If you’ve put pen to paper and discovered you have a talent, a career in writing, either full time or part time, isn’t hard to get off the ground. Keep in mind that wages vary in writing jobs, as do publications, but entry level writing jobs aren’t hard to come by if you make the right connections.
Community newspapers often run on small budgets and that constraint can be an open door for you. Stringers are writers who work for newspapers on a contractual basis covering meetings and small events that normally take place outside of the regular workday. For example, if you always attend the local school board meeting, take notes next time you attend. Write up a sample draft and stop by your community paper and meet with the editor. Chances are they will be happy to have you aboard if you can write. And who knows, if you develop a good relationship with the paper, you just may be their next staff writer in the future. While you won’t get rich as a stringer, with some outlets not even paying at all, you will get your feet wet and build your resume in the process.
Staff writers are entry-level writers responsible for providing content to publications. At newspapers staff writers may cover sports, news, meetings, or local events. In magazines the assignments will vary and are likely to be less timely events and more feature-like pieces. Writing for a publication means you will be working under a deadline. Staff writers are also employed by organizations such as colleges and political offices to create content, such as press releases. Staff writers often need a high school diploma and some post-secondary education, but if you can craft a good article, that will speak more for you than an educational credential.
Sitting in your pajamas earning a paycheck is a dream for many people. Writers who get in touch with the right markets are able to earn a living without having to leave home. Keep in mind it is a challenge to earn a living wage as a freelance writer right out of the gate, but don’t get discouraged. Do your research. Books are available about writing markets that offer publication contacts and writing guidelines. Start out with what you know when you write and use your passion to get your foot in the door and start making money. For example, if you’ve worked as a cook in the past, write about food. Freelance doesn’t require any formal education, you just have to be able to make your articles work and have researched them properly.
No salary is set in stone when it comes to working as an entry-level writer. Stringers may be paid as little as $35 for a story depending upon the length of the article. Freelancing salaries depend on the availability of work and budget of the publication. The more you write, the more you will make in freelance. If you need a steady income, however, consider working as staff writer. Not only will you get to write on a regular basis, but you will collect a consistent paycheck and may even qualify for fringe benefits depending on the organization you work for. If you decide to stick with writing, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports experienced writers and authors can earn an average annual salary of $55,420.
Shannon Jones is a news editor and writer based in Michigan. Her work has received several writing awards, including the Richard Lacourse Award for investigative journalism. Jones holds master's degrees in both administration and marketing.