Writing as a career requires passion, creativity and, yes, the experience, education and clips to prove it. You need to hit deadlines, work well with editors, and rewrite drafts to create clear and direct prose appropriate for the industry or publication you’re paid to write for. In the following guide, we will help show you how to create a great resume to help launch your writing career. Let’s start with the three main resume formats:
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Job Duties of Writers
The role of a writer is not just limited to delivering content on-demand. Here’s a list of some of their most critical duties:
- Choosing a subject: A writer hunts for ideas and topics that grab readers’ attention. Frequently, before getting paid a cent for their work, writers are already interested in a specific subject, known in journalism as a “beat,” such as technology or crime, and focus most of their attention on it.
- Creating a compelling voice: A command of vocabulary and grammar is essential for writers. But what most people who want to be writers don’t realize is that one of the best ways to gain a footing in the industry is to develop an engaging, original voice. That means employing language mannerisms or a specific point of view.
- Researching: All types of writing work requires a deep level of research. Projects based on academic and technical writing require more explanation and step-by-step contextualization while copywriting, creative writing, content writing, and reporting or journalism require profound observation, critical thinking, and source-finding.
- Developing plagiarism-free content: Even if information comes from an authentic, primary source, a writer must know how to present it in their own words.
- Teamwork: Unless you are a brilliant savant who publishes directly to the web and gains millions of followers doing it, you won’t make any money as a professional writer without working with a team. Writers work with multiple editors and copy editors, managers, marketing and social media folks, and more. Having team spirit and a “we” attitude is a must in this job.
- Communicating: Effectively communicating your ideas to clients is essential. You may have a great kernel of an idea, but if it’s not thoroughly developed, logical, and fits with the publication or organization’s goals, it won’t matter. For example, you might have an excellent idea for a story about working out at gyms. Still, unless it’s a general interest, fully-developed, and characterized narrative, it won’t fit in a place like The New Yorker or your local newspaper.
Writer Median Salaries
As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly earnings of writers and authors is $63,200. Still, the average income of a writer differs in terms of time and industry. Some writers prefer to work part-time, while others work in regular shifts. Freelancers, book authors, and self-employed writers don’t have a fixed salary.
Top Skills for Writers
Every profession requires a particular set of skills. Recruiters hiring writers look for a handful of the following qualities in the best candidates.
- Copywriting: If you want to write about products and services, you must follow their established institutional narrative structures, format and cadence. You can’t write 2,000 words, for example, when you’re writing copy for car advertisements that only need 200
- Business terminology: Creating content for press releases, invoices and reports requires a professional tone and understanding of the specific language used. If you write for a software company such as Adobe, it will help you know the terms used in many of their products and services and how they work. If you have this background, you can be more direct, precise and crisp with your words while framing content.
- Dynamic editing: These days, most recruiters have a keen eye for spotting mistakes. If you’re a writer, these are even worse, since the creation and presentation of the resume itself is an example of the type of work you can do.
- Creativity: The ability to think what no one else can think. A critical mindset that generates fresh ideas and concepts is needed everywhere.
- Patience: There will be days when you can’t deliver the best content and see your work get rejected. During writer’s block, your patience and professionalism play a key role.
- Good listener: Understanding the text and the subtext of your clients or sources is a skill that helps you to pen phenomenal content for projects based on copywriting, content marketing, social media marketing, documentaries and more.
- Open to criticism: Working on feedback and suggestions given by editors is critical.
Educational Requirements for Writers
The following educational qualifications are paramount for most aspiring writer job candidates.
EducationIf you have experience showing you are a talented writer, with a long and varied list of clips, you don’t need to have a specific degree to get a job. However, the vast majority of professional writers who make a living out of it have strong educational qualifications on top of their clips. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree in English, Journalism, Creative Writing, Communication or other related subjects are preferred.
If you are currently in school, you might take a course that is concentrated on specific writing skills outside of a major. MIT, for example, designed a program in science writing.
If you don’t have a bachelor’s or associate degree in those subjects, colleges and universities sometimes offer a wide range of programs to help job candidates foster communication skills and improve their craft. Harvard University, for example, provides a free writing course that anyone can take. Stanford runs a short-term summer program available to anyone online, and run by its faculty members and advisors.
CertificationsTraining programs built by member associations and private companies have grown in recent years. They help learners acquire knowledge about writing, grammar, and storytelling basics. They include:
- Udemy, Coursera and Skillshare courses: All three of these private, for-profit companies offer dozens of individual certificates in writing, some of them developed with the guidance of professional schools and career journalists. Coursera, for example, offers a Creative Writing Certification Course by Wesleyan University. At the same time, Udemy has a Copywriting/Blogging/Content Writing course developed by alumni of the daily news website The Huffington Post.
- Association certifications: The American Marketing Association offers the AMA Professional Certified Marketer (PCM®), which requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree plus several years of experience, and concentrates studies on marketing subjects such as email marketing data analytics. The American Writers and Artists Institute (AWAI) has certifications training people to write web copy for magazines, product catalogs, finance, and even health companies.
- Specific subject certifications: Industries including technology, medicine, human resources, and the law all offer certifications to writers who want to work in their industry. For example, the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA), the National Institute for Social Media (NISM), and the National Resume Writers Association all offer certification programs
- Specific company certifications: Major tech companies like HubSpot and Microsoft offer technical writing certifications for people whose job it is to explain their products to the general public or their customers.
Writer Resume-Writing Tips
Follow this handful of tips to create an outstanding resume for any writing job applications.
- Showcase your skills: Create a dedicated section in your resume to your skills, including editing, proofreading and reporting. Don’t forget to match the skills in the resume to those found in the job descriptions.
- Show, don’t tell, about your experience: College internships and projects, including published articles, are examples of your early work and passion for writing. Work in different voices and lengths for journals, magazines or screenplays shows your formatting elasticity. The knowledge of creating videos or podcasts shows them you can work in other mediums. And having all of this work on an easily accessible website indicates you are proud of your work and that it stands up to public scrutiny.
How do I start a writing career?
First of all, having a zeal for writing is a must. But a bachelor’s or master’s degree in English, Journalism, Communication, or any other related background is preferred. You can also gain professional training by enrolling yourself in courses related to writing. Only until you have the education, training and a well-stocked portfolio, or the right combination of them, will you be able to start accepting paying writing projects.
How do I become a good writer?
Passion and hard work. You must learn how to think, observe, and write thoughtfully, logically and flawlessly. Apart from fluency in vocabulary and flawless grammar, it will be your dedication to your work and the continuous improvement that makes you stand apart.
Do writers have a good income?
Only really experienced writers make a lot of money. Most struggle getting started, and early jobs are not compensated well, earning less than $45,000 a year the first few years. Despite this, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says there is likely to be an increase in wages and demand for writers that focus on specific subjects, especially technical writing.