What Kind of Writer Do You Want to Be?
I mean that literally
Confession time: I’m a hack writer. An online content hack writer, specifically. It’s not the only writing I do, but it’s usually what pays the majority of the bills. I used to be a little ashamed of it, but these days I’m feeling defiantly proud.
Why the shame? Because I was the editor of my high school newspaper and was going to be a big shot reporter for “The New York Times” one day. Because I had a book published in 2007 and I haven’t published one since. Because I know people who are journalists and authors full time and I thought I was a sell-out.
Why the pride? Because I worked hard to get to the point where people would pay me to write. Because I can pay my bills. Because even when I’m working on the most boring article about sales tax I’m putting my best effort into it and I don’t provide false or misleading information, and those articles actually do help people.
If you bring the subject up you’ll find lots of people who will tell you to never work for online content mills. Some of their concerns are practical – low pay – but some of their concerns are pure snobbery. They can take their snobbery and… well, you know.
The fact is that getting a start at the low end of content mill writing led me to more lucrative jobs. A plethora of articles on eHow, that paid around $15 each, led to a private offer to write content at four times that rate. Other low-paying writing jobs eventually led to a job as the managing editor of a national arts & culture website. Those kinds of opportunities are somewhat rare and seemingly arbitrary, but they’re out there. If you put consistently well-written work out there, it will get noticed. That goes for writing on Vocal as well.
You don’t have to get a start in the content mills. There are many other types of writing you can do that won’t necessarily be any easier, but may be more suited to your passions and interests. You may spend years before working up to a “paying the bills” level, or you may find an actual job fairly quickly.
The following is a list of ways you can earn a living as a writer. This list is meant to pique interest. If something sounds intriguing or new to you, do a Google search. And trust me, good research skills are vital to almost every type of writer. Keep in mind that if you can write in more than one style, you can make a living at a few of these simultaneously.
- Author – print books or ebooks, any genre
- Business Writer - Case Studies, Employee Handbooks, Press Releases, White Papers, Operations & Process Manuals
- Course Writer
- Editorial Assistant
- Education Writer
- Email Marketing Writer
- Fiction Writer
- Financial Writer - Personal Finance, Investing, Accounting
- Fitness Writer
- Food Writer
- Game Writer
- Grant Writer
- Health & Wellness Writer
- Journalist - Online/Offline
- Magazine Writer
- Medical Writer
- Online Content Provider
- Real Estate Writer
- Scientific Writer
- Self-Help Writer
- SEO Writer
- Social Media Management & Marketing
- Technical Writer
- Travel Writer
This list is just a start. What skills do you have that you could turn into a profitable writing career? And what kind of writing can you do with specialized knowledge? For example, a food writer can write restaurant reviews, cookbooks, blog posts, recipes for magazines, wine reviews, or work for one of the online food sites. A copywriter can work for a marketing firm or a large retail company, or do freelance work online. Real estate agents aren’t always good at writing property descriptions, so they’re a great, niche target market for freelancers. You could offer editing services to other writers if you're good with SEO. Scriptwriting these days is more than writing movie and TV show scripts - think about scripts for video marketing, podcasts, and YouTube shows. Multiple sources of income never hurt.
So now that you know all the different types of writers, and while you're trying to decide what kind of writer to be, or how to expand your current writing, you can dig deeper. Check out the article below for the steps to becoming a professional writer:
And learn about all the different markets for your writing, and how to create your own markets:
A Note on Learning Your Craft
Some types of writing require specialized knowledge that’s often difficult to get outside of college. Most non-profits want to work with grant writers who have experience and/or a degree. The same goes for technical writers and medical writers, and a degree can make it easier to break into the highly competitive world of game writing.
The good news is that there has never been a better time to go back to school for U.S. residents. The Covid-19 pandemic led to major funding for grants at schools all over the country to train or re-train people, and in many places it’s possible to get a degree or certificate course fully paid for. You can earn a certificate in technical writing in less than a year. Check with community colleges or universities near you. Some state unemployment offices can also point you in the right direction.