Q&A with the Quietly Qrew: what our Editorial Managers look for in writers

Your portfolio may look great, and you may be the second coming of [insert favorite writer here], but if you can’t keep a good relationship with your editors, you haven’t a chance to continue your career. So how do you build and keep a good relationship with your editors? How can you impress them? Ask them what they are looking for in a writer.

We sat down with our all-star Editorial Managers—Quietly’s version of an editor and an account manager, but better—Emily and Kristin as well as our portfolio first-responder Elizabeth to talk about ideal writers, pet peeves, and trade secrets of what they’re looking for in writers.

What do I need to show to get in the door?

Kristin: “A couple of things are critical. One, the ability to research well. Two, to think originally and creatively about the content. How can you come up with a new angle on content you’ve written before? And finally, how receptive you are to feedback and implementing that feedback. Those are the writers I keep around.”

Emily: “To me it’s those things as well as thinking out of the box for inspiration; going beyond Google to research and think creatively—think Pinterest or Reddit. It’s not just trying to tick all of the boxes on a publisher brief—though those are important too—but thinking about creating a compelling story. It’s a weird balance of adhering to a brief and adding your own spin to it, too.”

What is your greatest turn off and pet peeve?

Kristin: “Missing deadlines is the biggest turn off. You have to be reliable; our clients depend on that content.”

Emily: “If there’s a grammatical error in someone’s resume or cover letter. Also, people who don’t follow instructions. We like to see writers with a keen attention to detail and both of these things demonstrate this. So if we ask for three writing samples, don’t send four or two. Send three. If we ask for you to list your favorite websites, list them. Simply following the requirements and adding your personality can get you noticed.”

Kristin: “Also, when people don’t put a conclusion or a concluding statement in a piece. Conclusions are really hard to do well without regurgitating the same ideas. Even if you have a list-based article—if the last point in the list ties everything together well, that’s sufficient. It’s about making readers feel satisfied when they reach the end of a piece. Or, when writers use low-res photos—I can’t send low-res photos to a client. It’s important to [have writers] think holistically about the entire reading experience, from the text to the visuals.”

Elizabeth: “Generic applications. Also, broken links. No 404 pages, please.”

Emily: “Seriously, double check that. We can tell when writers don’t care about the work they submit. We can tell if someone is playing a numbers game with their application. A small amount of attention and care goes a long way.”

Can a good pitch make a difference?

Emily: “We don’t require pitches. Sure, if a writer is eager to pitch a new idea we’re happy to listen and incorporate it. Anything that shows that our writers are invested is a good sign.“

Kristin: “Pitches are great—we appreciate the fresh ideas and pair them with our data-driven research. But, as Emily said, we don’t require them, which is nice for writers as so much time spent preparing pitches [for writers] goes unpaid.”

What are some trade secrets/tips that can help writers?

Emily: “Often when we have a writer we’re working with that we like, we ask them if they know any other writers in their network [they could refer to us]. We think our writers are a great resource, and we like to help their writing colleagues find work.”

Kristin: “A referral encompasses more than the work itself. It speaks to the writer’s work ethic, research skills, their reliability, their responsiveness to feedback. I love referrals.”

Elizabeth: “It can be fun if a writer is informal with their approach [to the application]. Something that shows your personality in the email. I want to see that they’ve taken the time to follow the directions and keep things light.”

Emily: “Some jobs are super formal; we’re less so. I understand why people approach it in such a way of “Dear Sir or Madam,” but we don’t need “to whom it may concern” in publishing anymore. It’s outdated.”

Elizabeth: “‘Hey Quietly Team’ works fine.”

Are there any FAQs you’d like to clear up?

Emily: “It’s great if writers ask insightful questions (seriously, we love questions!), but a lot of our writers go overboard with questions/concerns during the application process. Find a way to articulate those [questions] in a way that’s easy to understand and answer succinctly. Be mindful of the questions you are asking and to whom.”

Elizabeth: “The one I get most is, ‘If I don’t have many writing samples to share what should I do to stand out?’ Even if you don’t have any professional experience, show us you have passion and skill. Submit writing samples from Medium, LinkedIn, a website, or your personal blog. It’s quality more than quantity. Give us a hint of your personality; demonstrate that you’re someone who you want to work with. Think of it as professional development.”

