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Getting Hired at About.com
Ok, I said I would provide more details about how to get hired at About.com, and here they are. Read my earlier article for details on what a Guide position at About.com entails in the first place. If you think that writing for About.com is what you're after, be prepared to give it a lot of work.
Their application website lists all the topics that are currently open, and each one provides details on what your qualifications and experience should be. Read that information. You can have all the good intentions and motivation in the world, but they are not going to hire you simply because you are interested in the topic. They want professionals, and people with experience in these fields. Don't apply for a parenting site because you have kids. That's not enough. You need to have written a book, or column, or articles for a known website. You need to have credibility in your topic, not just interest.
Take time to put your application and sample article together. Try to use a piece that is on-topic rather than something else that you've written. Present yourself as best you can in the other fields of the application. Read it carefully so you are giving them the information they are requesting.
It can take weeks or even months (several months) to hear back about your application. Don't bother trying to follow up, it won't get you anywhere. Just relax and keep waiting.
Orientation or Prep
If your application is accepted, that's not the end of the story. This is where it gets tough, and where many About.com detractors feel there is a problem with the process. You are now in "prep", which lasts 2-3 weeks, where you are taught to use the tools (there are many) and expected to basically create the site on your topic from scratch. The important point is that you are not hired, you are still in the application phase. So, yes you can work like crazy for this time and still not get the job.
Be prepared to learn a lot in prep. There are a dozen tools that you need to learn in order to build your site, and you need to create material at the same time. You'll need to put out several articles, create pages and more. There is much more than simple writing at this point of the process, so you should set time aside to really work on it.
My own suggestions are that you try to do more than the minimums in order to impress your editors and you should follow ALL of your editors suggestions. It's my own experience that they do expect you to follow their ideas even if you don't agree with them.
After your prep period is over, there can be a painful wait of up to a week before you find out if you got the job or not. You may have been directly competing with someone else all this time, or you may be the only applicant. You'll get a final notice, and if you are hired for the topic, then all the material you created during prep goes live. You don't have to start over again. If you don't get it, then you are thanked for your effort and that's the end of it.
Yes, there is a sizeable risk to a freelancer by way of wasted time and effort for this process. But About.com is one of the highest paying sites that a freelance writer is going to find and it is my personal opinion that it is worth the effort. They are looking for high-quality people and work, and this is the process they need to find it.
If you are not willing to give that kind of work on a chance, that is up to you and a fair point to make. At least having read my articles, now you know what you are getting into.
This article is based on my own experiences working with About.com and should only be used as a guide. Things change, and their application website should be the final authority on the hiring process.
(this article is part of a larger collection of Freelance Writing articles)