There are two types of jobs for writers – jobs that pay you for being a professional writer, and jobs that enhance you as a writer. Where these two paths intersect, you could call The Land of Goshen.
What kind of job you should get depends upon a lot of things – your background, your interests, and what kind of writer you are. Many beginners have the misguided notion that getting paid to write is the end-all and be-all of the their career. However, there are a lot of failed writers wandering the planet who started out on that very same path. So watch your step.
Jobs for Technical Writers: From personal experience I can tell you this can be a highly lucrative field. Most technical writers go into this field for their technical expertise first, rather than their writing skills. Like anything other job, getting your foot in the door is the hardest part. Research the market first, then delve into the market that most closely mirrors your interests, skills and backgrounds. If you lack a portfolio, create an account on blogspot and write three or four articles. I’ve been offered work this way without even having to pick up the phone. Clients stumble on the articles and contacted me.
Jobs for Business Writers: Businesses always need writers. There is more to it however than sales letters and resumes. Where you are most likely to get a fast contract is in proposal writing. In the public sector, the names of companies who have been invited to submit tenders (proposals) is usually a matter of public record. Find out where these are listed in your town, city and county. These lists will also tell you when the proposals are due. A well-timed call to an overwhelmed sales department could have you working in a matter of hours.
Jobs for Poets: There’s not really much out there for poets, since the last poetry manufacturing plants were shut down during the Reagan era… unless you count Hallmark Cards – but I suggest you don’t – not if you and I want to remain friends. However there is no reason for you not to start your own business.
- Team up with a photographer or artist and create a calendar.
- Put your words on t-shirts and coffee mugs.
- Design postcards and greeting cards and sell them through tourist shops or craft fairs.
- Print your poetry on acid-free paper and frame it. Take it to a gallery.
Jobs for Writers of Fiction: Writing fiction, much like poetry, is quite different than writing non-fiction. Choices in style, the selection of words, dialogue and description, is a different process than non-fiction, as is the product of your work. Where non-fiction writers usually aim for clarity, fiction requires a softer hand, able to draw the reader into a story by evoking emotion and igniting the reader’s imagination.
Any kind of writing will build important skills, like writing quickly for deadlines, and being economical with words. But if your aim is to write fiction, don’t confuse this type of writing with any day job. In fact, jobs that broaden your life experiences are often much more valuable than a job that keeps you sitting at a keyboard all day. The place where these two intersect would be journalism.
For me, some of my best ideas, in my early twenties, came from experiences as a newspaper reporter, where I was able to see people at their best, and at their worst, in a variety of situations, and in contexts most people do not get to see. Another good job for writers of fiction is writing memoirs and family histories, because these genres use many of the same techniques required for good fiction.
I’ve been fortunate. I’ve seldom had a job that did not enhance either my writing skills, or my life experiences. My novel, The Tanglewood Murders, for example, was based almost entirely on a job I took during the recession, working on a farm side by side with migrant farm workers. I learned a lot from them, and was able to see a glimpse of the world from their perspective. While the pay was horrible and the conditions grim, this job was much more important to me than any technical writing, or business writing I ever did in an air conditioned office.
Whatever you decide on, when you’re thinking of jobs for writers, I would always urge you to choose something that will contribute to your life experiences first. Living an interesting life will do much more to make you a better writer than, say, editing resumes in a windowless cubicle.
Now, if you are looking for work right now, I have created a web page for you, listing approximately 120 jobs for writers. These include full-time jobs, part time jobs for writers, and freelance contract work from cities throughout North America. It’s automatically updated several times each day, so all the links are always fresh. I hope its of value to you.