How Vocal Helped Me Land My Dream Job (And How to Use It to Land Yours!)
From writing for fun to writing for a living. Here’s how I secured my dream job as a content writer for an internet radio company...and how Vocal helped me get it.
Hello readers! Hope you're doing well. If you're wondering why I didn’t post much last month, it's because I took a hiatus from Vocal to focus on some IRL things. Despite not publishing anything for several days, thank you to everyone who sent me birthday wishes, tagged me in Facebook comments, and sent me Instagram DMs! It felt like I was still connected to this community despite being away. :)
So...why was I away? Well, the main reason is I started a new job! And not like a hopeless 9-5 job that I'm only doing for the money. It's a proper, big girl job. Dare I say, my dream job. And I have only Vocal to thank for it.
Last month, I started a position as a content writer for an internet radio company called Live365. Like Pandora and IHeartRadio, Live365 was one of the first online radio platforms ever made. I create articles for the website's blog, where I publish music news, top 10 lists, and more!
I love working for Live365. Not only are my co-workers chill, the pay is nice, I have flexible hours and I get to work from home, but it's the first steady job I've had that allows me to be creative. Before this job, I used to write for fun. Now...I still write for fun. But I also write for a living, and that's hella gratifying.
Some of you may know me as that girl who's placed in way too many Vocal challenges, and then wrote an article about placing in too many Vocal challenges. (Now that I think about it, make that two articles.)
But here's the thing: while the pandemic - more specifically, losing my acting career and internship from the pandemic - forced me to take Vocal seriously in order to earn an income, it's not the only reason why I stayed. I didn't commit to Vocal because of the prize money linked to challenges. I committed for something far more valuable.
And what's that more valuable thing?
For artists, a portfolio is a collection of work which exemplifies the best of your talent. For most creative jobs - including writing jobs - employers will ask for some sort of portfolio to go along with your résumé and/or cover letter.
As a new writer, it's incredibly difficult to build a portfolio. You could fill it with unpublished work, but a portfolio is taken a lot more seriously when it contains pieces that are available to find elsewhere: whether that be on the internet, in magazines, or somewhere on the bookshelves of Barnes & Noble.
Vocal is helpful in giving your published work the legitimacy it needs to count in a portfolio. Because of Vocal's aesthetic layout, the categories within the website, and the privilege of having a profile page, all you need to do is email employers links to your Vocal articles if you want them to read your stuff.
Are you looking for a blogger or content writer job like mine? I hope so...because I'm about to share with you how I built my writing portfolio using Vocal, how Vocal helped me land my current writing job, and some tips for you to utilize this platform so you can land your dream job, too!
How I Built My Vocal Portfolio
When I think back on where I was in early 2020, all I can remember is feeling scared about graduating college. My classmates and I dreaded the struggle of obtaining "real" jobs, especially since several entry level jobs posted to LinkedIn nowadays require 2-5 years of previous work experience. (Someone please tell me how that makes sense???)
My fears of living unemployed increased once the pandemic hit. Before I even knew what COVID-19 was, I was interning at a film festival office in NYC while making money acting in small projects every week or two. My parents helped out with rent money, but I figured it wouldn't be long until I became financially independent. Oh, how naive I was.
Getting financial stability was easy, I thought: I'd go to my company's film festival in June, network with high-profile filmmakers, casting directors, and agents. Then maybe I'd book some co-star roles or work in a film crew because of my new connections! It was the most solid plan I had. But as the pandemic proved, it was far from foolproof.
One year and a month ago, I decided to come back home to New Jersey due to rising cases in the city. My internship turned virtual, I wasn't going to that festival in June, and all the acting projects I was set to do in 2020 were cancelled or postponed. I was sitting in my childhood bedroom, back to square one in my professional life. What on earth was I going to do? Thinking about the future was terrifying.
With so much time on my hands, the pandemic gave me the opportunity to look deep within myself and prioritize the little things I always wanted to pursue. That's where Vocal came in.
I graduated college with a minor in creative writing. In school, I enjoyed sharing memoirs about my life with fellow classmates. But after college, there was nowhere to put those musings. What publishing company or media outlet would want to distribute work from a newbie like me?
Discovering Vocal was a blessing. It allowed me to keep my creativity alive while offering a professional online outlet for my work to be seen. It was, and still is, a place for me to dump all my thoughts and stories. From February of last year to March of this year, I've generally posted 1-2 stories a week. By the time this story gets published, I will have exactly 50 articles on Vocal. (Let's hope I get a bonus!)
