Not all writers are starving! This list of writing careers will help you find the right niche and show you how you can make money as a writer. Finding the right career can be challenging for a beginning writer, but there are a surprising number of options to explore.
The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less by Peter Bowerman is one of the best places to start. One of the “secrets” you need to know about making money as a writer is that writing is a business. You can learn the ropes by trial and error, or you can learn the smart way: by reading books by successful writers.
The Well-Fed Writer is for aspiring freelance writers, career-changers, at-home Moms, journalists, staff writers, recent college grads, 55+ or anyone else who loves to write, knows they’re good at it, and wants to make a GOOD living at it. You’ll learn how to succeed in freelance writing, build a writing career that pays hourly rates of $50-125+ and a writing lifestyle most can only dream of in the lucrative field of commercial freelancing (writing for companies and creative entities). You’ll learn how to write marketing brochures, ad copy, newsletters, direct mail campaigns, web content, sales sheets, case studies, white papers, trade articles and dozens of other project types. That’s just one career for freelancers; below are 10 more…
You’ll probably have to start with small writing jobs, and work your way up. You might even find blogs and online magazines that pay writers more than $5 an article.
This list of careers for writers was written by Peggy Williams – a published author, screenwriter, playwright, and novelist. Can you see from that sentence alone why she is a successful writer? Because she diversifies her writing projects. When you’re a new writer, it may be smart to explore a variety of channels before settling into one of the careers below…
10 Paying Jobs for Writers
by Peggy Williams
You’re good with words. Undaunted by the blank page. Creative. Thinking you might like to make your living as a writer. But you’re well aware that journalism as a career is changing due to the decline of newspapers, freelancing for magazines is highly competitive with up and down cash flows, and novelists and screenwriters who pay the bills with their writing are few and far between. Still, you have a talent for writing. You can meet deadlines. And you work well under pressure. Are there other kinds of jobs writers can do? As it turns out, there are a lot of career paths for writers. And here are ten of them.
1. Grant Writer
Non-profit organizations such as charities, schools, community centers, municipal government agencies, and cultural arts commissions depend on public and private money to fund their projects. This money, in the billions of dollars, typically comes from foundations that require the receiving organizations to submit in-depth proposals explaining how the money will be used. Proposals might be as small as the request for an artist-in-residence program or as large as multi-million dollar funding for public housing or infrastructure repair.
Grant writing involves interviewing, researching, and writing draft and final proposals. Foundation grants are often offered on a competitive basis, so the skill of the grant writer is paramount. Grant writers can work on a freelance basis or be hired on staff, depending on the size of the organization and the frequency of project-based funding initiatives. (Note from Laurie: I’ve worked for more non-profit organizations than for-profit ones, and I know that grant writing can be a lucrative money-making career for writers! The leaders of non-profit organizations often don’t know how to write grants, but they really need grants to keep running their organization).
If you aren’t sure how much to charge – especially if you’re just starting your career as a writer – read Freelance Writing Pay Rates – How Much Do Writers Charge?
2. Video Script Writer
Training videos, corporate and public relation videos, educational videos all start with a script. Scriptwriters in this field often work freelance, but many work on staff for video production companies or organizations that regularly produce informational videos.
Video scriptwriters engage in interviewing, researching, and drafting the scripts to their client’s specifications. In this career, a writer needs to be able to work collaboratively with the client, the producer, videographer, and any other technicians involved in the project. Key skills include the ability to write tight (sticking to time/page limits) and under pressure (cost and deadlines are key components of any video project) while producing high quality, creative, and entertaining copy. This is the key to making money in this writing career.
3. Catalog Copy Writer
Love your L.L. Bean catalog? Well, you are not alone. According to USA Today’s story about catalogues in the internet age and the Direct Marketing Association, more than 12 billion catalogs are mailed out to homes annually. And of course, many more are available online. Why are catalogs a mainstay of the retail industry? Because their product descriptions entice people to buy, buy, buy. And it’s not just the flashy, sexy products that need advertising. Companies that sell safety equipment, farm implements, office and computer supplies, even food and travel packages all need writers to make their products appealing to the consumer.
