The internet has provided an enormous outlet for people to share their experiences and opinions through social media, and made almost everyone an ‘expert blogger’.
So, can anyone write?
However, a majority of students might not view ‘writing’ relevant to their career path. Ironically it is a skill that is scarce yet in demand across nearly every occupation in the world. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 73% of employers want to hire professionals with strong writing skills.
But if you’re confused about whether writing is relevant to you as a career, then I know the more important question for you would be:
Can everyone become a writer?
The answer is a resounding “yes” but…
Let’s uncover this “but…” and the secret sauce to becoming a writer today.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming A Writer
The journey to becoming a writer can be daunting, fraught with peril, and filled with difficult questions for someone who has never thought about writing as a serious profession before. So, let me answer a few of the most commonly asked questions about writing.
1. What education is needed to become an author?
A creative skill like writing can be grown and nurtured with proper practice and guidance. A Bachelor’s degree in English language is helpful, but not essential for learning the basics.
Alternatively, for polishing your skills, you can consider doing a short grammar course. Courses by top editors and authors are also available at platforms like Masterclass and Coursera.
Roald Dahl used to work for the British Embassy before he wrote ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. He also served as a WWII fighter pilot in 1942. This shows that writing is an extremely personal form of creative expression, with many making an illustrious second career as a writer.
2. Can anyone become a writer?
Yes, but not without practice and hard work.
Writing, in general, is an expressive art form, like painting, dancing, and even cooking. So you need to dedicate yourself to the craft. Start a journal or open a blog.
Remotive.io Founder, Rodolphe Dutel, has been journaling for the last ten years. According to him, a huge upside of writing is clarity of mind.
Read a lot, and maintain an idea bank. Sure, the market is filled with books. However, there will always be a shortage of good ideas. If you’re not fluent in English, you can explore a writing career in your native language.
3. How much money does a writer make?
The 2018 Labor Statistics tells us that the median pay for a technical writer is $71,850 per year, which amounts to about $34.54 per hour. Other writers and authors earn $62,170 per year amounting to around $29.89 per hour.
Although this number covers only limited geography, writers today have the opportunity to create more work for themselves and earn a six-figure living by using a wide array of resources available online.
4. Are writers in demand?
The employment of writers and authors is expected to grow at 8% from 2016 to 2026. Writers can specifically watch out for opportunities in content marketing as the industry is expected to touch $412 bn by 2021.
How Do You Start A Career As A Writer: 6 Simple Steps
Hailed as the “The Father of Advertising”, David Ogilvy, in a 1982 memo to his management team once wrote, “Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well.” I’m here to help you with six steps you can execute to start your writing career.
Step 1: Contemplate Why You Want To Pursue Writing
Do you want to become a writer to earn money and fame? Or do you think writing is easy and relaxing? No wonder they give up when they realize what they read in self-help books does not match the actual experience of pursuing a serious writing career.
So here are three questions you should ask yourself for a reality check.
1. “Why do I want to write?”
Here are a few possible answers:
- You want to be an author, journalist, or an online content writer.
- You want to find work as an academic researcher so learning the technical aspects of writing is an advantage.
- You want to start your consulting firm that offers copywriting and editing services to SMBs and SMEs.
- You are a working media professional and want to add “professional writing” in your resume.
Answering why you want to write maybe one of the most important questions you will ever ask yourself. But knowing that will help you define your writing goals better.
2. “What are the challenges I might face in kicking off my writing career?”
Whether you feel your age is a disadvantage or you lack the confidence to charge pro rates or you don’t have any bylines – you must face your fears, list them down, and take action.
When I first started as an independent content writer, I spent a lot of time procrastinating and making excuses for why I couldn’t make a living doing what I loved. Soon I realized my obstacles were prevalent and could be easily overcome by persistence. Being honest is key.
3. “What kind of writing will I enjoy the most?”
Depending on your answers above, you might want to pursue a contemporary career as a content creator, ghostwriter, or content marketing consultant. Else you can still author books, and that too be a self-published author!
If you feel you have got a good story, then self-publishing your book on Amazon is a great idea.
Pro Tip: Take your time to answer questions. Speaking to a fellow writer, friend, or family will help you get clarity in your thoughts faster.
Step 2: Read Rigorously
Begin with reading what you like, and that could be anything – magazines, comic books, or blog posts. Once you form a habit of reading, branch out into different disciplines in which you want to be a subject matter expert.
I am someone who likes reading nonfiction. From memoirs and biographies to news items and opinion pieces – I read whatever nonfiction I can lay my hands on. Thankfully, as a B2B copywriter, that helps me do a decent job.
