Your Guide to Writing Careers: How to Make a Living with Writing
As the demand for writers keeps growing, turning your love of writing into a career has become easier than ever. Whether you want to write full-time or looking for a profession that’s based on writing but has other tasks for you as well, we’ve got you covered.
In this post, we’ll go over the top 9 writing careers, explaining what they entail and what you’ll need to get into each. We’ll touch on your choices for writing courses, and give you a guide for transitioning or getting into the career of your choice. And at the end, we’ll show you how to create a writing portfolio that gets you hired, no matter which career path you end up choosing.
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- Writing careers to choose from & what you’ll need for each
- Writing education: courses and degrees you could take
- Writing-related careers you could also consider
- How to transition or get into writing careers
- Launch your writing career, create a portfolio with Copyfolio
Writing careers to choose from
There are loads of directions you can go into if you want to write for a living. To make the choice easier, we’ll show you 9 different writing careers you can choose from, explaining the responsibilities, requirements, and earning potential for each.
Copywriting is one of the most lucrative writing careers, which has many directions in itself.
You could apply to work for an agency as an advertising copywriter, working on ad campaigns with an art director partner. You could also work for a company in-house, providing them with all the copy they need: for landing pages, social media posts, email campaigns, and so on. Or you could do all that as a freelance copywriter, choosing a niche or format to specialize in.
There aren’t typically strict educational requirements for copywriters —it’s your copywriting portfolio that they’ll want to see. Sure, ad schools, advertising degrees, and copywriting courses help, but at the end of the day, people want to see your writing skills and the work you’ve done.
The average salary for copywriters is $53,280 based on Payscale’s data.
Content writers typically work either in-house or freelance, not so much at agencies like copywriters.
There is some overlap in the work they do though. For example, some people categorize landing pages as copywriting because they have to be compelling and driving sales —meanwhile, others say it’s content writing, because of the length of these pages.
Content writers typically write all kinds of long-form content, such as web pages, articles, product descriptions, emails, longer social media posts (e.g. for LinkedIn), and more.
Although most content writers have a background in English, communication, or something related, similar to copywriters, mostly there are no specific expectations for what level of education you should have for this position. What matters the most are the content writing samples you present in your portfolio.
The average salary for content writers is $48,220 based on Payscale’s data.
Authors or novelists are traditionally what people think of when they talk about writers. At the same time, it’s not the easiest career for making a living with writing though. Although self-publishing made becoming an author easier, earning good money isn’t guaranteed.
If you’re self-publishing, you’ll earn money from sales and royalties —if you’re with a traditional publishing house, you’ll also get an advance for your book, and a lot of help with the promotions and marketing activities.
As an author, you won’t need a portfolio in the traditional sense, to convince recruiters and clients to hire you. But you’ll still need a website that’ll be a hub for all your work. That’s where you can feature all your books, give your readers exclusive content and information and tell everyone about your upcoming events and releases.
Luckily, with an author website template, creating one won’t take much time, even if you’ve never done it before. Just make sure you feature all your books and that everything you add on there is in line with your author brand.
The average salary for authors is $51,235 based on Payscale’s data.
Another easy-to-think-of field if you like writing is journalism. Journalists are always on the go, reporting the news and happenings either locally or around the world. They can be specialized in a niche like business, politics, or sports —and write either for printed publications, online sites, or both. Magazines and newspapers do still have in-house journalists writing for them, but going freelance has got much more popular in recent years.
And exactly because of that, portfolios (or clips, as they often refer to them) are essential for journalists as well. Other than these writing samples to prove skills and experience, a degree in journalism or English would also boost your chances of getting into the field of journalism.
The average salary for journalists is $42,605 based on Payscale’s data.
Becoming a technical writer might be the career that needs the most non-writing skills and knowledge of the ones we have on this list. The job of technical writers is to present complex technical information and concepts in an easy-to-understand way.
They work together with designers, developers, stakeholders, and users alike to make sure all their written material is correct, precise, and still clear for the intended audience. So as much as they need to be able to turn large amounts of data into text that reads well, they also need to have good social and communication skills to coordinate work with others.
Usually, there are two different backgrounds with which people get into technical writing: they either start with English/communications and learn the technical side later on —or start with a technical degree in IT or something similar, and decide to hone their writing skills along the way.
The average salary for technical writers is $61,160 based on Payscale’s data.
Screenwriters are the writers behind movies and theater plays. They can either take a novel and adapt it to the big screen —or write an original play of their own.
Screenwriters have to do a lot of pitching to get a studio to pick up their writing, so the presentation of their work is key. At that point, they present one piece of writing at a time, but if they aim to get a name for themselves in the industry, they need a place to house all their work.
There are screenwriting degrees available at some universities (e.g. the Screenwriting Joint Honours degree at the University of Worcester), so you’ll find most screenwriters graduated with that —or they often have a background in English, writing, and literature.
The work of scriptwriters and screenplay writers is pretty similar. The main difference is that scriptwriters only write the script itself, meaning what the actors or hosts say. Screenwriters however give a much more detailed picture of the whole play, including elements such as lighting, effects, or camera angles.
But these days scriptwriters are not restricted to movies and plays only. With the popularity of podcasts on the rise, there’s a great demand for scriptwriters who can write podcast scripts that are informative and entertaining at the same time.
The format is pretty specific and episodes might need lots of research, so podcast owners will be looking for someone who’s proven they can do high-quality work in the field.
The average salary for scriptwriters is $59,415 based on Payscale’s data.
If you do it well, you can absolutely earn money by working on your own blog as well. The most important thing here is to find your niche: a specific topic or a few related topics you’re going to write about.
