Many people dream of earning a living from writing, whether that's novels, short stories, poetry, news articles, or jokes for late-night television shows. But how obtainable is this dream?
I'm here to tell you that there are SO many options to earn income from creative writing jobs. This blog will explore some of the top creative writing positions and their associated salaries.
No longer is the stereotype of the penniless writer true. With the right experience for the writing job you're after, you can easily earn a living writing – and better yet – you can do it from just about anywhere in the world.
What are the job opportunities for creative writing?
Creative writing jobs are incredibly diverse depending on your experience and the type of writing you want to do. There's truly something for everyone, from advertising to television news to ghostwriting and grant writing as a freelance writer.
Below, I've broken down some basics of various writing positions so you can get a better sense of the experience requirements and salaries to expect for each.
To sell products and services, advertising copywriters write copy for advertisements, including digital, print, and outdoor advertising (think billboards).
Usually, advertising copywriters work for advertising or marketing agencies. So, if you go this route, be prepared to write copy that sells just about anything, from gasoline to athletic shoes.
This variety in a day's work can be negative or positive: Advertising copywriting is a great gig if you like to learn quickly. You'll have to quickly understand what the client is selling and what their customers want; If you'd rather deeply understand something before you write about it, advertising is probably not the best industry for you.
It is a fast-paced, high-pressure gig where sales and conversions depend on you and your creative writing skills.
Is a degree required to be an advertising copywriter? No, but you'll need serious sales writing chops and a portfolio to back it up. Always keep track of past campaigns that performed well so you can use those as case studies in future resumes.
The best thing about being a blogger, in my opinion, is that you have so much control over what you write, especially if you're a freelance writer.
If you're writing for your own blog, you can write about anything you'd like. If you're writing for someone else's blog, you still get to add your flare and research to your blog post. And if you're a freelance blogger, you get to choose which blogs you'd like to write for based on your interests!
Generally, blogging involves researching the product or service, writing the content, editing it, publishing it (or sending it to your client for publishing), and promoting it via email, social media, and cross-promotion.
Blogging is less formal than writing for a newspaper or online news website. While proper grammar is still essential, blogging allows personal writing style to shine through.
For this reason, blogging also doesn't require formal education. If you are a good writer, have a style your client or audience is looking for and can self-edit, you could be a great blogger.
Bloggers who have an understanding of SEO writing can demand higher rates. You can learn SEO through paid online workshops or even free YouTube videos.
Columnists are specialty writers who typically submit a weekly article to a newspaper or magazine. Their content is specialized in either style, topic, or theme. These writers are usually free to express their opinions as readers generally see their articles as editorial and not unbiased news.
You'll find columns covering politics, health, fashion, sports, and advice – from family to dating to diets.
As newspapers are harder to come by these days, so, too, are steady newspaper jobs like columnists. But you may find columnist positions for online publications looking for weekly contributors.
Columnists generally have an online persona that helps support and grow their weekly readership, so being comfortable using your personal brand and image is essential.
While it's not required to have a degree in journalism, English, or mass communication, it certainly helps if you want to write a column. Columns generally appear in newspapers, where readers expect writers to have a certain level of education to write authoritatively on a topic.
Communications managers generally work in-house for larger companies or governments as the point of contact for internal and external communications objectives.
A communication manager's writing tasks will include crafting company voice, developing communication strategies (both overall and on an initiative/project basis), writing internal communications pieces such as guides, standards, slide decks, and emails, writing customer or public-facing pieces such as press releases, infographics, and annual reports, and making sure that every piece of written content is helping to drive the company or organization's goals forward.
Though the job is not entirely a writing job, excellent written communication skills are essential for a communications manager.
This role will almost always require a degree in communications, English, journalism, public relations, or marketing because of the variety of skills necessary to succeed in the position.
Content Marketing Manager
A content marketing manager is responsible for writing and creating content for a particular brand or company across channels, including blogs, email, social media, etc.
This role is heavily involved in how a company presents itself and attracts customers via the content it publishes.
Some content marketing managers will be responsible for producing content for all channels. Still, most companies will hire specialists in each category (i.e., social media content marketer, blog content marketer, whitepaper writer, website writer, etc.).
Writing is a considerable component of the role of the content marketing manager, whether that's short-form, long-form, or both. You'll also want skills in marketing strategy, as you'll need to learn how to attract the right kinds of customers with the content you distribute and manage. A solid understanding of SEO is also a bonus.
