If you dream of becoming a writer, you have a myriad of career opportunities available to you. While the writer’s stereotypical image might be that of the curmudgeonly author sitting alone and working on a novel, there are many different types of writing jobs available, from copywriting to medical writing.
You will not only enjoy a diversity of career prospects. You will also have the chance to earn decent money. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for writers in 2019 was $63,200. Like technical writing, some fields are even more lucrative: The 2019 median income for technical writers was $72,850.
If you’ve landed on this page, you’re probably already contemplating a career in writing. Congratulations! You’ve chosen an exciting and variable career path. The question is, how can you score your dream job as a wordsmith? This guide has you covered. Below, discover what it takes to become a writer, from skills to education, training, certifications, and more.
A professional writer makes their living working with words. They write on all sorts of topics and create all kinds of materials, from books to press releases to blogs. You don’t have to write the next great American novel to live as a wordsmith successfully. The “writer” job title is broad and encompasses many types of careers.
Here are some types of writing jobs that could interest you:
As you can see, simply labeling someone a “writer” doesn’t mean much. The job of a medical writer is very different from that of a screenwriter, for example. However, these professionals all share one critical characteristic — they are wordsmiths. They know how to craft the written word in a way that engages and compels others to take action.
The writer’s workday will depend on the type of job they perform. As the list above made clear, there are many possible career paths a writer can pursue. That said, any writing job’s core tasks will be similar, regardless of the specialty. Read on for an overview of what a day in the life of a writer might look like.
It should come as no surprise that the bulk of a writer’s day involves writing. Depending on their role, a writer may work from home or in an office or do a mix of both. Writers need a computer to do their job, giving them significant flexibility regarding when and where they work. However, all writers must adhere to strict deadlines. Whether you are delivering a technical manual to a client or a book chapter to your editor, you must abide by these deadlines.
A writer doesn’t spend all day writing, however. A large part of the job also involves editing. While most writers work with professional editors who put a final polish on their work, any professional writer will first self-edit their work. This consists of developmental editing (checking that their ideas make sense and are structured clearly) and copyediting (checking grammar, spelling, and punctuation).
Apart from writing and editing, a writer’s day will also usually involve some form of collaboration. For example, a copywriter may sit down with an editor to go through editorial suggestions. A content writer might join a group of other content writers to brainstorm upcoming material for a corporate blog. A grant writer might report to their nonprofit’s head of funding on a grant proposal’s status.
Last but not least, a writer’s day will also involve some administrative tasks. If a writer is self-employed, for example, this could include duties like invoicing and bookkeeping. Meanwhile, writers employed by a company have to keep track of meetings, update project deliverables, and send emails and attend meetings. There’s no way around admin grunt work, even as a writer!
Writing is a unique job and whether you like it or not depends mostly on your skills and strengths. This section can help you determine whether you would enjoy the profession or not. It highlights critical skills and also raises some red flags about what some people don’t like about writing. With this information, you can weigh the pros and cons of a writing career.
There are specific skills that every writer possesses, whether they spend their days deciphering medical studies or writing technical documentation. Here’s what will make you great as a writer:
While being a writer offers many benefits and can be an exciting and mentally stimulating job, it isn’t perfect (what career is). Here are some reasons you may not enjoy being a writer:
While it’s not a must to attend school to become a successful writer (find out more about nontraditional paths to success below), an education does help. Here are the types of schooling that are worth pursuing if you want to be a writer.
Useful degrees for writers include communications, journalism, or English. A bachelor’s degree in one of these fields will require lots of reading and writing. You will improve your linguistic skills as a result. Relevant coursework includes introductory English classes and more specific tutorials, like writing for magazines, public relations writing, and working with mixed media (since many writers now create primarily online content).
You don’t need any special certifications to work as a writer. That said, if you work in a niche field like medical or technical writing, having a credential in this area will be helpful. It shows you’re not just a good writer but also an expert in the field. Regardless of their focus, all writers will benefit from internships, for example, at an online magazine or copywriting agency, that allows them to hone their chops in the real world.
A standard four-year bachelor’s degree or equivalent should be sufficient to get a job as a writer. Some writers may choose to also complete a two-year master’s degree via a specialty degree program, like creative writing. This isn’t a must, however.
Ready to jump-start your career as a writer by getting the necessary education? Below, discover some in-person and distance learning options that are available to you.
If you prefer a face-to-face educational experience, these are some of the best schools for writers you can choose from:
You don’t have to complete your writer education in person. Distance learning programs offer added flexibility and can be more cost-efficient. Here are some quality choices:
There’s no need to get a formal education to become a writer. Some of the best writers are self-taught and simply perfected their skills with lots of writing (and by reading other great writers, of course). Here are some nontraditional paths to achieving your dream of a career as a professional writer.
One of the best ways to become a writer is by learning on the job. An internship gives you real-world experience. Since many internships are unpaid, you don’t need a fancy degree to get a foot in the door. Often a writing portfolio is enough to get the gig. Impress your superiors during your time as an intern, and you may have a job waiting for you when the internship is over.
You may not find a full-time job right off the bat as a writer, even with a college degree. Freelancing is the answer. Submit pitches (story ideas) to magazines, newspapers, and websites you’d like to write for. If they want one of your proposals, they may ask you to write an article for them. A freelancing career can lead to an in-house gig or allow you to remain gainfully self-employed, no office needed.
