Writer: job description

Last updated: 3 Jul 2023, 15:01

Writers produce articles, reports, books and other texts.

A writer sitting cross-legged on the floor with a drink in a mug, writing on a laptop

What does a writer do? | Salaries and pay for writers | Typical employers of writers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Writers are paid to write a variety of texts, including books and articles. Depending on the type of work, they can be either employed or freelance. An advertising copywriter , for example, is a type of writer who produces the text for adverts. Our overview of the different routes into writing careers explains some of the other options including journalism and online content writing.

What does a writer do?

Typical tasks for writers include:

  • drafting, writing, editing and proofreading text
  • pitching ideas to publishers
  • liaising with agents, editors and other publishing professionals
  • working with designers, photographers and marketing experts
  • contributing to publicity work, such as using social media to announce book launches and engage with readers and attending promotional events
  • researching and developing contacts
  • negotiating terms and conditions of contracts
  • administration, such as keeping track of expenses and filing tax returns.

Salaries for writers

Writers are paid differently depending on the medium for which they’re writing. For example, book authors generally receive royalties (payments for use of your intellectual property that are based on how many copies of your book are sold) and sometimes an advance (a lump sum paid during the writing phase that’s usually deducted from royalties). Writers for websites and magazines may be paid per article, per word or per hour, or they may agree a set fee with the publisher.

Writers tend not to earn high salaries; most people choose the role because they enjoy it. However, a small minority of writers, particularly those who have had their work adapted for the big screen, go on to earn large sums.

Because writers are often self-employed and don’t always earn enough to make a living from their writing alone, our advice on covering your living costs through other work is likely to be helpful.

Typical employers of writers

Writers are typically employed by or paid to produce work for:

  • book publishers
  • media companies
  • newspapers and magazines
  • online publishers
  • educational institutions
  • computer games developers
  • film studios.

In-house work, as opposed to freelance, is more common in technical author, copywriting, content development and journalist roles.

You can build experience and contacts by using gig work sites to find writing work. If you’re keen to write books, an agent will provide advice on how to get published and help secure contracts. Useful publications and websites include Writers’ Forum and The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook .

Qualifications and training required

You can become a writer as a university graduate or a school leaver as there are no formal academic qualifications needed. Previous experience from published articles, self-published titles, freelance or voluntary work, or writing competitions can help you explore your writing style and develop ideas.

Many universities, colleges and adult education centres offer short creative writing courses that can be helpful.

Key skills for writers

  • Excellent written communication
  • Time management
  • Personal organisation skills
  • Research skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • The ability to agree and meet a brief
  • An excellent grasp of narrative and structure
  • The ability to act on feedback
  • Attention to detail.

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