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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.


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.


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.


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.

6 Tips for Writing an Essay

Multiple-choice and problem-solving questions on exams are not the only methods by which you are tested as a college student. You also must know how to write essays, because professors frequently assign them. Some universities require essays as part of the admissions process. There also may be opportunities for you to enter essay contests in your field of study.

Though the task may seem daunting, composing an essay is an easily learned skill. It can be broken down into a series of steps, which makes the process more understandable.

1. Do Your Research

After determining the subject of your essay, the first step is to compile the information you need to write it. Do this with an understanding of the types of material, and the sources of information, that will be deemed acceptable. For example, a professor may not want you to cite user-generated websites.

Conduct web searches of various combinations of words and phrases related to your topic. Check academic data bases, look through your textbooks and other class materials, and go to the college library.

2. Analyze the Information

Carefully consider arguments posed in essays that others have written about your topic. Writers who agree with your point of view will give you ideas about how to craft your essay. Those with contrary opinions also are of value, because they challenge you to defend your notions. Keep an open mind as you learn new perspectives on your subject matter. In the process of reading other essays, you also will develop a better sense of how to write one. Study the style of writing and how the information is presented.

If there are professors or graduate students on campus willing to share their insights, schedule interviews with them. As you make notes during your research, begin to organize the information in subtopics or categories. This will help later, when you create an outline for the essay.

3. Determine a Thesis

An essay is constructed around a central thesis, or proposition. The document makes a claim and provides information to support it. To determine your thesis, you must begin by sorting through all the data and opinions collected in your research. Look at the claims you think you wish to make, as well as propositions posed by others in their essays. Consider the evidence, ensuring that it supports the claims.

Jot down key points. Make lists. Use whatever technique you find helpful in organizing your thoughts. Think long and hard about what you really want to say. This will help you identify the thesis and the points you need to make in support of it. Your essay must be unique, reflecting not only your point of view but also your voice.

4. Make an Outline

You are now ready to create an outline. Organize your arguments and supporting information in sections. Determine the order in which the elements should be presented, to ensure a logical flow of text that the reader will find easy to follow and comprehend. Make lists of the material you wish to include in the various sections.

5. Compose the Essay

Come up with a title that states the main point and catches the reader’s attention. Compose an introduction that defines the subject, provides your thesis statement, and gives an overview of how the essay supports the thesis. Some introductions are constructed by describing a problem and then suggesting solutions. You want to make your subject matter sounds interesting, so people are compelled to continue reading.

Section by section, turn your notes and lists into prose by creating sentences and paragraphs. An essay section typically features a topic sentence stating a proposition, followed by bullet points of details supporting the claim.

Finish your essay with a conclusion. It should summarize the material you have presented and restate your thesis. Suggest the significance of your conclusions, and how readers can use the information to better understand the topic. The final sentence should emphasize the essential idea that you are trying to communicate.

The length of essay requested by the professor will help you figure out how many details, and the number of arguments, to include. However, in your first draft, do not worry about being concise. Write down everything that you think you may want to use. Essays generally are expected to be in third-person, rather than first- or second-person, form. Learn the difference between active and passive voice, as many professors prefer the former.

6. Proofread and Edit

Your first draft may be wordy and unorganized. But don’t get discouraged. It’s all part of the process. Your next chore is to go back through the essay, rewriting passages to make them clearer. See that paragraphs follow one another in a logical fashion, and that essay sections flow in a sensible way that consistently supports your thesis. Eliminate redundant statements and unnecessary words. Check your spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Go through the essay several times, on different days. You will find that you are able to improve your work with each edit. Read the essay out loud to test how it sounds, and read it to someone else to get their feedback.

If your idea for a thesis is sound, and you follow the steps outlined in this article, you will be well on your way to creating a strong essay. Do not be intimidated by the prospect of having to write such a document. It really is not that hard to do, if you work hard and take it a step at a time.