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Authors, writers and bloggers

(27 Posts)
anahata Tue 11-Apr-17 22:51:28

My step daughter is really interested in a career in writing of some kind. She's doing her own research, but I thought I'd ask on here too so I can make any suggestions to add to her research.

So my main question is how did you start? And also how did you develop this into your career? Does it pay the mortgage every month etc?

Any replies would be really appreciated.

TheCakes Tue 11-Apr-17 22:57:34

I'm a freelance journalist. I did 15 years in staff before going solo. There is a decent living to be made but you have to work at it, and get to know the business.
I'm in a very fortunate position, in that I make enough to keep us comfortable (not rich, by any stretch, but a fair income).
You don't just fall into it though, and lots of people get disillusioned early on and leave.
I love it. It's what I always wanted to do and I'm happy, but if she's serious she needs to really graft.
I'd encourage her to train as a writer, and get really savvy with social media. Start blogging now. It takes years for a blog to generate cash but it's a good thing to show employers or to link to pitches when you're first starting out.

crazywriter Tue 11-Apr-17 23:09:06

I'm a freelance writer and had no experience going in. I sort of fell into it when unemployed and was lucky to find a circle of other writers who could point me in the right direction. It is hard work and jobs don't just land in your laptop there's a lot of crap to work through too.

My DH is a SAHD and I WAH and keep the roof over our heads, food on the table and have some left over.

We are currently working on branching out a little to create more passive income so I can take longer off through the year (my daily targets are set to have 4 weeks off a year). But that's something my DH is trying to do around the kids.

MaroonPencil Tue 11-Apr-17 23:09:52

I am also a freelance journalist. At school I was involved with the school magazine, at university I got involved with the college magazine and the university newspaper. I also got a job reviewing gigs for a local listings mag while at university and spent a few weeks one summer doing work experience on a local paper. After graduating I did a post grad journalism course for three months and got a job straight after based on work experience that was part of the course. Worked very hard for a number of different magazines for 12 years or so, then went freelance - I started out by writing mainly for my old company but now do a range of things including books, copy writing, as well as journalism.

It is not a well paid job, in comparison with my graduate friends who are in marketing etc. But it's what I want to do. It pays the mortgage when combined with DH's earnings, he's also a writer.

I started in the late 90s though, things are probably quite different now at entry level. I agree that blogs are probably key nowadays.

strangeclouds Tue 11-Apr-17 23:55:19

I worked in marketing roles which involved a lot of writing. When I was working in a newish industry I learned enough to set up my own business and then go full-time self-employed. I write web content so it's commercial rather than literary but it has a lot of readers and I make a decent living while having a lot of freedom.

If she wants to earn from writing, it's a good idea to think laterally about the ways writing can pay. Traditional careers like journalism are one way, but hard to get into. Self-publishing, social media, copywriting and web publishing are other examples worth considering, and the opportunities are always evolving.

Reading a lot and writing (obviously) are the best preparation - but depending on what sort of thing she sees herself doing, other skills may be very useful too, and give her an advantage. I know writers whose technical expertise or specialist knowledge was the key to their writing career - it made them stand out from a lot of English graduates.

Skills which are likely to be useful might include using blogs and social media, all-round business skills, networking, multi-tasking and also basic accounting and financial management if she's considering freelancing or self-employment.

HarrietVane99 Wed 12-Apr-17 00:23:28

I'm a novelist, and have also done some academic writing, so I'm coming at it from that perspective.

What does she want to write? She may not know yet, and may not find out for quite a long time, but one thing she could and should be doing is experimenting with different types of writing - fiction, poetry, academic writing, journalism etc and seeing what comes most naturally to her.

Though out of the ones I've mentioned , journalism is the one most likely to provide a steady income. Most novelists don't make minimum wage from their writing and need other jobs alongside. This is not intended to put her off, just to be realistic.

I'm a self published novelist, and I don't make enough from it to pay the bills. Fiction publishing has changed enormously in the last ten years or so, and continues to change. If fiction is what she wants to write, she needs to keep up with what's happening in publishing.

You don't say how old she is, but if she's very young, diving straight into a writing career may not be the best thing. Getting an education, maybe getting some in depth knowledge of a subject, getting some life experience in various jobs, will all make her a better writer in the long run.

