If you have the language skills to use words creatively, a career in content writing may work for you, says REENA JHAVERI
There was a time when if one ever mentioned he is a writer, he was asked: But what is your profession? The implication was direct, and painful – everyday writers could seldom earn a living out of writing. Today, with technology, media and social media, times are changing fast. Content needs to be generated faster than the visitors to the website can consume it. And this writing does not refer to merely to fiction or novels and books. There are all kinds of companies out there who have a presence everywhere, and they need material and content to get their point across.
On the other hand, there are those who are developing their writing skills so that they can look for work based on this skill, whether it is for a website, a pamphlet or even a brochure. Most of these assignments are on a freelance basis, and work according to the convenience of both parties.
A business might want its presence felt online, and therefore buys the space to develop a website. Unfortunately, the people who handle the business are not able to put across their words in thoughts, and therefore cannot connect with the prospective and the invisible clients. That’s when a writer steps in, understands the philosophy and offers to create the thoughts with the words that would attract clients.
A majority of those who hire such freelance writers do so due to language and other factors. “Often, I am not able to adequately express the company’s ideas to the client. It would be worse if they are reading in my absence, so I needed someone who would use the exact words to convey what I wanted to say,” says a businessman. His thoughts pretty much sum up the necessity for professional writers, who not only know the English language well, but can also understand the purpose of their work.
To get there
The first and perhaps the only skill needed here is that of language and structure of the language. If you have the prowess of words and how to string them in written sentences, seldom anything else is needed. In that sense, no particular qualification is needed for starting out in this field. Your personality traits not only as a writer, but as a professional go a long way in this field, and are much more important that your degree.
That said, one must realise that the nuances of language can be acquired by putting in an effort to understand that language, which could be done with a Bachelor of Arts degree in the language you are interested in. Other than that, there are companies who need experts in particular subjects or areas, which might open up opportunities for graduates of other subjects as well.
The writing for a print medium (newspaper, magazine, brochure, flyer, etc) will vary a lot in terms of writing treatment as compared to a digital medium (the web, and other offline mediums). In that sense, it would be essential for the writer to be aware of the needs and requirements of each medium, especially writing the content appropriate for search engine optimisation for the web.
A few institutes across the country offer writing courses:
- Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) which offers a Diploma in Creative Writing in English through distance learning
- Xavier Institute of Communication (XIC) in Mumbai runs a Certificate Programme in Creative Writing
- Symbiosis Centre for Distance Learning (SCDL), Pune, offers a one-year Diploma in Creative Writing in English in the distance learning mode
- British Council offers a short-term creative writing course in New Delhi and Kolkata
If you aspiring to be a writer, you need a body of work to show off, and nowadays, nothing works better than a blog to showcase your skills. Blogs are easy and free, and the variety of your writing skills can be showcased. In addition, the frequency of your posts can also show how enthusiastic and dedicated you are.
Written material is everywhere. What you read at the back of a box of cornflakes is also written by someone, and so are the recipes printed on a tin of condensed milk. From thereon, literally, you will find the written word everywhere. And here we are talking of the content where skilled writers are needed. We had a writer who said that a local photo studio owner once came to her for editing and proof reading a few sentences for his flyer that he wanted to insert in the newspapers in the area. “His dedication for correct language floored me, and I did it as a personal favour, it was a five minute job,” she says.
Writing for the web is one of the most popular fields for content writing, where the writer has to churn out some work which can not only attract visitors to the site, but also retain them. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is an important aspect of web writing. Coupled with that is a need for writing for social media, but these are the expected ones. Writing assignments can be found for those who have something to say (and
ideas) but cannot write – they use the services of freelance writers. In addition, one can be engaged in technical writing, which requires writers to work on manuals and user guides for specific products.
The remuneration differs from assignment to assignment. Each assignment is paid appropriately,
and so you may not earn a fixed amount every month. For beginners who
join a content company, the starting salary can vary between Rs. 20, and Rs. 25,
In the field
Sunayan Ghosh / Content writer
I know that if you are an aspiring content writer, you already know about the skills that everyone will talk about. I want to talk to you all about professionalism! First, the deadline – it is something to adhere to, and you should make it your religion to deliver your work comfortably before the deadline. For it is this one make or break quality when a client hires you. Clients will find other talented people, make no mistake. Once you make a client chase you for the work, you can kiss any more opportunities goodbye.
Second, please work for an appropriate pay. It has taken a long time for creatively inclined people to get the industry oriented towards payments for them. Do not ruin that. Never do a job for free, that does not say much about your talent or time – since you are willing to give it away for free. Third – and I cannot stress how important this is – please understand that the brief needs to be adhered to. You are writing so that someone else can achieve their goal, and your best effort should be to do it in a manner that he or she wants. Your challenge lies in using your language abilities to deliver accordingly. I remember having to fire one of the juniors since she insisted on using highfalutin language where simplicity was needed.
A student says
Sulekha Shelar / English major student
For the longest time when brooding upon the career I wanted to have, I could not think beyond writing. And I feel I am lucky to be graduating at a time when the market is wide open with opportunities for those who want to write. That is the reason I have chosen an English major.
To be a writer, I feel that you need a routine that nurtures creativity and use of words, and that could be in the form of a course or the routine that you follow to improve your skills and to write. Basically, writing is like cooking or driving, where you have to do the activity over a period of time to become better at it. No one drives in a straight line from day one, and no one cooks the perfect dish on day one. All of it needs time and practice to gain perfection. And therefore aspiring writers need to write something every day.
And once they feel that they have done a good job, they need to make a repository, preferably online, so that it can be used with prospective clients.
If you are looking for a creative writing programme, then you should look for one that compliments your talents and helps you nurture them as well.
An aspirant asks
Niharika Shetty / BCom student
I know I missed the BA boat, but yes, even after studying BCom, I want to become a professional writer. The issue is that I have the calibre for education and my family is insisting on a traditional field like chartered accountancy. I just want to prove to them that I can make a living being a writer. Is there a midway?
Professional Sunayan Ghosh answers: First things first. Don’t think yourself as lesser qualified than those who opted for a BA. So what if you will graduate with a commerce degree, your language and writing skills matter. As far as your family goes, I think you need to sit down with the members and talk to them of the various opportunities and actually show them some websites and work on social media which you could be interested in doing.
I am assuming you are interested in becoming a content writer, and are not looking for short-cuts to become and instantly successful novelists. Your approach will take you nowhere if you think like that. Keep writing continuously and read a lot to understand the nuances of the language and how writers use the words to create the images.
The first step to start working would be to build a portfolio and looking for a strong skill within yourself. Write a lot and write different things in different lengths, and keep a record of why you have chosen to write something.
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