Skip to Top Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Footer

Love To Write? Do You Know About These Surprising Career Paths?

Published on: August 3, 2022

Freelancer working on laptop computer with white coffee cup on the wooden desk in the garden.

Do you love to write? Do you dream of earning a living as a writer — but you’re not sure what the path looks like to get there?

While you may not be the next Tolkien, Brontë or Rowling, if your communication skills are strong, you may be surprised at how many career paths there are for effective writers today.

Explore Online Degrees

Is Writing a Good Career Choice?

Yes! There are many careers in writing, ranging from the conventional ones you may be thinking of — popular fiction, PR, news reporting — to many you may not have considered. Consider this: Someone was paid to write the words you’re reading right now.

And sure, we’d love to say this blog post is well written, but it’s far from Tolstoy or Tolkien levels of quality or creativity!

It does serve to demonstrate, however, that if you’re a strong writer, you’ll be able to find a variety of writing jobs. You may not end up writing the next great American novel, but there are plenty of fulfilling careers in writing you can pursue.

How Much Can You Make as a Writer?

This is a challenging question because of the wide range of jobs within the broad category of writer. If you do much reading about writing jobs, it won’t take long to come across people (usually with a course to sell you) claiming $100,000 or more in annual income.

While this may be attainable for skilled, motivated writers in certain spaces, it doesn’t happen overnight, and that’s often referring to freelance income, which has its own overhead complications (such as self-employment taxes and insurance concerns).

If you’re looking for something more conventional, you’ll see a wide range of jobs depending on the type of writer you are, the industry you work in, and your experience level. Payscale pegs the average base salary for a technical writer at $62k, but there’s a wide range of possible incomes (from $44k to $90k).

What Jobs Can You Do as a Writer?

We’ve already alluded to it, but there are several job possibilities you could pursue as a writer, and some of them are about as different from each other as they could possibly be.

We’ll cover six categories of writing jobs here, but be aware there are subcategories within each — and for some, dozens of industry specializations within those categories.

The possibilities aren’t quite endless, but they’re close.

Content Writing

The first broad category we’re covering is content writing. A content writer crafts most of the words you read online (outside of news sites and a few other categories).

Most business or organizational blogs fall into the “content writing” category. Some businesses will hire an in-house writer to handle their content needs. Others outsource the writing entirely to skilled freelancers.

Content writers also create white papers, social media posts, newsletters, emails, speeches and video scripts. Many popular narrated YouTube videos are actually scripted. That engaging on-camera personality isn’t just speaking off the top of their head. Usually, the person is reading a teleprompter. Some content creators write their own scripts. But many brands and even some personalities don’t. They rely on scriptwriters.

It’s all content — and someone has to write it. Why not you?

Copywriting is arguably its own category, but we’ll include it here as a subset of content writing. Copywriters write messaging designed to make the consumer take action. They produce "copy" or text that's used in advertisements, marketing and publicity.

Of course, many writers create both content and copy. But it’s important to recognize they aren’t quite the same thing.

Grant and Proposal Writing

Grant and proposal writing is a specialized field, but we can understand it in the same way as content writing above.

Businesses and organizations need content for their digital (and real-world) efforts, and they hire external writers to do this for them. That’s content writing. But a smaller subset of organizations need highly specific pieces of content for grants and proposals.

Grant writers must follow specific, detailed protocols as they research available grants (funding sources) from government agencies and private foundations. When an organization, usually a nonprofit, finds a grant that they believe they’d qualify for, they must apply. Grant writing is the work of completing those applications, along with companion documents explaining the client and their intended use for the money.

Grant and proposal writing is a niche field, but there are plenty of organizations who need this service.

Public Relations & Media Writing

Public relations and media writing include writing press releases, media pitches and other media-oriented content. It’s a little different than content writing because the audience is different.

With content writing, you’re usually trying to reach an audience directly. You’re speaking to consumers or business decision-makers with an intent to convince them, directly or indirectly, to take an action — usually one that involves giving your client money in some shape or form.

With PR and media writing, you’re usually trying to convince gatekeepers in the media to pick up your press release or story and publish it to their own audience. Since you’re trying to reach both those gatekeepers and the eventual audience of their publications, writing press releases can be tricky.

But press releases can also be formulaic — search for a few online, and they usually follow a similar pattern — so if you grow your skills in writing them, you’ll have the potential to be profitable quickly.

There’s another aspect to PR writing that has to do with an organization’s public image. This is “clean-up” writing after something goes wrong, using careful language to frame negative information in the least damaging light. This kind of PR is its own specialty distinctive from the rest.

Creative Writing

Many people who are considering earning a writing degree want to go into creative writing -- an exciting, if sometimes risky, career field.

The conventional novel-writing path can be a treacherous one. It takes both significant skill and good fortune to break out as a wildly popular novelist.

These days, self-publishing via Amazon and other platforms can even the playing field to an extent, but going that route means doing your own marketing and self-promotion. Reaching profitable levels of sales is very hard work, but it can be done.

There are other forms of creative writing besides writing novels, of course. Short stories, poetry, memoirs and biographies are all creative, too.

Case studies — creating fictional scenarios that teach business concepts — are also fairly creative. Elements of search engine optimization (SEO) can involve creativity as well, such as topic ideation and keyword research. Cutting through the data and finding creative topics is itself creative work!

Technical Writing

Technical writers create content for instruction manuals and product documentation. The information these writers need to convey can be dry, technical, uninteresting and often confusing. The best technical writers infuse this content with just enough life to make it interesting and clarity to untangle the confusing parts.

Technical writing isn’t always heavy on technology. It refers to a type of writing that is technically detailed in nature, not necessarily high-tech. That said, there is plenty of technical writing in the tech sector, so it’s easy to understand the confusion here.

Freelance Writing

Freelance writing shows up in each of the other categories we mention. All it means for writing to be considered freelance is that the writer doesn’t work for the client as an employee. A lot of content writing is contracted on a freelance basis, though larger organizations or those with very specific needs may hire an in-house employee for this work.

Grant and proposal writing is often outsourced to freelancers as well. Some PR work may be freelance, but it’s more common for businesses to maintain this in-house or hire a specialized firm rather than an individual freelancer.

Creative writing is, in a sense, mostly freelance. Authors craft their works independently and seek an audience or a buyer. On the other hand, technical writing, like content writing, is a mix of in-house and freelance work.

Working as a freelance writer has many benefits. You can set your own hours, work as much or as little as you want, set your own rates and choose to say no to work that doesn’t suit you.

But there are downsides to this model, too. You’ll need to account for self-employment taxes, and you won’t have an employer providing benefits such as health insurance, unemployment insurance and the like.

College Degrees to Consider for a Writing Career

Most of the people earning a living as writers today aren’t novelists. They’re writing business-oriented content to communicate a business’s message professionally and with the right tone.

Many aspiring or early-career writers wonder about a college degree. Is a creative writing degree really going to help with online content writing or other business-oriented content?

The honest answer is no. A college degree can still be immensely valuable, but we don’t recommend creative writing degrees for this work.

Instead, consider a marketing or communications degree. These degree programs prepare you to communicate across a wide variety of media.

Explore Online Degrees


Back to All Blogs