Major Routes to Professional Writing
by Ron Kurtus (updated 25 June 2023)
Major routes to earning your living as a writer are to be an employee of a company, to do contract writing or to do speculative writing.
An employee has a long-term contract or arrangement, a contract or freelance writer gets short-term contract, while a speculative writer is often selling a completed work. There is some overlap in their areas, and sometimes writers jump from one route to another.
Questions you may have include:
- What are the factors involved in being an employee?
- What is an independent contract writer?
- What are the factors involved in speculative writing?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Many writers are employees of companies. They are given writing assignments and deadlines to complete those assignments. The job provides stability and security. But since no job is guaranteed forever, employees are actually writers with long term contracts.
Technical writers, proposal writers and marketing writers are typical business writing employees. In television and movies, there are staff story writers, news writers and editors, among other writing jobs.
Contract or freelance writer
A contract writer is one who obtains contracts to work on a temporary basis for a company. The writer may obtain the assignment through a temporary employment agency or may be independent and have his or her own contacts and clients.
On the other hand, a freelancer is usually a writer who gets temporary assignments with smaller companies. To a degree, a freelancer works under the radar in the writing industry. There are different definitions of contract and freelance writers and may be some overlap.
While an employee must seek a contract only once in a while, a contract or freelance writer must be seeking work on a regular basis. Once an assignment is completed, he or she must get another contract to maintain an income. The work of a contract writer is often critiqued closer since the pay received is usually higher and there is no vested interest in the person. The writer must do an outstanding job to assure future assignments with the company. Besides writing skill, a contract writer must be able to network and sell his or her skills on a regular basis. Many form their own businesses, even incorporating.
Speculative writers create work that they feel will be marketable. Writers must use their own money during the writing process, in hopes that once the work is sold they will recoup the expenses. Independent contractor writers may sometimes outline a project, write part of a document or provide an instructional demo on speculation in hopes of getting a contract.
Anyone who writes a book, magazine article, or movie script is speculating on the outcome. Although the risk is greater, the major advantage for speculative writers is the satisfaction of writing what they want to write.
The major types of professional writing are employee, contract and speculative. Contract writers can either be a employee of a company or an independent contractor. Speculative writer take a chance that someone will buy their works. It is worthwhile to be aware of these types to move along in your career as a professional writer.
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Major Routes in Professional Writing