How Do I Become a Writer? 10 Things to Know About This Versatile Career

writer job description

Writers and authors develop content for various types of media. But how to become a writer is much less straight forward.

As a writer or author, you can learn to write advertisements, blogs, books, magazines and scripts for movies, plays, and television. You can also go the less creative route and write business reports, news releases and other written materials for companies.

Job Affirmations for Writers

  1. The words I choose matter.
  2. I communicate clearly and with ease.
  3. I express emotions and information in everything I write.
  4. I am in the zone.
  5. I embrace being a word nerd.
  6. Everything starts with a story.
  7. I meet deadlines with ease.
  8. I am thorough in my research. Writing is the icing on the cake.
  9. When I write my mind is focused.
  10. Writing empowers me and fills my soul.

1. Duties: They Consider the Readers First

Writers and authors typically do the following:

  • Choose subjects that interest readers
  • Write fiction or nonfiction scripts, biographies, and other formats
  • Conduct research to get factual information and authentic detail
  • Write advertising copy for newspapers, magazines, broadcasts, and the Internet
  • Present drafts to editors and clients for feedback
  • Work with editors and clients to shape material for publishing

Writers must establish their credibility with editors and readers through clean prose, strong research, and the use of sources and citations.

Writers and authors select the material they want to use and then convey the information to readers.

With help from editors, they may revise or rewrite sections, searching for the clearest language and phrasing.

2. Most Writers Work for Themselves

They sell their written content to book and magazine publishers; news organizations; advertising agencies; and movie, theater, and television producers.

They may be hired to complete specific short-term or recurring assignments, such as writing a newspaper column, contributing to a series of articles in a magazine, or producing an organization’s newsletter.

A number of writers produce material that is published only online, such as for digital news organizations or blogs.

3. A Writing Career Comes In Many Varieties

To become a writer you have to write.

The following are examples of types of writers and authors:

Biographers write a thorough account of a person’s life. They gather information from interviews and research about the person to accurately describe important life events.

Bloggers write posts to a blog that may pertain to any topic or a specific field, such as fashion, news, or sports.

Content writers write about any topic of interest, unlike writers who usually specialize in a given field.

Copywriters prepare advertisements to promote the sale of a good or service. They often work with a client to produce written content, such as an advertising slogan.

Novelists write books of fiction, creating characters and plots that may be imaginary or based on real events.

Playwrights write scripts for theatrical productions. They come up with a concept, write lines for actors to say, produce stage direction for actors to follow, and suggest ideas for theatrical set design.

Screenwriters create scripts for movies and television. They may produce original stories, characters, and dialogue, or adapt a book into a movie or television script.

Speechwriters compose orations for business leaders, politicians, and others who must speak in front of an audience. Because speeches are often delivered live, speechwriters must think about audience reaction and rhetorical effect.

4. Many Work in Advertising and PR

Writers and authors held about 45,860 jobs as of May 2019. The largest employers of writers and authors were as follows:

Industry Employment 
Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services 6,920
Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers 4,760
Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers 3,980
Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services 3,110
Motion Picture and Video Industries 2,570

5. They Can Work Anywhere with Computer Access

Jobs are somewhat concentrated in major media and entertainment markets—California, New York, Texas, and Washington, DC. Many writers work from home.

Some writers and authors prefer to work and travel to meet with publishers and clients and to do research or conduct interviews in person.

Work Schedules

Some writers and authors work part-time. Most keep regular office hours, either to stay in contact with sources and editors or to set up a writing routine, but many set their own hours.

Others may need to work evenings and weekends to produce something acceptable for an editor or client.

Self-employed or freelance writers and authors may face the pressures of juggling multiple projects or continually looking for new work.

6. To Become a Writer for Money, You Need a Writing Degree

To become a writer professionally you have to have computer access.

A college degree in English, communications, or journalism is generally required if you want to become a writer who has a salaried position. Experience gained through internships or freelancing helps build your portfolio. To become a writer you have to write. A portfolio showcases your best writing and gives a prospective employer an idea of your skills.

Getting Writing Experience

Many people become a writer by working at their high school and college newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, advertising and publishing companies, or nonprofit organizations.

College theater programs offer playwrights 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 related experience.

If you are not in college, you can start a blog, or try writing a screenplay or book. You can also pick up jobs on Fivver, Upwork, TextBroker, or search Craigslist for writing jobs.

Ask your friends or local businesses if they need any writing done and offer your services for free. You’ll get a portfolio piece and they will save money. Win-win!

Where to Find Writing Jobs

7. Words Aren’t the Only Skills You Need

Employers may prefer candidates who are able to create a visual story using tables, charts, infographics, and maps. To become a writer, you’ll also need to know how to use computer software and editing tools that combine text with graphics, audio, video, and animation.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some associations offer certifications for writers

Certification can show competence and professionalism, making candidates more attractive to employers, but it is not required to become a writer.

After they become a writer, some may advance their career by building a reputation, taking on complex writing assignments, and getting published in prestigious markets and publications.

Many editors start out as writers. Those who are particularly skilled at identifying stories, correcting writing style, and interacting with writers may be interested in editing jobs.

8. To Become a Writer You Must Go With the Flow, But Ask Questions

Some important qualities you should have to become a writer include:

Adaptability. Writers and authors need to be able to adapt to updates in software platforms and programs, including various content management systems (CMS).

Creativity. Writers and authors must be able to develop interesting plots, characters, or ideas for new stories.

Critical-thinking skills. Writers and authors must be adept at understanding new concepts that they convey through writing.

Determination. Writers and authors must have drive and persevere to meet deadlines.

Persuasion. Writers, especially those in advertising, must be able to convince others to feel a certain way about a good or service.

Social perceptiveness. Writers and authors must understand how readers react to ideas to connect with their audience.

Writing skills. Writers and authors must be able to write clearly and effectively to convey feelings and emotions and to communicate with readers.

9. A Writer’s Salary Varies and Very Few Get Rich

The median annual wage for writers and authors was $62,170 in May 2018.

The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,700, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $121,670.

In May 2018, the median annual wages for writers and authors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries$69,430
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations$68,430
Professional, scientific, and technical services$62,330

Some writers and authors work part time. Most keep regular office hours, either to stay in contact with sources and editors or to set up a writing routine, but many set their own hours.

Others may need to work evenings and weekends to produce something acceptable for an editor or client. Self-employed or freelance writers and authors may face the pressures of juggling multiple projects or continually looking for new work.

10. The Writers’ Job Market is Flat

Employment of writers and authors is projected to show little or no change from 2018 to 2028.

Online publications and services are growing in number and sophistication, spurring demand for writers and authors with web and multimedia experience.

However, employment of writers and authors in the newspaper and book and periodical publication industries is projected to decline.

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.

Strong competition is expected for most job openings, given that many people are attracted to this occupation. Competition for jobs with newspapers and magazines will be particularly strong because employment in the publishing industry is projected to decline.

A Writer Job is a Good Fit For

O*NET Interest Profile

There are several different ways to classify a writer, but in this case when we are talking about authors and a more creative bent, this occupation is

artistic jobs

A secondary interest is investigative. Here’s how O*NET describes these interests:

Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.

Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Writer Personality Type

INFJ personality type

For more information about writers and authors, visit

American Grant Writers’ Association, Inc.

American Society of Journalists and Authors

Association of Writers & Writing Programs

National Association of Science Writers

Society of Professional Journalists

Writers Guild of America East

Data and job description provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Tracey Lamphere

Tracey Lamphere, M.S. IMC is the editor of Job Affirmations, a publication that provides information and ideas to use mindfulness, positive affirmations, and visualizations to transform your career.

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