When people find out I teach writing, they assume it’s creative writing. Novels, stories, poetry. (Except that one dude who thought I teach handwriting. Weirdo.)

And I can teach those things. I have a master’s degree in creative writing. But without being a hugely successful published author, I don’t feel the same credibility there as I do with my business writing.  Creative writing is not my specialty. Also, I’ve always been hyper-sensitive about NOT being one of the those who can’t, teach. Nope, not me. I can, I do, and I teach.

When you want to make a go of something

I had a young man approach me recently. He wants to become a copywriter. He’s been studying media arts, and that particular course really grabbed him.

He asked me how he could get into the industry, and he sent me his ‘portfolio’.

His portfolio consisted of exactly 3 pieces of work. Pieces he had done as assignments in his course. Two of the three were one sentence long – visual print ads for which he’d written the copy.

Uhhm…

You need to do the work, buddy.

We met. I think he was hoping I’d just give him a job. But, a) I don’t hire copywriters, and b) not a chance. I repeat: one sentence long.

I do appreciate people taking some initiative, so I met him to get a feel for the kind of guy he is and to give him some advice.

I’ll give you the same advice I gave him.

You. Have to. Do. The THING.

If you want credibility in any profession, you have to DO IT. If you want to develop credibility as a writer, you have to WRITE. It’s a long game. You can’t expect fast results (which I think he was hoping for). You also can’t necessarily expect to get paid for it.

I spent about 7 years writing, editing, and proofreading FOR FREE before I started charging for my services. Before that, I’d spent years publishing and entering writing competitions. After all that, if someone wanted evidence of the writing I’d done, it was easy. I could turn around and pull up evidence in any direction I looked. I had a publishing profile and a huge portfolio of business and academic writing.

I’m NOT suggesting that the only way to develop credibility in your profession is to work for free. I had jobs during that entire period. I was teaching, and writing in my job, and I took other opportunities to produce work when they came up. I helped people. I developed my skill and my reputation.

So.

You want to be known as a teacher? Teach. Give free classes in your community.

You want to be known as an artist? Get your art out there. At charity auctions and other events where you can contribute work and get your name out there.

You want to be known as an advocate? Advocate. Support people to navigate systems.

You want to be known in governance? Get on boards. Start with small, local. Work your way up.

What do you want to develop credibility in?

Are you doing it?