It wasn't unusual that I'd roll over onto a piercing pileup of pens in my floral blue bedding growing up. I spent nights journaling before sleep, coloring my skin in glitter milk ink. I still have those diaries upon diaries — including the ballerina slipper-shaped notepad I kept safely inside a shoebox with a small porcelain boot in which I'd collected gold toothfairy dust. I kept them both there, together, because I told myself that the power of that fairy dust just might help to conjure the dreams I'd scribbled down in the pad. After all, to me, they were one in the same — unfounded truths. I believed in those dreams, though I couldn't fathom how I'd manifest them, just as I'd believed in the toothfairy, though I couldn't fathom how she existed.
Simply, I knew from a young age that, when you really believe, the seemingly impossible is indeed possible. So I journaled about my life as a writer "someday."
Well, someday has since come. And it's easy to believe that, by some twinkle of gold dust, my dream came to fruition. But the truth is that a lot happened in between then and now.
Writing can be a challenging and fulfilling and stimulating and passionate and creative and lucrative career — regardless of the writing route down which you choose to journey. But to call yourself a writer takes a lot more than magic dust. Here's how to become a writer.
What are 10 steps to help you become a writer?
Becoming a writer isn't an easy feat, as it takes a lot of time and energy. That said, here are 10 steps you can take to kickstart your writing career.
1. Start journaling.
Just as I did, you have to start writing for yourself. After all, how do you know if you'll truly enjoy writing for others if you don't spend any time ever even writing for yourself? Besides, a wealth of research suggests that journaling, in general, is a seriously healthy habit.
So pick up a journal and get started. And, if you don't know where to begin, you can check out my guide to how to journal here — there are tons of tips and techniques to help you.
2. Start writing publicly.
In order to become a writer you need to write. And people need to know that you write, which means you need to write for public spaces. That's sort of a Catch-22, since you need experience to get experience. But all you really need is any experience, whether or not it's paid. This means you can start a blog of your own. Before I ever became a professional journalist, for example, I was a blogger. I launched HerReport.org to share stories about women's issues around the world, and my travels to chase those stories, and that's what I showed prospective employers when they'd all, of course, ask for writing clips.
Websites like WordPress, Squarespace and Wix are popular blogging platforms. WordPress, which I use, allows you two options: WordPress.com, which hosts your blog for you with a selection of themes but limited customization options (it's free for a domain ending in .wordpress.com or starting at $4 per month for your own domain), or WordPress.org (free), which uses third-party hosts like Bluehost (starting at $2.95 per month) but houses your blog and offers a full range of customization options.
There are also tons of public forums you can use, such as Medium, a platform to discuss tech, politics, culture, business, life and more. Anyone can publish on Medium and join the Medium Partner Program, through which you can even earn money if readers believe yours should be compensated HubPages is another online public forum where you can get started writing for free — and share your content with the site's over 34,000,000 monthly readers.
3. Start writing for free.
Beyond writing for your own blog and public platforms, you can start contributing to other published sites and magazines for free — either as an intern to garner experience or as a contributor. When I started off writing in college, for example, I began writing for websites that were calling for submissions that didn't pay. They needed the content, and I needed the bylines. So I wrote primarily for other blogs and women's organizations in which I believed in.
You can do the same by reaching out to other blogs and organizations that resonate with you, too.
4. Take writing workshops.
There are tons of writing workshops you can take to hone your writing skills. I've enrolled in tons myself, even as a professional writer with a degree and years of experiences. Most recently, for example, I completed a writing workshop for travel bloggers. In the end, it ultimately taught me the ins and outs of pitching collaborations with travel brands, and it even provided me with email templates that I can (and do!) use, as well as a networking group on Facebook full of other travel bloggers.
You can find workshops on websites like UDemy, which offers 80,000 online classes starting at $12.99, to get you started.
5. Talk to other writers.
Networking is key in every industry. It makes up a big bulk of my job as a freelance writer, too, as I constantly use LinkedIn and my social platforms to connect with other writers and editors. Many of the writing jobs I have are through these connections I've made.
So start networking for yourself. You can do this by attending some writing conventions and conferences, such as BlogHer or The Writer's Digest Conference. You can also reach out to your personal social networks or former colleagues and ask people about writing opportunities of which they may know. You might also want to join writers' career communities like that of the International Association of Professional Writers and Editors to look out for opportunities. Or just email writers and editors you already know and outwardly ask them to help point you in the right direction for pitching contacts.
If you're not ready to actually hunt down writing gigs just yet, it's worth just talking to other writers to get a feel for what their day to day looks like, and debate whether or not that lifestyle is something that suits you.
