charlie byrne
Charlie Byrne, Barefoot Writer

By 2003, Charlie Byrne had spent well over a decade working in information services for Fortune 100 companies. He wanted to switch gears – move into writing. But he didn’t know where to start.

Around the same time, a friend turned him on to Early to Rise, a free email newsletter on productivity and entrepreneurship. A few weeks in, Charlie started commenting on articles, including one by Mark Ford about how new customers are the lifeblood of businesses.

Charlie wrote in about a deli in town that he estimated was turning away $10,000 in new business a year because of a strict policy against providing change for nearby parking meters.

Charlie’s post generated a lot of discussion. And caught the eye of someone else…

“Not long after that post, I opened up my email and there was a message from Mark Ford himself,” recalls Charlie. “It read: ‘Charlie, would you be interested in writing for us?’”

Charlie worked his way up from researcher to senior copywriter of ETR. Today, he writes copy for one of the most prestigious financial publishers in the Oxford Club division of Agora Publishing.

Other Agora divisions have a history of hiring the same way. The editorial director of Stansberry & Associates Investment Research got his start as a writer there after sending in emails to the publisher about their stock recommendations.

Agora is not alone.

Political site Daily Kos hires its bloggers almost exclusively from the ranks of commenters. Popular gossip site Gawker.com has also hired commenters – including one who mocked a traditional job posting for writers the editors had posted.

That’s what’s great about being a Barefoot Writer. Clients don’t need to see a resume to hire you. They don’t care how old you are, where you went to college (or even if you didn’t), how many positions you’ve held in the corporate world, or where you live.

As media commentator Alysia Santo said in the Columbia Journalism Review recently:

“A well-written and informative comment can serve as proof of a person’s interest in a site and its content—a sort of audition, allowing a person to try out their ideas on other people.”

In other words, they’re looking for great writers and this process makes the task of hiring quicker and easier for time-strapped publishers and editors.

And by commenting on blogs, posting on online forums, or sending emails directly to editors and publishers, you can sell yourself directly with your writing skill.

All they care about is the quality of your writing. Because they know great writing is what gets results, whether those are website visits, sales, donations, or whatever. You can sell yourself with your writing directly.

So next time you’re reading your favorite online publication, treat it like an audition.

Here are a few tips:

  • Offer constructive feedback.
  • Don’t ask outright for a job. It might take a few emails or comments or forum posts … but the publication will eventually seek out quality writers like you.
  • Get to know all you can about the publication and the issues it covers so your comments will be well-informed.