Choosing a career path is a major decision. If you enjoy books, poems, and stories, you might be considering whether a career in creative writing is right for you.
Here are some things to consider if you think you want to pursue a professional writing career.
4 Questions to Ask Yourself if You Want a Career in Creative Writing
There are many pros and cons to a career in writing. Based on my experience, here’s what I think you should ask yourself if you want to determine if you’re well suited to this line of work.
What Jobs Are Available for Creative Writing Majors?
The first thing you need to know when researching whether or not a creative writing career is a good fit for you is what jobs you can actually work as a writer.
I’ve explained the main options in detail in another post (8 Careers for Writers that Aren’t Teaching or Publishing), but here are the basics:
- Teaching: If you get an MFA or PhD, you can teach creative writing at the university level. If you’re passionate about sharing ideas with students, this can be a wonderful career. But higher education is a super competitive space and adjunct professors make very little money.
- Publishing: You can work as an editor, agent, or publisher. However, these jobs famously require huge time commitments. If you’re not willing to commit yourself to a demanding role, this route might not be for you. Plus, you’ll probably be doing more reading than writing.
- Marketing/Web Content Creation: Online marketing is vital to the success of just about every business these days. You can write blog posts, web copy, technical documentation, and other digital content. The drawback here is that sometimes your job might not feel that creative.
- Freelance Writing: You can freelance for all kinds of writing projects—even fiction! However, you’ll need to become a savvy entrepreneur if you’re going to make it as a freelancer. You’ll essentially be your own business, which means you’ll need some bookkeeping skills and a way to manage clients and deadlines on your own.
As you can see, there are lots of job opportunities for writers. Which is best for you depends on your personality, your interests, and your goals.
That said, you don’t want to go into a creative writing career with rose-colored glasses on. There are down sides to all of the creative writing jobs listed above, and you need to be prepared to meet those challenges if you’re going to be successful.
Is Creative Writing a Good Paying Job?
The short answer is no, creative writing typically doesn’t pay that well.
There are always exceptions to that rule. Some tenured professors make six figures. Publishing executives at the large publishing houses in the U.S. also bring in an average of $149, 526, according to Comparably.
Marketing salaries vary significantly based on how large and profitable your company is. As a freelancer your income is dependent on how well you bring in clients and how much time you’re willing to work.
However, you can expect your starting salary to end up somewhere in the $30k–$40k range. That’s pretty typical for content writers, editors, and adjunct professors.
How much money can you make publishing a book? That, too, varies greatly based on how you publish and who you publish with. Advances from small presses are often under $5,000. If you’re publishing in magazines, you can hope for a couple hundreds bucks for your story or poem.
All said and done, if you’re thinking you want a writing career because you’ll make lots of money, you should look elsewhere. A creative writing career requires a genuine enjoyment of writing and dedication to the practice of it.
Do You Need to Go to School for Creative Writing?
You don’t have to go to school for creative writing. Plenty of people pursue writing as a second career or find it accidentally.
However, there are several reasons you might want to earn a creative writing degree, such as:
- You want to teach creative writing. In order to teach at the university level, you typically need an MFA or PhD.
- You want time to work on your writing project. One of the best things about an MFA program is that it provides time, space, and constructive criticism to help you improve your craft.
- You’re hoping to go into publishing. A relevant degree can look good on your resume, but more importantly, you’ll likely have the chance to make connections in the industry and pursue publishing internships.
So, while it’s not a requirement, going to school for creative writing can help further your career. Higher education is an expense, so you’ll want to weigh whether it’s worth it for your goals.
Is Your Personality Well Suited to a Creative Writing Career?
Writers generally have to be very self-motivated and disciplined people. No matter which creative writing career you pursue, you’ll need to hold yourself accountable and be able to manage your time wisely.
Beyond the demands of freelance writing, teaching, or working in publishing, you’ll probably want to work on your own projects, too. After all, that’s what creative writing is really all about! Balancing a full time job with your creative pursuits can be hard, and requires determination if you want to see your name in print.
Additionally, writing careers are often on the solitary side. While there is sure to be camaraderie among publishing houses, university faculty, and marketing departments, most of your actual work will be done alone. If you love group projects, you might have a hard time flourishing in the creative writing field.
A creative writing career can be highly rewarding, but it’s important that you know what you’re signing up for. Although there can be many challenges for those who want to make a living writing, it’s definitely possible.
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Featured Image Credit: Unsplash.