Getting started as a writer can be tricky. You are not sure where to look or who to approach. You know that you need the experience to find work, but if you have not had past writing work, then in the eyes of a potential employer, you do not have any experience. So, if you want to become a writer, whether you have been trying for a while or just getting started, this article is for you. Below we will explore some of the basic steps on the path to a lucrative writing career.
Even if you do not want to become a professional, full-time writer and just want to improve your writing skills, stick around and read on. Writing is an incredibly useful skill, no matter what your job is. You do not have to be a professional writer or looking toward a potential writing career to improve your writing skills. As a skill, it makes you a better thinker and communicator. It is also rare that one would not need to hone their writing skills at some point in their life. Good writing skills can increase your chances of moving up the ladder in almost any career.
How to Become a Writer and Get Paid
So, you want to become a writer, but you are not sure where to get started. First things first, if you are already writing, whether rough story outlines, poems, blog content, or screenplays, you are already a writer. Just because nobody recognizes your work or you are not getting paid does not mean that you are not a writer—just like a painter who paints for joy and not money is still a painter.
To be a professional writer means to get paid for your writing skills. As a beginner trying to make your way forward with some practical experience, you want to know what writing jobs are available. Below we have included five different types of writing jobs that can turn into a career.
Types of Writing Jobs
Digital marketing agencies hire copywriters to craft sales pitches, product descriptions, email newsletters, and taglines to persuade potential customers to act on a website. A copywriter understands the power of SEO (search engine optimization) and uses their knowledge to write persuasive copy to build a business customer base.
As a copywriter, you must write short, catchy, and compelling content or ‘copy’ efficiently and on time. Your copy aims to inform a reader about the benefits of taking action on a site. The goal is to move readers further along the marketing funnel and increase their likelihood of becoming customers for a product or service.
2. Content Writing
Content writers create blog posts, articles, newsletters, informational articles such as guides and how-to’s, listicles, and pretty much all types of content you can find online.
Content writing is one of the most popular writing careers among amateurs and professionals alike. There are so many potential niches a content writer may find themselves working within that job opportunity because they are relatively easy to come by. The only thing you need is to write with coherence, structure, and the ability to convey your message in a way that makes a lasting impact on the reader.
Journalism can be a highly lucrative career, but it is a little harder to find work without experience, unlike copy and content writing. Beyond writing with a clear narrative and a powerful message, journalists must be skilled researchers. They need a keen eye for detail and must be self-motivated enough to reach out to people and learn from them.
Journalists must be up-to-date with current affairs and find angles and ideas that readers want to explore. They seek the big details and the small and write to get people thinking and talking. If research is one of your strengths, you have a knack for interviewing and storytelling, and you can keep up with the fast-paced changing world today, journalism may be for you.
4. Technical Writing
Technical writing is a highly valued skill but less common than copy and content. A technical writer is similar to a content writer in that they create blogs, how-to guides, and other informational and educational content. Still, there is a difference between the two.
As the name suggests, technical writers are technical. Their aim is less about reader engagement and persuasive messaging and more about matter-of-fact, detailed, and precise instruction on using a product or system.
Another difference between the technical writer and the content writer is that the content writer can carry out research on a niche and create content around it quickly. A technical writer typically needs to know much more about the niche or industry they work in, as there is no room for interpretation or error. Technical writers usually have other qualifications in the niche for which they write.
5. Novel and Short Story Writing
Novelists and short story writers may work with agencies but often submit their work to writing competitions. As a short story writer, passion for your work is key. Many short story writers would write short stories regardless of whether they get paid or not but would like to turn their passion into income.
As a novelist, passion is, of course, essential. In both novel and short story writing, income is unpredictable, which is why, just like most creatives, side jobs or full-time jobs while writing on the side are common. It is also possible for a short story writer to get your work published, but recognition may be hard to come by. You can also self-publish as a short story writer. Blog sites and e-books are the way to go in today’s publishing world.
Copy and content writers are typically ghostwriters—they write for an agency (or their own writing business), but they sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). The client or agency owns the content they create and is not published under the writer’s name.
Ghostwriters create all types of content, from blogs, and web copy, to entire books. Many professionals who do not want to write their own books due to limited time or skills will hire a ghostwriter to work closely with them and adapt their ideas, thoughts, methods, and theories into coherent and engaging work to reach a wider audience.
How to Get Started as a Writer?
1. Read, Read, Read
“Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.”Annie Proulx (Novelist, Short Story Writer, Journalist)
The best writers are avid readers. If you want to become a good writer, or if you want to be better, then reading a lot is a must. You need to know what inspires you in books, poems, even research papers, as well as what you do not like to read.
Writing is an art, and like all other forms of art, the best work is stolen. Find your favorite writers and figure out what it is that you find so compelling about them. Do you like their point of view? Do you enjoy their use of imagery?
What genres do you like to read? Are those the same genres you like to write? Which authors inspire you to write? Answer these questions to find your niche and starting point. Take ideas and tips from your favorite authors but always make them your own.
