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Writing for Trades When You Don’t Have Experience
by Sue Marquette Poremba

When I tell a friend of mine that I scored an interesting assignment, he always asks, “So, what are you an expert on this week?”

The truth is, I’m not an expert at much of anything. Yet, I make a very nice living writing for trade publications.

There is a misconception out there that a writer shouldn’t write for a trade publication (and often on a particular topic) unless he or she has some expertise or real-life experience. And yes, in some cases this is true. I’ve had editors get back to me and say they only use professionals in a particular field to write their articles. For the most part, however, trade publications want good writers who can take a topic and present it to their readers.

Write about people you know. Rather than taking the approach of writing what you know, think of the people you spend time with. What are their careers? Everyone talks about their jobs at one time or another. Just by having every day conversations, you’ve gained experience in conversing with industry professionals. For example, I am married to an engineer and several friends are also in the engineering field. This ability to communicate with engineers (who do often talk in their own code language) led to writing for engineering publications.

Don’t discount your own work experience. Even if your job was to answer the phones or wait on customers, you were still immersed in a specific industry and you probably learned some industry jargon. I worked with an architectural engineering group, and while I can’t pound a hammer without putting a hole in the wall, I know what an HVAC system is and the difference between a PM and a GC.

And don’t ignore your interests. Love shopping? Dining out? Do you volunteer to clean up your local parks? Trust me, there’s a trade for every interest, every industry, and a good way to break into a trade is to find a topic that holds a special interest for you.

Overlap your experiences. I write a lot of articles about the building industry for construction trade publications. But I’ve also written about the building industry for publications that focus on green and environmental topics (green building ideas), finance and wealth publications (home remodels), and general interest magazines (luxury bathroom remodeling).

Profiles are universal. My first articles for trade publications were profiles on people in the construction industry. I’ve gone on to write dozens of profiles for a wide variety of trade publications because I advertise profile writing as my specialty. Nine times out of ten, the editor will assign me technical pieces for future issues.

The trick is to pick an industry you feel comfortable with, target those publications, and build your resume from there. Editors want good writers, experience not always necessary.

© Copyright 2008, Sue Marquette Poremba

Sue Marquette Poremba is a full-time freelance writer based in
Central Pa. She writes for trade and consumer publications on topics
like construction, engineering, technology, energy, and
sustainability/green issues. She is also the author of The Phillies
Fan's Little Book of Wisdom

Other articles by Sue Marquette Poremba :

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