7 Suitable Jobs For Writers

Writers don’t make any money, let alone a living. This has once again become a hot topic. A writer behind a newspaper article in this country just a short time ago was praised for bravery for saying exactly this, but those of us who live half of our existences online could have told you this a good two centuries ago. (Fact, and not a smidgeon of hyperbole in sight.) And further to growing my own orchestra of trumpets, I wrote about this myself already last year, in 6 Reasons Why Writers Need To Stop Bloody Whining.

We all know that writing doesn’t make fortunes – not even for copywriters or journalists, who are paid an actual salary to string words together.

The most respected, lauded and well-paid journalists on this earth still wouldn’t make what a London banker would make over a working lunch on a Friday. There are a few authors out there who hit pay dirt, granted, but there are far fewer of them than there are popular musicians of average talent with a god complex.

No: to make money, authors should really first do something else. So on that note, (and having another job myself which pays 100% of my bills, thus providing at least 75% of the mental well-being I require to write in the first place), I have tried to formulate a list of suitable jobs for writers.

Just pick one, and have yourself a life.

7 Suitable Jobs For Writers

Most rainbows end in puddles, not pots of gold. Doesn’t make them any less gorgeous, though.

1.    Teacher

A startling proportion of writers end up teaching writing anyway to make ends meet, so it would make a lot of sense to start out as a teacher in the first place, thus cementing both a steady income and a decent calendar of holidays during which to write. (Of course, if you are a teacher of subjects wholly abhorred by a great many children, such as maths, history, science, English, and Irish, you may lose the will to write altogether. However, that’s your problem.)

2.    Night-time Security Guard

Where else are you going to get paid to be somewhere with only surveillance monitors, a computer and a fledgling story for company?

3.    Retail/Sales Assistant

Retail is the perfect job for a writer, presuming you don’t actually own the shop/store/showroom in question. If you are an owner-manager, you have already signed your entire life over to your customers, so you can just forget about having another one.

However, if you are a sales assistant on the clock, your free time is in fact free to do frivolous things such as rearing children, washing, the plotting of major coups, or writing. The extra bonus of retail is the procession of new characters which enter your life every day. Watch them, mine them, and mercilessly rip them off in your stories.


4.    Waste Contractor

What else to take inspiration from, than the detritus of the human race? If you want to get to know a culture, look through its bins. Ask any archaeologist… or celebrity hack.

5.    Baker

Granted, you have to get up at Stupid o’Clock to make the fuel that keeps a nation of bored office workers on their arses, but in a serendipitous twist of fate, you also have the only other job where success depends on having all the right ingredients, in the right order, in a deceptively simple format, thus giving you a starting advantage. And as an added bonus, your working hours are already incompatible with society, so none of your loved ones ever expect to see you anyway.

6.    Life Coach

This is a sneaky one. It’s like free market research. Your clients will tell you what they want out of life. Your job is to help them get it. Your other job will be to write stories about characters who always get what they want, or die trying.

Just try to disguise your clients a bit. If they figure out they’re all characters in your next bonkbuster, you might find something iffy in your letterbox.

7.     And Finally…. Office Worker

There is no better place to light a fire of literary ambition under your arse than an insipid grey office environment in which the prevailing occupation is to push data around to no immediately discernible end, and for no tangible purpose. Ask Brian O’Nolan a.k.a. Myles na gCopaleen (civil servant), T.S. Eliot (bank clerk) or Harper Lee (reservations clerk).


7 Suitable Jobs For Writers

And there you have it. There are jobs which pay the bills, and there’s writing.

Sure, you can devote your whole life to it and churn out works of literature so beauteous that they make a small portion of the reading market sad, euphoric and hungry, all at the same time. But there’s no guarantee that this is what your art will amount to, even if you live in a garret and write for eighteen hours a day.

So why not diversify, and perhaps fuel your imagination while you’re at it? Ultimately, the best job for a writer is any work which pays the bills but doesn’t take up lots of precious spare time as well.

And So To The Question

And so to you – yes, you, out there. What else do you do, to finance your writing, artistic, or musical addictions – sorry, ambitions?

  57 comments for “7 Suitable Jobs For Writers

  1. February 15, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    Ahhh I’ve an interview with the civil service on Wednesday! Maybe it’s just what my writing career needs! 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • February 15, 2015 at 5:00 pm

      It is exactly what your writing career needs, Aunty. Not only do I hope you get the job for those basic and daily needs, I hope it is in a part of that gargantuan organisation big enough to house all the major character stereotypes, along with a few persons so bizarre that they are indeed stranger than fiction… Good luck! Will be keeping my fingers crossed for you from Tuesday night until the cramp defies the big dose paracetamol 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. February 15, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    I was… an advertising designer and copywriter until 1985, when we decided to trade in authentic American Indian Arts. Self-employed since 1978 or so, but I never took the time to write fiction seriously until 1999 or so. Now I’m retired, so this better work, or I’ll have to pick up the marker pens and computer graphics again! 😉