Most importantly, she needs to write. Doesn't matter what - stories, a journal, poetry - she needs to get in the habit of putting words on paper or on a screen.

JoffreyBaratheon Wed 12-Apr-17 01:51:55

I write for magazines and also have worked on a cuple of books and done one of my own.

I got started around age 4 and never stopped. I reconnected with a childhood friend on FB a few months back and she messaged me to say one of her strongest memories of me, was calling for me and I'd be upstairs in my window, typing. My mum bought me an ancient, 'Underwood' typewriter (this was the 1960s and it was maybe an Edwardian typewriter!) and I just wrote and wrote.

I did a degree in English and even there, tutors would comment I had a distinctive style to my essays. I started a small magazine at uni which is still going over 35 years on. And then I went into 'real life' for a while but in my 30s, forced to stay home and give up my career due to life circs, I decided to try to write.

Friend and I (she was an artist) had a 5 year plan. We'd write for magazines for free - for as long as it took to get paid. I got my work into print because of her art - we came as a package. Writers are ten a penny. Good illustrators - not so much. At the same time I volunteered for a national charity and somehow ended up editing all their publications. I learned more about writing there. Unpaid but I worked on things still in print today.

And then I was picked up on a large forum by an editor for a magazine. Readers liked what I did so she commissioned more. The magazine went the way of most magazines but I had by then built a name. So I was in demand.

I don't make a living but I pay some bills and for maybe the past ten years I can go into W.H.Smiths most months and find something I have written, somewhere, on the shelves.

Younger writers don't have the breadth of life experience to make brilliant writers as a rule. They can be too A-levelly. You need to write and write unpublished for a long time to develop a voice. You then have to build an audience. Blogs help as you can check stats and see which posts readers liked, which they didn't. Get a strong sense of the market. Sadly it is about having a gimlet eye for the market.

I have met many readers of both blog and pieces and they always say they appreciate my style of writing, and the fact I never treat readers like idiots. I assume a high level of intelligence in them. And I think that has been vital. Never be boring. Open with a really compelling sentence/idea.

Am at the point where I just let it flow, give them a higher word count and let the sub editors do their magic. But starting out you are your own editor. So learning editing skills on someone else's work, where you can be dispassionate, is a boon.

JoffreyBaratheon Wed 12-Apr-17 01:52:49

ETA: touch typing in the dark. Forgive typos! My mum was a secretary and teaching me to type was one of her greatest gifts to me but I still get it wrong at nearly 2 AM!

TheCakes Wed 12-Apr-17 08:48:36

You see I'd say please don't write for free. Do some work experience, or an internship, and set up a blog, but publications need to be paying their writers.
When they think they can get copy for free it devalues the trade. Any publication using professional writers would expect to pay. Start as you mean to go on.

EastMidsMummy Wed 12-Apr-17 09:04:45

Does she write already? It amazes me how many young would-be writers I see at work (marketing) who don't habitually write for fun.

I fell into commercial/business writing after writing more creatively (but less lucratively!) in other mediums. I find the same in lots of creative disciplines (film-making, design, music production etc.)

Blogging, journals, plays, films, short stories, poetry, journalism. If she's not already doing that just because, then I think she'd struggle to make a career from it.

PhilODox Wed 12-Apr-17 09:07:57

She needs to write every day, and not get hung up about not wanting to edit her work. Writing is a craft, and like every other craft/skill, it is improved by practice.

Imamouseduh Wed 12-Apr-17 09:12:03

Please don't write for free. You undermine every paid writer (not to mention yourself) when you do and contribute to the lowering of the bar when it comes to writing standards across the board.

HarrietVane99 Wed 12-Apr-17 09:49:49

My mum bought me an ancient, 'Underwood' typewriter (this was the 1960s and it was maybe an Edwardian typewriter!)

We had one of those, like you, in the '60s. We acquired it when the company a family member worked for threw out their ancient typewriters.

Like Joffrey, I always knew I wanted to write, specifically fiction. I remember announcing to my mother in the children's library that I wanted to be an author.

Fiction has had to take second place at times, for quite long periods - education, academic research, earning a living - but the ambition has always been there and now I've come back to it, while still pursuing my other job.

For a writer, no experience is wasted. The knowledge and research skills I acquired as a higher degree student and academic writer are very useful to me now as a novelist.

