The writing career is a dreamy, creative and imaginative profession perfect for anyone who loves books and storytelling in any form. Ideal for someone who can’t get enough of writing and creating things, it’s the type of career that can see your work across a range of industries. Want to find out more? Take a look at our guide below!
What is a writer?
If you’re dreaming of writing as a career, you’ll be pleased to know if you are creative, passionate, organised and have excellent research skills, then the writing career is perfect for you. Writers are disciplined, enthusiastic about the written word, and enjoy reading and writing in all forms.
A writer is typically involved in the creation and development of fiction and non-fiction texts. The industry is home to various styles and genres, including; short stories, screen and radio, life writing, novels, poetry, magazine and newspaper articles and web content. You may also be writing scripts for film, TV and theatre or reviews for food, drink and entertainment.
A writing job can appear in both in-house and freelance forms, but most are self-employed. Most people may assume a writer is just a novelist. Still, whatever work you pick up, the income can be low and unpredictable, so the majority of writers conduct author visits, events, workshops, readings and other freelance opportunities to supplement their income. Some writers manage their workload alongside part or full-time jobs, which could be related to the industry, like teaching on creative writing courses, but they can also be unrelated.
What does a writer do?
Writers research the market for relevant blogs and publications and are always up to date with the trends. They’ll adapt their writing based on the subject and brief from the publisher or agent. A writer may also need to conduct research - from interviews or visiting sites/places of interest - and edit and revise their work before giving it to the client. You may have daily, weekly or monthly deadlines depending on the job, and provide updates and excerpts for editing and review by those who commissioned the piece.
Writers manage their social media and online presence to promote themselves and to keep fans and clients updated. You may find yourself at events, book signings or conducting readings if you’re a novelist, columnist or well-known writer.
A higher-paid writer who receives up to £426 per day could see their salary jump up to £40,000 per annum.
How to become a novelist?
Will writer jobs be available for candidates without a degree? Although this sector is open to all graduates, certain subjects can aid your increases in finding work and help you learn skills for the job. These include communication and media studies, creative writing, journalism, English and Literature, and performing arts degrees or courses.
However, you don’t need a degree, foundation degree or higher national diploma to become a writer. Academic study will aid you to develop writing skills, offer experience and allow you to build your grammar and vocabulary knowledge, and understand the structure of language. Taking a course in media, literature, and journalism can help you gain an insight into various styles and genres of writing.
You may also want to take a postgraduate course to improve your skills further, and these may ask for a portfolio of work to understand your ability and what types of writing you’ve done beforehand. Some institutions do not ask for a writing or creative writing undergraduate degree as a prerequisite, but it’s worth checking with the provider before applying.
Once study and skills are where you want them to be, you can approach publishers and literary agents with your work, if being a novelist is the ultimate dream. You can also self-publish online in the form of an e-book, with some major platforms like the Amazon Kindle.
The famous Fifty Shades of Grey, written by E.L. James, was written by a housewife in her spare time and stemmed from fan fiction of the Twilight series. It first came out as a self-published piece of work on the kindle before it became viral and picked up by Vintage House and sold out in bookstores as one of the bestselling series of all time.
What type of writing jobs are available?
By looking at the writing job description, you can see there are many various roles available, from scriptwriting jobs, speechwriter jobs to travel writer jobs and comedy writer jobs on offer. These can be on a self-employed basis or for an agency (also referred to as ‘writer in residence’ jobs) where you are handed briefs and a more stable flow of work compared to being freelance.
If it’s more of a hobby, you could search for volunteer writing jobs, either to do alongside full or part-time employment or in retirement. Another option is to write copy for free to gain experience and to get your work for online platforms and student magazines/newspapers.
The content writer job description is slightly different, where you write copy for clients, but this can include marketing and advertising texts. A content writer can also write copy for websites, from product details to information pages. The main differences between content writers and generic writers are that a writer can work on various fiction and non-fiction pieces, from novels, scriptwriting to short stories and poems. However, both roles overlap to some degree.
To gain a better understanding of what jobs are available, you can search for ‘freelance writers wanted’ to find out what’s out there at the moment.
What skills are useful for writers?
The writer job requires a particular set of skills to be successful. From a vivid imagination and enthusiasm to organisational and time management skills to be able to work to a deadline, there are many assets writers should aim to hold.
