helpful during my journey. I’m sure I will learn a lot more along the way.
Permission to Write is looking for pitches for 2021 Masterclass courses. For more info, hit this Twitter thread.
Blavity is looking for a Weekend Editor. 4-hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday, 10 am-2 pm ET. On-call to write breaking news over the weekend. Email email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
Insider is looking for an experienced Finance Features Editor.
SELF magazine, a health and wellness brand just updated its pitch guide and they’re always looking for new writers.
Mighty Networks is hiring a Content Writer.
ETOnline is looking for a Staff Writer for ET Black Stories.
Forbes is looking for a few breaking news desks Reporters.
Daily Beast is looking for a Deputy World Editor.