How to Become a Writer as a Second Career

How to Become a Writer as a Second Career
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When you entertain the idea of being a writer, it’s sometimes difficult to know where to begin.

If you’ve done something else with your career up to this point, how can you use that experience and expertise to find writing jobs? How can you become a writer?

I spoke with two professionals, accomplished in their own careers, who’ve turned their interest in writing into more than a hobby.

Angela Weiler, the public services librarian at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York, has been a librarian for almost 20 years, but didn’t begin writing novels until her early 40s. Her first, a novel in stories called Going Up the Country, was published in 2005 by Log Cabin Books. She self-published Flashpoint in 2014.

Kristen Lutz, a massage therapist in Boston, Massachusetts, also loved writing from an early age but only started writing professionally a few years ago. She’s now the director of communications for the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Massage Therapy Foundation (Mass AMTA), a part-time position where she’s responsible for writing, editing and publishing its newsletter and blog.

From their experiences, and my own, here are six tips for using your career expertise to land writing jobs.

1. Understand your motivations and how far you want to take them

Like many of us, Angela enjoyed writing from a young age, but until her 40s, she considered it to be a hobby. “It was a mid-life realization. I’d always had a folder in my file cabinet labeled ‘ideas’ but I didn’t start actually writing until I was in my early 40s.”

For both Angela and Kristen, turning writing into more than a hobby took time. Once they both decided to make time to write, they knew they were on the right track.

“I started setting aside weekend mornings to write for two to four hours at a time. I didn’t work at it a lot, but I worked at it very steadily,” said Angela. Kristen made the time to write when she realized starting a blog would help her health coaching clients.

So, what’s your motivation to write? Have you already started devoting time regularly to writing? And how far are you willing or interested in taking it? If you’re ready to write professionally, either part-time or full-time, it’s time for the next step.

2. Learn about all the different types of writing you can do

Fiction or nonfiction? Long or short form? Books, blogs, articles, newsletters or social media? Thanks to the proliferation of written media on the Internet, a huge variety of writing opportunities exist. Which ones are right for you?

One of the best ways to learn about different types of writing opportunities is to read. “Read everything! Read within your genre, outside of your genre, find voices that you like, and learn from reading others’ work,” said Angela.

Kristen agreed, and also recommended practicing editing other people’s content. “Editing other content is super helpful for two reasons. One, it’s an ego-booster for my own writing when someone else’s writing style is horrible. Two, I pick up on new ways to write.”

3. Look for ways to write at your current job

One of the biggest obstacles for people interested in writing is finding those first writing gigs. Kristen’s first writing job came when she was a health coach.

“My interest in writing while I was a health coach came from a need to better serve my clients. We needed a way to increase accountability for their goals, so I created a blog,” she said. “With access to the blog, my clients could virtually touch base with me and have key health coaching components repeated to them by way of my posts, sharing of news articles, exercises or healthy recipes. It became a way to continue our conversation past our session time.”

If you can find an excuse to write in your current job, ask for it! The best part about this approach is you don’t have to hunt for a writing job — if you can work it into your current role, you’ll get paid for it and gain writing experience.

4. Use your career expertise

If you’re trying to use your career experience to land writing jobs, become an expert and brand yourself as such.

I was hired as a writer because of my work in career development and job search advice. Kristen was hired as a writer because of her knowledge of health coaching and massage therapy. And, in addition to creative writing, Angela reviews books and peer-reviews articles for journals because of her experience as a librarian.

“These opportunities came through my work as a librarian. I do peer review for research projects, and book reviews as well, mainly for nonfiction. Once you get a few of these experiences on your resume, more opportunities tend to pop up,” said Angela.

Having solid writing skills is only one part of becoming a writer. Kristen found her current role as director of communication for Mass AMTA because she’d already started sharing her expertise by writing blog posts with massage-related organizations.

“The former director commented that I was a natural writer and wanted me to get more involved in the chapter’s communications department. I was offered the newsletter editor position and later transitioned to take over the director position. All of that happened within a year,” she explained. Without offering ourselves up as experts in a certain field, how will others find out about us?

5. Build your network and brand yourself as a writer

When I was a college career advisor, I created and wrote my own blog about career advice just for fun. It was a nice outlet, giving me a chance to practice writing in a risk-free environment.

However, a friend’s girlfriend had just been hired at a lifestyle website for college students and young professionals, and the company was in the market for a career advice blogger. Even though my blog was really only a hobby, it was enough to get me hired. She read my articles, thought I’d be a great fit, and voila, I’d found my first paid writing job.

