Want to become a football writer? It’s not the least bit surprising that there is such a strong correlation between football’s increasing popularity and the volume of aspiring football writers out there. Unfortunately, the market simply cannot handle this number. And when you also factor in the rise of digital media along with social media’s prominence, it has made it incredibly difficult to break into this industry.
But while the internet may have exponentially increased prospective applicants in this field, it has also made football writing more accessible and inclusive to the masses than ever imagined possible.
With that, we at Discount Football Kits present our comprehensive guide on how to become a successful football writer. With a variety of routes and directions that can be undertaken to achieve success, we have compiled a list of the major points that will help establish yourself as an online sports writer.
Be a comprehensive football writer and football fan
When learning how to become a football writer, it should be known that a common misconception is that being a fan of football – no matter how passionate you are – is enough to forge a career as a football blogger. This isn’t exactly the case. While it’s obviously very important that you are a die-hard football follower, this will only take you so far. If you are a football fan but not an avid writer, you will ultimately fail to sustain readers and thus, be incapable of garnering an audience for your work.
It works under the same principle that if you’re a budding writer but not very knowledgeable about football, how would you possibly make it as a football writer? Writing should come just as naturally to you as watching football does. The two must go hand-in-hand if you are to convincingly sell yourself and your content to a bunch of strangers whom you will most likely never meet. Finding that perfect median is the balance that everybody strives for and only the successful ones manage to achieve.
For this to work, your writing should be fluid, easy to read and concise. A writer’s job, no matter how strenuous it can prove to be, is ultimately to create something that is engaging, enjoyable and ever-lasting. If you fail on these base levels, it doesn’t matter what you or your piece have to say – people won’t get as far as digesting your points before they quit reading.
Equally, your love for football must be as comprehensive as your writing abilities are. The broader this love stretches, the more beneficial it can prove. So long as you’re well-versed in what you’re writing about, it doesn’t matter how far your expertise stretches. In fact, this can actually open up more opportunities for you as a sports blogger. If all you watch is Premier League football, it’s suggested that you broaden your horizons a little. Even if Premier League football is what you plan to write about, having an expansive knowledge of football beyond your preference is invaluable. In addition to this, possessing an understanding of the sports past, present and future across all different leagues, nationally and internationally, is as beneficial as you would expect it to be.
Find your niche
Following on from the previous point, you’ll find that identifying your niche is a necessity. Ideally, making this decision early on can mould your writing sooner rather than later. It’s very rare that football writers are tasked with writing a piece on Premier League managers one week before flying off to cover a La Liga match the next. Everybody has their limitations, but with that, they discover their strengths and are able to fully utilise them. This is exactly what you must do to become a successful football writer.
Have something interesting to say
Whatever it is that you’d like to write, whether it’s match previews, post-match analysis, think-pieces or something else entirely, you must have something interesting to say.
As is the case with all forms of writing, there needs to be a purpose behind your words. What are you trying to say? And how do you say it? If it was quite as easy as those two questions seemingly make it appear to be, everybody would do it. But we know that’s not the case. Your work should seek to inform and entertain which naturally will help create meaning and establish an interest in readers.
Due to football’s ubiquitous nature, the growing market is an expectedly competitive one at that. The prospect of attempting to break out into the field can be a daunting one, to say the least which makes it all that more important to differentiate yourself from others through your voice and content. Standing out from the crowd is what will attract people to your writing and more importantly, to you.
A couple of effective ways to do this are to either go against the grain with your pieces and their opinions or stray in the opposite direction and be ahead of the curve. You’ll also find that your material will become infinitely more interesting by adopting this approach.
Keep it personal
Keeping your writing personal is crucial towards your success as a football writer. First and foremost, it will help establish an authoritative and unique voice for yourself and your writing. In order to be successful in the world of football blogging, people have to be able to relate to you on a personal level and vice versa. It’s one thing to engage them with the topic of your writing, but it’s another to make them feel comfortable while reading your content or make them laugh, or even cry. It’s these visceral responses that the very best strive for.
And while it isn’t expected that your content draws the most extreme reactions from its readers, it should make them feel something. And how do you achieve that? Write from the heart. And how do you write from the heart? Write what you know. Bleed your own personality and sensibilities into each and every one of your posts.
Keeping it personal also ensures that you produce the best quality of writing you possibly can. Think of it like this: if you’re writing about something that you aren’t sure about or aren’t particularly interested in – it shows. That lack of conviction is a writer’s worst nightmare.