While I broadly agree with not writing for free, if someone is involved with a church, voluntary organisation or society, writing for their newsletters or magazines can be a useful experience in meeting deadlines and writing to required length and style, and also start a portfolio of published work.

It should go without saying that a writer should also read, anything she can get her hands on, all kinds of writing, all genres.

strangeclouds Wed 12-Apr-17 10:22:24

I agree with the others, don't write for any business for free. Writing privately for your own pleasure and practice is fine, but if a third party is making money from your writing, you should be paid. Don't be tricked into giving a skilled service without payment. (You might not realise it at first, but someone is almost certainly profiting, through selling their magazine, selling ads in their magazine, or selling ads/services through their website. You should have a cut of that). I did it once when I was young, felt like a mug, and swore it wouldn't happen again.

I make more money than most writers, I suspect, and it's because after that experience I took ownership of the whole writing/publishing/marketing process. It wouldn't suit everyone but it means that instead of receiving a one-off payment for each article, I've still got income coming in every month from things I wrote years ago, and I earn 70% royalties from ebooks (plus extra commission if I sell them through my own affiliate links). The drawback is that I don't get to spend my entire time writing.

UppityHumpty Wed 12-Apr-17 10:28:14

I started off by writing company financial analyses on my own website, submitting articles on online portals such as the Economist and journals. But it depends on what she wants to write about. Generally there is more of a demand for self-help and self-improvement - if that's what she wants to do then writing a blog, keeping an instagram, and submitting to the Daily Mail might be a good start

peachgreen Wed 12-Apr-17 14:15:58

I work in communications so I do more than just writing, but copywriting is the main bulk of my day-to-day work. I don't have any specific qualifications (a degree in English Lit) but have always written and kept up with the latest digital trends (totally invaluable for most writers, imo). I started in a social media role and each role since then has been more and more specialist. I'm now a Comms Manager so the writing I do is a mixture of commercial (customer letters, documentation, web copy, marketing collateral) and creative (social media, blogs etc).

I make a reasonable salary - though not as good as when I was doing it in London, alas! - and charge £300 a day for freelance work (I don't do much of it as we don't need the money right now - maybe two days a month every second month. But at one point I was doing it more regularly and supplementing my income by maybe £1000 a month which was great.) Freelance copywriting is where the money is, definitely - but I couldn't handle the hustling, networking and uncertainty!

JoffreyBaratheon Wed 12-Apr-17 17:34:05

I used to write for free for small magazines, which gave me experience. I don't think it lowersanyone's standards. Around the same time was editing for a national charity and we couldn't afford to pay contributors to our (well regarded) magazine, ut I still had a slush pile a mile high from would-be writers, and we might occasionally take one piece from that if we had a problem filling an issue or so last minute thing cropped up, leaving us with a bit of space to fill. Believe me, amongst the not so good writers in that pile, there were many, many pieces at least as well written as those we commissioned. They just didn't fit what we were planning for an issue, or there'd be some other reason we never published. I cut my teeth as a published writer, writing little fillers, and odds and ends as well as re-modellling things written by experts in the field who were dry and boring but had something useful to say.

More than one of my 'free' pieces for others were later re-published in 'paying' magazines so none of that effort was wasted. We had a five year plan but within a year or two, I was getting paid and wherever a magazine had a sliding scale for contributors' payments, I'd quickly find myself sought after and at the top end of that scale.

I'd write anywhere for free for a toe-hold. (In places where no-one is paid). Once you have experience, you have to learn to pitch without ever writing a word of the piece (why write anything unpaid, at that stage?) I pride myself I can write a one paragraph or less pitch in an email and get the piece commissioned 98 times out of 100. I never send unsolicited work anywhere and in fact, no longer write a single sentence until I have already sold the piece.

But it isn't easy for beginners to do that where they haven't established a name and there is no demand for what they do. So yes, do write for free if you are good. It won't be long before you won't need to.

JoffreyBaratheon Wed 12-Apr-17 17:36:43

And blog, blog, blog. And use your analytics to figure out who is reading your stuff and why.

Blogging is also 'free' (at least mine is, as my blog is 'educational' so I refuse to monetise it). But it makes your name if you can do it effectively. If you can build followers, and engage with readers you will learn what they want to read and why. Then it is a short step to providing that. In places that pay top whack.