A degree is not required for the job of a content marketing manager, but it may help get your foot in the door if you hold no prior experience. An employer will be looking more closely at your ability to strategize, write, and distribute content that attracts customers throughout the buyer journey.
Got an opinion? You could make a great critic.
Whether your specialty is food, books, television, movies, fashion, or culture, publications hire critics to write articles critiquing these things as a way for readers to arm themselves with information before making a buying decision.
Readers must trust your opinion, so having expertise in your chosen arena is a requirement. But that doesn't mean you need a degree.
If you hold a particular knowledge and affinity for fashion, for instance, nothing stops you from critiquing the next red carpet event or fashion show. You'll just first need to demonstrate that you're an authority on the subject.
If you've got an eye for written structure, grammar, fact-checking, and flow, an editing job might be just the writing role you're looking for.
An editor usually has a hand in a written piece from beginning to end. But, rather than pounding away at the keyboard all day, an editor's job is to frame up the idea of the writing project, then edit the draft when it's finished. Editors will review projects for proper structure, voice, consistent tone, content order, and clarity. In addition, the editor's job is to make sure the piece is ready for primetime by eliminating all grammatical errors.
Editors can find work with book publishers, magazines, newspapers, and more prominent brands and corporations.
Most editors will first earn a degree in English, journalism, or another writing-related field and be writing experts.
Clients hire ghostwriters to write books, scripts, and even blogs that they publish under their name. Ghostwriting can be a lucrative gig if you're okay with not having complete autonomy on a writing project. You'll need to act as a researcher, interviewer, note-taker, and editor to incorporate everything that your client wants to say into the project.
Often, these clients include celebrities, politicians, and company executives who want to put out thought leadership pieces or even autobiographies but don't have the time – or expertise – to do it independently.
You'll need to create a name for yourself through good work and ongoing networking to get these ghostwriting projects. You can also try searching for ghostwriting jobs through freelancer websites such as Freelancer.com or Upwork.com, but the pay will probably be lower for a freelance opportunity than if you go out and find the clients yourself.
Grant or Proposal Writer
If you're detail-oriented, fantastic at planning and coordinating, love to perfect the layout of a written page, and have strong communication skills, you could make an excellent candidate for a grant or proposal writing position.
Grant writers work with organizations to help them obtain funding through grants. They'll first look out for Requests for Proposals or RFPs, and determine if the organization they represent is eligible to apply for a specific grant.
Then, heavy research and writing are required to complete a proposal detailing why that organization deserves the funding.
This job is deadline-driven and requires careful attention to requirements, client needs, budgets, formatting, and templating. Clients may ask you to present your proposal or "pitch" to obtain a grant, so presentation skills are a plus.
Most people who land a freelance grant writing or proposal writing position have at least a year of experience in the field, whether through a prior employer or related work. Often, a bachelor's degree in a writing-related field is a requirement.
Journalists don't just write for newspapers; your writing skills are in high demand for blogs, media companies, magazines, and more. Journalists perform research on a given topic (usually something relevant and timely), then write articles free from bias and opinion to allow the reader to make an informed decision about a topic on their own.
Journalists may also utilize multimedia skills to shoot and edit quick video and photo content, such as interviews or visuals that can add to their stories. In most markets, gone are the days when journalists had a dedicated photographer by their side, so if you want to take on this role today, you should know how to multitask.
Often, journalists are also asked to post their stories to social media channels, especially if it's a story that's happening in real-time.
You will almost always need a degree in a writing-related field to be a journalist. Journalists go to school to learn journalism ethics, what is and isn't allowed, and how to correctly write an unbiased article or report on current events. You will be hard-pressed to get a journalism job without this knowledge.
Novels and Novellas Writer
You can earn a decent paycheck by consistently turning out work as a fiction writer, not just the serious stuff we've mentioned above.
Of course, the success of your self-published novels and novellas depends on your ability to generate a creative idea and then market yourself and your work, so this role is often considered entrepreneurial. You'll have to get creative to get attention and sell books.
Whether you earn a living from writing novels and novellas or just use it as a side hustle, these projects can become valuable entries in your portfolio later.
You do not need any writing experience or a creative writing degree to start writing novels or novellas; you need only an imagination, a device to type your story, and an internet connection to self-publish.
Poetry writers can earn a living through various outlets: selling custom poetry on services such as Fiverr or Etsy; building an online audience for your poetry on a website that earns revenue through ads; even selling merchandise with your poems through on-demand services like Fine Art America and Amazon.