Kristin: “We do our best to provide a clear, defined brief, but do your homework about the client you’ve been hired to write for. Look at their past blogs to understand their voice and tone; look at their social channels as that will help with image choice. Ask any questions up front. It’s best to hammer it out with your Editorial Manager sooner than later.”

How can a writer build a good relationship with an Editorial Manager?

Kristin: “Keep on top of thought leadership in content marketing. The writers who really shine think about writing for distracted readers in a digital environment, and that means thinking about creative headlines, subheadings, and engaging visuals. I look for writers who think about the audience and these little details, finding imaginative ways to engage readers with content.”

Emily: “In an ongoing way, it’s communicating succinctly, providing good work, like the work Kristin just touched on, and collaborating with us. Because our writers don’t work in our office, communication is absolutely key. Do you need an extension on a deadline? Ask. Do you have a question about the brief? Ask. If you don’t ask, we can’t help you. These questions also show you care about your work! As with any job, you need to show you’re interested and committed to it. Treat it like a job and take the professionalism seriously. We want to work with people who are as excited as we are about creating awesome content.”

How can I write for Quietly?

At Quietly, there are currently three avenues for writers to join our team:

  1. Sign up as a writer. Make sure to create a killer writing portfolio by following some of these Quietly-approved tips. The biggest takeaway is to mark your interests and profile with keywords because then you’ll be added to our database, where we’ll contact you via email if we find a good fit.
  2. Take a look for job postings on Indeed or our Careers page. These are more specific postings for more specific contracts and often require the writer to have expertise on the subject matter. Generally, we ask for a resume, cover letter, and a very short writing sample on a topic we give you.
  3. Finally, you can subscribe to our Writer’s Newsletter, which lists a variety of general or specific job postings for that month.

Clearly, writers need to show that they know how to write, but Editorial Managers are often looking for that and more. A lot of the criteria is the same across all kinds of editors.

  • A writing portfolio that represents their personality and voice
  • Clean copy, meaning their work is edited and presented well
  • Inquisitive research skills that go beyond Google
  • Ability to write different kinds of content
  • Ability to infuse style and voice into the piece
  • Expertise in the topic at hand
  • Out-of-the-box thinking and imagination
  • General enthusiasm and professionalism
  • Understanding that deadlines are paramount and submitting copy on time
  • Receptive to feedback and implements necessary changes

If you can do this, your relationship with an Editor or one of Quietly’s Editorial Managers is bound to be successful.

7 Great Free Portfolio Sites for Writers

By Emily E. Steck

  • Quietly

    By Emily E. Steck

    Quietly offers a portfolio features for writers, where you can easily upload PDFs or scrape links to compile your content. You can add a biography section, social media links and interests as a writer. 

  • Contently

    By Emily E. Steck

    Contently tracks how many stories, words, shares and followers you have based on your portfolio. It's easy to upload new stories, but difficult to rearrange the order once you've added more than 30 or so. 

  • Clippings.Me

    By Emily E. Steck

    Create a beautiful portfolio to showcase your work as a journalist, blogger or writer. You can customize the look and feel and add multimedia works to your portfolio. You can also track how often your work is shared and who's visited. 

  • Pinterest

    By Emily E. Steck

    An often overlooked choice, Pinterest is a great way to gather your content in one place and to organize your verticals into different boards. Plus, there's a greater chance for content discovery.

  • Journo Portfolio

    By Emily E. Steck

    Journalists dig this very simple site to display recent articles, biography and social links all in one place. Choosing from multiple themes, you can upload 12 articles for free. Plus, it's easy to upload CVs and other pages.

  • LinkedIn

    By Emily E. Steck

    LinkedIn allows for a section where you can add professional content to your profile page as well as publications you've written for. It's a great way for you to fill out your professional page with professional work, though it probably isn't the best for a standalone portfolio. 

  • Pressfolios

    By Emily E. Steck

    With Pressfolios, you can easily build and manage an online portfolio of clips; you can add up to 12 stories a month for the free version or upgrade for unlimited plus your own URL. It's designed with journalists in mind, but other writers are welcome to give it a shot. It's great to use if you'd like to organize by section.

Image: Roman Drits/Barnimages

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