It’s also a case of knowing who you’re writing for. With this, there will be a particular way to engage your audience using specific language, sentence structure, and voice to achieve optimum results. It’s simultaneously about giving them what they want but not necessarily telling them what they want to hear. You should be geared towards providing content that will inform and engage your audience but not pander to them.
When first starting out, this will be incredibly useful. The majority of people will be looking for someone to connect with on an emotional level as well as approval or validation in their own opinions. Intellectually speaking, the person is as important as the content in many ways.
Finally, you should be writing what you yourself would be interested in reading. That is a common piece of advice for any aspiring creatives, and there’s a reason it’s branded around as commonly as it is. By employing this tactic, you will subconsciously incorporate some of the previously mentioned points without directly meaning to do so. But the difference is that it will be done so organically rather than through force.
Write to a deadline
Writing quickly and efficiently is not only useful but is vital to your success. No matter what capacity you write under, you need to be motivated by a deadline. There a couple of reasons why, but most importantly because football is a topical subject. What might be hot one day can easily become redundant the next. The sport’s short-lived nature stresses the importance of deadlines, but don’t exclusively view them as a necessity, instead, understand that they can also be an ally.
By assigning yourself deadlines, you’ll become familiar with the concept before most others will have even given a thought to the idea. This already puts you a step above the competition in this highly competitive field. Not only will this be beneficial for completing work in a professional capacity should you forge a paid career further down the line, but you’ll see visible results almost immediately. Your work will be punchier and more relevant. You’ll gain a firmer grasp on organising and writing itself which will only help you produce more direct and marketable content.
This could arguably be seen as the most important tip. Nobody is going to convince you to write.
Whether you eventually land a job as a football journalist on a paid basis or continue to cover football as a blogger, both still require that same burning passion and drive to complete the work.
If this is something you desperately want, that insatiable thirst to write and share your opinions about football with whoever will listen should see you through to the bitter end. If it isn’t there, or if producing content is too taxing for you, maybe this isn’t the right dream to pursue.
Of course, there are always going to be those days where you feel like you’re fighting against a sea of obstacles in search of the motivation to write but that’s the nature of the beast. It’s the ones who overcome that challenge that manage to succeed.
The tangible benefit of doing this is not only will you feel better about the work you’ve conducted, but you’ll see the effects it’s having. Maybe this won’t necessarily be in the form of traffic – at least to begin with – but the quality of your content will improve significantly from your perseverance.
And through this, your productivity will also increase, meaning you’ll find yourself achieving much more and reaping the rewards because of it. The workload will also naturally become more relenting as you go along after acquainting yourself with the expectations and forging a routine.
How Do I Do It?
Create your own blog
Creating your own blog is incredibly easy and probably the most popular way to start out as a football writer. In the digital age, creating and sharing content has never been simpler. By creating your own blog, you’re notifying audiences and prospective employers of who you are and how you feel about the sport, as well as providing insight into your passion for the subject you’re writing about all – all under one roof.
The main appeal outside of this blog is showcasing your proactivity and willingness towards your passion. If you start your own football blog and write consistently, you are displaying your sheer love for the game by committing to writing in any capacity that you can, paid or unpaid.
There are too many football writers out there who proclaim to be knowledgeable about football and voice their desire to write about the game as a profession but only a selection will go above and beyond what is expected of them.
Creating your own blog also gives you a fantastic platform for your content. You have a place that is curated by you and you only. What you write about, when you write it and how often and is entirely decided by yourself – you are the boss. And while some would levy this as motivation to slack off, successful football bloggers will relish in the lack of restrictions. At a time when your writing is taking shape, being granted this freedom gives you ample opportunity to get a firm grasp on the type of football writer you want to be while still flexing your creative muscles.
The amount of niche markets that can be found on your blog is a considerable point, too. With the possibility to be as broad or specific as you like (writing about a particular team, regular columns), this either widens or hones in on potential audiences. Doing either one can see positive results, depending on where your interests lie and whether this coincides with your ambitions. It will usually come on the predicated basis of people latching onto your individual voice and content as they look for like-minded individuals whose work they’d like to follow.
Utilise social media
The rise of social media has been exponential. To this day, it continues to grow and with this growth, a unique and widespread opportunity for writers to showcase their talents is now available at the click of a button. The reach is vast and unpredictable but one thing is for sure if you’re marketing savvy or astute about how social media functions, you can get your content seen by a lot of people that would otherwise be unreachable.
This differs from platform to platform with each site best utilised by employing specific methods. Twitter is the likeliest avenue for success given its purpose. Its facet is centered on trends and geared towards sparking conversation on the current news which works perfectly in the world of sport, particularly football.
