Writing has long been a sought-after career path, but with so many romanticised notions of the writer as an artist, it can be hard to know where to begin. If you’ve been furiously Googling ‘how can I become a writer’, then we hate to disappoint, but there’s no right or wrong route to becoming a writer. Then again, these steps can help you consider your options when you’re starting out on your journey.
1. Keep writing
If you want to become a writer, you need to start with the most obvious step of all: write! Although it seems simple, writing regularly in your spare time is essential to improving your skills. As the saying goes: “Don’t get discouraged. Instead, get busy.”
2. Discover writing as a hobby
Since the proliferation of the internet, there have never been more options when it comes to getting involved in writing. Whether your experience comes from traditional journalling or starting your own blog, there are countless sites out there which can help.
A huge range of free blogging platforms give you the chance to share your thoughts with the world at the click of a button, so there’s no excuse for lacking an online presence. When first starting out, write about things you’re passionate about, whether that’s fashion, music, film or sport, so that writing doesn’t become a chore before you’ve even begun.
Because content is becoming increasingly digitised, social media is also a great place to showcase your abilities and grow your network. Reaching out to other writers will provide you with both support and useful connections for the future.
Make sure you keep your personal and professional accounts separate though and check your privacy settings before posting something you’d rather potential employers didn’t see.
3. Get into the habit
Building a writing routine into your everyday life is just as essential as the writing itself. Your brand-new blog isn’t going to be much use if you only update it once a year, so writing a small amount each day can help you be more consistent. Even if your starting point is just 100 words a day, you can gradually increase this number to suit your own pace.
Not only does writing everyday hone your skills, you will also develop valuable time management strategies and the ability to stay focused over longer periods of time.
Struggling to organise your other commitments around your writing? Why not check out the daily routines of some of history’s most renowned scribes for inspiration?
Now that you’re in the habit of writing as a hobby, it’s time to think about what kind of writer you’d like to be professionally. Writing as a career can be split up into a variety of sub-groups; while most grow up dreaming of being authors or journalists, have you ever considered looking into copywriting, ghost writing or technical writing?
Once you have decided on a more specific pathway, you can practise writing towards your chosen role and start looking at gaining relevant experience which may help you find paid work.
5. Consider your education
Unlike many other professions, being a writer is more about the skills you have, rather than the qualifications you hold. Saying this, having a degree under your belt often helps to open doors. Related courses to writing such as journalism, English, advertising, or media are popular choices, but having a degree in any field can be an advantage, so choosing to study a subject you love is the most important thing.
Some types of writing such as technical, scientific, or medical will require you to have a background in specific fields, making these degrees preferable to typical humanities courses.
If your school days are long in the past, or you’re wanting to quit your current job and focus on a career in writing, don’t fret: there are plenty of writing courses out there. Again, you don’t need to have attended a course to succeed, but, as they are often taught by industry experts, you could glean some valuable knowledge – not to mention making new contacts.
6. Build up a portfolio
All the writing you’ve done in your spare time can be put together as a portfolio and shown to employers, whether online or as a printed version.
Creating a website portfolio using a site such as Contently and Clippings.me can be really beneficial for a writer as all your work is easily accessible and can be associated with your name. However, it’s important to note that your portfolio shouldn’t include everything you’ve ever written, especially those stories you wrote back when you were 13. Keep it relevant to the role you’re working towards and updated with your best work from the last few years.
Despite the importance of an online presence, don’t underestimate the impact of printing off samples of your work to take to interviews. This can illustrate your dedication to your career and the care you take with your work.
7. Get professional experience
Writing for your blog or student newspaper is a great way to get started, but professional writing experience will really stand out on your CV. Internships and work placements are great ways to do this and can be taken alongside your studies or for longer periods during the summer. Although some placements are unpaid, they can be helpful in getting you started before better positions become available.
8. Find paid work
After going through all these steps, you’re probably ready to consider applying for a real job as a writer. Although the world of writing is very competitive, with a great portfolio, a proven track record and – most importantly – a real passion towards your chosen career path, your chances of being hired are significantly increased.
You could also choose the path of the freelance writer, which is considerably more difficult at the beginning when you lack contacts. Building up a reputation and a client base takes time and it could be a long while before you start earning enough money to live on. If you’re determined to write on a freelance basis, consider doing this alongside your current job before you drop everything, and gradually come to a point where you can write full-time.
Writing can be an incredibly rewarding career choice but getting started takes a lot of self-motivation and patience. Eventually, all your hard work will pay off and the feeling of having succeeded will be all the more satisfying.