But if you are planning to become a published fiction author, be sure to read classics, popular folklore, biographies, history, and literature by critically acclaimed authors.
Your writing style and voice will derive inspiration from every book you read, and dramatically influence the quality of your work.
Pro Tip: Once in a while, it is an excellent exercise to breakdown the text of your favorite authors and try to find out why it works. Is it their research work, style of writing, or the use of simple language? Try to find out what makes their written material so engaging.
Reading also helps you find the kinds of opportunities that you have as a writer. Long or short form; fiction or nonfiction; books, blog posts, and newsletters – there is so much content out there, which means the writing assignments vary, and so do the requirements of a writer.
Step 3: Choose A Niche
Writing is hard work. It is better if you like what you write. Take cues from the last answer in the previous step and choose a niche that will suit you.
If you have multiple interests (and depending on your goals), you can choose a niche that’s more financially rewarding. For example, in between gardening and finance, the latter is more rewarding. So if you know more about gardening, start reading content on finance.
Get your hands on industry publications and blogs and subscribe to relevant newsletters. Even take an online course or two on finance writing through sites like Lynda.com and Skillshare.
Alternatively, if you don’t mind learning something new, you could pick a niche that remains mostly untapped. Cannabis, solar and sustainability, gaming, and aerospace are highly specialized topics and hence, don’t cater to all kinds of readers.
A Google comparison between “real estate writing” and “cannabis writing” shows the stark difference between the number of writing opportunities available.
Therefore, do some research to find out blogs, newsletters, and publications that might be interested in hiring writers to promote their industry. The key is to find out the market gap and fill it with your writing chops.
Pro Tip: Although it is great to find your writing niche, make sure you don’t choose an industry that’s too specific. For example, writing on “nursing homes and assisted living facilities” will only bring you limited paying gigs.
Moreover, don’t stick to one niche. Pick up two or three industries you are passionate about and write on them. That way, you can never get bored of writing on the same topics.
Step 4: Kick-Off A Writing Habit (And Build A Writing Portfolio You’re Proud Of!)
If you want to professional become a writer, then you need to take it seriously. Regular writing blocks might work for a hobbyist, but a professional has to meet deadlines and get published on various online magazines and publications.
Therefore, start with a routine of writing 200 words every day, then bump up your word count as and when you gain speed. Remember that quantity begets quality, so write more so that you can write better faster.
In his book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,” critically-acclaimed author, Stephen King, mentions he writes about 2,000 words daily – a number that gets added up to about 180,000 words in just three months of writing. No wonder it doesn’t take him more than three months to finish the first draft of his novel.
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction nominee, Nathan Englander, has a peculiar writing habit. He writes with earplugs in — even if it’s dead silent at home! According to him, his writing routine has no space for cellphones, social media, or email. When he writes, he only writes.
Kathryn LeBlanc, a Canadian writer and digital strategist, wrote for five high authority publications on Medium in under 30 days. Her strategy was simple: she made a point to not only write regularly but also read other people’s content on Medium.
Besides, she relentlessly pitched to publications despite having a full-time job and being a university student. In her case, the persistence paid off massively when her articles got featured in The Ascent, Marketing and Growth Hacking, The Writing Cooperative, ART + Marketing, and The Mission.
Additionally, you shouldn’t compare your journey and skills with others. Every writer has a different approach to researching and writing. Combine that process with passion and experience, and you will find that every writer is unique in their way.
That’s why you shouldn’t forget that all art is subjective. It is essential to listen to your gut and think for yourself.
Pro Tip: It’s a great idea to start a blog at this stage. The articles you publish extend your body of work and act as your portfolio pieces for pitching clients later.
And, to make the brainstorming ideas easier, here are a few tools such as HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator, Portent’s Content Idea Generator, and Content Row’s Link Bait Title Generator can help you come up with fresh ideas quickly.
Step 5: Share Your Writing With The Market And Get Feedback
Once your writing is ready for the market, you need to start putting it out. If you have taken the slow route, then start pitching traditional media houses. Since approaching their editors is slightly tricky, make use of LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with them and pitch your idea.
Else start sending out guest post pitches and getting published at reputable websites and blogs. Backlinko’s Brian Dean uses the following search strings to look up guest posting opportunities. Select the keywords most relevant to your niche, and you will find plenty of places to get published.
Furthermore, be ready to get rejected a LOT. Not every editor or publication is going to like your pitch or end-product. But that’s okay. Experience matters; don’t let rejections let you down.
And rewrite a lot as well. Pick one article from your blog and rework it. The technique helps in boosting the organic traffic of the site, which, in turn, increases your visibility as a writer. More importantly, rewriting is only going to improve your writing skills.