Building your network is one thing, but you also need to let that network know you’re available as a writer. All of your social media profiles should mention something about you as a writer. Use LinkedIn,, or an online portfolio to showcase your previous and current work, whether paid or unpaid.

Also, figure out rates for your work. If you’re asked up front how much you charge for writing services, know how to answer!

6. Look for writing jobs

This is probably the most obvious tip in the bunch, but if you want to be hired as a writer, look for writing jobs.

Reach out to your industry’s professional organizations and see if they need guest bloggers, or become involved in some of their local activities,” recommended Kristen. If you’re positioning yourself as a writer within a certain field, look for writing jobs within that profession.

Many great niche sites can help you find freelance or part-time writing jobs, so if you want to keep your current profession and write on the side (as many, if not most, writers do), the opportunities are out there.

When searching job boards, expand your search keywords to include job titles like copywriter, research writer, community manager, reporter, editor, content writer, freelance contributor, blogger, journalist and guide.

Your previous experience counts

If you’ve decided you want to be a writer, you don’t need to chuck your career out the window. Instead, use your expertise and knowledge to help you find writing jobs.

Start writing to hone your voice, grow your network and brand yourself as a writer, and put yourself out there by applying to writing jobs. But first and foremost, realize that your career up to this point isn’t a waste — it’s an asset.

Have you successfully used your career experience to find writing work?

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Brie Reynolds is the Director of Online Content at FlexJobs and a contributing writer for 1 Million for Work Flexibility. FlexJobs is the award-winning site for telecommuting and flexible jobs, l... .

FlexJobs | @flexjobs

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  1. I agree with what you have explained. I would like to give you a piece of how I have became a writer.
    I am basically an Engineer, spent my entire career in jobs related to engineering. I retired during 2000 when I permanently retired from the services at 62.
    I had a flair for writing during my younger days which i kept on hold till I completed my professional career.
    I wanted to test if the flair is still there. Fortunately it is there augmented by long years of exposure to different countries, people and situations.
    Trafford Publisher, USA published my first book titled Behind the Bamboo Curtain(available in Viva Publishers in India has recently published my book titled Modern Production Management.
    Manuscripts on the books titled Portrait of My City, American Dream, Tales from Mekong Delta, Life is a Song, Science of Management, Conman etc. are some of the books at different stages of publishing.
    Writing, as I understand, is not everybody’s cup of tea. One has to have a bit of creativity with lot of passion.
    I am now 78+, still going full steam on the vocation.

  2. When I grow up I want to be a writer (I’m 38, lol.)

    There was so much great advice in this article, especially the idea of looking for writing opportunities at your current job. Every blog post, every short story sale, every facebook share…it all adds up to help reach the goal that so many of us here have, which is to write full time.

  3. Great post!

    I’m pretty confident when I say that my last two full-time jobs definitely contributed to developing my skills as a writer. I actually did a couple of things outlined in your article – looking for writing work whilst still employed, and also shifting my full-time role to include more writing (wherever I could).

    This is great advice. If you work in the right industry for it, sometimes writing can be a welcome addition to your duties in the eyes of your employer (I worked in marketing – so this was definitely the case with me, the company was desperate for press releases). It can’t hurt to ask.

    Awesome tips – thanks for sharing!

    • That’s one of my favorite sayings — It can’t hurt to ask. Honestly, what employer doesn’t want their employees stepping up and offering to take on more work? And if that work happens to be writing, and it helps further your own career interests and goals, then all the better!

  4. Great post!

    Thank you for highlighting what I believe is a growing trend — the writer who begins their writing career in what I like to call the ‘second act’.

    Just one thing I’d like to add: we can think outside the box more and more these days. While you can go the traditional route and look for a job that gives you the opportunity to write, you can also start building your own job, in what ever genre you choose.

    It’s an exciting time — there really are countless ways, with more to explore all the time!

    • So true — plotting your own path rather than waiting for the right opportunity to come along is a great idea. It’s easier today than ever before for writers to be in control of their careers.

  5. This article was chock-full of useful advise! I became a writer about 4 years ago, after deciding I had had enough with public education–I loved teach and students, but the politics of it all and the non-student centered schools were just heartbreaking. So, off I went on my own to create a lifestyle and writing career for myself–and I am having a blast doing it all.

