7 Ways To Start As a Writer Without a Degree
If there’s one thing that seems to stop people from becoming freelance writers it’s the belief that you need a college degree, specifically in English or Journalism, to make the grade. Of course, when you become a freelance writer, you don’t have to take a test or fill out a form saying where you went to school, but nonetheless, this issue seems to be a big barrier to many people.
In reality, there is absolutely no need to have a college degree in order to become a freelance writer. Of course, there are plenty of skills you can pick up during a college degree that will help you in freelance writing. However, it’s also possible to pick up those skills in your day to day life, and the chances are, you’ve got what it takes. So, don’t let the fact that you don’t have a college degree stop you from becoming a freelance writer.
Instead of sending you off to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a college education, we’ve put together our 7 key skills for how to become a writer without a degree. Although many of these skills are honed in a college environment, they are more life skills than academic skills, and anyone can thrive in these areas.
Your success in freelance writing is going to come down to hard work and passion far more than it will your education, and that’s one of the things we love about this career. It is what you make of it, and if you put in the hard graft, you’re likely to see results.
1. Be Brave – Start Writing
This may seem like a simple step, but it can be one of the hardest for any would-be freelance writer. Freelance writing might seem like a great dream and you don’t want to start writing, just in case it shatters the illusion and you actually find out it’s really hard.
The thing is, you’re never going to know until you actually start writing. The hardest part about anything is getting started, and once you’ve banged out a few articles you’re sure to feel better about the prospect of freelance writing.
We love this article on lifehacker.com which states, “It’s that hump of ‘just start’ that is so hard to get over. Yet once we do, momentum takes over. We see immediate results from the work we’re doing and instead of looking for ways to avoid it, we look at ways to finish.”
So, start out with a short list of topics that you’re passionate about and make yourself a target of writing five articles. Work your way through the articles and simply do your best. They don’t need to be articles that you’re going to sell, but do it for yourself, and show yourself you can write five articles and do a really good job!
You’ll soon discover there’s nothing to fear about writing, and the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Your articles don’t have to be Nobel Prize winning pieces, they just have to convey your passion for your subject and be grammatically sound (the internet offers plenty of help in this area!).
We find that when it comes to figuring out how to become a writer without a degree, the one thing that is normally holding you back is yourself. We all have fears, and even if you asked experienced writers, you’d probably find that many of them still fear having their writing torn to shreds by thousands of people. What they do though, and what you need to learn to do is push through that fear!
The internet is full of some pretty mediocre writing and there’s no reason why you can’t do a better job than many writers out there. You’ve got to take the first step though, and that means starting the writing process.
2. Be Curious – Question Everything
We find that one of the keys to being a successful writer is the ability to use critical thinking. This means engaging in thorough research for all your articles and most importantly questioning your sources. Whatever it is you’re writing, make sure you’re making it original by really taking your research to the next level.
No matter how obscure the subject you are writing about is, the chances are there are a lot of people out there who have already addressed it. This means that what your writing has to be original and have the ability to capture the attention of your audience. There’s no better way to do this than to offer your readers a superior experience through your research.
It’s easy to just skim the internet for a few key facts about your subject and fill the rest in with fancy words, everybody can do that. But, what you have the opportunity to do with each and every article, is to give your readers a new viewpoint and convince them with your superior research skills.
Fuel Your Curiosity
There’s no easier way to do this than by simply being curious about your topic. If you love the things you’re writing about then it’s likely you’re going to immerse yourself in those subjects. You’ll get to know all the best sources for information on the topic and you’ll be able to form highly eloquent arguments that are going to engage consumers.
At the end of the day, that’s what this job is all about – engaging the consumer. If you can show that your content is engaging and people want to read it then you’re going to be a success.
For more information on using critical thinking in your writing check out our article “7 Ways To Learn From Everything You Do”.
Curiosity is just another quality of a freelance writer that you don’t need a college degree to have. You’ve got to forget about “how to become a writer without a degree,” and focus on simply how to become a writer because there’s nothing in here you need a college degree to learn. You’re obviously curious about being a writer, so harness that curiosity and use it to make your content exceptional.