Publishing work on Vocal allowed me to try writing short form digital content as opposed to the longer pieces of creative writing I was used to drafting in school. I've written everything on Vocal: from TV and movie reviews, to Vocal-related advice articles, to personality quizzes.
In about a year, I was able to master the elements of a good how-to article. Because of this, two of my posts are now official Vocal resource articles. (One of my Vocal challenge guides, as well as a piece I wrote about how to edit your published Vocal stories.)
As well as learning how to craft a great resource article, writing on Vocal allowed me to discover my strengths and niches as a blogger. I've always considered myself a music-lover, but I never thought I had a talent for creating playlists until last year.
One of the first Vocal challenges I ever won was the Quarantine Playlist challenge from April of 2020. I created a Spotify playlist based on the stages of grief, and it became an unexpected hit. When Vocal interviewed me about "music's influence on my writing" for my Creator Spotlight, I knew I was on to something.
When more playlist-making challenges appeared, I figured I'd keep trying my luck. Since April 2020, a walking meditation playlist I created for a challenge became a runner-up, a movie-themed exercise playlist I made was featured in a "To the Beat" article, and a second pandemic-themed playlist I curated for this year's Valentine's Day also placed first in a challenge.
So yeah...it seemed like I had a secret talent for writing stories related to music. I wouldn't have figured that out had it not been for Vocal challenges.
Around January, I decided to undertake one of the biggest writing challenges of my life...
How I Got My Blogging Job
I discovered the job posting for a Live365 content writer position in January. The company looked for applicants familiar with the music and podcasting world. They needed a résumé, portfolio, and previous experience working a blog.
Besides general knowledge I had about podcasting and music thanks to previous work in the entertainment industry, Vocal supplied me with most of the qualifications Live365 required. When I emailed the company, I specifically sent them my Quarantine Playlist article. Then I explained my experience writing on Vocal: how I've been on the site for almost two years, my challenge wins, and how creating on the platform has taught me the importance of having a writing schedule.
When Michelle, now my partner on the Live365 blog, interviewed me for the position, she told me she'd read the Quarantine Playlist article and it was the perfect amount of music knowledge, creativity, and technical writing skill the company looked for. She read other Vocal articles of mine and said she was impressed by the technical merit. She also questioned me about the two resource articles I wrote, and asked how comfortable I felt drafting how-to articles related to broadcasting and musical topics.
My interview was a success, and I got an email inviting me to join the Live365 team in February! On March 1st, my 23rd birthday, I started training.
Many skills I've used in Vocal blogging are also skills I use when creating a new Live365 article. Those skills include brainstorming catchy titles, choosing appropriate tags and categories, finding images across the web, and doing copious amounts of research.
Oh yeah, and I still use Unsplash. Thank god for Unsplash.
I wouldn't have gotten the job so easily had I not spent all of 2020 fleshing out my Vocal blog. Many times during my Vocal career - when the views weren't coming in or when I wasn't making any money from challenges - I would wonder what writing on this website was all for. Vocal stories don't have a comment section: I didn't even know what people thought of my work!
Despite this, my hard work on Vocal paid off. Being "successful" on Vocal isn't just limited to winning a bunch of challenges, having several top stories, or racking in thousands of views every day. You don't have to make big bucks on this website to use the platform to your advantage: you just have to stay focused and keep creating.
How to Use Vocal as a Portfolio
With all this said, I think there are strategic ways to use Vocal so that your work will appeal to those unfamiliar with the platform. Here are 5 things you can start doing right now so that when employers ask for your writing portfolio, you can be confident in sending them links to your Vocal stories.
1. Stick to a Niche
Write what you know. If you love fashion, use Vocal to talk about your latest thrift store finds or Fashion Week picks! If you're a sports junky, publish the latest ESPN news. Are you a cinephile? Write reviews for your favorite films.
If you know you want to write for a feminist media company like Refinery29, a music magazine like Rolling Stone, or a science network like National Geographic, you need to use Vocal as your training ground for those bigger things. That way, you're prepared when the company asks for examples of your work that match their specific style.
2. Experiment With Different Topics & Formats
On the flipside of sticking to a niche, practice writing pieces you're not so familiar with. The more genres and styles you dip your toes into, the more material you'll be able to share with different types of employers.
