Need A Sea Change? How To Become A Writer As A New Career

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Become A Writer

Do you want to know how to start a writing career?

We can all read and write.

But for aspiring writers, translating these basic literacy skills into professional writing needs learning time and plenty of practice. It can take a little bit of time to develop the new set of skills you will need.

You may have started writing 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 all those years ago.

Better still, if you are really interested in becoming a writer, taking a short writing course might be a very good idea. It would give you the chance to refresh and hone your writing skills.

At the same time, you will meet other writers so you will have a chance to exchange ideas and learn from each other.

There are many forms that writing can take. While many would immediately think that a writer is someone who writes books, and therefore an author, this is only one small facet of writing.

Professional writing comes in so many varied and different types. 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 writer are very similar.

Yes, I want to become a writer, so where do I start?

No matter what type of writing career you intend to start, there are three basic qualities you will need to develop. These attributes need to become good habits.

1. Imagination

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.

Also, set yourself a time limit of perhaps 2 hours for 1,000 words. Start by writing a few sentences first as an outline and then write your piece.

If you set aside the time to write few times a week, you will get into a very good writing habit.

2. Clarity

Anything you write must be clear and to the point. A reader must be able to quickly and easily understand your point of view, your story or your argument.

Practice: Check your writing 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.

3. Accuracy

This is probably the most important of these three criteria. Spelling accuracy and correct grammar usage are vital, as errors 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 as 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 been using Grammarly for some years now and it works perfectly for me.

I know other writers that like to use Ginger Grammar, so it is also worth investigation.

Both of these are excellent writing tools and come in both free and paid pro versions.

Use one of the free versions to check your writing accuracy. 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 being a writer into a paying job?

It depends on what, when and how you want to write.

Books and ebooks

If you have your heart set on writing fiction to become an author, 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 on ebook retailers such as Amazon Kindle.

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 to start a new writing career. Because you can start slowly on a very part-time basis, it gives you time to learn as you go.

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

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 and always check carefully before accepting assignments. You can start by investigating list sites, such as this one, that give links to sites that pay for freelance writers.

Blogging

Starting your own blog can be hard work at the beginning, but the rewards of a monetized blog are a long-term and steady income.

Having a blog is very much about having your own business. You are always looking for opportunities to develop, grow and expand both your readership and your income sources.

It is a job that requires a little technical knowledge, but more importantly, 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, feel free, and once it is established, your income will be quite predictable each month. If you work hard at it, blogging really can become a full-time paying job.

Starting a writing career later in life

It is not unusual in these days of insecure employment to find yourself looking for a new professional direction at an age when it is not so easy.

While it can take a while to develop into a paying endeavour, writing offers the benefits of being home-based with next to no set-up costs. 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.

The key to success in deciding to make writing your new business is to have the mindset that it really is a business. Therefore you should consider drafting a very basic business plan to help you clarify your objectives.

If you are retired or approaching retirement, writing is a wonderful way to make some extra cash and have fun at the same time.

The keys to becoming a successful writer

In fact, 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 the 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.

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 for everyone.

However, 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 as a professional writer.

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Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

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