3. Be Savvy – Choose a Niche
Hopefully this is the first article you’ve read by us, because if not, you’ll be tired of us banging on about niches. We don’t keep talking about niches just to bore you though, they’re actually hugely important and choosing your writing niches is going to be a big step in your writing career.
(We could send you to virtually any of our articles for some more advice on choosing a niche, but here is one specifically about finding the perfect niche!)
There are an infinite number of subjects you could choose to write about as a freelance writer, but in order to make the most out of your skills, you need to select a few niches that you’re going to specialize in. There are lots of reasons for this, but the main one is you want to become an expert in your niche.
If you can pick a few niches where you have a passion for the subject, you can focus all your time on those subjects and gradually increase your level of knowledge. The more you know about your subject, the easier it’s going to be to write about it. This means you’ll write higher quality articles, but also, they’ll take you less time!
Earning good money through freelance writing is about quality first of all, but you’ll find you also need to have a focus on quantity. The chances are, you’re not going to make a full time living out of one article that takes you all week. That’s why choosing a few niches to focus on is an important first step when it comes to becoming a writer without a degree.
Not only will you produce better work when you choose your writing niches, but it also becomes much easier to market yourself. If you’re writing about hundreds of different topics, it’s much harder to market yourself than if you have a large body of work centered around a few select subjects.
The clients you’ll be working for want to know that they’re employing someone who is knowledgeable and authoritative in the given subject and the best way to show this is by having a strong portfolio of work in that subject.
It’s tempting to approach freelance writing by just applying for any job you see advertised. In the long run though, it’s much more effective to select a few niches and gradually build your reputation in those subjects.
You’ll produce better work and your reputation will grow much more quickly.
4. Be Proud – Market Yourself
When you do great work as a freelance writer, you’ve got to celebrate yourself! Shout it from the rooftops and make sure people see the work you’ve been doing. You’re only going to get work as a freelance writer if you get people reading your stuff, and that’s easier said than done. Freelance writing is as much about marketing as it is writing, so make sure you’re dedicating just as much energy to the marketing side of things.
Luckily, in today’s world, there are tons of ways to do this and you don’t have to invest lots of money to do it. Social media is one platform that is particularly effective when it comes to marketing and it’s completely free, so there’s no excuse not to use this to showcase the work you’ve been doing.
If you’re looking for a little bit of guidance on the marketing side and social media in particular then check out Larry’s article, “7 Social Media Hacks To Gain More Freelance Writing Gigs”. These are some pretty simple tricks you can use to help boost your profile and hopefully score some great writing jobs!
Marketing yourself as a freelance writer is a multipronged effort that is going to require you to engage in social media, do plenty of networking, apply for jobs, write pitches, and keep an updated website. None of these things are hard, but they’re things you need to stay on top of if you’re going to maximize your profitability as a freelance writer.
Show your work to as many potential clients as possible by engaging in all these marketing platforms. Self-celebration doesn’t come naturally to most people, but in order to get jobs, you’re going to need to show prospective clients that your writing rocks!
5. Be “Techy” – Build a Website
I like this title because it’s kind of misleading. You see, you don’t need to be techy to build your own website, it’s really not that hard and you certainly don’t need to be a tech genius to do it. So many writers choose to skip this step because they think it is going to be too much work (or something they’re not capable of). If you really want to be successful and become a writer without a degree though, your website is going to be vitally important.
That’s because your website is the perfect place to showcase all the great work you’ve done. If you’re starting out in the industry then simply create a blog and start practicing your writing. It gives you the opportunity to gain some invaluable experience as well as build your portfolio.
Even if you’re an established writer you should definitely look at starting your own website. Link to all the work you have done, and again, start posting your own blogs. Your own website shows that you are a professional and that you should be taken seriously, and, can earn you some great new gigs.
