How To Become A Writer: 10 Modern Writing Careers

If English was your favourite subject in high school and you’ve nursed vague dreams of being paid for your witty one-liners or clever story arcs, chances are you’ve toyed with the idea of pursing a career in writing.

If this is the case, there’s also a high chance that when you shared those ill-defined aspirations of becoming a writer with your high school career adviser, they immediately whipped out their journalism pamphlets.

Yes, being a journo is great. But there’s so much more to professional writing than working for the fourth estate. From copywriting to video games writing, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of writing jobs for the modern wordsmith.

Click an icon below to find out more.

Copywriter

1. Copywriter

DESCRIPTION: 

Copywriters work on the ‘creative’ side of advertising. They’re usually employed in-house or by an ad agency, and are paired with art directors to generate ad campaigns and write the accompanying copy. This might include slogans, jingles, TVC scripts and eDMs.

SKILLS: 

Copywriters need to: 
  • Work well with others
  • Thrive under pressure and work to deadlines
  • Be ideas people 
  • Keep abreast of industry news 
  • Be resilient (burning out is common in ad land)
  • Be ok with using their creative talents to sell things
SPECIALISATIONS:  Copywriters can specialise in:       
  • Digital 
  • Television 
  • Radio
  • Direct marketing
  • Branding
TRAINING:  AWARD School: Is Australia’s most prestigious school for advertising creatives. Tutors are hand-picked from the top ad firms, and candidates must submit a stellar portfolio of ideas to gain entry.

- Certificate IV in Advertising:  Is a great course to study if you’re a professional writer by trade but don’t have an advertising background.
RESOURCES:  - Campaign Brief and AdNews: Comprehensively cover both Australian and international industry news.  

- mUmBRELLA: Lists advertising jobs in Australia and covers industry news.
PAY: 

$39 – $82k

 


Copywriter

2. Speechwriter

DESCRIPTION:  As highly specialised PR professionals, speechwriters help politicians and top-end business executives give powerful and compelling speeches. They often collaborate with their client and other media professionals to research the subject matter, define the desired effect of the speech, and target the right audience. 
SKILLS:  Speechwriters need to be:
  • Strong researchers 
  • Social media savvy
  • Well-versed in media relations
  • Persuasive writers 
  • Understand how the written word differs from the spoken word
  • Able to work in high-pressure environments
SPECIALISATIONS:  Speechwriters can specialise in two areas:
  • Politics and government bureaus 
  • Business corporations 
TRAINING: 

Due to the high-stakes nature of speechwriting, the profession usually calls for at least a bachelor’s degree in communication and writing. A background in PR is also a plus.   

RESOURCES: 

- Must reads for speechwriters: Michael Long, a White House speechwriter, has put together a comprehensive list of recommended reads.

- Get advice from the best: Jon Favreau, President Obama’s speechwriter (who incidentally brings home $US172k a year), has some insightful speechwriting tips.

PAY: 

$78 – $100k 

 


Copywriter

3. Journalist

DESCRIPTION:  Half of a journo’s job is to be a great writer, but the other half is about finding the stories. News is, after all, exactly that – new. Journalists can work for networks or publications and chase stories, build relationships with sources and often face very tight deadlines. 
SKILLS: 

Journalists need to be: 

SPECIALISATIONS: 

By style:    

By medium:

By genre:

  • Politics
  • Sport
  • Lifestyle
  • Food 
TRAINING: 

- Charles Sturt University: Is one of Australia's most prestigious universities for journalism. Noteable alumni include Andrew Denton, Jessica Rowe and Melissa Doyle. Popular courses include: 

- Short courses: Are also great if you're a writer by trade, but not trained in journalism:

RESOURCES: 

- The Walkey Foundation: Is Australia’s peak body for journalists, and is responsible for the nation’s most prestigious journalism award. They host industry events, offer internships and publish a trade publication.

- ABC cadetships and work experience: The national broadcaster offers a number of highly-regarded cadetships and work experience programs that are great for new graduates. 

