Because the legal cannabis industry is young, new jobs and opportunities now exist for those looking to enter the job market, as well as professionals looking for a career change. Those with a talent for writing can become part of a small but growing community that will shape how we talk (and write) about cannabis in the coming years.
But the opportunity isn’t for everyone. In addition to having strong writing skills, cannabis writers have to be self-starting, motivated, and knowledgeable about their topic of choice. Keeping up with advancements in scientific research, legislative progress, and the cultural significance of cannabis can be a full-time job by itself, so be prepared to spend time on building your knowledge base. Legal cannabis is new and constantly changing, which means there are many topics to be covered. The more writers willing to cover cannabis ultimately benefits the industry as a whole.
If this appeals to you, there are several steps every writer, and cannabis writer, should consider.
Long-term cannabis prohibition means research and hard data supporting it is quite limited. But legalization has led to some huge breakthroughs in medicine, health and wellness, and product development. A great place to start is knowing specifics about the cannabis plant itself. What’s the difference between indicas and sativas? What are terpenes? What is CBD? What is a phenotype? Successful cannabis writers know all of these details by heart. Having that knowledge will help you interpret published research and statistical data, which will support your writing.
Pro-tip: Talk directly to professionals. Maybe they’re cannabis writers. Maybe they work for a grower or manufacturers. Maybe they’re scientists or lawmakers. Many people involved in the cannabis business, directly or indirectly, have had to find their own way. Their experience can help your own progress.
When presenting yourself as a writer to publications, they will want to see samples of your work. Pick some of your favorite topics to write about, but make them your own. For example, maybe you are a big fan of edibles, or are interested in medical cannabis research. Having several pieces on a variety of areas in the cannabis business will showcase your versatility and abilities. Be sure to have a trusted friend or colleague read over your samples. Freelance writing can be an isolating experience, and having people to turn to for constructive criticism will make you a better writer.
Pro-tip: Vary the types of writing samples in length and subject matter. Some publications may want writers who can produce feature articles over 1000 words, and some may want to see if you can cover a news story in 400 words. Having variety in your samples will showcase your versatility.
Submitting writing samples to your favorite publications should be your first step, but remember to be professional. Cannabis culture is a fun topic to write about, but major publications are legitimate businesses with deadlines, financial responsibilities and shareholders who want to see a return on their investment. They want to see that you take your craft seriously, and can separate work from play.
Pro-tip: If you’re applying to your first gig, be prepared to be flexible on compensation. Experienced writers have some room to negotiate, but those starting out will need to prove themselves, which means making a little less in the beginning.
So you’ve brushed up on your cannabis knowledge, but now it’s time to make sure you’re up-to-date on the most current information. Plan to devote some time each day or every few days to checking your news feeds to see what’s new in the world of legal cannabis. Being able to reference current events will show editors how dedicated you are to the subject.
Pro-tip: Make it easier on yourself and use an RSS feed reader or Google News notifications to follow your favorite publications and topics.
Creative entrepreneurs are at their best when collaborating, but the lifestyle of the freelance writer often means they’re writing and developing their skills alone. Spend time connecting with locals who share your passion, or reach out to your favorites on social media and keep the dialogue going. Ultimately, you can help your colleagues as well as yourself. There is no road map for becoming a cannabis writer, but there are plenty of professionals out there willing to share their experience and advice.
Pro-tip: A social media presence is key for a cannabis writer. Being able to show a publication that you can write and have a strong following means you can drive more traffic to their site. It’s also an opportunity to be more candid, allowing your personality to be seen by a broad audience.