2. Write About Everything
“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”Ray Bradbury (Author, Screenwriter)
Writing is a skill, and just like any other skill, it is something we can hone and develop over time. So, practice as much as possible. Keep a journal or start a blog about absolutely anything that sparks your interest. Exciting and interesting is great, but do not be afraid to write about the mundane.
“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.”Jane Yolen (Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Children’s Book Writer)
Writing about anything and everything is how you open yourself up for inspiration to come in. You could write about what you had for breakfast or the way the person sitting next to you on the train kept tapping their feet for the whole journey. In the process of writing, you may find inspiration for a story or blog that would not have happened otherwise. In essence, the more you write, the more ideas are likely to come.
3. Live Your Life
“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”Henry David Thoreau (Naturalist, Essayist, Poet, Philosopher)
Good writing comes from experience. You want to write stories, essays, poems, or blogs that people want to read, so you need to know what interests people. One of the most effective ways to learn about that is to go out, meet people, and experience what it is to be alive. The same principle applies to all types of writing, including nonfiction and even copywriting.
To reach a reader, you need to understand what it means to think like a reader. The readers are people, so you need to understand people. That understanding does not just come from reading about different lives or hearing stories—it comes from the lived, unfiltered, raw experience of being and being with authentic human beings.
Live your life, and do so mindfully. Take joy and almost guilty pleasure in noticing the small things, the way one person looks at another, the face of a tired loving mother with her daughter on a bus, the smell of the bakery at 5 a.m., notice all of these things and let them inhabit you. The more experience you have, from the grandiose to the most subtle, will make you a better writer.
4. Do Not Be Afraid to Write Poorly
As with any creative work, writing comes with challenges. Challenges are not only about finding work or identifying your niche; it is about accessing that part of your soul where authentic creative writing comes from. It is also about the discipline to sit at your desk, pour your heart out, and push through the self-doubt and criticism that comes with being human.
So, as mentioned earlier, write about anything and everything. Keep a journal, blog, write poems, songs, letters that you might never send, and do not be afraid to make a mess in the process. Write poorly but do not let it stop you from writing more.
“Put down everything that comes into your head, and then you’re a writer. But an author can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Author, Actress, Journalist)
5. Be Open to Feedback and Constructive Criticism
The ego is the enemy when it comes to creative work. The best writers are those who are open to feedback and constructive criticism. As a writer, you need to reach the reader, and the only way you can do that well is to show your work to people and listen to how they receive it. You can approach other writers and people who do not write and observe the impact of your work.
The best feedback does not come from close friends and family members who want to compliment you no matter what. You need to show your work to people who understand the difference between good and bad writing to get genuine feedback and advice, not for flattery and an ego boost.
6. Take an Online Writing Course
There is an abundance of online writing courses that can help you become a writer no matter what type of writing career you would like to pursue. Professionals lead online writing courses with rich experience in the writing industry. They give you a chance to learn valuable skills and give you industry-relevant expertise that you can carry into whichever writing path you follow.
Earlier, we mentioned the importance of getting feedback for your work. When you take a good online writing course, you become more skilled at viewing your work objectively. Feedback and critique from others will still be valuable, but with a professionally-led course, you will learn how to discern from the good from the bad in your work by yourself.
7. Apply for Freelance Writing Jobs
Freelance writing jobs are a great way for beginners to regular writers to gain experience and get a real feel for the writing industry. Sites like Upwork and Fiverr are job boards that feature an abundance of writing jobs for those with little to no experience. They also offer work for seasoned writers, so it is helpful to create an account on these sites no matter what stage you are at.
The process of finding paid work as a freelance writer can be laborious at first, and you may end up finding low-paid jobs or work that does not inspire you, but this is part of the process of becoming the writer you want to be. The more work you do, the more experience you gain, and over time and with more experience, you can navigate your way into a line of writing work that you genuinely enjoy.
If you are only starting and uncertain how to sell your services effectively, there are plenty of text, video, and audio guides available online about increasing your chances of finding work. Try YouTube and Skillshare and learn how to build a portfolio and resume that attracts clients and agencies, even as a beginner.
Do I Need to Study to Become a Writer?
You might be wondering if you need to have an English degree or a degree in journalism to work as a professional writer. It does not hurt to have such a qualification, especially if you lack relevant industry experience, but a degree is not always necessary. A keen eye for detail, coherence and fluency with the written word, and a vivid imagination can take you a long way in your writing career, even if you do not have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a relevant field.
If you want to pursue writing as a career, whether in creative nonfiction, fiction writing, copy or content writing, or journalism, you need to write as much as possible. As mentioned earlier, it does not matter what you write about; instead, it is about how often you write. The more you write, the less likely you will rust as a writer.
Finding work as a writer may be stressful at times. You may end up writing for niches and topics that you are not entirely passionate about, especially if you work in copy or content writing, which is where persistence and authenticity come in. It is entirely up to you to leave a writing job you do not like to search for a better one or a different career altogether. Still, if you really engage with what you are doing and seek interest, cultivate curiosity, and develop a wide range of tone and voice, you can make the best of any writing job you find yourself in.
“A professional writer is an amateur who did quit.”Richard Bach