Use Your Marketing To Point People To Your Website
Use your other marketing efforts such as social media to point people towards your website and let your great writing do the rest of your work for you. The key is getting prospective clients to read your work and there’s no better way to do that than with a good website.
You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to create a world-leading website, it just has to show that you’re a professional with some great writing ability.
As Laurence Bradford says in her Forbes article, 3 Reasons Why You Need A Personal Website, “In this way, a website can function similarly to a resume. However, a personal website has the freedom to be much more extensive and engaging, since it allows for the inclusion of photos, work samples, and even testimonials.”
Buy a professional sounding domain name, Youtube a few videos on how to set up a WordPress site and before you know it you will have a great platform from which to market yourself. It sounds difficult, but it’s really not that hard.
6. Be a Sharer – Follow and be Followed
One of the best ways to help you on your quest to becoming a writer without a degree is to follow what other successful writers are doing. To do this, you’re going to have to do a little networking.
By joining and contributing to writing communities you can pick up some great contacts and tips that can give your freelance writing career a good boost. Get involved with these communities and find out what techniques other writers are finding successful.
You can pick up all kinds of strategies from these groups and you might even find you score the odd job out of them too! Share your journey with others and you’ll find there are plenty of people willing to help you with some insider knowledge.
As topresume.com says, “networking will help you develop and improve your skill set, stay on top of the latest trends in your industry, keep a pulse on the job market, meet prospective mentors, partners, and clients, and gain access to the necessary resources that will foster your career development.”
In the past, you’d probably have to physically go out and meet people to do this, but of course, in today’s world, you’re sure to find everything you need online. If you’re looking for active communities, Facebook and Reddit are particularly useful.
This may not be the most important point on the list, but, you never know what might come from conversing with other writers. They say it’s not about what you know, but who you know, so why not get out there and start to know some of the important people in the writing industry.
7. Be Open – Always Look For Opportunities To Improve
Feedback plays a massive part in freelance writing. Look to get feedback from all the work you do, but most importantly, learn from that feedback. No writers start out doing everything perfectly and you will be no different. The difference between the writers that become successful and the writers that don’t is learning from those mistakes.
It’s not always easy taking criticism over your work, but it’s just part and parcel of being a writer. I know when I first started out I really struggled with this aspect, but with time, you realize that negative feedback is actually one of the best ways to improve.
Everyone loves to get great feedback about their work, but sometimes it’s the negative feedback that can make the most positive impact on your career. Nevertheless, make sure you celebrate when you do get great feedback. Post a link to your website and social media pages, and most importantly, give yourself a pat on the back!
Being a writer can sometimes be a lonely place, the onus is on you for everything and there’s going to be no one else around to pat you on the back but yourself. Make sure you take the time to reward yourself when you do good work and use it to spur you on to the next big thing in your career.
Whether you’re getting positive or negative feedback, it’s important to always be open to advice. Analyze the feedback you’re receiving, digest it, and if you think it’s worthwhile, take it on board. Criticism might be hard to take, but at the end of the day, it’s free advice!
There’s absolutely no requirement for a college degree in order to become a writer, so to answer the question “how to become a writer without a degree” is simple. Simply start writing, start pitching (here’s our favorite pitch), and start marketing yourself.
If you follow these 7 steps, then you’re sure to put yourself on the right track to achieving success as a freelance writer. All that’s left is hard work and time.
- Be Brave – Start Writing
- Be Curious – Question Everything
- Be Savvy – Choose a Niche
- Be Proud – Market Yourself
- Be “Techy” – Build a Website
- Be a Sharer – Follow and be Followed
- Be Open – Always Look for Opportunities to Improve
Whether you have a college degree or not, you can easily utilize these skills to get your freelance writing career off to the best possible start. They’re not skills that will necessarily come naturally to you, but with time they will become second nature and you can use them to leverage some excellent writing jobs.
Having a college degree is not something you can change in the short run, and really, there’s no need to change it. Instead, focus on the things that are within control and watch how they can make a big difference to your writing career!