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6 Ways to Earn a Living as a Writer

Do you have a way with words? Is it easy for you to express yourself in writing? Are you a reader who enjoys how words and sentences are structured to communicate ideas? Perhaps you are the sort of student who excels at crafting essays and compositions. If writing is one of your strengths, you may want to consider a career involving those talents.

There are numerous ways to earn a living as a writer. You can go it alone, as an author or freelance writer. Or, you can work for one of the many businesses and organizations that need people who know how to use words effectively.

Becoming a Writer

If you like to read novels, poetry, nonfiction books, articles on websites, and other materials, you are already a student of writing. Being a prolific reader may be the best kind of training. By studying the works of others, you can see how words are used and ideas are organized. You can appreciate how writers create images in readers’ minds through their clever use of the language. You also will learn how writing styles vary among journalists, authors, advertising copywriters, and others.

Some people are able to get writing jobs, or work as freelancers, without having obtained formal education. However, it is common for employers to require at least a bachelor’s degree in communications, journalism, or English. Graduates of other degree programs also may qualify, and specialize in writing about the subjects with which they are familiar.

Self-Employment

More than two-thirds of those who make a living as writers work for themselves. The most glamorous type of self-employment is becoming a published author of books. Penning the “great American novel” is a dream and goal of many writers. However, this is often the culmination, rather than the start, of a writing career. Most people need to obtain significant life experience, as well as training and education in the field, to become published authors.

You can also work independently as a freelance writer. Articles and other content are needed for websites. Print newspapers and magazines pay privately employed writers by the word or piece. This work enables writers to find jobs involving subjects with which they have expertise. Writers sometimes specialize in certain areas of interest.

News Media

One of the best ways to gain experience as a writer is to submit stories to local newspapers. These publications often need someone to cover community events or rewrite news releases. You may be able to get a summer job or part-time position.

Newspapers employ full-time and part-time reporters to cover a wide range of news topics. Writers at larger papers specialize in local government, education, sports, and other fields. While some people with only high school diplomas get reporting jobs, a journalism degree is frequently required.

The highest-paid positions in a newsroom are those of editors. To become an editor, you will probably need at least a bachelor’s degree in journalism, as well as years of experience as a reporter. Copy editors are advanced proofreaders who not only correct spelling and grammar, but also make suggestions regarding writing structure and style. Large newspapers have editors in chief, who supervise city editors, news-wire editors, assignment editors, sports editors, and others.

Television and radio stations, as well as online news media, also employ reporters and editors. Like newspapers, they need professionals who are adept at writing advertising copy, as well.

Other Publishers

Books, magazines, and websites offer jobs for writers who have proven ability as editors. Copy submitted by writers needs to be proofread, corrected, and sent back for revisions. Other positions in publishing include assistant and associate editors, copywriters, dictionary editors, editorial assistants, promotional assistants, and researchers.

Nonprofit organizations produce magazines, newsletters, news releases, and public-information documents. Large groups’ national headquarters employ teams of writers and editors.

Corporations

Large businesses need a variety of written materials, internally and for public consumption. They hire writers to create trade magazines, employee manuals, newsletters, news releases, reports, and speeches. Jobs are found in communications, publications, and public relations.

Technical writers are specialists who produce instruction manuals, software documents, and other detailed materials. Advertising departments hire marketing specialists to write promotional copy. Other corporate writing jobs involve greeting cards, scripts for television shows and commercials, and advertising slogans and songs.

Government

Local, state, and federal government entities churn out legislation, reports, and other documents on a regular basis. Government positions also include speech writers, press secretaries, and technical writers.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, writing jobs employed 129,100 people nationwide in 2012. Their median salary was $55,940 per year, or $26.89 per hour. The pay varies widely, depending upon the type of writing and the employer.

The BLS predicted that the rate of job growth for writers would be just 3 percent (3,800 additional positions) between 2012 and 2022, much less than that of the average occupation. Some types of employment, like print newspapers, are declining. On the other hand, the number of writers needed online is growing. New sites, which require articles and other content, are being created all the time.

If writing is what you do best, there is a multitude of possible careers to explore. Find one that involves subject matter with which you are interested and knowledgeable. Get some experience and education, and read the works of other writers. With persistence, you will be able to find a way to put your writing talents to work.

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