This question comes in from an anonymous Facebook user.
How Can I Get a Writing Job Without Physically Being There?
The answer to this question very much depends on where you are in your career. Let me explain why before I attempt to answer it.
If you are currently a successful writer working in Los Angeles, New York, or an international entertainment hub, then your path to getting writing jobs that allow you to work remotely requires you to leverage your network and negotiate these unique deals. It’s not going to be easy, especially if your goal is to work on a television show where all of the other writers are going to be working in a writer’s room every day, but if you’ve proven yourself as a real asset then it may be possible to work something like this out.
If you are not currently a successful writer working in Los Angeles, New York, or an international entertainment hub, and are not willing to move to one of these hubs to start your career as an assistant and work your way up, then the path for you looks quite different.
The entertainment industry is built on apprenticeship. When you graduate from college (or high school) and want to break in to entertainment, you almost always have to start as an assistant, doing menial tasks and learning by watching people a few years ahead of you. Once you’ve proven that you can make coffee and take the trash out and still maintain a positive attitude, then you are given greater opportunities. Eventually you move up, becoming a writer’s assistant, a writer, a producer, etc. etc. But, this path requires you to live in a city where this industry exists.
Your question is specific to working remotely, so I’ll address that. As opposed to apprenticeship, where you slowly build a network of people who hire you or refer you to your next job, by starting out remotely and staying remote, you are essentially trying to pursue an entrepreneurial route. For this, you cannot compare yourself to people who have worked in the industry for 20-30 years and then move to some remote place to continue working. These people came up as apprentices, provided value to people working above them, and then eventually negotiated a unique kind of deal. On the contrary, you are trying to do something that requires you to blaze your own path.
If you want to be successful in the entrepreneurial route, you have to assume a lot of roles in your career right from the beginning. Not only do you have to be a skilled writer — you are competing with highly skilled writers who have a better network than you — but you also have to be a skilled salesperson. If you want to be a successful writer without living in Los Angeles, New York, or another hub, you essentially have to start writing spec scripts and shopping them around to agents and production companies until someone buys one or likes your work and hires you to write on another project for them. It’s not impossible to succeed in this route, many people have done it before you, but it takes some serious hustle. You may have to write dozens of feature film scripts before one of them is good enough to even be read all the way through. You may have to write dozens more before someone wants to actually buy one from you. This could take years. Decades. All the while, you’ll have to deal with being rejected or downright ignored by agents and production companies who would rather work with people who came up as apprentices and are already successful in the industry.
Again, I write none of this to discourage you from blazing your own path, but only to make you more aware of what the environment out there is like.
If you truly want to be successful as a writer (or anything in entertainment, really) you have to be willing to make sacrifices. For most people, one of the sacrifices includes moving to Los Angeles or New York. If you’re not willing to make this sacrifice, you need to ask yourself which sacrifices you are willing to make. Will you sacrifice your free time to become a better writer? You’ll need to in order to produce work that stands out. Will you sacrifice money to continue writing? You’ll need to in order to eventually produce something an agent is willing to represent or a production company is willing to buy. Will you sacrifice friends and family who doubt you? You’ll need to in order to continue believing that you can do it, even in the face of rejection from the industry.
At the end of the day, your success is in your hands. The real question is, are you willing to work for it?
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