To sustain a successful writing career, it’s not sufficient to just build your writing chops. You need to market your work, pitch editors, and build relationships with gatekeepers in your niche. Therefore, get active on social media, join online writing groups, and pitch aggressively.
Track your progress on a spreadsheet like this one:
Pro Tip: Developing complementary skills to writing can help you achieve much more success. For instance, bestselling author Tim Ferriss has a popular podcast that has enabled him to publish and sell more books than if he were only writing.
You can also learn graphic design skills to complement your writing skills. Tools like Canva and Snappa have converted even the non-designers into confident artists.
Step 6: Find Mentors
It’s incredibly helpful to have people that have followed your journey to guide you when you get stuck. Having regular writing coaching sessions can accelerate your career growth. They might require shelling out $50 or more per hour, but it will be worth every penny.
Another great way to have mentors for other different writing sub-skills is pursuing online courses on marketplaces like Udemy and Skillshare. They might not have the same kind of one on one interaction with teachers, but you can always ask questions and queries in such classes.
To polish your skills, you can consider doing a short grammar course. Courses by top editors and authors are also available at platforms like Masterclass and Coursera.
I love the works of award-winning journalist Mridu Khullar Relph. I am a big fan of her newsletters and read them quite religiously. She also runs many courses on her website – all of which are informative and helpful in not only getting published in top publications in the world, but also making money in the process.
Courses will help you fill the gaps in your writing.
Editor’s note: My writing journey started as a student in multiple Udemy courses. I considered the late Len Smith as my mentor after enrolling in almost all of his classes. He was encouraging and always accessible through email for advice in setting up my freelance copywriting business.
Pro Tip: Hire a professional editor from Upwork to give you feedback on your common writing errors. I hired one and got invaluable tips to better my skills.
9 Top Writing Career Resources To Level Up Your Skills
There are many benefits to a writing career. You have the freedom to indulge your creative instincts, write on topics that interest you, and save yourself from dreary office chatter.
However, at the same time, you need to find and maintain a constant flow of clients, work steadily and dedicatedly (sometimes over weekends), and often pay for your benefits (such as a laptop and WiFi).
Writing is a tricky yet immensely rewarding career to establish and maintain. Thankfully, I have put together a comprehensive list of top writing career resources that will help you connect with other writers and businesses, and find more employment opportunities.
The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) is a professional organization of independent nonfiction writers in the country. The group offers mentoring and networking opportunities to new as well as established writers to fine-tune their craft and achieve exacting standards of professional achievement in the field.
Established in 1912, The Authors Guild (TAG) is one of the oldest organizations for writers in the USA. It is a massive supporter of free speech, fair contracts, and copyright. TAG ensures writers, from diverse backgrounds, work freely and earn equally as a community.
American Writers and Artists Inc. (AWAI) was established in 1997 to help people develop critical skills, including copywriting, business writing, and travel blogging. The organization aims to empower individuals and enable them to earn a comfortable living with these skill sets.
While the primary focus of the organization is on imparting world-class writing skills, they also have other training programs on photography and graphic designing.
The National Writers Association is essentially a non-profit organization that started in 1937. It fosters continuity in education by awarding scholarships and conducts no or low-cost seminars and workshops for writers of all levels of expertise.
While blogging is primarily considered to be a hobby of many individuals across professions, Problogger Jobs is a platform that offers decent-paying jobs that entail writing blogs for various content brackets. The site aims to help the blogger community find work that they love doing while also earning a livelihood.
Every writer, aspiring or established, must read this highly-acclaimed memoir by Stephen King. In this book, King shares his tricks of the trade as a renowned author, his writing routine, and his work ethic. He also narrates a few experiences that shaped him as the author the world knows today. Not to be missed!
Creative block is a very quotidian challenge that writers and other creative professionals face in the course of their careers. This book by Steven Pressfield addresses that and shares tips on what it takes to overcome creative blocks of every kind and get work done.
Julia Cameron speaks to every aspiring creative through her self-help book, “The Artist’s Way.” The book consists of exercises and teaches readers uniques techniques that help them to harness their creative talents and improve their skills.
Defining her view on the relationship between faith and art, Madeleine L’Engle beautifully covers and addresses the question: “What is the prime task of an artist?” The book, rightfully called “Walking on Water,” is an expression of the author’s definition of art, and how to respond to creation through one’s creativity.
Writers who can lure readers in reading every inch of the page, sentence by sentence, until the words run out, are the ones who are likely to be successful. And to help you get started, I want you to do something, i.e. write regularly for the next ten days. Don’t doubt yourself. Don’t worry about the outcome. Let the words flow. Go!