PAY: 

$36 – $73k

 


Copywriter

4. Screenwriter

DESCRIPTION: 

Whether it’s a Hollywood blockbuster or HBO drama, film and TV shows all have one thing in common – a killer script, and a screenwriter who's behind it.

There are two general types of screenwriters. TV show writers, who work in a ‘writers’ room’ to break a story and bounce episode ideas around, and features writers who work on their own scripts, which they then sell to studios. 

SKILLS: 

Screenwriters need to: 

  • Have thick skin (the film industry can be brutal)
  • Be natural storytellers
  • Have a unique voice
  • Be film and TV addicts
  • Be ok with working alone
  • Be highly imaginative
SPECIALISATIONS: 

By medium:

  • TV
  • Film

By genre:

  • Sitcom
  • Romantic comedy (rom-com)
  • Drama
  • Crime
  • Children's
TRAINING: 

- Australian Film Television and Radio School: Is the national film school, and considered one of the most prestigious places to study screenwriting in Australia.

- Useful courses

RESOURCES: 

- The Australian Writers' Guild: Are a peak body that represent Aussie screenwriters. They run annual competitions for unproduced screenplays and also offer industry advice on legal issues and pay.

- The Black List: If you want to write great scripts, you need to read great scripts. Every year The Black List releases their top 100 unproduced scripts of the year, based upon Hollywood executives’ feedback. The website also have a great screenwriting blog for aspiring writers.

PAY: 

$0– US$5m (capped at the price of Déjà Vu – the most expensive script ever sold)

 


Videogamer

5. Video games writer

DESCRIPTION: 

Unlike other writing professions, video game writers not only have to tell a story, they have to tell a story that can be played. These writers collaborate closely with level designers and programmers to help bring a game to life. Game writers often work as part of a ‘narrative team,’ and focus on driving the story forward by working on things like character arc, dialogue and world building. 

SKILLS: 

Video game writers need to: 

  • Work well with others 
  • Understand game mechanics and gameplay
  • Be game fantatics 
  • Have a background in creative writing
  • Be storytellers
SPECIALISATIONS: 

By genre:

  • Role playing games (RPG)
  • First person shooter (FPS)
  • Massively multiplayer online (MMO)
  • Real time strategy (RTS)
  • Puzzle-based
TRAINING: 

Writing for video games is still a relatively new field, so there aren’t any courses dedicated entirely to game writing yet, however having training in game design is definitely a bonus:

RESOURCES: 

- Kotaku: Do a great job covering news from the video games industry, and often interview game designers, writers and creators.

- PAX: Is an annual games conference held in Melbourne that is great for both fans and game creators alike.

PAY: 

US$53 – US100k

 


Bidwriter

6. Bid/Grant writer

DESCRIPTION: 

The job of a bid writer or grant writer is to help organisations prepare tender documents in a bid to win new business or gain further funding. Bid and grant writers are always in high demand and can be hired by any number of organisations from global corporations and NGOs to universities, construction firms and charitable organisations. 

SKILLS: 

Bid writers need to: 

  • Be strong collaborators
  • Possess top-notch administrative skills
  • Communicate their ideas well
  • Have industry knowledge of their chosen sector
  • Be thorough researchers
  • Have strategic vision
SPECIALISATIONS: 

By industry:

  • Construction and architecture
  • Healthcare and disability
  • Medical research
  • Not-for-profit
TRAINING: 

Bid writers need to hold at least an undergrad degree in communications. So depending on your level of training, the following courses might be helpful: 

Specific training in grant writing would be helpful to newcomers to the field: 

PAY: 

$60 – $155k

 


Videogamer

7. Blogger/digital content writer

DESCRIPTION: 

Digital content writing or blogging is a unique part-journalism, part-marketing. Content writers can be employed in-house or recruited by content marketing agencies. They work with strategists to generate content that is rich, sharable, and helps to build a brand’s voice. 

