What can I do with a creative writing degree?

In a creative writing degree, you'll explore a mixture of traditional and contemporary themes, from storytelling, novels, poetry, to podcasts, and scriptwriting. You'll learn to craft narratives and develop a unique voice. From technical and analytical writing to communicating with diverse audiences, courses cover a range of topics.

As businesses and entrepreneurs are evolving to meet changing consumer behaviors and shifts in society, skilled writers with an unparralelled capacity for imagination, innovation, and effective communication are playing a vital role in business growth, and are highly desirable across many emerging and traditional sectors.

This ultimate career guide is covering the different types of roles, industries, and ways to make money as a creative writing graduate in 2024.

11 growing industries in creative writing

1. Publishing

The publishing industry is thriving due to the continued growth of digital platforms, the rise of self-publishing, and an increased focus on diverse and inclusive content. If you're keen to work in a publishing house there are many starter roles up for grabs with lots of opportunities for career progression from Editoral Assistant or Content Coordinator to Editor-in-Chief, to Literary Agent, or Director of Marketing and Publicity.

2. Content Marketing

The digital landscape is becoming increasingly competitive. Content marketing provides businesses with a means to establish a strong online presence, educate, engage and connect with their target audience, and build brand authority.

3. E-Learning

According to Statista, the growth of online education is estimated to reach a revenue of $498.60bn by 2028. This rising demand for E-learning is driven by advancing technology, and the rise of the creator economy. Online education is easily accessible and flexible, making it a preferred choice for anyone looking to upskill and learn from leading industry experts.

4. Digital Media and Streaming Services

With over 450 million listeners around the world, many of us have got a favourite podcast we plug into on the regular. You've probably been part of a debate on Spotify V Apple Music, or Netflix V Amazon Prime? Does the thought of leaving the house without your Kindle send shivers down your spine? With access to video, audio, and streaming services at our fingertips, digital content consumption continues to grow and media platforms are cleverly capitalising on this trend in an attempt to become the number one platform. As the demand for this type of content rises, so do new opportunities for creative writing graduates.

5. Technology and IT

Technology companies often need to share complex information with their stakeholders and customers. Professional writers are worth their weight in gold in helping to demystify technical jargon, and translate the most valuable content and insights in a meaningful, engaging, and exciting way - whether that's through user-friendly guides, or other types of digital marketing collateral.

6. Healthcare

There is a growing emphasis on patient education, and the healthcare industry is recognising the importance and value of clear and accessible information. With advancements in medical research and technology, writers are able to help communicate complex medical information to both professionals and the general public. Self-employed practioners and consultants can benefit from hiring a writer to reach wider audiences and grow their client profile. With access to a professional writer, business owners are able to achieve new levels of revenue growth by diversifying their income through building digital products or developing a digital course.

7. Gaming and Virtual Reality (VR)

The gaming and VR industries are expanding with an increase in consumer interest, new tech, and the integration of gaming in various sectors. Writers play a vital role in creating immersive narratives, engaging storylines, and interactive experiences that keep their users hooked and demanding more.

8. Social Media Management

It's 2024, we know that social media platforms are integral for successful marketing. Brands need a rock solid strategy that's filled with shareable and engaging content to reach and monetise their audiences. Writers are hired to craft compelling messages that speak directly to key demographics, write ads, manage online presence, and build brand narratives. The social media industry is a storytellers dream with direct access to a growing portfolio of entrepreneurs, freelancers, consultants, and virtual assistants.

9. Environmental, Sustainability, and Biotech Communications

With a global focus on sustainability, environmental issues, and advancements in science and biotechnology, businesses are investing in communication strategies that highlight their commitment to responsible practices and can clearly communicate findings and research to the public. Writers are crucial in reporting on sustainability initiatives, shaping corporate social responsibility narratives, and translating jargon-filled scientific concepts to a general audience.

10. Remote Work and Productivity

In the era of remote working, businesses are turning to digital communication and productivity strategies to streamline workflows and build a connected internal environment with their teams. If the thrill of organisation and productivity is what gets you out of bed in the morning, this could present an opportunity to leverage your skills to customise strategies for businesses and entrepreneurs. If there's a solution to transforming internal processes, increase profit margins, and build a thriving company culture, there's a price worth paying.

11. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The debate around the value of professional writers in a new world of Artificial Intelligence is a conversation which dominates dinner table debates, but, while AI is becoming more prevalent in content generation, writers are not at risk of losing credibility or potential jobs as outlined in this career guide. Instead, there is a need for collaboration between writers and AI systems. By embracing this, companies can leverage the strengths of both to create more powerful and engaging content, applications, and user experiences. The human touch and creativity brought by writers remain integral in ensuring the success and ethical use of AI and robotics in various industries.

17 in-demand roles for writers as of 2024

Below are 17 different types of roles you could consider pursuing as a creative writing graduate. Many of these roles can be found across all industries, so if there's something that really interests you, there's a good chance you will be able to find a role within the sector you're most interested in. The best place to start looking is job sites such as Indeed, LinkedIn, or websites dedicated to freelance work, such as Upwork.