When I had my Live365 interview, Michelle asked me if I had ever written an article that required a lot of research. I shared a piece I wrote about a virtual trip to outer space. While it was a silly astronomy-themed article that had absolutely nothing to do with music, it was still appropriate to mention in the interview because of the week of research I needed to do in order to complete it.
If you're like me and only learned how to write 10-page fiction stories from college creative writing courses, use Vocal to practice writing short form digital content. Master things like top 10 lists and how-to articles. And remember to keep things professional! Good spelling, punctuation, grammar, and cover photos go a long way.
3. Enter Challenges
Best case scenario, you can win big bucks and learn what kinds of topics you're good at writing for. If you place in a challenge about TV recommendations, perhaps it's a sign you should stick to writing content about television! You can always put your challenge wins on a résumé, too.
Worse case scenario, you spend a week writing a detailed story and get nothing in return. But don't be discouraged: just because your work didn't win, that doesn't mean it's not good. Entering in challenges every week for months helped me build a regular writing schedule and a large catalogue of work. Even if you lose, you can always get something out of the experience.
4. Build a Schedule, and Keep Writing
Just keep writing! The more you write, the greater the chance of someone important seeing your work. Quality always matters, but if you have a large quantity of articles, it can help expand your audience and increase the likelihood of someone reaching out to you. Write like there's no tomorrow, and if you can, write every day!
In terms of the job front, employers appreciate someone who has a strict writing schedule. That way, they know they can rely on said writer to keep pumping out content on a daily basis. There are so many wannabe writers out there who can talk the talk ("Oh yeah, I'm working on a novel!"), but don't put in the effort. Don't be a wannabe. Be the real deal.
5. Never. Ever. EVER. Give Up!
Being a creator on Vocal is extremely hard. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that. For two years, I've seen countless social media posts with creators saying they were quitting Vocal because they only made pennies on their stories. The word "scam" has been thrown around quite a lot.
Even I've had dry spells on Vocal. I was winning so much prize money from challenges back in the summer of 2020, I signed a lease for an apartment in Manhattan. Six months later, my winnings dried up and I'm back in New Jersey in my childhood bedroom. From December to February, I averaged over 200 reads a day on my stories. Since my hiatus, that number has significantly dropped. (I think I made only 8 reads yesterday?)
So I'm going to give you some pretty brutal advice. You ready? Here it is...
Don't write on Vocal to make money. Write on Vocal so you can eventually make money writing somewhere else.
Vocal is just the beginning of your writing journey, dear creator. I literally owe every fiber of my being to Vocal, but after a two year experience on this website, I can tell you it's not a permanent solution to your freelance writer dream. Yes: it's absolutely possible to make a living here. The problem is that it's not stable for most. You'll have ups and downs. There will be lots of rejection, and slow periods you'll never see coming.
But there's so many benefits to writing here, too. To start, the community is talented and encouraging. A while back, a friend of mine messaged me about how she felt defeated because no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't place in a Vocal challenge. She sent me her latest challenge entry to read. It was a great piece - the only difference between her story and the winners' stories was that their articles had more pictures. I told her not to stop writing, that her time would come eventually. She just messaged me last week saying she finally placed in a challenge.
Maybe you want more reads, tips, a challenge win, or a shiny new blogger job one day. Maybe you're stuck here, wondering what it's all for. But I can promise you bigger things will come out of Vocal if you stick with it. It's like a plant in a garden: the more you water it, the more fruits you'll receive from your labor.
If I could go back in time and tell my young 2020 self something about Vocal, it's that I'll have to rely on this website to eventually not rely on it anymore. And that feels amazing.
If anything, use Vocal to be...well, vocal. It's only a matter of time before the right people listen. xxx
So...I think I basically used this article to say I've entered a new era in my Vocal career. I don't think I'm going to write on Vocal as often as I used to, but I'm also not retiring. Expect newer articles to be longer and about broader topics than usual. I'm excited to see where the journey takes me. :)
Make sure to drop a like if you enjoyed this story. Tips are always appreciated! If you want to reach out to me with comments or questions, send a DM to my Insta, @katyisaladybug.
And if you want to check out my Live365 blog, you can do so here! I post Mondays through Fridays. If you love music news, I can promise you it's worth your time!
Until the next publication,