How to Take the First Steps to Becoming a Writer

While the life of a writer isn’t as rosy as is often depicted in popular movies and novels, writers do enjoy a relatively flexible profession. Writers are responsible for researching and creating written pieces for books, magazines, and websites like and they often set their own hours and work from home. Many are freelancers who work on a per assignment basis and have income levels that vary from month to month. Staff writers have more stable incomes, but they typically work regular office hours. All writers, however, regularly face acute deadline pressures. While there is lots of competition for writer jobs, you can prepare yourself to be one.

1. Gain computer skills. Writers spend most of their time researching on the Internet and in databases, writing on computers using word processing software and communicating with editors via email, but they must frequently use a number of other programs and technologies, too. Become familiar with word processing software, email programs, Internet browsers, Internet search engines, online databases, and PDF creators and files. Work on your keyboarding speed.
2. Read all you can in your genres and topics of interest. Good writers often read a lot to see what other writers have already written as well as to identify patterns of good writing they would do well to follow or at least keep in mind.
3. Earn a university degree in a writing-related field, such as journalism, English, communications or history. A university degree provides you with a well-rounded background through varied general education courses as well as teaches you all-important writing and research skills through your writing-related major. In addition, university degrees are typically required for staff writing positions.
4. Write and practice. “Practice makes perfect,” goes the idiom, and writers are no exception; they must work and practice to hone their skills and perfect their writing craft.
5. Build clips and samples. Whether you are pitching an editor for a freelance assignment or competing for a staff job, potential employers want to see evidence of past-published work. You can start small by writing for student, local, free or website publications, but the important thing is to build up your experience and publishing credits to your name.
6. Prepare a portfolio of clips and samples. While writers in the past typically created binders with physical copies clipped from newspapers, magazines and other media, writers today create websites where they highlight their work and link to articles published on websites or PDF files of print publication clips.