How I Got A Job From Learning For Free Online

On Business Insider, writer Erin Fuchs explained her experience getting a job after learning to write online.

How I Got A Job From Learning For Free Online

By Kelsey Davis

One of the most surprising outcomes of attending a journalism conference is the number of invitations, coinciding with my attendance, to write feature stories for publications both traditional and digital.

One journalist at the conference insisted on hiring me, though I’d be finishing my first semester of a traditional media degree. She needed a freelancer to complete a story for a publication titled “How Are Social Media Habits Hurting Your Career?” She said I had shown she was “self-motivated” and had the “know-how” to move forward on that job.

When I told my classes about the opportunity, I heard a combination of incredulity and shock. Classmate Zach Chalker (he now works for USA Today) suggested I could only write for smaller publications because it’s cheaper for the struggling ones to write freelance. When told that I could work my way up to the bigger publications, he said there were a lot of openings at papers such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

So I called my family and friends with different jobs in different industries, telling them that I wanted to freelance. I suggested I might be able to get some interviews, and that I could be an example of people “doing it yourself.”

I made sure not to say how my journalism degree would play a part in my work, which wasn’t necessary, because interviewers typically don’t care what university a person attended.

I am not a blogger. I am not a columnist. I am a 24-year-old who gained the skills to start on this path. And it turns out, that’s something everyone should do: Go for it.

The beauty of digital culture is the ease with which you can learn the skills and get started. You just need the time to do it. And you can do it online.


As the saying goes, “as dumb as you are, you can learn.” When you are attending journalism conferences and events, engage with other attendees. Ask a lot of questions, introduce yourself to people, but stay to the point when you’re meeting up with strangers.

Write some stories. You’ll find yourself in front of interviewers, and they’ll be there to talk to you about your work. You’ll ask questions, create documents, research, and write stories. You’ll make mistakes, which are less likely in interviews, but you’ll learn from those mistakes. And you’ll ask some interesting questions, too.

Take your time. Going through the steps I did helped me to get a job, but I understand others might not find it so easy to put in the time and effort in order to get their foot in the door. All the networks I acquired online can help build up a network of contacts who can mentor you as you get started.

Decide what your goals are. Writing stories may not be your sole goal. Rather, your first goal is to be a journalist who is a journalist — someone who works the beat, finds stories, writes concise, fact-based journalism. It won’t hurt you to connect with people who have experience in the field, but do your research before hiring for a job.

Add connections to your network. Reach out to people on LinkedIn and add them to your network as soon as you’re confident you can do so. Look for people on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook who have a job you can interview or learn from. You don’t have to be a connection person, but you don’t want to be a doormat either.

Build a public profile. As a freelancer, your community is through social media. Use the social media accounts you have to promote your story by sharing it on your wall or by sharing on Twitter and letting people know it’s for a job.

Become a social media guru. Visit the social media accounts of other journalists and learn from their tips, make it easier for them to follow and follow you. Follow jobs posted on Twitter and Facebook and for events people are going to attend.

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