  1. Content Writer/Strategist (any industry)
  2. Author
  3. Publisher
  4. SEO Writer
  5. Editor
  6. Copywriter
  7. UX Writer
  8. Scriptwriters (podcast, radio, television, film, social media)
  9. Interactive Storyteller
  10. Digital Marketing Manager
  11. Social Media Content Creator
  12. VR Content Creator
  13. Poet
  14. Environmental Reporter
  15. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Writer
  16. Writer in Residence
  17. Brand Journalist

What is a typical salary for a creative writing graduate?

As a professional writers, there are many ways you can make money through various income streams. Below are 10 ways you can earn money as a professional writer.

1. Freelancing

Writers who want to design their own schedule could enjoy freelancing or starting their own business. Freelance writers set their own fees, and often have the freedom of working remotely. There are many agencies that can help writers find and secure freelance jobs, so building a portfolio and building a relationship with agencies is really important. Writers can benefit from building a personal brand and social media presence to increase their exposure, and find lucrative clients within a niche that aligns with personal interests and passions.

*Side note - when you study a Creative Writing degree at Essex, you can get advice and guidance building a portfolio from the very start of your degree through the our dedicated careers support within the department.

2. Ghostwriting and Editing

Professional writers can generate income by offering ghostwriting services. This involves writing content on behalf of clients, and proofreading/editing work for publication. This could be in the form of novels, blogging, speech and presentations, social media content, digital newsletters, academic writing, corporate communications and podcast scriptwriting. The list grows.

3. Book sales, Royalties, and Advances

If you're into stories, being a novelist, or author can bring in royalties and advances. As a novelist or author, your primary source of income is likely to be generated from book sales. Traditional publishing houses and self-publishing platforms offer different royalty structures. The more copies you sell, the higher your earnings.

4. Screenplay Sales, Options, and Content Licensing

If you're a scriptwriter, selling your screenplay to film or television producers can be lucrative. Alternatively, you might receive payment for an option, granting a producer the right to purchase the script later. Scriptwriters may also license content for various platforms, including streaming services, which can be a source of ongoing income. Licensing agreements may provide royalties or upfront payments.

5. Public Speaking and Events

Authors often earn money by participating in speaking engagements, book tours, or events. Public appearances, workshops, and panel discussions can be sponsored or paid opportunities. If you are keen to build a personal brand, you can build your exposure in certain industries, become a thought leader and increase your earning potential as a subject specialist.

6. Writing Competitions and Grants

Many organisations and institutions offer writing competitions and grants. Winning or securing these opportunities can provide cash prizes, publication deals, or financial support for your writing projects. They may not be your primary source of income, but freelancers are likely to diversify their income so it's important to become savvy to different financial opportunities.

7. Self-Publishing and Merchandising

If you choose to self-publish, you retain more control over your work. Additionally, authors can explore merchandising opportunities related to their books, such as branded merchandise or special editions.

8. Crowdfunding

Some writers turn to crowdfunding platforms to finance their projects. Supporters contribute funds in exchange for rewards, early access to content, or exclusive perks.

9. Content Creation Services and Affiliate Marketing

If you're interested in digital content marketing and E-learning, you can earn money in digital product sales, online course sales, consultancy, and through affiliate marketing channels. Affiliate marketing is a great way to diversify your income, providing support to your main income stream. With a larger engaged audience, the more opportunity to grow your affiliate income.

10. Employment

If you go down the employment route, your salary will depend on where you work. Certain jobs often follow a salary framework, for example the publishing sector, education sector, and Civil Service. Agency work will likely give you many opportunities to work your way up the ladder, earning commissions and gaining more income with each promotion, and some industries could pay six figures plus if your role sits at a high level.

For more insights into the money side of things, check job boards such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and Upwork.

The takeaway

As you grow your skills and experience as a writer and increase your exposure, the more you can boost your earning power. In today's world of remote working, emerging industries are increasingly turning to writers to help drive business growth in new and innovative ways. Finding that sweet spot between freelancing and traditional employment is more achievable than ever, and is comforting for many graduates who want to find the balance between security in employment, and exploring their creative impulses. Many writers are taking full advantage of these opportunities and exploring the possibilities with open, curious minds. 

Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all answer; the decision is entirely yours. There's no better time to explore your options than during your creative writing degree.

Considering a creative writing degree?

Creative Writing Lead, Dr James Canton teaches on our flagship BA Creative Writing degree. Here's what he has to say about what it's like to study a writing degree at the University of Essex.

"Creative writing is the imaginative narration of our world. As writers we respond to societal issues such as climate change, AI, social justice, mental health, in a way that is powerful, personal and poignant. At Essex, we value an inclusive, supportive environment that challenges you to achieve your best as a writer and student. Your degree involves research, independent study as well as building up to professional levels of craft and technique in all kinds of writing, by way of creative and imaginative exercises. If you have an interest in writing, come and meet us on one of our Colchester Campus Open Days and get a taste of our writing community."

Dr James Canton, Senior Lecturer, Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, University of Essex.


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