Yes, people will pay you to write poems for greeting cards, t-shirts, keychains, wedding vows, and more!
You do not need a degree to write poetry, but you will need to learn to market yourself and your work and build an online presence so that people can learn about your offerings.
Writing professors and teachers train people to write, whether creatively, as a marketer, journalist, or screenwriter. Depending on the professor's level of education and the level of education they are teaching, job responsibilities and salary can vary widely.
As a writing professor, you should have good interpersonal, presentation, and writing skills to command a room full of students who are there to learn something from you.
Experts say more than 40 percent of creative writing professors have a master's degree, and those degrees don't come cheap without scholarships. So, balance your potential salary with what you could be paying off in student loans to determine if this career choice is right for you.
A proofreader is someone who reads written work before it is published publicly to make sure it is free from grammatical errors, typos, plagiarism, and factual errors. A proofreader could also be responsible for making sure a particular piece of writing measures up to a company's style guide in terms of tone, length, and word usage.
If you're a writer that's a stickler for catching mistakes, this is an excellent job. It can be freelance or in-house, and it is a position that is always in demand – even more so with the advent of the content economy.
You'll need to be deadline-oriented, pay careful attention to detail, have excellent communication and grammar skills, and understand how to use various style guides such as AP, MLA, and CSG. Of course, you'll also need to be proficient in writing software like Microsoft Word and other Microsoft Office products.
A degree isn't a requirement, but it can help get your foot in the door for this position.
Movies and television need writers, too! While the writing style is different from a novel, the core of screenwriting is the same: telling great stories.
Do you consider yourself a great storyteller? Do you have creative ideas that would make great TV shows or movies because they're exciting, relatable, and teach a lesson? You could be a great screenwriter.
Screenwriters write scripts for television, movies, podcasts, and web series that serve as the blueprint for the production's director and the script for the cast.
If you've never written a screenplay before, you'll want to sign up for SoCreate's free private beta list so you can try our software when we launch. SoCreate will make it easy to write a television show or movie without knowing a thing about the format.
However, it would help if you still studied the craft of screenwriting. While you don't have to go to school for it – there's no degree required for this position – you need to understand visual storytelling and how your words will translate on-screen or audio. To get started, check out our blog, How to Write a Screenplay.
You'll work for production companies, studios, and even marketing agencies to originate story ideas and scripts in this role.
There's a lot of opportunity in screenwriting right now, with so many platforms upon which to tell your stories.
Short Story Writer
Many writers are surprised to learn that there is demand for short story content, and it is possible to make money off your short stories as a job.
Short stories offer a realm of possibility of lengths, genres, and places where you can publish them. But some of the easiest ways to make short story writing your job are to enter contests that offer cash prizes, submit your work to literary journals, magazines, and digital publications, and build a website with your work where you can earn money from advertisements or subscriptions, or create merchandise from your work such as framed projects, greeting cards, customizable stories, or even printed copies of your short story or short story collection.
You don't need a degree to become a short story writer, but you will need an entrepreneurial spirit to make money off your work.
SEO writers are similar to bloggers because their work is published online for a specific audience. SEO, which stands for search engine optimization, is the craft of understanding how to make a website rank better on search engines such as Google and Bing. Often, a significant component of a website's ranking is its content, and that's where an SEO content writer comes in.
SEO writers are responsible for researching a website's visitors, understanding why they're clicking on a client's website, who the target audience is, and what keywords and search queries the website isn't ranking for. SEO writers help elevate the website within search engine rankings by implementing these improvements.
You will love this data-driven writing job if you love the technical aspect of writing, including why someone clicks on your work, how long they're reading it, and who that person is.
You don't need a degree to be an SEO writer, but it would help to have SEO experience or technical certifications in SEO, which you can earn online.
Social Media Specialist
A social media specialist is responsible for writing content for social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Specialists will also need to schedule this written content, paired with video, images, or links, understand the client's objectives for its social media channels, and be excellent at communicating with the client or employer's audience.
This role will keep you on your toes between scheduling posts, engaging with comments and direct messages, optimizing your written content to improve click-throughs, and sometimes even creating the paired visual content.
You'll need to stay up to date with the latest trends and channels and learn how to utilize your content across these channels to reach different audiences.
The role of a social media specialist is part writer, part marketer. You'll likely work either directly with the company owner if you're working for a small business or with a marketing team if you're working for a more significant business.