The use of hashtags can also be imperative to being a successful football blogger. By using these, you can narrow the type of people that you are aiming your writing towards while simultaneously broadening the audience intended to be reached. Hashtags cut out the need for a middleman, directly delivering content to the people that will be interested.
Social media also allows the possibility of an ongoing conversation. This has been the obvious pull for its implementation across the board in all different sectors. Creating a dialogue about anything from football news to in-game coverage provides an unprecedented experience for both author and reader that articles cannot. You also have the opportunity to give people a stronger flavour of your personality via social media which is an added incentive for them to engage and read your content.
Collaborations or guest blogs
Collaborating with others and guest posting on other blogs are both great ways to create a stronger name for yourself. A lot of popular websites accept guest submissions which is a perfect way to write for somebody else’s audience and give them a flavour of what you are about and to see if they’d like to follow you personally.
This is the perfect way to issue word of mouth about your content and have it spread across social media, gathering a built-in audience for your material.
It will also serve as experience for moving over to paid work if football journalism is something you’d like to do in a professional capacity. The more writing you’ve done across the more mediums and publications, the better. It’s all about giving somebody as strong an impression about you, your knowledge and your writing as you can.
Build yourself as a brand
While posting regularly and to a high-quality are both important elements of being a successful football writer, it’s equally as beneficial to market yourself as a brand. In the highly competitive business of football blogging, the ones who stand out and succeed are more often than not the ones who go above and beyond the masses.
To fully sell your audience and any future employers on you and your content, it’s crucial that you give them enough of a reason to get behind what you’re looking to achieve. It’s one thing to believe in yourself, but if nobody else does, you’ll find yourself needlessly playing catch up in comparison to other bloggers. Building yourself as a brand will help provide you with the qualities that will assert this status on you and your content over direct rivals.
Among the vast amount of similar football writers/bloggers out there, you need to have your own unique qualities that will help you stand out.
Social media is the perfect tool to deploy this branding. Simply running a consistent theme and voice within your content and engagements with readers or like-minded individuals will firmly establish this. The benefits can be instantaneous and gather a larger following from the familiarity and comfort that come packaged with such an approach.
Creating your own ideas for frequent article types or columns is also another way to achieve this. If you think about the strongest football blogs or football writers, their success outside of their content is largely down to their ability to market themselves in a concise and memorable fashion. In this day and age, it’s pivotal that your presence is known and overseeing work that is unlike anything else on the market is invaluable when understanding how to become a successful football writer.
What the Experts Say
We reached out to a number of respected football journalists, bloggers and websites across the country to weigh in on the topic and share their expertise on how to become a successful football writer. Here’s what they had to say:
David Robinson – All Out Football – @AllOutFootball_
“Write about what you’re passionate about! Football is what we as fans love and it is so easy to produce a piece that you have strong feelings about. Writing should be like talking to your mates down the pub but in written form.”
“Keep it concise. Make sure you get straight to the point. Fans may be interested in what you have to say but if an article appears to keep going then the brain won’t stay switched on for much longer.”
“Be your own writer. I see a lot of generic articles getting put out and I always think you should offer something that no expert pundit or another writer will offer which is a difference of opinion. You can post nicely written pieces that are more factual than opinionated but you want to make sure every time someone reads something, it will be different to what someone else would have written about on the same subject. It gives the reader something to think about it.”
“The most difficult part is actually the delivery of the message to your intended audience. Sometimes you can have some great opinions and ideas but to get that across successfully can be difficult. That’s mainly related to getting it concise and explaining your points clearly. A tip for this could be to generate your main three points and to work around these as we tend to understand information when it comes in threes.”
Sam Tighe – B/R Football – @stighefootball
“Write every day. Find that writing rhythm. It needs to become natural, almost second nature. If you’re groaning whilst conjuring the will to hit the keyboard, there’s a problem. There needs to be a genuine love to do it and an ease with which you can slip into that mode.”
“A social profile is key. More followers (Twitter, Facebook) = more eyeballs on your work. For some establishments, this won’t factor in (if you’re pitching to a newspaper, your personal audience isn’t so important), but for smaller websites who pay and are looking to build their own profile, a writer with five-digit followings can be very attractive.”
“Embrace new media! Video isn’t going away and a rudimentary understanding of Photoshop can only further enhance your job prospects. Most journalists are now asked to appear on camera – be it Facebook Live from a stadium, or even on the news in a studio – while if you end up in social media, you better know how to buff up an image.”
“The competition levels in this industry are insane. It’s the job millions want, and as a result, your every move is scrutinised and, at times, criticised. Retain belief and confidence in your own ability, spot a niche so you can offer something others don’t and get a grappling hook in however possible.”
