How to Become a Writer

If you have a fondness for the written word, the originality to come up with new ideas and the discipline to meet deadlines and word counts, you might be wondering how to become a writer. Writers are the creative professionals that create written text to inform, describe, persuade, entertain or tell a story to readers. Although many people instantly think of writers as the professionals who write bestselling books, few actual writers fit this description. Many writers work for newspapers and magazines or in public relations and advertising, either within a company’s in-house marketing department or in an advertising agency.

Writers must know what topics interest potential readers and find an original angle from which to cover that topic. They must make their stories or advertisements compelling enough that people will read them. Writers most commonly write either articles or advertisements, though other types of writing include scripts, screenplays, novels, biographies, song lyrics and advertising jingles. A good writer must know how to perform research and how to proofread his or her own work.

To begin preparing for a career in writing, candidates should pursue a formal education. Many aspiring writers earn a bachelor’s degree in writing, English, communications, journalism or a related subject. To further improve their job opportunities in this sometimes competitive field, some students may an advanced degree, usually a Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.). Writers should be comfortable using computers, since they not only do much of their work on computers but may also write content for a business’s Internet marketing efforts. Securing a full-time, salaried position or finding freelance work typically requires that a writer have prior work experience. To gain that experience, writers may need to sharpen their skills while working for free, contributing articles and other content to school or local magazines and newspapers or showcasing their talents online by writing a blog.

Full-time writers earn a median salary of $55,420 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Actual wages vary significantly by position and employer and may depend on the writer’s experience, level of education and geographical location. Among the highest-paid writers, the BLS reported, are those that work in the motion picture industry, writing scripts and earning a median salary of $62,000 per year, and those that work in public relations and advertising, earning $62,260 for writing marketing content.

Only about 26 percent of writers perform this occupation full-time and over two-thirds were self-employed, according to the BLS. Many writers work on a per-project basis as freelancers, and they often have the benefits of working from home and setting their own schedules. Writing professionally can be a fulfilling and profitable part-time job as well as a full-time position. If you are naturally creative, can write persuasive copy and enjoy working with words, knowing how to become a writer could be the start of a rewarding new career in the exciting field of media and communications.

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