Yes, you can be a professional writer.
Every now and then I have a discussion with someone who wants to be a professional writer. I’ve decided to compile my advice to help clarify it, and of course, make it easier for people that ask me that question.
Where does this come from – since my writing is more of a side thing? It comes from:
- Knowing professional writers.
- Knowing people wanting to be professional writers.
- Researching writing careers – I had considered a change I didn’t make.
- My own experience in writing and researching it.
So let’s go!
CAN I BE A PROFESSIONAL WRITER?
Yes, you can.
WAIT, THAT SEEMED EASY
Yes, because there are many, many ways to make a living at writing. The question is more “which path as a professional writer fits you.” Most people miss the kind of obvious ones.
OK, WHAT’S THE OBVIOUS ONE?
The obvious writing career is writing professionally in areas like being a Technical Writer, develop Marketing content on websites, and so on. There’s a huge variety of them out there – and I keep finding more over time.
Then there’s writer-adjacent jobs like Editor, etc.
If you do a look on any job site and search for things like Writing, Writer, Editor, Publishing, etc. you can find quite a few ideas.
OH. SO IT’S WRITING “JOBS” LITERALLY?
Yeah, exactly. There’s lots of them out there. If you don’t want to do corporate stuff, you can find them in government, education, non-profits, etc. Just keep digging.
Again, these are jobs basically with “lots of writing.” So, you can make a living at it – some people do very well.
NICE. SO LET’S TALK THE CLASSIC “I WRITE BOOKS FOR A LIVING” JOB?
A lot of people think writing careers are just “I write books.” They’re not. In my experience a lot more people do “writing jobs” to use their writing skills. In fact, those are great jobs to do to prime yourself or support yourself on a writing career.
Now as for the whole “Write Books For A Living” type job, basically as a kind of freelancer, yes it can be done. It’s just very challenging and too many people miss the amount of effort it takes or how long it takes.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
A lot of successful authors, those with the big hit book or series that pays the bills, didn’t just suddenly become a success overnight. They laid a foundation, often for years.
Even if you do create a sudden mega-hit, the lead up to it will take years, if only to write the thing and make contacts.
SO HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
Based on what I’ve seen, if you decide to become an author that makes a living writing books, it can take years if you’re also holding down a full-time job. A decade is not out of the question.
It’s probably a lot faster if you can dedicate yourself full-time.
There’s plenty of books out there on authors. Chris Fox’s books are the ones everyone recommends (and even he doesn’t make all his money with books, but he sees to be having a blast)
SO I NEED TO WRITE FOR TEN YEARS?
No, not just writing. Writing is part of a writing career. You need to:
- Write books.
- Get books edited, get covers done, etc.
- Get them published in a format people will buy.
- Market them.
- Market yourself with websites, newsletters, etc.
- Set up ads.
- Constantly improve your craft.
You can see how the more time you have the more chance you can pull it off.
SO IT’S A SMALL BUSINESS?
Pretty much. If you land a publishing deal that helps, but even then expect a lot of work (and contracts). But yeah, you’re running your own business – and even if you swing some sweet deals it’ll still be like that.
But hey, you get tax writeoffs and such if you do it write.
BUT AT LEAST I CAN WRITE WHAT I WANT
Maybe, maybe not. The thing with people who make a living writing, independently, is they seem to find a market, build a market, or target a market. If you just want to do “whatever” then the chance of succeeding is very low.
I’M GOING TO NEED TO THINK IT OVER, AREN’T I?
Yes. If you have a specific vision for your writing, then you need to do good marketing and try to find your audience.
On the other hand if you’re open to “writing whatever sells” then it’s probably more likely you can succeed. You’re going to compete with other people doing the same thing, but there are many “same things” to try.
LET’S SAY I DECIDE TO INVESTIGATE THE MARKETS, WHAT DO I DO?
Well, the Fox books are good. You can often find lots of advice online online and books on Amazon. There’s honestly so many you’ll probably want to search for reliable sources yourself.
Then you want to write like crazy.
ANY OTHER ADVICE?
Do your research, stick with it, and connect with as many authors as possible to learn.