Mark Godfrey – The Football Pink – @TheFootballPink
“Write about what you know.”
“Study other people’s work for ideas but never copy. Develop your own style.”
“Only write about something when you’re enjoying it. When you force something to come out it will generally impact how well written the piece is.”
“The most challenging thing is to be original, but there’s very little under the sun that’s original. Therefore, it’s important to be as good as you can be with what you’re writing. Also, there will always be people quick to criticise: the challenge is to take the constructive criticism on the chin whilst not letting the more abusive feedback set you back.”
Sami Faizullah – Outside of the Boot – @SamiFaizullah
“Pick a niche. Don’t do what’s popular, do what no one else is doing.”
“Be original. Researching for an article is fine, but there is no point rehashing what someone else has already written about. Write about something that is not out there to read.”
“Quality over quantity. A good article is better than 10 poor ones.”
“Being original is the key challenging factor. In today’s football blogging world, you see so many new writers/blogs publishing ‘news’ articles which they read on other reputable sites – just because it gets more clicks. I think the essence of being an independent football writer is to offer something new and original which readers can’t read anywhere else. Analysis, opinions, etc. This is what writers should be aiming for, not “Man United looking to sign Real Madrid star”. If you’re an independent writer, don’t go chasing random clicks from a click-bait title.”
Jason Pettigrove – European Football Journalist – @jasonpettigrove
“Network as much as you can. Meet people in person. Tell them about yourself and what you do. Sell yourself most importantly. Why are you different to anyone else? What’s your unique selling point?”
“Take as many writing opportunities as you can, free or otherwise. The more clients you have, the better chance there is of people seeing your name/your work.”
“Be honest, always. Never try to pretend you’re something you’re not because you will get found out. Trust me, people do exactly this to make themselves appear more important. No need. If your work is good enough, it will stand up to scrutiny without the need for embellishment.”
“Ensuring that you have enough work to make a living is the most challenging aspect of football writing. Be proactive and go after the work rather than waiting for it to come to you. It will be a long wait!”
Thomas Bradley – I’d Radebe Leeds – @Radebe_Leeds
“Make sure you write about the aspects of football you are passionate about. Whether that’s the team you support, a specific topic like statistics or the game as a global phenomenon. If you’re heart isn’t in it, it will eventually show.”
“It’s also very important to understand your audience as you grow as a football writer. Making a connection with your readers on your website/blog, social media and even face-to-face is vital if you’re wanting to be seen as one of the best in your field.”
“The best piece of advice I can give to anyone is to network, network, network. Opportunities won’t just fall into your lap. It won’t happen overnight, so make as many friends as you can in the industry. After a few years of building relationships, I have my own column in the Leeds United programme and have a contact list that includes BT Sport, Channel 5 and talkSPORT.”
“The most challenging aspect with writing about football is trying to keep on top of the latest trends and topics, whilst trying to turn it into a career. I, myself, have balanced a day job and being a football blogger/writer and it can be a hardship sometimes. Just stick at it though, and you’ll reap the rewards somewhere down the line.”
Carl Anka – Freelance Writer – @Ankaman616
“Have a niche – the market has shifted now and there is an abundance of football writers, podcasters and commentators willing to talk about the Top Six clubs in the Premier League. What is it that you do different? Loads of people want to write something about why Messi is great, or what is going wrong with Arsenal. The people who get commissioned are the people who have interesting and left field ideas. Have a thing you can do that no one else can do, and then do it again and again and again.”
“Start a conversation – Once you have a niche, it’s time to develop it. Write constantly and consistently in a visible place (Medium is a great blogging platform you can link to your Twitter account – I use it as a testing ground for some of my ideas before I pitch them). Have a Twitter account and follow people in the industry you like. Talk to them (be polite and respectful when you do). Be visible. Have an email address people can contact you on if they have a project they feel you’ll be good for.”
“NEVER MISS A DEADLINE – I can’t stress this enough. A talented writer who occasionally misses their deadline will never get work compared to a ok football writer who always delivers. I have it on good authority that Robbie Savage never misses a deadline and writes EXACTLY what his editor asks of him. That’s probably why he’s got so much work. That and the hair.”
“Thanks to Twitter, blogs and the rise of podcasting, it’s never been easier to get noticed for your football opinions. The flip side of that is, with thousands of people trying to offer something, it’s never been harder to get *paid* for your opinions. The road is long, and it’s not something I would recommend to someone who’s in it for the money. Football is the the cultural bedrock for so many people around the globe, and it can be amazing to be in conversation with fans and pundits… just make sure you look after yourself if and when conversation gets a bit heated too.”