Writer: job description

Writers produce literary compositions, articles, reports, books and other texts.

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Excellent writing and communication skills are obviously essential, but so is a determined attitude and the ability to take criticism.

What does a writer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

The vast majority of writers are self-employed or freelance. Permanent paid work is more common in technical author, academic or journalist roles. Nonetheless, a determined writer can carve themselves a niche. Typical tasks include:

  • writing, editing and proofreading text
  • liaising with other professionals such as printers, photographers and artists
  • marketing and distributing work
  • researching and developing contacts
  • seeking publishing contracts
  • negotiating terms and conditions of contracts
  • general administration.

High salaries are not common among writers, and most people choose the role because of the joint benefits of being their own boss and doing something they enjoy. However, a small minority of writers, particularly those who have had their work adapted for the big screen, have gone on to earn large sums.

Typical employers of writers

  • Publishers
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Radio or television dramas
  • Computer games developers
  • Film studios

Many successful writers find work by building up contacts in the field they wish to move into. An agent can be employed to provide advice and to help secure contracts. Useful publications include Writers' Forum , The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook and The Writer's Handbook as well as their online equivalents.

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, freelance work or writing competitions can be useful, but it's not essential. A wide variety of institutions including universities, colleges and adult education centres offer short creative writing courses that can be helpful.

To find out how to get into a career in writing via a school leaver route, visit the media section of TARGETcareers , our website aimed at school leavers.

Key skills for writers

  • Perseverance
  • Excellent written communication
  • A good grasp of narrative
  • Awareness of audiences

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