Blog Post

Web Worker Careers: Writers and Editors

Pen and paper

Ninety-nine percent of authors don’t make money on their book projects, 99 percent of publishers lose money and 1,500 books are published every day, reports Clint Greenleaf. With those stats, why does anyone consider a career as a writer or editor?

Because even with those stats, it is possible to make a good living. Especially now, as the growing number of online publications means there are many writing and editing opportunities that go beyond traditional books, newspaper and magazines.

Could you consider writing or editing as a career?

Types of Writing and Editing Careers

Book authors need no explanation. However, unless you’re Malcolm Gladwell, Nora Roberts or James Patterson, don’t expect to earn a comfortable living as a fiction author. I’m not trying to crush your dreams; just don’t give up your day job. There are other types of books that need writing, too: ebooks, nonfiction, textbooks, etc. If you write these kinds of books on a regular basis, you can earn a decent living.

Business writers produce white papers, case studies, newsletters, web sites, brochures, ads and business plans.

Technical writers develop product documentation, training materials and assembly instructions.

Web content writers require a different writing style because people read online content differently than they do print. Writers in this area need to think about search engine optimization, readability, organization and structure. Bloggers can make a healthy living or do it as a part-time job; success depends on the publication’s popularity, products for sale, ads and sponsorship.

Copywriters work to promote a product, person, business or idea by choosing the right words, slogans and phrases to compel people to take the desired action. Their writing appears in ads, brochures and other promotional publications.

Proofreaders look for typos, punctuation mistakes, and grammatical errors in copy. Proofreading generally happens right before publishing and after the editor has done his or her job. They generally don’t rewrite sentences and restructure material like copyeditors.

Copyeditors go deeper than proofreaders do in reviewing the finished copy for spelling, punctuation, grammar and word usage errors. They also pay attention to the content for clarity and rewrite and restructure the copy as needed. If the content includes graphics, charts and captions, they ensure the content matches the visuals and captions.

Editing includes commenting on, approving, revising and rejecting writers’ content. Aside from editing for grammar and content, they also ensure the articles follow the publications’ style guidelines.

How to Qualify

Write. Write. Write. Read. Read. Read. Read books and blogs on writing. Practice writing often. Everyone can improve, even good writers. I recoil when I read the papers I wrote in college because of the stiff and formal writing style. A good writer accepts all feedback and makes changes as needed. Those who fight about every word or phrase will have a harder time surviving as a writer.

Anne Toole, television drama and games writer, got her start in television writing when she worked on a series of TV shows as an assistant. When the TV series needed a writer, she was there. “You don’t need a degree, but writing skills, gained through talent, hard work, school or mentoring are essential,” says Toole.

College writing takes a wholly different approach than professional writing and web writing. Study the writing you want to do and practice that style. A career as a writer or editor doesn’t require a related college degree. If you’d like to spiff up your skills, take a writing class at the local community college or online. Join online writing groups and subscribe to email newsletters that cover writing like AbsoluteWrite, Power Writing and Christina Katz’ Writers on the Rise and Get Known Groove. At WebWorkerDaily, we have plenty of tips on freelancing, writing and editing.

Writing and Editing Tools

The bare minimum is a computer with a word processor, like Word (s msft), and an Internet connection for submitting your work. Script writers use Final Draft to write and format scripts. Writers and editors rely on Excel, Visio, OneNote and mind-mapping tools for research, brainstorming and other writing-related tasks. References like dictionaries and thesauruses come in handy. Writers and editors also use applications for invoicing, time tracking and taxes. Those determined to work with a publication should grab a copy of “Writer’s Market.”

I could never live without my dual monitor setup; it really helps my productivity. I often have an article draft on one screen and the Internet or other app for referencing on the other.

Find Clients

Jennifer Escalona finds clients online. “When I blind query, I look on freelance job sites like craigslist, FreelanceJobOpenings, and many, many more. I ask for a testimonial and mention that I appreciate referrals. I also network with other freelancer writers, who often have great job leads,” says Escalona.

Many writers say they started landing clients on bidding sites like eLance, though others have complained of lowballing, or quoting low estimates. Keep in mind, too, that writers and editors value word-of-mouth marketing and social networking. Until you have built your portfolio, consider writing unpaid articles for a nonprofit, charity or blog that covers a topic of interest to you.

Are you considering a career in writing or editing?

13 Responses to “Web Worker Careers: Writers and Editors”

  1. This is a very interesting site. I have been writing for 50 blog/websites for the last month and have found it to be fascinating. Just thought I would check around to see what writing for profit might entail. Your site was the first one I checked out. Thank you for the information.

  2. Thanks for your comments about writing. One thing I have found that works is talk your writing: speak into a microphone and get someone to type it. Then read it outloud – if you feel it’s stilted then it is. Listen carefully to the flow and keep away from $10 words and jargon – they cause people to stop or skip, and that might be just the most important info you wanted to get across.

    Charlie Seymour Jr

  3. The talent of writing sounds like a double edged sword; it is a great thing to be able to do, but it is difficult to make money off of. That sucks. I wonder however if writers didn’t make any money, how come there are so many books on the market? Well I suppose I just have to keep on writing, and perhaps I’ll get lucky one day.

  4. It is definitely possible to make a living just from writing website copy and marketing copy. The #2 seller on has completed 1,600+ writing jobs:

    However, it can be a challenge for a new writer to break into a freelance site. Here are some articles on how to do that, which your readers may find helpful:

  5. @Work at Home, not forgotten. Online marketing is a different career. We’ve covered SEO and SEM, and we plan another career on marketing and PR. Gotta draw the line somewhere or it could become a book.

  6. This is a great article on more traditional forms of writing jobs. But you left out what I consider one of the best ways to use your writing talents… and that is for the expressed purpose of online marketing. You can take any site or product that you’re affiliated with and use your writing skills to drive traffic to that site and make money.

    Some of these traffic generation strategies include Article Marketing, Press Releases, Forum/Blog Marketing, Blogging, and others. These are all legitimate techniques to implement to drive traffic to any site. If you learn these strategies, you can use them for your own sites, or charge businesses to do it for them.

    I have a free team membership site that teaches these strategies and others on how to drive traffic to their sites. We use a legitimage work at home business online opportunity to monetize our traffic, but again, these strategies can be implemented for any site.

    There are millions of internet marketers that don’t like to write, so once you learn how to implement these strategies correctly, you can sell your services to these marketers… if you don’t want to market your own site.

    I hope that gets you thinking outside of the box! We all need help in today’s economy.


  7. I’ve written 3 books for Wiley in 11 months (finishing a Win7 book now). The pay is not bad, but not awesome, either. Writing with a tight deadline can be grueling work that puts pressure on the rest of one’s life.

    I started as a technical editor, who confirms an author’s instructions are correct. It’s hard to do enough tech editing to earn a living.

    Ditto to the value of dual monitors. Plus VM software, such as Virtual PC.