The tools and technology available for self-publishing are easier to use than ever. You can create your blog to share your writing using a web design platform like Wix, for example, and disseminate your work via social media. You can even self-publish entire books via Amazon. Publicizing your work is a great way to build your brand and attract paid gigs.
It used to be that writers needed little more than a computer (or, before that, a typewriter) to get the job done. Today, modern technology offers writers many solutions to make writers’ work more comfortable and efficient. If you plan to pursue a profession as a writer, you will likely want to invest in and learn how to use the following software programs.
Whatever type of content you write, odds are you will need word processing software to get the job done. Microsoft Word remains the go-to program of choice for many writers. You can purchase the entire Microsoft Suite, including Excel, Powerpoint, and Outlook, which may be useful if you’re starting your own writing business. For example, Excel is excellent for accounting.
Scrivener is a book writing software. If you write books, ebooks, novellas, or even lengthy white papers, it’s worth using. It lets you track word count goals, which can be a great way to stay motivated when working on a longer piece. It also allows you to divide content into sections (like chapters) easily.
When it comes to self-editing your work, Hemingway App is a big help. Its primary purpose is to improve readability. A sentence that looks clear to you because it came from your brain might not be so clear to other people. Hemingway App flags such issues. It even tells you what grade level your writing is tailored to.
As mentioned, part of a writer’s job is receiving feedback and revision requests, usually from editors or clients. Google Docs is a word processing tool that is ideal for this purpose. You can have multiple people viewing a document in real-time and seeing the changes being made. You can also leave comments and track changes in suggestion mode. There’s no need to send emails back and forth with Microsoft Word doc versions like in the past.
Vellum is another book formatting and word processing software. It’s a lot more straightforward to use than Scrivener. Specifically, it makes the formatting process more manageable. You can even use it to format your finished work for publication on major retailer websites, like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Grammarly is an excellent alternative to the Hemingway App. It catches spelling and grammar mistakes and even has a plagiarism tool, so you can make sure your work is always unique. Another benefit of Grammarly is the plug-in option. You can install the plug-in on your internet browser and check your work (for example, in a Google Doc) as you go.
As mentioned, writers often have to operate on tight deadlines. If you have a big project due, you can’t afford to lose time to a lack of productivity. Freedom is a productivity app that can keep you motivated and on track. It even lets you block distractions that steer you away from work, like mobile apps and websites.
As a writer, your skillset is continually evolving. You want to continually improve your craft in every way, from the actual writing process to how you market yourself as a professional. These blogs and influencer accounts can help:
As a writer, it’s up to you to raise your profile and get people to notice you. The internet is flooded with content, standing out from the crowd is critical and these tips can help you succeed.
If you’re a writer, you want to show off your work, right? Creating your very own website is the best way to display your talents. This is also great if you’re just getting started. Mainstream media and websites may be hesitant to take a chance on a brand-new name. By building a portfolio of your own online, you can start getting your name out there and building your brand.
Don’t stress: There’s no need to hire a fancy web designer to create your personal writing space. Modern tools make it super easy to create your online portfolio. Here are three tools you can use to get the job done:
Social media is a fantastic way to boost your profile as a writer and connect with other writers (and potential employers). Create profiles on critical social media like Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Keep your brand consistent across your profiles. For example, don’t say you’re a copywriter specializing in fashion and accessories on LinkedIn and then claim you write novels on your Instagram.
One of the best ways to learn as a young writer is to observe somebody who has already made it. Working as an apprentice or assistant to a writer will help you see what the work entails. It’s also a great way to get feedback on your work and to build your professional network. You can also try an internship. For instance, advertising and content marketing agencies offer copywriting and content writing internships, respectively.
As a writer, you never stop learning. For example, people who started as writers in the print magazine field in the early 2000s now have had to learn how to adapt their writing style to online content. Today, writers must learn how to differentiate between types of online writing, for example, website versus blog content. You can find paid tutorials or free YouTube videos to further your goals.
Don’t let early failures set you back. Nobody became a writer overnight. The key to success is persistence. The longer you work at it, the more extensive and more robust your portfolio will become. You will also grow your professional network with time. This can help you score more lucrative and prestigious writing jobs as your career develops.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median pay for writers in 2019 was $63,200. A writer’s exact income depends on the type of writing they do. Specialty fields, like medical or technical writing, pay more.
A degree in English, journalism, or communications will help you become a writer. A bachelor’s degree should be sufficient, although you can also opt to get a master’s (for example, in creative writing).
You have a diversity of career options to choose from if you want to be a writer, making it a solid career choice. Possibilities include copywriting, content writing, screenwriting, medical writing, technical writing, ghostwriting, and grant writing.
The amount of job openings available to writers depends on the type of writing they do. For example, there are fewer openings for screenwriters than there are for copywriters or content writers.
Writing-specific job sites include ProBlogger, FreelanceWritingGigs, BloggingPro, and MediaBistro. You can also check work-for-hire sites like Upwork and FlexJobs, which offer categories just for writers.
Many large companies need writers. Media companies hiring writers include Thomas Reuters, Vox Media, and Conde Nast. Advertising agencies like Omnicom Group, Publicis, and Dentsu also hire writers. Even influential brands hire writers: A company like Amazon needs technical writers, for instance, while a company like Bayer or Pfizer needs medical writers.