How to Become a Professional Writer: A Step-by-Step Guide

Becoming a professional writer is a dream for many students. Getting paid to share your words can seem like a fun, exciting, and creative career choice. However, the path to becoming a professional writer isn’t clear, especially once you’re out of school. So, what should you do if you have designs on becoming a professional writer? In this article, we’ll begin looking into the question of how to become a professional writer with a step-by-step guide. Once you read this article, you’ll have a better idea of what you’ll need to do to become a professional writer and whether this path is the right one for you.

So, where do you begin?


1. Know How to Write

This might be the most obvious step, but it’s also an important one. You need to be sure that you have the writing skills to write professionally. Many people feel like they are great writers only to have the real world remind them that they need more work to build their writing skills. Get a number of opinions on your writing. Find out if other people agree that you write well enough to be a professional writer. If the answer is yes, that’s great. But if the answer is no, you might want to consider skill-building before you launch yourself into a professional writing career.


2. Consider Degrees and Qualifications

While formal qualifications aren’t necessary for becoming a professional writer, having credentials that you can show employers can give you a leg up while you are searching for professional writing work. Having a major or a minor in creative writing, professional writing, or technical writing can be a beneficial qualification at the undergraduate level. Many also pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree. While this qualification is generally preferred for students who intend to pursue teaching opportunities, it can also be a beneficial qualification when pursuing writing work in a creative field.


3. Have Samples to Share

You’ll find that potential employers are going to want to see samples of your work. One of the best ways to do this is to create a portfolio of clips you can share. In the old days, this would be a physical portfolio where you would cut out articles and stories you wrote from newspapers and magazines and place them in a binder. Today, it’s more likely that you will be putting your article, stories, press releases, and other types of writing into an online portfolio, either for public consumption or set to private to be shared only with employers. You want to be sure that you can show your best writing in terms of quality as well as your range in terms of the types of writing that you can do.


4. Write for Free

This is one of the bitterest pills for potential professional writers to swallow, but you’re going to have to do some writing for free. That means that you’ll need to write articles, essays, stories, etc. for exposure, building up your portfolio of work to show that you not only have writing skills but that editors have found your work worthy of publication. Eventually, the steamroller effect will take hold, and you’ll be able to parlay that work into paying gigs. Similarly, if screenwriting is in your future, you’ll need to write some spec scripts (sample scripts for existing series or new ideas) for free that you can show to producers to demonstrate your talent. The effort you put in now will pay off later.


5. Consider Writing Essays for Students

To be entirely honest, the number of paying career paths for professional writers has grown smaller over the years. If you need to hone your skills to earn extra money, you might want to consider getting hired by a company that provides professional writing services for college students. When you write academic papers and essays online for an academic writing company like, you will have an opportunity to write on a variety of topics while you get paid. Some aspiring professional writers are wary about moving into a field like academic essay writing, especially due to the ethical issues, but it can provide a steady second income while working your way up the professional writing ladder.


6. Network, Network, Network

In order to move into the higher levels of professional writing, you’ll need to make connections to help get your foot in the door. The dirty secret is that for every job opening and every call for stories or articles, there are thousands of people competing. And most of them will never stand out from the crowd. In order to get your pitches and your applications moved to the top of the pile, you need to develop professional relationships with fellow writers and with editors. By networking, you’ll create relationships that will show editors that you are reliable, trustworthy, and a good investment.


7. Accept that Rejection is Inevitable

As a professional writer, you will face rejection. Your ideas will be turned down time and again. You will not get jobs. You will be criticized. It’s the nature of the beast. You need to be sure that you are not taking it personally. You will need to develop a thick skin in order to draw a firm line between your personal and professional lives so professional challenges don’t impact your sense of self-worth.


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