    The biggest piece of advice I can give is to write for your own blog, but also look for opportunities to guest post. Guest posting builds relationships and puts you “out there” in many places. People will become familiar with your name and what you are doing. Online networking can’t be overlooked.

    Thanks for a great post, and believe me, I have already hopped right on over to the FlexJobs website to see what that is all about.


    • Thanks for the tips. I’ve been looking for opportunities to write part-time from home and everything I have found wants verifiable experience. I just decided yesterday that I need to start a blog to build my writing portfolio. Do you have any suggestions on how to go about guest posting?


      • Hi Heather – Guest posting can be as simple as finding a few sites or blogs that have a decent following, and that you find interesting and would like to contribute to. Many sites actually have information on how you can guest post for them, so look for that information “About” sections on sites. If you can’t find it, head straight to the blog to find the editor or prominent writers on the blog and see if you can get their email addresses.

        Once you have some contacts, reach out to them expressing your interesting to write a guest post for them, and pitch a few topics (based on your research of their site). Be sure to gear your topic ideas towards what would be a) beneficial for their particular site and readers, and b) in line with your areas of expertise and interest.

        Good luck! The process of pitching guest posts gets easier and easier the more you do it.

    • Thanks, Shannon, I hope you like what you see at FlexJobs! And I agree, guest posting is a fantastic way to build your portfolio AND connections at the same time.

  6. Hi Brie,

    This is an excellent article. As I was reading your article, it made me think of how I got into writing. I used to work as a technical writer and was writing for a blog I maintained at that time. As I continued to write, I got better and this then gave me the confidence to reach out to bigger platforms for guest post opportunities. Thank you.

  7. Thank you so much for this article. I was so stunned to see someone so close to home in this article. I live in Syracuse and my story is very similar to Angela Weiler’s story. Most of the advice is also a part of my story; the advice that isn’t, i want it to be. I was questioning my serious start as a writer at this stage of my life, but after reading this article, I am going to put them aside and move forward with a vengeance.

    • I probably say this way too often, but it’s such a small world! In my experience, if you can’t get an idea out of your head, and no matter what, it’s always something you’re thinking about, it’s worth pursuing!

  8. Thanks, Brie, for this great post. It certainly sounds, based on the comments that people have left, that there are a lot of writers-in-training in this community.

    Biz Stone once commented (maybe it was in his book, Things A Little Bird Told Me, but I can’t be sure) that once you set a goal for yourself and remain seriously committed to it that you don’t consciously have to plot out every technical detail of the journey it will take to get there, that your subconscious will drive you to act in a way that brings you closer to that goal.

    I believe that.

    My primary interest in writing has always been fiction and I have written two novels that are unpublished. But along the way, so much of other parts of my life have been about writing–a professional career in communications, freelance journalism, freelance travel writing (published in the Miami Herald and Pittburgh Post-Gazette) and blogging. A lot of fiction writers might feel devastated or at least discouraged to end up with two unpublished full-length works without realizing that it is also in the act of writing that the true joy comes: you’re doing what you want to do.

    How many people deny themselves that simple pleasure? Just freeing yourself from other obligations or the I-should-be nonsense can itself be a rush.

    It’s always great when people who want to make a living writing end up getting there, and I believe a pure, serious commitment on the part of such writers will typically result in success. But the journey itself provides its own joy.

    As Angela stated in your blog, she just set aside a few hours on the weekend to write. That’s where it all starts.

    Thanks again,

  9. This is so encouraging – thank you! It’s easy to get stuck in one “path” to a writing career, and for me that is novel-writing. I definitely need help thinking outside of that rather restricting box.

  10. Christina Williams says:

    Hi. I used to work for Walmart for about 10 years I like to write about my experience working there and the customers what they did and asked I did many things there from unloading trucks to being a cashier I learned a lot there. I know there are a lot of people that wrote things about Walmart but I think I have more of of what happened there.

  11. hanks so much for writing such an interesting and passionate piece. It was a pleasure to read. I look forward to reading more of your articles.

  12. Prerana says:

    Hey, great advice,
    I actually needed help about my dilemma. Currently, I’m in high school. Apparently, I had always dreamt of becoming an engineer, which I still want to be. My family knows about it as my long-strived dream. But lately,I realized that I badly want to be a writer. I mean, writing is like a habit, second nature for me. I can’t live without scribbling a few pages into my journal. My head’s stirring with stories literally all the time. But then again, I don’t wanna let go off my engineering aspiration. When I grow up, can I take up both the professions?

  13. A lovely article. Thank you.


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