How to Become a Writer or Author
Freelance writers may have to manage multiple assignments simultaneously.
A college degree is generally required for a salaried position as a writer or author. Proficiency with computers is necessary for staying in touch with sources, editors, and other writers while working on assignments. 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 not-for-profit 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.
In addition, Internet blogs can provide writing experience to anyone with online access. 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.
Those with other backgrounds who demonstrate strong writing skills also may find jobs as writers.
Writers and authors often need years of writing experience through on-the-job training 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.
Writers and authors generally advance 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. Writing for smaller businesses, local newspapers, advertising agencies, and not-for-profit organizations allows beginning writers and authors to start taking credit for their work immediately.
However, opportunities for advancement within these organizations may be limited because they usually do not have enough regular work.
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 written word.
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.
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 effectively in order to convey feeling and emotion and communicate with readers.