There is much mystique surrounding the image of a professional writer. We conjure up a mental picture of Ernest Hemmingway tugging on a cigar as he sails the Caribbean under a blazing sun. We imagine him returning to a tiny bungalow on the island of Cuba, furiously typing out his next bestseller on a sturdy Underwood. The reality of a full-time writing career, however, usually falls a tad short of what our imaginations cook up, so it’s smart to start off with some realistic expectations.

Learning how to be a full-time writer is a journey that exists on a continuum, with lots of potholes and obstacles to trip you up if you don’t have a solid understanding of the publishing industry. Even so, with some preparation and hard work, these seven steps can show you how to write full-time and eventually succeed at your goals. And who knows, maybe someday you will find yourself basking under a Caribbean sun, too.

7 Essential Steps for Anyone Wanting To Become a Full-Time Writer

Those naturally gifted writers who manage to pump out a succession of bestsellers without ever taking a single writing class outside of 10th grade Creative Writing are absolutely the exception. Most successful writers have spent years honing their skills before they figured out how to make a living writing full-time.

Consider these seven tips to help you learn how to be a full-time writer and prosper at it:

Step #1: Hone your writing skills.

The harsh truth is that mediocre writing will never result in a successful writing career. It just won’t. To achieve your goals, you need to improve all aspects of your craft, including writing mechanics, grammar, storytelling, and your persuasive writing skills if nonfiction is your dream genre. Find an online writing workshop or take some writing courses at the local college to further perfect your skills.

Step #2: Write, write, and then write some more.

As with any creative pursuit, the more you practice your craft the better you become at it. Get yourself on a regular writing schedule and stick to it. Establish writing goals, such as 1,000 words per day for your manuscript, one blog post per week, or one short story per month. Before you know it, you will have plenty of work to submit for publication.

Step #3: Submit your work.

To build a writer portfolio you’ll need some published pieces to showcase. The only way a budding author gets published is to put their work out there, but start small. No need to tackle a 100,000-word masterpiece right out of the gate. Instead, submit some op-ed guest columns to your local paper. Enter some short stories in writing contests. Pitch some articles to magazines.

Step #4: Create an Upwork profile.

Once you have been published a few times, you can leverage those pieces by creating a profile on Upwork where you can apply for freelance writing gigs. This is particularly helpful if you plan to work as a part-time content writer while you pen your first novel. Each published piece can be added to your Upwork portfolio and boost your credibility, which helps you land higher-paying gigs. More importantly, each assignment offers a chance to practice and refine your writing skills.

Step #5: Build a portfolio.

After you have accumulated some high-quality published pieces, it is time to assemble a portfolio of your work and to create an author website. An author website conveys an air of professionalism and provides a place to publish your portfolio — and later features your newly published book. Many self-published authors sell their books directly from their author website, in addition to online bookseller sites. The website is a great place to post your blogs, short stories, book-signing announcements, and excerpts from your book.

Step #6: Create a social media presence.

Whether you decide to take the traditional publishing route or to self-publish your book, you will need an social media presence.

Traditional publishers simply expect you to already have an established social media footprint when you submit a query, and if you self-publish your book, you’ll find social media platforms to be invaluable for marketing and promoting your book.

Step #7: Consider self-publishing.

The self-publishing option offers an outstanding opportunity to establish a full-time writing career. Going this route gives authors much more control over the pace of publication, allowing you to create and publish multiple books or a series at your own pace. In addition, authors retain full ownership of their books and earn higher royalties. If you are learning how to become a full-time writer, consider self-publishing as the end goal.

Things To Know Before Taking the Leap

Before setting your sights on a full-time writing career, it is a good idea to address some basic questions first:

  • How much does a writer make a year? As with any artistic endeavor, a writer’s earnings can run the gamut. If you want to learn how to be a full-time writer and also keep your head above water financially, having a general understanding of income potential is just practical information. On average, half of full-time authors earn less than $12,000 annually, according to the Author’s Guild, although this means that many do earn more (and some much more) than that.
  • What’s the best way to change careers and become a full-time writer? It isn’t a bad idea to segue incrementally into a full-time writing career. Start a side hustle as a freelance writer while keeping your regular job. Slowly build your freelance portfolio while also writing your own works. If you can get a steady stream of freelance work, cut back to part-time at your regular job, if possible — all the while continuing to work on your short stories, novel, or nonfiction book. Once you have self-published two or three books you may be in a position to drop your regular job and just focus on writing for a living.
  • How hard is it to become a successful full-time writer? The answer to this question is: very hard. Becoming a full-time author involves a great deal of self-discipline because you work for yourself and can easily get distracted. You will need to promote and market your books constantly to keep them alive in the bookseller algorithms, and that takes both time and treasure. You have to manage your social media feeds regularly, adding posts that nudge readers to visit your website and to hopefully buy your book. Book income doesn’t just magically happen once your book is published, it is the result of hard work and lots of dedication.

Regardless of the obstacles encountered along the path to a full-time writing career, when there is a burning passion to write there is simply no stopping you.

Succeed as a Full-Time Writer With the Right Support

Why not take that leap and consider self-publishing? Gatekeeper Press offers the editorial skills and design talent to help you realize your dream of becoming a full-time writer. Send over a sample of your writing and begin your self-publishing journey today.

how to be a full time writer