You do not need a social media specialist degree, but a communications education doesn't hurt. Clients and potential employers will want to know more about your generated results than where you earned your degree for social media specialist jobs.
While older companies and some small businesses often undervalue this role, it is integral to most marketing strategies. Just know that it may take some convincing to get your employer on board with your strategy, budget, and impact on the company's bottom line. Many companies know they need a social media person but often don't fully understand why.
You know that manual that came with your new vacuum cleaner? There's a technical writer responsible for that. And how about that article that broke down the theory of relativity so that even a right-brainer could understand? That's also a technical writer's handy work.
You could make a great technical writer if you've got a good balance of writing and explanatory skills since your job will entail breaking down complex issues and making them easier to understand.
Technical writers write manuals, tutorials, scientific and medical journal articles, and even educational pieces. Their job is to transform a topic that is overly technical in its raw form into something the uninitiated can understand.
Most technical writers have a degree in a writing-related field such as communications, English, or journalism. In addition, they'll also have a level of expertise in the field for which they're writing, which often includes technology, science, engineering, and manufacturing.
If you're fast and accurate at typing and simply love the feeling of your fingers hitting the keyboard, you could be an excellent candidate for a transcription writer job.
Transcription writers transcribe audio and video into the written word exactly as it's uttered or pictured. You could also be responsible for editing the transcription into something more readable, removing empty words, stutters, or hiccups for use on blogs or other media.
Transcription writers are in demand as podcasting takes off because podcasters often want to convert their audio content into something searchable online.
If you speak another language fluently, you can make a pretty penny from a translator job. Translators are responsible for translating content into a foreign language.
You'll need to understand and be able to write in at least two languages – the one you're translating from and the one you're translating to – and know the meaning behind phrases, figures of speech, and other colloquialisms to translate the content accurately.
You do not need a degree to be a translator. It's often a freelance gig, although you can find full-time work within larger organizations that regularly translate their content for foreign language-speaking audiences.
Writing Coach or Tutor
Writing coaches and tutors work with students to help them understand the fundamentals of writing, whether creative, argumentative, or other writing disciplines. You could also coach writers pursuing a specialty, such as screenwriting or novel writing.
But there's also a place to teach these fundamental writing lessons to people trying to learn the language.
You'll usually work for a school, a tutoring agency, or for parents who want help for their kids. Many writing coaches and tutors are freelancers.
A writing-related degree will help set you apart from the competition when applying for a writing coach or tutor job opportunity.
Can you get paid for creative writing?
Getting paid for creative writing is as easy as picking a niche and honing the skills needed to do well in that particular position. There are tons of ways to get paid for creative writing, as you see in the various jobs listed above, even for entry-level creative writers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, writers and authors make a median pay rate of around $61,000 per year.
According to ZipRecruiter, creative writers can earn anywhere from $32,500 to $78,000 per year for top earners.
Are writing jobs in demand?
Writing jobs are in demand, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Over the next decade, the bureau expects writer and author employment to grow by nearly 10 percent, on pace with other professions. There's a demand for freelance writers and in-house writers with exceptional writing skills.
Each year, there are more than 15,000 new job openings for writers and authors in the US alone and around 140,000 jobs total.
Analysts predict that the specialty content marketing alone will grow to an almost ten billion-dollar business by 2023, more than doubling what it was just a few years prior in 2018.
To snag a creative writing position in B2B, SaaS, tech, medicine, technical writing, copyright, and more, you'll improve your odds if you have a bachelor's degree in a writing-related field.
How do I start a creative writing career?
The best way to start a creative writing career is to gain some expertise in the area you want to work, pull together a portfolio of writing samples based on that expertise, and start job hunting!
You can make pitches to agencies needing writers, check job boards or make LinkedIn connections, and keep an online presence such as a personal website up to date with your latest work.
While it's not a job you'll want to keep long-term, you can also start with low-paying gigs on freelancing websites such as UpWork to gain published experience.
Creative writers are in demand, and that demand is only expected to grow in the coming years. Now is a great time to get your foot in the door by starting to build your portfolio and exploring the various types of creative writing jobs available out there.
From technical writing to poetry and everything in between, you can find a creative writing job that fulfills your creative, pay, and location needs just about anywhere in the world when you know what you're looking for. And for many of these jobs, you won't even need a college degree.
Writing is a rewarding career path on many levels, and I hope you understand more about your options after reading how varied and exciting this path can be!
Happy job hunting,