Anytime we set out to try something new in our career, we look to what we ‘need’ to get a foot in the door. There are some jobs that have obvious pathways (for example, you need to go to medical school if you want to be a practicing MD) and others are much more flexible and, therefore, mysterious. Fitness writing falls into the latter which can be a blessing and a curse. If you don’t have a journalism degree, it’s nice to know you don’t need one but not having an obvious course of action can be frustrating.
Although I happen to have a journalism degree and I completed my college internship at SELF magazine (when it was still an actual print magazine!), I didn’t need either of these to get paid to write about fitness. I am thankful for my education but I definitely didn’t need it for this career.
Why not? Here are a few reasons why you don’t need a journalism degree to get paid as a writer and, since I tend to write most for the web version of popular fitness and health magazines or for fitness-related blogs, I’ll tailor my answers to that specific market.
- A lot of online magazine writing is short and to-the-point. Learning to report for newspapers helped me a little in this department but online fitness writing doesn’t often require you to go in-depth like you learn in most journalism degree programs.
- Lists are key. Journalism school includes a lot of education on how to make a piece flow from one section or point to the next but this is unnecessary in a lot of popular list-style online articles.
- Headlines are simple. People make careers out of writing witty print newspaper headlines but since web articles need to be searchable, the headlines are often quite simple and direct.
- Your pitch getting accepted, rejected or ignored rarely has anything to do with credentials. There are a list of other factors including timing, tone, the publication’s editorial calendar, whether they recently ran a similar piece, your clips and even what mood the editor is in when he or she receives your query.
- Most blogs use a conversational tone so you don’t need to know AP Style (popular for newspaper writing) or Chicago Manual Style (popular for print magazine writing).
- Editors will often go to town on your piece. This doesn’t mean that you should submit an article or blog full of spelling and grammar mistakes but you can prevent a lot of these errors when you write and check your work in MS Word. You should also try to match the tone of the site but your editor may still add their own stylistic preferences.
There you go! If you’ve been stalling on launching your fitness writing career because your lack of degree, cross that off the list of obstacles in your way and get started! If you have other questions or concerns about fitness writing, please send them my way because I love to be a resource to other fitness professionals who want to get published!