4 Skills You Need (Besides Writing) to Make a Living as a Writer

There’s no better time than right now to make a living doing what you love, although the reality may not be what you envision. Few writers who make a lucrative salary are doing exactly what they love, which often includes being hunched over a computer for days on end working on that novel, poem or short story. The good news is that every single business, corporation and agency needs a skilled writer and they’re willing to pay for quality. The bad news is that you’re probably not going to write about what you want.

Of course you need to be a great writer in order to make a decent living; that’s a given. However, to be competitive as a niche writer, technical writer, blogger or SEO writer, you need more than writing chops. There are a lot of great writers out there, a lot greater than you, and yet you can still have an edge over them. Consider these necessary skills you need to add to your arsenal.

1. Speed in spades

You need to be both a great writer and a speedy writer. To really earn big bucks, you should charge per word or a flat rate per project, not per hour. If you’re paid $50 per 500-word blog and you can do three in one hour, that’s $150 per hour. You’re in control of how well and quickly you write, so you can’t consider your work your baby or bemoan every change to the comma.

2. Time management skills

Likewise, you need to dominate your time, know how to prioritize your projects in a triage environment and put aside the appeal of multi-tasking. Many professional writers work as freelancers or in a virtual office setting so you won’t have a boss breathing down your neck. However, if you can’t keep yourself on track, it will show in your missed deadlines.


3. As many technical skills as possible

WordPress and search engine optimization (SEO) top the list of desirable traits for many who hire writers. However, different industries have different preferences, and it can behoove you to learn different coding languages, have experience working with a certain type of engineer, have knowledge in music or is musically inclined, or have a biomedical background. This is where you have some freedom in directing your future, so choose wisely.

4. People skills

The life of a writer as solitary is nice in theory, but unrealistic when it comes to technical writing. You’re going to be working with managers who haven’t a clue about writing, editors, engineers, perhaps interviewing people who don’t want to talk to you. The better you can communicate in writing and in person, the easier your job will be.

The skills you need to be a great writer never end, and they can always be honed. As a newbie, take on as many diverse projects as possible to learn as you go (and get paid for it). You’ll figure out where you excel and where to focus more of your attention. As for that love of writing, you just might be able to afford the luxury of time to write the next great American novel after finishing that last fluff piece for the celebrity gossip online magazine.