6. Read other writers.
Every skilled writer learned from somewhere — often by reading the works of other great writers. So read. A lot. Read varied works — from blogs to books to screenplays to newspaper articles to get a feel for what kind of writing entices or enthuses you. Take mental notes (or tangible notes!) on the writing styles you admire.
7. Dive into other creative outlets.
Writing, in all forms, is creative. You can practice tapping into your creative side by doing all sorts of creative projects, whether that's picking up an instrument, painting, drawing or something else.
8. Practice different writing techniques.
In order to become a successful writer, you'll need to practice. I still practice, day in and day out, even though I'm already employed as a writer. That's because there's always room for improvement. You can practice different writing techniques, such as free writing, timed essay writing, bullet journaling and more.
9. Find a writing mentor.
The best thing you can do for your writing career is find a mentor who you can turn to when you have questions, doubts, concerns or achievements you're excited to share. Reach out to the networks you've joined and consider this article on finding a mentor to help you find one.
10. Remember why you love writing.
When you spend a lot of your time (if not all of it!) writing, it can be easy to forget why you're doing it. Make sure that you take time for yourself to reflect on your goals, prioritize how you spend your time and remember why all of this work is so important to you! It's also OK to admit that, sometimes, dreams change — and you need to be willing to adapt if yours do.
What are some writing careers and concentrations?
All fields need writers or individuals with strong writing skills. That's because writing is applicable across every industry. As such, a writing career can mean a lot of different things.
Whatever the path you choose, your odds of career success are promising.
"Employment of writers and authors is projected to grow eight percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations," according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). "Online publications and services are growing in number and sophistication, spurring demand for writers and authors with Web and multimedia experience. Some experienced writers should find work in the public relations departments of corporations and nonprofit organizations. Self-employed or freelance writers and authors may find work with newspaper, magazine, or journal publishers, and some will write books."
Of course, with the demand for writers also comes some competition.
"Strong competition is expected for most job openings, given that many people are attracted to this occupation," according to the BLS. "Competition for jobs with established newspapers and magazines will be particularly strong because employment in the publishing industry is projected to decline. Writers and authors who have adapted to online and social media, and who are comfortable writing for and working with a variety of electronic and digital tools, should have an advantage in finding work. The declining costs of self-publishing and the growing popularity of electronic books will allow many freelance writers to have their work published."
Here are a few types of careers you might pursue as a writer.
- Web Journalist
- Magazine Journalist
- Newspaper Journalist
- Screenwriter for Films
- Screenwriter for Television
- Screenwriter for Commercials
- Grant Writer
- Medical Writer
- Technical Writer
- Poetry Writer
- Marketing Writer
- Fiction Writer
- Memoir Writer
- Non-Fiction Writer
- Travel Writer
- Proposal Writer
- Copywriter for Businesses
- App Content Writer
What are some writing skills, credentials and tools for success?
Writing requires specific skills and, some fields, may require certain credentials. Here's what you can develop and obtain to achieve greater success — whatever success looks like for you.
1. Work on your communication skills.
Use the aforementioned writing techniques to work on honing your written communication skills. You may also want to work on your verbal and other non-verbal communication skills, as well, as being able to clearly articulate yourself will indubitably improve your writing.
2. Obtain a degree and/or credentials if necessary.
Get an education in writing, on top of writing experience. According to the BLS, a college degree in English, journalism or communications is generally required for a salaried position as a writer or author — and experience through internships and blogging is also beneficial. Some associations also offer certifications for writers and authors, which can help demonstrate your competence and professionalism and may make you more attractive to employers. For one, the American Grant Writers’ Association (AGWA) offers the Certified Grant Writer credential.
3. Find a mentor (or at least an idol).
Again, finding a mentor (or at least an idol whose work you can continue to read) will help your writing career massively. A mentor will answer your questions, be your motivation and may act as your advocate who can help you launch and grow your career.
1. How do you become a book author?
Becoming a book author takes a lot of work. Here's more on how to publish a book!
2. How much do you earn as a writer?
Writers may earn varying salaries depending on the type of writing career they choose and the topics about which they write. A journalist writing for the web at a lifestyle publication, for example, will likely earn less than a medical writer working for a large medical corporation.
3. How do I start a career as a writer?
You can learn more about how to start your career as a writer by reading up on how to get your writing career off the ground here.
4. What qualifications do I need to be a writer?
You don't technically need any qualifications to become a writer. You can just get started writing! But in order to grow your writing career, you'll want to obtain a Bachelor's degree in writing, journalism, communications or a related field. And a certification from an accredited program may help you, though it's certainly not required. The more experience you have writing, whether paid or not, is the most beneficial qualification you can have.
Becoming a successful writer — who earns money from this career — requires not only skill, but also both passion and persistence. But, if you follow the aforementioned steps, you'll be well on your way to manifesting your writing dream into a reality.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.