Writing catalog copy can be a challenge. Depending on the industry and its customer base, catalogs can be anything from practical and concise to exotic reading experiences. Writers willing to produce catalog copy can pick up freelance work, but many work on staff.
4. Greeting Card Writer
Birthdays, weddings, illness…you name the occasion and someone is looking for just the right card with just the perfect sentiment. Greeting card writers create text that is short, pithy, often humorous, sometimes sentimental, generally poetic, but always universal in appeal. Writers who want to make money and be creative would love this career!
Big companies like American Greetings and Hallmark typically have writers on staff. Smaller, independent companies like Blue Mountain Arts more often depend on freelancers.
5. Book/movie/food/product reviewer
The reviewer category is broad and inclusive, but within each genre the writer must develop expertise that is specific and detailed. Newspapers and magazines are the most common employers of reviewers. But local news stations often use these people — either on air or to write copy — to give their audience useful information with a more personal viewing experience.
We all know that our national leaders and top politicians have staff writers who mold their messages into speeches. But there are many other public and private figures who need and want to look good when speaking in front of a crowd or group. Corporate executives, local government officials, informational and motivational speakers are just a sampling of the kinds of people looking for writers to shape their words, ideas, and expertise into speeches complete with humorous quips, jokes, and sound bites. Speech writing is a career for writers who want to make money on a permanent or freelance basis – many speech writers work on staff, but there is a niche for freelance speech writers as well.
7. Technical Writer
Probably the largest employment opportunity or career for writers, both freelance and staff, is technical writing. These writers develop an in-depth knowledge of the industry they are writing for, including the lingo and jargon that is typical for that field.
Technical writers write manuals, public relations articles, brochures, news releases, and much more. These writers most often work in the fields of engineering, information technology, science, medicine, and law but can and do work in any field that is highly specialized, including fashion and the food industry.
If you’re interested in learning how to make money as a technical writer but don’t know how to pitch editors, read How to Write Query Letters for Magazine Articles.
8. Video Game Writer
Script writing for video games is probably one of the newest fields opening up to writers. These specialized writers create or execute the stories, plots, characters, settings, and dialogue that are used to bring video and online games to life in this multi-billion dollar industry. Video game writers must be able to work collaboratively and to think flexibly in order to create multi-tracked plot lines and engaging characters.
9. Ghost Writer
Ever wonder if that busy politician, sports hero, or corporate billionaire really wrote that best-selling memoir? Chances are, not. Ghost writers are frequently hired to take a celebrity’s words (generally via interviews and research) and shape them into memoirs, how-to books, and other popular non-fiction genres. Ghost writers seldom receive credit, but they do receive a sizeable paycheck. (Note from Laurie: I worked as a ghostwriter, and I didn’t make much money. I think this is a competitive writing market that may be difficult to break into. Unless your cousin is Julia Roberts or Barack Obama).
10. Erotica Writer
This last career for writers who want to make money falls into the genre of novelist, but with a twist—no, not a plot twist; simply that most erotica writers make a pretty decent living at what they do. Some erotica is published by traditional companies, other writers have made a go at it by self-publishing in the new world of Amazon and other digital and print-on-demand formats.
Erotica can be anything from romance that’s a bit more explicit to soft-core and even hard core. Not your cup of tea? Maybe not. But in a field that is as old as publishing itself, Fifty Shades of Grey hasn’t hurt the genre’s marketing value to the mainstream audience.
This is just a sampling of the kinds of careers that employ writers. To find jobs in these fields, always start with networking; be sure to check local, state and national job boards; and subscribe to publications like Funds for Writers or join LinkedIn.
If you’re a new writer, you may have already learned how difficult it is to get a writing job unless you’ve already been published. Read Need Writing Experience? How to Get Clips and Get Published for help.
Peggy Williams is a teacher, freelance writer, screenwriter, and novelist. Check out her blog Musings of a MadCityWriter in which she provides perspectives on books, culture, and life in general. She is also co-writer of the On the Road Mystery series. Peggy lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
Your thoughts and questions on finding a writing career are welcome below! Especially if you have a lead for new writers 🙂