SKILLS: 

Content writers need to: 

SPECIALISATIONS: 

The great thing about being a blogger or content writer is that you can specialise in whatever it is you’re passionate about. This might include: 

TRAINING: 

Open Universities Australia offer single units of study which are great for both new bloggers and seasoned writers interested in content writing: 

RESOURCES: 

- Blogs to watch: DailyTekk compile an annual list of the hottest blogs out there. Knowing what works and what audiences like is a great starting point for your own blog writing.

- Marketing case studies: Salesforce have also compiled a list of case studies that highlight what great content marketing looks like.

PAY: 

$38 – US$9.6m (capped at 2014's highest earning blogger – owner of TechCrunch, Michael Arrington)

 


Videogamer

8. Author

DESCRIPTION: 

Perhaps the most well understood, and most desired writing profession is that of the author. Authors can either be commissioned to write a novel, or if they’re not signed with a publishing house, will work on their own manuscripts before sending them out to firms. 

SKILLS: 

Authors need to: 

  • Be self-driven and ok with working alone 
  • Be highly imaginative
  • Have thick skin 
  • Develop a unique voice
  • Understand story
SPECIALISATIONS: 

By genre:

TRAINING: 

Writing a novel is a daunting task, especially if you’ve never been trained in the craft of creative writing. We recommend the following for aspiring writers: 

RESOURCES: 

- The Australian Writer's Marketplace: Is a fantastic resource for aspiring authors, and serves as a comprehensive guide to the Australian publishing market. The book is updated annually and is like the Yellow Pages of literary agents and publishers.

- Pitch events: For unpublished authors, pitch events such as Allen & Unwin’s Friday Pitch are an opportunity to get noticed by industry professionals, and more importantly – to get published.

PAY: 

$0 – US$94m (capped at 2014’s highest earning author, James Patterson) 

 


Technical

9. Technical writer

DESCRIPTION: 

The job of a technical writer is to make technical information digestible and easy to follow for readers. Technical writers produce a whole host of technical documents such as user guides, white papers and system manuals, and can also work with experts such as scientists, engineers and doctors to help produce journal articles and important documents like clinical study reports. 

SKILLS: 

Technical writers need to: 

SPECIALISATIONS: 

By industry:

  • Medical
  • Healthcare
  • Science
  • Business
TRAINING: 

Technical writers are often required to hold at least an undergraduate degree in communications:

PAY:  $48 – $124k

 


Videogamer

10. Ghostwriter

DESCRIPTION: 

This list would be replete without a nod to ghostwriters – the invisible forces who work behind the scenes on novels, screenplays and autobiographies for the pay, rather than the fame.

Ghostwriters are often commissioned by two types of clients: those with no writing background (celebrities and media personalities looking to pen a novel or autobiography), and professional writers struggling with writer’s block. 

SKILLS:  Ghostwriters need to be: 
  • Good listeners and collaborate well with non-writers
  • Able to accurately research and fact-check
  • Strong subeditors
  • Gifted storytellers
  • Able to set aside their ego (the client often has the final say)
SPECIALISATIONS: 

Ghostwriters can be commissioned to help with:

  • Autobiographies and memoirs
  • Novels (both fiction and non-fiction)
  • Screenplays and scripts
  • Twitter accounts and social media management
TRAINING: 

Ghostwriters are trained as professional writers, ideally with a background in publishing or journalism. For aspiring ghostwriters, we recommend the following courses: 

RESOURCES: 

- A closer look at ghostwriting: The Australian Society of Authors has compiled a comprehensive overview of ghostwriting.

- Learning from the best: Andrew Crofts, one of Britain’s most successful ghostwriters, has released a book with rare insights into the world of professional ghostwriting

PAY: 

$25 – $500k per book

 


The pen is indeed mightier than the sword. Hone your greatest weapon today with our range of online writing courses!

Sources:
- Payscale
- Australian Government Gazette
- Gamasutra 2014 Salary Survey
- Writer's Marketplace




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