Literary and research skills, self-discipline and the ability to work alone for long periods are some of the essential attributes of a writer. Others involve marketing, networking, IT, typing, web and editing, as well as being able to self-promote yourself and put yourself forward to new clients.
Jobs in writing will need people who can manage their earnings in the employment market, understand and accept criticism or feedback, be determined, resilient and passionate. Depending on your expertise, you may need to write entertaining and engaging work, or if you are a Jack of all trades type, be able to adapt your style to meet the brief and client. Before securing a job, the client may also want to see your writing work experience and previous pieces to get a gage on your style and tone.
A writer is typically involved in the creation and development of fiction and non-fiction texts.
What is the average freelance writer salary?
The author salary in the UK varies depending on the publishing house and contract you’ve negotiated. Most offer a particular amount for a book/short story or other pieces of work, and you’ll receive payment on completion - some may offer an ‘advance’ payment beforehand as a contractual agreement.
In terms of other jobs not connected to novels, the writer salary in the UK is typically low and is hard to calculate due to part-time writing jobs and freelance working. The average earnings, like a food critic salary or scriptwriter salary, can be around £11,000 - for someone who writes 50% of the time. About 11.5% (1 in 10) people earn their yearly income solely from writing work.
There are exceptions to this salary average with the likes of novelists making six-figure sums from bestselling work, including top authors like J.K. Rowling.
Regarding the Society of Authors rates who take into account the freelance day rate, they refer to around £283 per day, which would mean a content writer salary could be around £25,000 per year.
A higher-paid writer who receives up to £426 per day could see their salary jump up to £40,000 per annum. Writers may also speak at panels, conferences and events and receive up to £200 - including travel - for their part. Therefore, a freelance scriptwriter and a screenwriter salary in-house can vary depending on the job, client and the level of work you're producing. Your previous experience and skill can also affect the pay rate.
Location only affects wage for agencies and in-house, as larger cities will have more opportunities in regards to a client base than smaller towns. Writing jobs in Bristol may offer less per text than those in London, but due to the large proportion of writers being freelance, it shouldn’t offset it too much.
Where to find jobs for writers?
Whether it is scriptwriter jobs or film writing jobs, the best place is to look online, at interested companies and on job websites.
Scriptwriters can find temporary contracts with commercial and independent TV and radio companies, the BBC, film and video production companies and large advertising companies. So it’s worth checking these out first hand. If you’re searching for something more specific, like game scriptwriter jobs, you can try the game production companies.
If you want to be a novelist, securing a contract can be challenging and is highly competitive. One way to break into the industry and to gain experience is to enter local or national writing competitions - from poetry, screen, fiction to playwriting - which can be seen by big publishers or agents. Some publishers run competitions themselves to find new talent, so check with individual companies themselves.
As it is an industry made up of a large number of freelancers, there are few vacancies out there, but instead, you’ll need to push and self-promote your writing. You may need a literary agent to help you make contact with publishers. Approaching an agent typically requires submitting the first three chapters of a novel, a synopsis and a cover letter, and you should choose an agent that represents the type of work you want to publish.
A content writer can also write copy for websites, from product details to information pages.
To find agents, publishers and commissioners, try the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, for the latest submission guidelines and advice for a range of writing genres and types.
What are the prospects for writers?
The life of a writer is becoming harder, especially when it comes to establishing a career. Money, support and space to write are some of the critical factors that affect success. Once you gain experience in a range of publications, you may be in the position where you receive advances for your work where you get paid before you complete it, but this depends on the brief, contract and experience.
As your writing profile increases, you can earn more, with the option of working in a related field alongside your freelance work, like teaching, appearances or lecturing. Some companies offer salaried positions for writers in-house, but you’ll need a strong track record and decent portfolio.
This career can be unpredictable, so it’s essential to be resilient and determined and ensure you produce a steady flow of work. If you cease up or stop writing, then your income and profile can be affected. You should check the market regularly and keep up to date with what writing is selling and trending and how to meet the demand. Much like other things, writing does follow trends as well.
Marketing yourself, keeping on top of your website and portfolio is just as important, but an agent or publisher may help with publicity. Opportunities in self-publicity can be in the form of blogging, social media, interviews, readings and appearances, managing a website or leading workshops and book signings.
Although it is a challenging career, with determination, talent and discipline, it’s a rewarding one as well. Seeing your work in print or a publication will make it all worth it.