It’s important you know at least the basics of SEO (search engine optimization) as well, as most of your visitors will ideally find you organically through Google —and Pinterest, where SEO is just as important. You’ll also need to be confident with social media, as building your brand and having a presence there will further boost your blog’s success.
Bloggers usually earn money in three different ways. One is the ads they put on their site, for example through Google’s ad system. Here they get paid either based on how many people have seen the ads or how many people have clicked through.
They also use affiliate links when mentioning certain products and services. This means that when someone clicks on the link and buys the product, the blogger will get a small commission after the sale.
And lastly, similarly to YouTubers and Instagrammers, bloggers also collaborate with brands. With brand deals, they often not only get a commission after the sales they generate but also get paid just for featuring the brand on their site.
The work of grant writers revolves around helping their organization win funding and aid through grants. They not only write the proposals and applications but are also responsible for finding grants to apply for in the first place. They are the ones who then research the requirements and details for each grant application and prepare all the materials they’ll need. To put it simply, they’re responsible for the whole process, end-to-end.
The average salary for scriptwriters is $49,435 based on Payscale’s data.
Writing education: courses and degrees you could take
We mentioned some general education requirements in the descriptions of the writing careers above, but let’s go a little more in-depth about the different writing degrees and courses you can take.
Writing at a university level
There are many options at the university level for writers. You could get a degree in:
- Creative writing
- Professional writing
- Advertising (as it usually includes copywriting)
- Marketing communications
- Public relations (PR)
They’re usually offered both at bachelor’s and master’s level —but some of them, like creative writing, you’ll often find as BFA/MFA degrees, where FA stands for fine arts.
Shorter courses for certification
If you don’t want to commit to a full 3+ year program, you can always find a shorter course or certificate provided by an acknowledged university. These can range from a few days in length to a whole semester, but will still save you time and money.
Some examples would be this Creative Copywriting Short Course by the Chelsea College of Arts, the Strategic Copywriting Certificate by the University of Toronto, or the Undergraduate Certificate in Professional Writing by Temple University.
Online courses purely for the skills
And then there are the courses that have no affiliation with universities or colleges. That doesn’t mean they would be worse in quality, but the certificate they give you might not be as widely accepted.
If you want to become a freelance writer and you’re in it for the skills, you can definitely go ahead! Nobody will care about the paper, as long as you have a solid portfolio on your freelance writer website.
But if you plan to apply for an in-house position and want a deeper, well-rounded knowledge in your field, you should aim for an official degree or certificate instead.
Writing-related careers you could also consider
If you don’t mind that they’re not all about writing, there are some other related careers that could be interesting for you as a writer. They might include some writing, but will also always have other responsibilities too. So if writing alone doesn’t fulfill you, one of these would be a great career choice. You could become an...
- Social media specialist
- Publicist/PR manager
- Content marketing manager
- SEO specialist
How to transition or get into writing careers
Once you chose a writing career that seems suitable for you, comes the question: how do I get into it? The specific answer of course depends on the field you choose, and whether you’re at the beginning of your work life, or transitioning from another profession. But we’ll give you a general roadmap that’ll guide you to your new career —no matter where you are in your professional journey.
Do your research and choose the most suitable career
The first step is choosing the right writing career. This article is a great starting point, but if any of the options got your attention, we recommend you start looking into it even more.
Check if there are available positions in your area, how much you could potentially earn there (as it differs state by state), what the responsibilities would be in detail. Think about the skills and education you’ll need: do you have them already? Or would you be okay with signing up for training to earn them?
Take your time in gathering all the information to make sure you choose the career that’s right for you.
Develop the skills and get the education you need
The next step is making sure you check off everything from the list: all the skills and education they want you to have for the writing career you chose. And we mean that literally.
Especially if you’re a visual type, writing a list of all the requirements and checking off everything you already have, is a great idea. Once you have the list, you’ll see what you’re missing, and can move on to making a plan on how to check those off too.
It might involve doing exercises, writing in specific topics or formats to get the experience, or completing a course. If you want to land a great job, you’ll have to make sure you have a solid foundation of skills and knowledge —not only on paper but in practice as well.
Build a strong portfolio of writing samples
That leads us to our last point: you’ll have to be able to present a portfolio of writing samples to illustrate those skills and experience.
It’s okay if your pieces are not from real, paid jobs. They still prove to recruiters and potential clients that you know how to write in the formats that your chosen writing career needs. What’s more, it gives them a chance to check out your writing style and decide whether it’s suitable for their business or not.
It won’t come as a big surprise then when we say, a strong portfolio is essential to get a good job in a new field. Because if you’re new to this writing career, there’s a chance that your writer resume won’t be impressive enough alone, and it’ll be your writing portfolio that sells you for the job.
Launch your writing career, create a portfolio with Copyfolio
Are you ready to jump right in and start your new writing career? Create a portfolio website with Copyfolio now and start applying!
- We show you what an ideal portfolio should be like. With insights from successful freelance writers, agency copywriters, and creative directors, we researched what the perfect portfolio should be like. That’s how every feature and function of Copyfolio is designed and what our daily email tips are based on.
- It’s quick and easy to make it happen. Setting up a website might sound like a daunting task, but with Copyfolio, it’s actually super quick and simple. You just have to choose a template you like and we’ll set up all your pages in the background. Just update the text, upload your samples, and you’re done!
- Good looks are guaranteed. Trying to make your site and samples look good can be a struggle. But don’t worry, we’re here to help. Copyfolio is set up in a way that guarantees that your site will look good: with the perfect amount of white space, harmonized color palettes, and intentionally designed font settings. With built-in one-click mockups, we even help make your images and samples look professional.
Take the first step, create your portfolio
Signing up and creating your site takes just about two minutes. Enter your email, tell us your name and position (these will become the title of your website), choose a template and you’re halfway there.