Writer: Becoming a Writer

You Want to be a Writer!

You don’t have to starve to be a writer. A wide range of lucrative writing positions are available and many allow you to work when you choose and where you choose (even at the beach!).  While few of us will become famous authors or screenwriters, anyone who can write well can build a successful career as a writer. More publications are produced than ever before, and almost every industry and organisation (business, government or non-profit) needs writers. Even if you dream of being an author, writing commercially can keep you profitably employed until your masterpiece is published.  In fact, some of our greatest authors first earned their living writing advertising copy.

Typical jobs and career paths

The list of possible writing jobs is endless and some of them are listed below:

In Publishing

In Business, Government or Various Organisations

In the Arts

·Acquisitions editor


·Copy Editor



·Editorial Assistant

·Freelance journalist

·Newspaper columnist

·Proof reader

·Text book writer

·Travel guidebook writer

·Travel writer

·Advertising writer

·Documentation writer

·English language teacher

·Grant writer

·Medical writer

·Public Relations Writer


·Resume writer


·Technical Writer

·Video script writer

·Web page Writer

·Academic writer

·Arts editor

·Author of books

·Children’s author

·Ghost writer

·Lecturer in writing

·Literary critic




·Submission writer

·TV script writer

·Writing tutor/teacher.

Fortunately, writing is one area where opportunities exist for people with all levels of education and training.  If you have good writing skills and are persistent, you can become an author, an advertising writer, a copywriter, a freelance journalist, a web page writer, a resume writer or writing tutor without formal qualifications (though they can help).  On the other hand, employers usually look for qualifications (diploma or university level) in writing, editing, media or communications when hiring an editor, an English language teacher, researcher, speechwriter or newspaper columnist. In today’s hugely competitive writers’ market, a qualification can give you an advantage.

Renumeration and Advancement Opportunities

Writers’ salaries vary considerably according to such factors as the nature of the business, the scope of the writing task, and the writer’s qualifications. A qualified medical or science writer can earn as much as a doctor (MD), while a grant writer might receive half of that. Often, writers are paid by the job (and these rates can vary greatly, with large circulation publications paying much better than smaller). It is common for writers to balance several jobs at a time (sometimes with different employers) to ensure a steady income. Good salaries can be achieved in publishing, technical and medical writing, marketing and the media, but they vary so much that it’s best to do your own research into salaries or payment for works.  Most publishers provide information on their web pages, but also check employment web pages to see what businesses and organisations are paying.



One reason people fail to develop a successful writing career is because they resist writing what publishers want.
Writing is a business. You must understand that, and you must be able to supply what the market demands from you: as with any business

Trouble is: many people aspire to be writers in order to write on issues that they are passionate about; rather than on issues that the publisher needs.

Most publishers tend to be more concerned about the ability to write, rather than qualifications. Often publishers receive more applications for jobs and submitted manuscripts than they have time to consider; so persistence is important if you want to get a start in this career. Many well known writers tell stories of having to submit manuscripts dozens of times before they were accepted.

Getting the first few items published is often difficult. Publishers are more likely to consider you if you have previously been published. Many writers start out by giving their services for free at first.

Most publishers tend to solicit works from certain writers whose work they come to know and trust. The same is true of authors whose books have been successful. As in most areas of the arts, it takes time to build the kind of reputation and credibility that allows a writer to command high fees, and a writer who is not willing to go the hard mile to prove him or herself may not achieve much financial success.


HINT:The ability to write well is often not enough!

Earnings and job security may depend heavily on how fast you write; and whether you consistently meet deadlines or not

What type of Writing

A lot of people want to write fiction; but more aspiring fiction writers will fail than any other type of writer. The reality is that few fiction writers ever produce best sellers like Geoffrey Archer or William Shakespeare.

Most published books are in other areas of writing including Education text books, Children’s books, and Non Fiction.

Getting a book published is no guarantee of success either. The success of a book depends upon many factors which the author has no control over; including timing of its release, distribution (limited or extensive), design (in particular the cover appearance), publicity, numbers printed, publishers policy on remaindering, overseas distribution arrangements, etc. It is a fact that 80% of books fail in the market and never see more than a couple of thousand printed (of which the author commonly gets 10% of the sales; which may not cover the time spent writing it). With luck, skill and market savvy though, authors do succeed, and some do make a career and comfortable living from writing even obscure things like travel books or maths text books.

How to Distinguish Yourself from the Competition.

Most beginning writers think that the key to success is being able to write well. Unfortunately, many beginning writers overestimate their writing skills, but even if you do write well, there are thousands of others who also write well, and you are competing with them for choice jobs or for publishers’ attention. The main thing that will make you stand out is knowledge of the writing field. If you don’t have any idea what publishers or employers want, you will fail to impress them, unless your writing (or idea) is exceptionally good. Therefore, the most important step is to do your research. Find out which organisations employ writers and what those writers do.  Find out who publishes what, and which publishers use the kind of writing you want to do.  Find out what particular employers and publishers want from writers, and who their readers are. Research the market for the kind of writing you want to do, and get an idea of what is available, and what might be needed.

HINT:Writers who can also illustrate (photos or drawings) are often more attractive to publishers.

Professional Bodies

Another way to demonstrate professionalism and further your training is to join relevant professional bodies. Some of these offer valuable assistance to writers, as well. Consider both national and regional organisations, such as The Australian Society of Authors, The Chartered Institute of Journalists in the U.K., The Association of British Science Writers, and The European Direct Marketing Association.

Legal Factors

A writer must be familiar with copyright legislation, which restricts use of another writer’s work without that writer’s express permission. Plagiarism, libel and misrepresentation are serious offences that can quickly destroy a writer’s career, so learn how to avoid them.

Risk Factors

Writing is not always a financially secure career path to follow. Work opportunities can be irregular, especially for freelance writers.

People who become depressed or disillusioned easily may not be suited to a writing careers. Writers can be affected both by what they write about and by the insecurities of the profession.

Writers tend to spend a lot of time at a desk, in front of a computer. It is important to maintain good physical health, understand and apply ergonomics and exercise (particularly stretching). Without informed management of their physical well being, a writers productivity can become severely impaired.

Recommended Courses

Look for a course that provides a range of writing opportunities, including fiction, non-fiction, newspapers and maybe some editing, as this will prepare you to write in a range of areas. ACS offers a Diploma in Publishing and Journalism, certificates, and various short courses in writing, editing and publishing that can be studied alone or combined to create a course tailor made for you.