If you grew up with a love of reading and writing, you might have had a well-meaning adult in your life tell you that writing isn’t a realistic career option, requiring heaps of talent, luck, and the ability to live on next to nothing. Unfortunately, many people still believe that advice, unaware that there are plenty of options for building a career that revolves around writing.
The most important part of being a writer isn’t necessarily talent, either. Rather, it’s a love for the written word and the enjoyment that can be created simply by putting words on the page. As long as you have that, the writing life may be a good fit for you.
Here’s what else you should know about creating a satisfying writing career, including twelve in-demand options to consider.
Is writing a good career?
When you think of a professional writer, you might conjure up images of a book author painstakingly working on their craft or a journalist chasing down sources and trying to convince an editor that the world needs to hear this story. In these scenarios, those same writers are either struggling to pay the bills, or they’re one of the few writers who’ve managed to become household names. (We’re looking at you, Stephen King.)
But the writing profession is a lot more flexible than those narrow profiles, and it can actually be a lucrative choice—even without massive book deals or TV interviews. In many cases, you can shape a writing career into whatever you need it to be. It just takes a bit of critical thinking to figure out what you want and how to leverage your skills to find well-paying options.
Writing career path
The way one person builds a writing career can look vastly different from someone else’s, even within the same job title. Ultimately, how you build your career as a writer depends on your goals.
For example, a novelist will probably want to work on their craft most of the time—reading, writing, and editing their work while also seeking an agent and publishers. Meanwhile, a content marketer may start out writing for their own blog, then move on to pitching stories for small publications they want to write for, collect bylines (as in: “this article is written by”), and then work their way up to larger publications or company blogs. A journalist may cut their teeth at their school’s newspaper or with internships and then move to a job at a media outlet.
Often, though, a writing career isn’t so linear. So while some might imagine a writer steadily getting better gigs or bigger paychecks while gaining recognition for their work, the reality may be quite different. Many writers, for example, work as freelancers, which means their incomes vary from month to month and year to year. Or a writer might have a bit of luck landing a byline with a national newspaper one week, but their pitches might not be accepted the next.
Again, it takes determination and a love of the job to move past those kinds of lows to build a strong, secure writing career.
12 in-demand writing careers
Writing careers come in many different forms. Below we’ll explore a few that allow you to write for a living while providing rewarding, well-paying work.
1 Grant writer
What they do: Research and complete grant applications to help organizations—often non-profits—get funding to support and carry out their mission.
Requirements: Keen attention to detail and research skills.
Average annual income: $66,381
2 Speech writer
What they do: Compose speeches to be delivered by other people, from company executives to organizational leaders to lawmakers.
Requirements: The ability to write for oral communication with another person’s speaking style in mind.
Average annual income: $67,765
3 Content writer
What they do: Create content meant to support a business (including blog posts, ebooks, and white papers).
Requirements: Knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO) and the ability to write persuasively.
Average annual income: $81,000
What they do: Write language—ranging from phrases to taglines to paragraphs— meant to sell or explain a product or service.
Requirements: Write persuasively and understand consumer behavior.
Average annual income: $53,184
5 Technical writer
What they do: Prepare supporting technical content, like instruction manuals and how-to guides.
Requirements: Attention to detail and the ability to simplify complex information.
Average annual income: $78,060
What they do: Work with writers to revise content and plan assignments for publication.
Requirements: The ability to streamline content at both the sentence level and at a high level.
Average annual income: $63,350
7 Medical writer
What they do: Write medical-focused content for publication with places like healthcare organizations, pharmaceutical companies, or government agencies.
Requirements: An understanding of medical concepts and the ability to communicate those topics to the average person. You may need to have a degree or a history of working in the medical field on your résumé to qualify.
Average annual income: $102,603
What they do: Create content for websites or on behalf of individuals. Published content will either not have a byline, or it will show someone else’s byline.
Requirements: The ability to write for another person or publication’s voice and adherence to style guides.
Average annual income: $64,148
9 Content strategist
What they do: Establish and execute a content plan to meet business goals.
Requirements: Cultivate a deep understanding of your business and audience.
Average annual income: $76,400
10 Social media manager
What they do: Create social media content—ranging from Instagram captions to LinkedIn posts to Facebook posts and more—for a company or clients.
Requirements: A strong sense of engaging, social-friendly content and the ability to capitalize on relevant current events.
Average annual income: $59,539
What they do: Translate content or speech from one language into another.
Requirements: Ability to speak and write in another language and make judgment calls when direct translations are not possible.
Average annual income: $68,574
12 Proposal writer
What they do: Create documents intended to persuade others to invest in or support a project or business.
Requirements: Strong researching and organization skills and the ability to write persuasively.
Average annual income: $67,020
If writing is your passion, you have options to turn that into a career. And it won’t necessarily require you to give up your standard of living. As with all difficult things that are worth the effort, the key is perseverance.