How to Make a Living as a Writer

Like so many others, I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember. When I was little, I told my mother I wanted to be a writer. Her answer?

“You’ll starve.”

Yes, it’s true, most writers don’t make a lot of money, and live rejection slip to rejection slip while serving coffee to make ends meet. Truthfully, there have been times when this was the case for me, but thankfully it hasn’t always been so. Which brings me to the first things you’ll need if you want to make a living as a writer: Determination and perseverance.

Determination and perseverance

If every writer gave up after being told something was no good or needed work, there wouldn’t be any writers. Everything worth doing takes effort, and writing especially doesn’t pay off the first time you try it. Keep at it.


How many Olympians win medals without years of training? No one gets to be good by not doing something. Practice may not make your writing perfect, but it likely will make it much better.


Go to writing classes or school. Read, read, read about writing, and everything else. Read fiction and nonfiction, short pieces and long books. Read new and old, online and in the back of dusty libraries and used book stores. Ask questions. Talk to other writers.


It truly is who you know as opposed to what you know, sometimes. Make friends with others in the industry, and learn from each other as you go. Join associations, and volunteer. You never know when an opportunity will come your way.

Redefine “Writer”

If your idea of being a writer means being the next great novelist, it’s time to think again. It is so rare to actually get a novel published, and those that do rarely become best-sellers or get any kind of recognition or publicity.

Even best-sellers don’t always make the author any real money.

Writers write whatever they can. They volunteer to write pamphlets for nonprofits, just to get a portfolio piece. They become marketers and write Google ads, and work at ad agencies writing commercials. They write blogs on various topics and become experts at something so that others will come to them asking for writing.

Being a writer doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve had a book published, but it does mean that you have written something, so think about how you could make money writing, or write for free so that someday you could make money writing.

What could being a writer mean to you?

Accept and work with constructive criticism

Yes, you could choose to ignore your editors when they say you should really change or move something, but generally, people want to help make your piece better. You don’t have to agree with everything you’re told, but consider any comments and try to work with your editors in the interest of improving your work. No one is perfect, and even editors need others to edit their work. Get over it. Trust me: Once you swallow that pride and listen to constructive (read: kind and helpful) criticism, things will slowly improve.

Oh, and don’t listen to your parents and friends if all they say about your writing is that “it’s good. I liked it.” You need the people who offer ways to make it better, such as, “I liked your main character, but it didn’t make sense when she walked away without fighting back. It seems to me she is too strong to do that and it wasn’t resolved.” You may think this is criticism, but it is constructive: You can do something about it.

Determination and perseverance

Feel like giving up yet?

Yes, you’ve already read this heading. It is that important that I need to state it again at the end, because it is about not giving up if you truly want to write for a living. Ever. Until you get that break from a publisher (or whatever you want), and even afterward, keep at it, read and write anything you can, and consider self-publishing opportunities such as maintaining a blog on a topic you like covering or researching how to self-publish that book. (Beware self-publishing scams! More on this in a future article.)

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One thought on “How to Make a Living as a Writer

  1. Thank you for the information. You have helped me restart writing and will take to heart your advice. So like the story of the little train saying to its self “I think I can, I think I can.” And ended up doing it.

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