The reality of content writing as a career

26-10-2011 | Dojo |

Some people have a romantic view of what it means to be a writer. They imagine an individual sitting alone in a café in Paris or some beautiful city, sipping fresh coffee or maybe a glass of wine as they jot down some ideas for their next piece of work.

Those people think of writing as a career and they immediately think about not having to get up in the early hours of the morning and commute to some office where they work for someone else. They imaging a writer as getting up when they feel ready, to do some work in-between social appointments, and as generally being laid back about life and happy and content with their lot.

Now all of this is not entirely untrue, but it is not in any significant way accurate. Do writers need to get up early every morning and commute to an office? No, at least not every day. Can writers work whilst sitting in a café, intermittently sipping on coffee or wine? Yes they certainly can. Some of the details are correct, but the image that the whole portrays is not accurate. There is very little which you would consider ‘laid back’ about the life of a writer.

Writing is easy. You need to write, even when you don’t feel like writing!

Some people find it easy to write, for them it just seems to come naturally. But that does not mean to say that they will find the career of a writer an easy one. When speaking about being a stand up, the comedian Billy Connolly once commented something along the lines of “someone can be funny, maybe when they are making a best mans speech, and people will tell him ‘you should do stand up. But to be a professional stand up comedian, you need to be able to deliver on demand – it’s easy when everything is rosy. But the professional needs to be able to be funny, even when they don’t feel like it; when they are sick, or after a fall out with their wife. That’s the hallmark of a professional”. Although talking about a different career, the sentiment carries over to writing as well.

As a writer, you do not always get to pick and choose your own subject matter.

You need to be able to sound witty and enthusiastic about subjects that you find dull and uninteresting.

The reality of being a writer means that you need to write a lot. This may sound obvious, but it needs to be understood. Yesterday evening, for example, I wrote about 5000 words for different clients. Today I will write twice that amount, and today is my ‘day off’. In the last week I have written articles on subjects I am passionate and enthusiastic about, but I have also written web content for clients on subjects like acrylic nail extensions and portable beds.

I do not say this in order to put you off a career as a writer, far from it, but rather I say this to correctly set your expectations as to what a career as a writer actually looks like.

I am a content writer. That means that I write content for clients’ publications, be it newspapers, magazines, websites or promotional material. People use the term freelance writer to say the same thing. I am genuinely love my work and I am passionate about it. But it is not for everyone. What follows is a basic guide for those that have not been put off by the realities of being a content writer.

The most important step in preparing for a career as a content writer is to read.

I mean read lots. Read the type of content that freelance content writers publish. Look at magazine articles, newspaper features and websites. Notice the style and the form that the writing takes. You need to become familiar with how to set out an article; this is the best way to do that.

As a content writer, you need to have multiple streams of income in order to sustain yourself and your family.

This means that you need to have several channels that you can use to get your work published. The traditional channel for a freelance content writer is newspapers and magazines.

Most publications will be happy to accept content from freelance content writers. Make contact and build relationships with the editors of these publications. Try and get half a dozen or more contacts like this, and submit an article to each publication each month.

Often they will take a couple of months to print anything, so be patient and keep writing and submitting articles. Listen to any feedback you are given from these sources – they are like gold dust to a content writer.

The internet has opened many doors for content writers. There are sites where clients will go to actively look for writers. Use these sites wisely, and submit articles at every opportunity. Once you prove yourself to clients and you start to build a relationship with them, they will often approach you directly for work. Will go to actively look for writers.

Use these sites wisely, and submit articles at every opportunity. Once you prove yourself to clients and you start to build a relationship with them, they will often approach you directly for work. You need to network with clients, building relationships with them so that when they think about writers, you come to the top of their list.

The more streams of income that a writer has, the more successful they will be. As you can see, being a freelance content writer involves a great deal of writing as well as a great deal of relationship building. It is a very worthwhile career, but it has its challenges. If writing is your passion, then you can succeed – go for it!

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