How to Become a Writer or Author
Freelance writers may have to manage multiple assignments simultaneously.
A college degree in English, journalism, or communications is generally required for a salaried position as a writer or author. Experience can be gained through internships, but any form of writing that improves skill, such as blogging, is beneficial. Excellent writing skills are essential.
A bachelor’s degree is typically needed for a full-time job as a writer. Because writing skills are essential in this occupation, many employers prefer candidates with a degree in English, journalism, or communications.
Other Work Experience
Writers can obtain job experience by working for high school and college newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, advertising and publishing companies, or nonprofit organizations. College theater and music programs offer playwrights and songwriters an opportunity to have their work performed. Many magazines and newspapers also have internships for students. Interns may write stories, conduct research and interviews, and gain general publishing experience.
Employers also increasingly prefer new applicants to have the ability to code and program webpages or manipulate data to create a visual story using tables, charts, and maps.
In addition, anyone with Internet access can start a blog and gain writing experience. Some of this writing may lead to paid assignments regardless of education, because the quality of writing, the unique perspective, and the size of the potential audience are the greatest determinants of success for a piece of writing. Online publications require knowledge of computer software and editing tools that are used to combine text with graphics, audio, video, and animation.
Writers or authors can come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences as long as they demonstrate strong writing skills.
Writers and authors may need to gain some writing experience through on-the-job training with more experienced writers and editors before their work is ready for publication.
Writers who want to write about a particular topic may need formal training or experience related to that topic.
Because many writers today prepare material directly for the Internet, knowing graphic design, page layout, and multimedia software can be advantageous.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Some associations offer certifications for writers and authors. Certification can demonstrate competence and professionalism, making candidates more attractive to employers. For example, the American Grant Writers’ Association (AGWA) offers the Certified Grant Writer® credential.
Certification can also increase opportunities for advancement.
Beginning writers and authors can get a start and put their name on work immediately by writing for smaller businesses, local newspapers, advertising agencies, and nonprofit organizations. However, opportunities for advancement within these organizations may be limited because they usually do not have enough regular work.
Writers and authors can advance their careers further by building a reputation, taking on more complex writing assignments, and getting published in more prestigious markets and publications. Having published work that has been well received and maintaining a track record of meeting deadlines are important for advancement.
Many editors begin work as writers. Those who are particularly skilled at identifying stories, correcting writing style, and interacting with writers may be interested in editing jobs.
Adaptability. Writers and authors need to be able to adapt to newer software platforms and programs, including various Content Management Systems (CMS).
Creativity. Writers and authors must be able to develop new and interesting plots, characters, or ideas so they can come up with new stories.
Critical-thinking skills. Writers and authors must have dual expertise in thinking through or understanding new concepts, and conveying it through writing.
Determination. Writers and authors sometimes work on projects that take years to complete. Freelance writers who are paid per assignment must demonstrate perseverance and personal drive to meet deadlines.
Persuasion. Writers, especially those in advertising, must be able to persuade others to feel a certain way about a good or service.
Social perceptiveness. Writers and authors must understand how readers react to certain ideas in order to connect with their audience.
Writing skills. Writers and authors must be able to write clearly and effectively in order to convey feeling and emotion and communicate with readers.