How I Went From Being Inexperienced to a Full-Time Sportswriter in 3 Years
Being a sports fanatic is something that’s been part of my personality since birth. It continued through my college years (both undergraduate and graduate) by getting business degrees in Sport Management. So, it was pretty surprising that my first full-time job in the industry would be as a sportswriter.
That’s because it kind of happened by accident.
Upon finishing school and landing my first job – which wasn’t directly related to sports – I wanted to stay involved and have some fun in the process. Like many people in 2011, I had a Wordpress blog, but wasn’t very active.
So, the decision was made to finally put this blog to good use and dedicate it to everything about Major League Baseball. What started out as a hobby transformed into an intense passion and thankfully, turned into a full-time career within three years of writing my first article.
My formal schooling didn’t include any journalism or English classes past the introductory level. I never contributed to the school newspaper and I used to dread writing term papers. That didn’t prevent me from being a featured writer at places like FanSided, Yahoo! Sports, Bleacher Report and most recently, FanDuel. That’s led me to publish over 2,000 articles throughout my career, generating nearly 10 million pages views.
This took a lot of work – including plenty of trial and error – but I achieved my dream by staying disciplined and not giving up. Five important things I learned during my journey are detailed below and are covered more in-depth in my eBook.
Have a Focused Niche
Deciding to share your opinions with the millions of people on the internet is a courageous decision. It’s also exciting and you probably want to get going as quickly as possible.
However, it’s important to sit down and clearly define your area of expertise, or your niche. There’s nothing wrong with writing about four different sports on a blog, but when starting out, it’s tough to maintain and the chance of burning out quickly is high.
My area of expertise is baseball, which is what my blog was focused on. It allowed the ideas to flow freely while leaving enough time to plan ahead.
Make a Concrete Plan
Some people like plans and others loathe them. As a former baseball player, routines and schedules are welcomed, which is how I approached my content preparation. Laying out a plan for the week ahead with article ideas helped with the content creation phase.
When first starting out as a sportswriter, it’s important to write when you’re feeling especially creative. Already having ideas in hand allows you to sit down and start writing instead of trying to think of an idea.
That makes a big difference in your productivity.
And, if you’re starting out as a sportswriter, chances are you have other obligations during the day (school, work, family, etc). So, time is always of the essence, having a plan in place is a great way to streamline production.
Staying Consistent…With Writing And Social Media
If you’d like to build an audience through your writing, staying consistent is probably the most important thing you can do. Readers and fans follow you for a reason, and providing what they’re looking for is necessary!
You want readers to look through your posts and see what kind of rhythm there is. Not every post has to relate with one another, but it’s clear they can depend on original content being produced by you on a regular basis.
The same goes for social media, which is an extension of your blog. Share your own work, but this is an opportunity to share the work of others and give quick opinions followers find useful.
Taking Advantage Of Opportunities To Learn
The beauty of sportswriting is that it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing it – there are always ways to improve. My goal has always been to finish a day better than how I started it.
Since I didn’t have a traditional background in journalism, taking advantage of continuing education opportunities from places like FanSided, Bleacher Report and Yahoo! Sports in order to improve as an online content producer was vital.
Even if you have that journalism background, there’s always something new to learn or a perspective to hear that can change/shape your own opinions.
Being Open To Roles That Include More Than “Just Writing”
Honing your writing skills is great, but there are other skills that can be formed in different roles, such as being an editor. I took on this experience with FanSided as the editor of Rising Apple, a New York Mets fan site.
This helped me learn more how to manage a website, a staff of writers and various social media handles, while recruiting more staff and copyediting everyone’s work. If you have the opportunity to take on a role like that, do it. This shows potential employees you’re more than “just a writer” and can be a multi-faceted member of their content team.
About the Author:
Matt loves baseball, and most of all loves the New York Mets. That has led to quite a bit of heartbreak over the years, but it’s getting better. He’s been writing about sports since 2011 and if you’d like to learn more about breaking into the sports journalism industry, download his eBook today and follow him on Twitter if you’d like to talk smack about the Mets: @mmusico8.
Sign In or Register to access all articles and insider tips for help in your job search.