So you want to be a writer? The path to employment can often feel like walking through a maze, with many different pathways available. Should I do a degree in journalism? Do I need NCTJ qualifications or will work experience be enough? Am I ready to go freelance? We can’t promise to get you out of the maze and into the light of your dream job, but have come up with eleven courses that might help.
Writing based careers
To some extent every job contains an element of writing, from filling out a performance review to submitting a detailed report, however for most Excel phobic writers this will not be enough. The first thing to decide is print or web, a decision that sounds simple but means a lot. Newspaper or magazine journalists will work on national, regional or local press; beginning as a junior writer or editorial assistant creating the stories allocated to you, moving up to a feature writer or correspondent. Having your name in print, especially when it comes to newspapers, often requires you to have a journalism qualification so this is something to consider.
Web writers or digital content writers will create copy for a website, a role that is in growing demand as many publications move online and changes in Google meaning sites need better content. Most websites will have a writer or editorial team, writing for SEO (search engine optimisation) as well as researching and reporting on industry trends.
Copywriting is another option for budding writers; a role where you will be expected to write advertising and marketing copy, as well as press releases, sales letters, training manuals and newsletters for a company. Alongside this runs bid writing, where writers will be expected to prepare and produce business growth proposals for corporations, checking drafts for readability and grammar spelling.
Then there are subject specific writers. For example, medical writers are expected to research and edit scientific news, articles and features for technical journals and professional publications. Most medical writers will have experience or interest in the scientific field they specialise in.
Creative writing or fiction writing is another option – if you have a novel in the back of your mind and the passion to work hard to get it published this could be for you. Fiction writing can be a difficult field to get into, but as many novelists have proven, you can become a great success.
Am I ready to freelance?
Writing freelance can be great, it allows you to specialise, to work from home and to get your work printed in a number of publications. Though on the other hand freelancing can be tough, very tough. In order to get work you need to build a reputation or a name for yourself, so if you are just starting out on your writing career this can be hard. Every full time freelance writer will tell you time management and being good at working alone is key, as is making contacts and not being afraid of getting yourself out there and pitching ideas.
What courses would look good on my CV?
Shorthand - The language of journalists, writing in shorthand is a quick way of taking notes using a series of symbols instead of words. Most newspapers will ask if you can use shorthand in an interview, so if news reporting is your dream, swotting up on a shorthand course could be a good first step.
Copywriting - Get a head start on producing promotional copy or master the art of finding the right words for a brochure with a copywriting course.
Press release writing – Many editors are inundated with bad press releases that end up in their email trash. Taking a course on press release writing is a great way to learn the lingo and impress.
Photojournalism – Editorial and document photography are skills required by newspaper journalists who visually communicate leading stories. Learn how to develop a photo essay and analyse the work of professional photojournalists on a master class.
Creative writing – Whether it’s scriptwriting, fashion blogging or telling stories, there are a number of creative writing options available. Although your ideas may be flowing, kill your darlings and learn how to cut and edit in a creative writing course.
Writing for newspapers – If you are not quite sure which path to follow yet, trying out different styles of writing is a good option. A course in how to write for a newspaper is a pressure free way to try before you apply.
Novel writing – You’ve got all the ideas but putting them down on paper leaves you in a muddle. A novel writing course enables writers to get their creative juices flowing, bounce ideas off other members of the group and flag up the pitfalls to avoid when trying to get the finished work published.
Copy editing – Ever get ‘your’ confused with ‘you’re’? Still not entirely sure when or where to insert a comma? Editing and proofreading are a vital part of every writer’s job. Professional proofreaders have a number of top mistakes to watch out for, so if you skim read and think you’re finished, a copy editing course could be a good addition to your CV.
Print and publishing – Learn about the various forms of editorial design with a course in print and publishing.
Television journalism – Gone are the days when the newsreader was just a pretty face. If you are interested in broadcast journalism, a practical course will teach you important skills such as interview technique and presenting to the camera.
Writing for radio- Think the Archers; a long running radio drama needs all the element of a good script, without relying on what your audience can see. Learn the tricks of the trade from established professionals with a course.
Jane McGuire received her BA (English) from the University of Loughborough. A yoga enthusiast with a sweet tooth, in her spare time you will probably find Jane in the gym or online shopping.