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, Indeed.com 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?