We can all read and write.
For aspiring writers, translating these basic literacy skills into professional writing needs some learning time and plenty of practice.
It can take a while to develop the new set of skills you will need to make your career transition.
You might have started writing many years ago at high school, because you had to, and then let it drop.
Perhaps though, you can still remember most of what you learned in your literature or creative writing classes.
Better still, if you are really interested in becoming a writer, taking a short writing course might be a very good idea. It will give you the chance to refresh and hone your writing skills before you make your career move.
You will spend some time with other writers. So you will have a chance to exchange ideas and learn from each other.
There are many forms that a writing career can take. Most people would immediately think that a writer is someone who writes books and is an author. But this is only one very small facet of writing.
Professional writing comes in so many varied and different career paths. There are authors of course. But also poets, essay writers, content writers, resume writers, ghostwriters, technical writers, bloggers and copywriters just to name a few.
Depending on your writing aims or choices, the steps to becoming a good writer are very similar.
Yes, I want to become a writer, so what career advice do I need?
No matter what type of writing career you intend to start, there are three basic qualities you will need to develop for a successful career change. These attributes need to become everyday habits.
Yes, becoming a writer means that you will need to write every day.
Whatever you write, it will need to be new, fresh and above all else, totally unique.
Practice: Set yourself small assignments such as short stories to write. If you are struggling for ideas, do a search for writing prompts to give you inspiration. Then decide on your desired word count, say between 500 and 1,000 words.
Set yourself a time limit of perhaps 2 hours for 750 words a day. Start by writing a few sentences first as an outline and then write your piece.
If you set aside the time to write at least a few times a week, you will get into a very good writing habit.
All written material must be clear and to the point. A reader must be able to understand your point of view, your story or your argument quickly and easily.
This doesn’t mean that you need to dumb down your writing. But you should take care to make sure that you are writing clearly and using sentences and phrases that are relatively easy to read and understand.
Practice: Check your writing tasks with one of the Flesch–Kincaid readability tests. These tests are very useful when you want to measure how easily people can understand a piece of text that you write.
There are many free test sites online you can use, but here is one you can try.
This is probably the most important of these three criteria. Spelling accuracy and correct grammar usage are vital. Basic errors and typos cannot be excused in any form of professional writing.
Practice: While it might take a while for you to learn or refresh your grammar knowledge, there are literally hundreds of online tools that can help you.
If you use Microsoft Word, you should enable the in-built spelling and grammar checker. While it is not perfect by any means, it’s a start and moderately helpful. But always turn off auto-correct because it can make more errors than it corrects.
For much better and far more accurate analysis and results, many writers, including myself, use a dedicated online grammar and spelling checker. I have used Grammarly for some years now and it works perfectly for me.
It is an excellent writing tool and comes in both free and pro versions.
If you notice that you are making certain errors consistently, you can work on learning and changing your bad writing habits and develop better grammar, punctuation and spelling accuracy.
How can I turn becoming a writer into a paying job?
It depends on what, when and how you want to write.
Finding a full-time job as a writer is not easy. But if you think it is time to move on, making writing your small business is a much better idea.
Books and ebooks
If you have your heart set on writing fiction to become an author as your dream job, then you really need to consider self-publishing. For some authors, this has proved to be a lucrative form of writing.
If you prefer to write non-fiction, Self Help and How-To books are very popular with readers on ebook retailers such as Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks.
But be warned, there are winners and losers in book publishing of any form.
Article and content writing
Content writing is usually the easiest way for a lot of people to start a new writing career. Because you can start slowly on a part-time basis, it gives you time to learn as you go.
You will need to learn about writing web content around keywords. This is a vital element in getting search engines to index and rank online content and articles.
You can either opt to sell your content articles directly to sites that pay for fresh content. Or you can offer your content for free, but include affiliate marketing backlinks within your article.
Freelance writing is another popular means of earning money from writing. However beware, because this is an industry that has a few sharks.
Do your research. Connect with others who work in the field and always check carefully before accepting new assignments.
You can start by investigating lists of paying sites that give links to sites that pay for freelance writers.
Starting your own blog or online magazine can be hard work at the beginning.
But the rewards of a monetized blog are a long-term and steady income.
You can turn a blog into your own business. You can then look for opportunities to develop, grow and expand both your readership and your income streams.
It is a job that requires a little bit of technical knowledge. But, more importantly, you need a desire to learn and acquire new skills on top of your ability to write blog posts.
The best part about having your own blog is that you are in control and you feel free.
Once it is established, your income will be quite predictable each month. If you work hard at it, blogging really can certainly become a full-time paying job.
Starting a writing career later in life
It is not unusual in these days of insecure employment in the job market to find yourself looking for a new professional direction at an age when it is not so easy.
Yes, it can take a while to develop writing into a paying endeavour. But writing offers the benefits of being home-based with next to no set-up costs if you have to leave your job or you are considering retirement.
It also allows you to work when you want, and you are not restricted by a 9 to 5 existence. You can also kiss goodbye to rush hour traffic or commuting and spend more time with your family and friends.
The key to success in deciding to make writing your new business is to have the mindset that it really is a business.
So you should consider drafting a very basic business plan to help you clarify your objectives well before quitting your current job.
Maybe you are retired or approaching retirement and you’re interested in writing. It is a wonderful way to make some extra cash and have fun at the same time.
The keys to becoming a great writer
There are no secret keys here. People who become professional writers and succeed do one thing well. They work hard.
If hard work is not your cup of tea then you should choose something else.
Apart from writing, you need to build your network of contacts. This might include article buyers and service providers such as proofreaders or editors.
Even if you can’t afford an editor, every writer needs more pairs of eyes. So if you want to become a novelist, you should work at building a contact list of beta readers. Social media is a terrific way to develop your list.
For bloggers, you will definitely need some professional software or plugins and perhaps a WordPress developer.
If you can form a good business relationship with people like this, they can really help you along the way with advice and assistance, as well as providing their products and services.
Do you still want to be a writer?
Writing is not a job that a lot of career changers will choose.
But for those who have the drive and tenacity, it can bring a wealth of rewards. Being published in any form gives you a winning feeling and a sense of achievement.
If you can convert that success into a reliable part-time or full-time income, then you really will be on your way to your new career goals and to becoming a professional writer.
I started my working life as a lithographer and spent over 30 years in the printing and publishing business.
Originally from Australia, I moved to Switzerland 20 years ago. My days are spent teaching English, writing and wrestling with technology while enjoying my glorious view of Lake Geneva and the Alps.
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