The journalism industry is increasingly competitive. Getting a head start, and simply starting early, can give you a competitive advantage over other candidates. In fact, you can already start building your portfolio in high school. Here are ten tips to get you started.

1. Start pitching around

To make a name for yourself in the industry, you have to be prepared to pitch around. A lot.

More often than not, pitching around is the best way you can get noticed (that is, unless you have some killer connections). Find publications that accept unsolicited submissions and check their submission guidelines.  This is where the process will start to vary. While some may require a full article, others may be willing to take on standalone pitches.

Here is a quick list of credible publications currently accepting submissions from teen journalists (note that most of these publications do not offer payment for their articles, in alphabetical order):

Note: This list is made up of either active youth-run publications or publications that I, as a high school student, personally have had experience submitting to before!

2. Step out of your comfort zone

Journalism is all about putting yourself out there, whether it be physically or verbally. Knowing this, it is critical to remember the importance of taking risks.

Experiment with your narrative style. Be flexible and ready to adapt! Write down the opinions you’ve been keeping to yourself.

Safe content is oftentimes that which has already been written. Be an innovator!

3. Get used to failure

Publications have become increasingly competitive over recent years. This is for good reason. It is difficult to accommodate for every good writer out there. Because of this, job postings may be few and far in between. Not every pitch you send out will get a response. Or you may simply not fit the niche that they fall into.

And as unfortunate as it sounds, this will all be amplified by your age. There just aren’t that many professional publications willing to publish teen writers.

Don’t take these hits personally. It’s a long, strenuous, and at times an incredibly demotivating process.

Just remember: the best writers are the ones who were brave enough to be told no.

4. Be prepared to work hard…

…and with little in return. Your future boss may ask you to write 1000 words in an hour, and may even ask you to do so thrice a day.

In all honesty, journalism doesn’t always feel fulfilling. As with many jobs, it is incredibly common for entry-level writers to work for hours on end with little recognition and little-to-no pay. In the end, journalism is a trade of passion and perseverance.

But don’t let all of this get you down, finding success is far from impossible.

5. Build your portfolio and resume

As a professional, you need to make sure that your work speaks for itself. Putting in the effort to note your experiences and flaunt your versatility will help you land even the most difficult of writing jobs.

“But how do you gain those experiences?” you may ask. In truth, gaining experience is a large part of a journalist’s journey. It may mean a myriad of things, namely: writing for free, working for start-ups, and even freelancing.

All of these experiences have one thing in common: getting published. That should be your priority.

Once you have some clips, you may even consider getting your own website up and running to showcase your portfolio and make it look more professional.

6. Ask for advice from your teachers

Above all else, you are a student. And as daunting as it may be, you will probably need to ask your teachers for help eventually.

Teachers are often overlooked in the grand scheme of things, and it isn’t hard to forget how valuable a resource they are. 

Don’t make the same mistake- your teachers are trained professionals in the art of writing. Whether they specialise in math, history, or language, chances are they write a whole ton on the daily.

Take advantage of this. And who knows, these tips might help you score better on your lab reports.

7. Network as much as you can

At this point, you may feel a bit down. After all, we’ve basically been likening journalism to competing in the Olympics.

“I don’t think I have the stamina for this,” I hear you saying to yourself. “There’s only so much pitching I can do until my fingers fall off!”

Don’t worry. This isn’t your only option. There’s a magical thing called… networking!

Networking is vital if you really want to get your name out there. Not only will great connections get you great opportunities, but they may also allow you to skip parts of the process.

8. Write regularly

Writing is a constantly-developing skill to be honed on the daily. To remain fit enough to meet the demands of most journalism careers, you need to be prepared to write a lot. No questions asked.

9. Take courses

Journalism is a craft that has been passed down from generation to generation. As such, getting one-on-one guidance from experts in the field is one of the best ways you can improve.

Of course, the feedback cycle isn’t always the most pleasant. Much like art, writing is a ‘subjective’ skill that is easy to get defensive over. Be open to criticism. Even the best writers are in the improvement cycle, so own it!

10. Have patience

Writing careers can be very frustrating, but the effort is always worth it. Take a few deep breaths. Acknowledge your limits. Above all, remember how much you love writing!