ThreeLeggedHaggis Wed 12-Apr-17 17:43:27

I'm a bid writer for a day job and a fiction (novel) author on the side.

So my main question is how did you start?

Fell into it, like most careers! I studied a science at university, which has come in very handy in my fiction (e.g. writing a scientist character). I would advice an aspiring writer to not study English or journalism or some such at university. I would advise her to take a science or, if she isn't at all science-y, something like archaeology - it will give her an edge as a writer, and other career options.

And also how did you develop this into your career?

Usual way; start at the bottom and work up.

Does it pay the mortgage every month etc?

Bid writing is very well paid. I have five years' experience and I'm on £50k.

Novel-writing is pocket money. If you're one of the 1 in 4,000 who gets traditionally published, with a bit of luck you can make a few grand per book over the course of a year or two. This will grow if you keep producing novels and get a backlist. If you self-publish you can expect to lose money, assuming you paid for a cover and editor. If you self-published for free without professional help, you'll probably get zero sales outside of friends and family. The average self-published author sells a dozen copies total.

Nobody should get into fiction writing for the money.

PJBanana Wed 12-Apr-17 17:45:09

I'm a copywriter. Could be something to consider if she's interested in marketing or advertising.

I did a business and marketing degree before getting a job in digital marketing straight out of uni. I ended up doing lots of blogging, content writing etc and really enjoyed it, so I started writing my own blog.

Not long after that I applied for a copywriting role with a big retailer, and I was offered the job over other candidates because of the quality of my own personal blog and my performance on the company's copy test.

I would say that blogging and getting bits of experience here and there is invaluable. Also agree with PP, never work for free. I work full time 37.5 hours with decent pay and very good benefits. Sure, it isn't the highest paying job in the world but it definitely isn't bad.

LineysRun Wed 12-Apr-17 17:56:32

The Squarespace analytics are very good.

KathyBeale Wed 12-Apr-17 18:01:54

I am a journalist and novelist. I started in local papers (after a degree in English Lit and my NCTJ) then moved to magazines.

I have been made redundant twice and in more than 20 years my earnings never went above £30k in London working at a fairly high level for good magazines. Most recently I was a deputy editor. My novels make absolutely bugger all - about £50 a month per novel (I've written quite a few so it's beginning to add up but it's not a living).

I am fairly disillusioned with the whole business so might not be the one to ask! But I also love writing and wouldn't (also couldn't!) do anything else.

I would say it's not a profession to go into expecting to make money. I would also agree with those saying not to work for free. And I would recommend working out what kind of writing she wants to do - there is a lot of difference between the sort of writing jobs we all do on here.

Imamouseduh Wed 12-Apr-17 19:25:44

I used to write for free for small magazines, which gave me experience. I don't think it lowersanyone's standards

Really? Would you suggest that to someone wanting to get a job in any other sector? Law? Nursing? Didn't think so.

indigox Wed 12-Apr-17 20:15:30

Online copywriting can be well paid, and far more secure than journalism, with jobs writing copy for websites at brands and marketing agencies.

I'm a marketing manager for an online brand and hire copywriters to work in house, I've previously had positions where I've hired and managed freelance writers to write content for our websites, degree and education are less important than a portfolio full of published pieces. Junior salaries are around £16k.

JoffreyBaratheon Thu 13-Apr-17 09:16:00

Ima all I can say was, it worked for me. I wasn't contributing to magazines who paid for content, but those in some rather specialised fields, who didn't. As I say, a fair bit was later reprinted by others and I was paid for it anyway. But I 'cut my teeth' doing that and editing.

As I said, now I only write things I've already sold. I write more for the US market than the UK, but continue to publish in the best known UK magazines in the field(s).

You're wrong about breaking into something by working 'for nothing' by the way. Interns are a thing in the UK as well as US, now. Long before they were, a friend of mine with a degree in marketing worked for six months for no pay for a firm to learn his trade. He went on to run a business so successful, he was retired and living in NZ aged 45.

If you're good you will break out of (or never enter) the slush pile. It's as simple as that. How you choose to learn your trade doesn't matter. That said, I have several friends who are well published writers and we all have English degrees from 'decent' universities. Coincidence? Possibly. But I think we all just ended up with a mind-set that lends itself to writing, thanks to our education.

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