    • February 15, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      That’s the spirit, Richard. But remember – the main function of retirement should always be to laugh in the face of those eejits still working (such as myself). You should be spending at least one half hour a day revelling in our relative discomfort. The writing is an added bonus.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. February 15, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    Oh no! I’ve just finished the household chores with the only thing keeping me going being a mild dislike of total squalor and the shining hope that when I sell my opus magnus, I’ll be able to afford a housework robot! Those hopes now lie dashed, I tell you, dashed! But seriously, you’re right about the 9-5 job: it not only keeps body and soul together, it gives you lots of great life experience to use in your fiction. That said, I wouldn’t complain if they made the weekend one day longer! Yay, once more I live in hope! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 15, 2015 at 9:04 pm

      1 more day in the weekend, for cleaning? Not on your Nelly. I need that day for sleeping, and answering blog comments. And smiting my enemies. I forgot the smiting.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. February 15, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    My 9-to-5 job was an intense, spirit consuming one related to law. When I came home, I didn’t write but I read. I spent all my years before retirement trying to come up with ideas that would propel me out of the daily grind. But everything was out of Gandalf by way of Harry Potter. But after a few years to clear out the legalisms, I find my creativity raring to go. Now my goal is not to get rich, but to increase by a small (or large) amount my retirement income. And I have much more time to write.

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 15, 2015 at 9:06 pm

      I agree that the office life can be stifling – but it can cause creativity to rebel and break out too! And you should aim high. Why not double your retirement income? You’ve earned it 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. annerallen
    February 15, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    Funny and true. I’ve worked at 1,3, and 7!


    • February 15, 2015 at 9:08 pm

      There’s still time, Anne, if you feel you’re missing out on the other 4. Don’t let writing success distract you!


  6. R J Madigan
    February 15, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    Funny and true. I previously worked as a mental health professional, which is great for both funny and heartbreaking stories. You also get to meet some really complex characters which helps with making sure your own characters are well rounded. Rae.


    • February 15, 2015 at 9:09 pm

      Sounds like an incredibly rich experience to bring through to writing, Rae… although I can imagine it takes time and effort to distance yourself from such things enough to write about them. Can’t be easy…


  7. February 15, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    When I was younger I used to apply every Summer to the local bookshops and the library. I’d march in with my cv and tell them how much I adored books. Not one reply. Ever.


    • February 15, 2015 at 9:11 pm

      I wonder if that’s the problem – maybe they wouldn’t give you the job for fear your adoration might get you lost between the shelves every day!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. February 15, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    Heh heh.

    I’m not a writer, but I call myself a writer anyway. Sure it’s all the rage. And rage is where I’m at. Approximately 60 hours a week without a break and little recognition.


    • February 15, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      Ah, of course you’re a writer. Don’t you write a blog? How’s the rage going, anyway? I’m grand for it at the moment, but that’s because it’s a Sunday night. I can check in with you around lunchtime tomorrow, after I put the knives down.

      Liked by 1 person

      • February 15, 2015 at 11:00 pm

        Grand. It could’ve gotten outta hand earlier but Jean Byrne popped up with the weather wearing seconds from NASA. Ah, Jean. Lovely girl.

        I’m a big fan of all your work, Tara, so forgive me when I point out a possible omission – toll booth collector. Those little cubicles are like bureaus; and their occupants always weirdly chipper, like they’ve just had a short story accepted by Woman’s Way.

        Liked by 3 people

        • February 15, 2015 at 11:32 pm

          You’re absolutely right. Bad miss on my part. Love the Woman’s Way imagery. I am in your debt.

          But if I wind up dreaming about Jean Byrne and any type of hardware tonight, I am coming to find you. You have been warned.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. carolannwrites
    February 15, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    Or you could facilitate creative writing workshops like what I does… and rob everyone elses ideas! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 15, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      But…. but…. Carolann, I’m shocked at your admission. I KNEW I should never have told you that story about the old sea dog and the turnips. And when I saw that photo of you on Facebook, I knew I’d never be able to write about hosiery again…

      Liked by 1 person

  10. February 15, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    Ackkk…I’ve experienced enough verbal abuse for a lifetime to ever consider going back to retail unless I’m borderline destitute.


    • February 15, 2015 at 10:10 pm

      Good grief, Beth, what kind of a place were you working in at all?? Thankfully none of my retailing experiences have been like that. (Very thankfully. I might have got arrested for the consequences, if they had.)


      • February 15, 2015 at 10:33 pm

        I mostly worked in food, but customer service jobs in general allow you to see the worst in people. Lemme tell you, people can be AWFUL when they are hungry. From the woman who cussed out my coworker for burning her bagel (she said she wanted it “really really dark,” apparently they catch fire when run through the toaster more than twice) to the woman who told my manager to go to hell for charging her 60 cents when she asked for a second bag of chips..I’ve seen enough to substantially lower my faith in humanity.


        • February 15, 2015 at 10:37 pm

          There are most definitely nicer retailing establishments. I worked in a lot of pubs, but I was able to keep them in line. Can’t think how 😉


  11. February 15, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    Ah Sunday evening was the perfect time to read this…sigh. I do IT stuff…

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 15, 2015 at 10:44 pm

      I’m a big fan of the IT stuff, Susan. Not half as big a fan as IT people are of colleagues who have their successful side projects, though. Congratulations on the fantastic RoNA award nomination for White Feathers! I did a happy dance for you when I heard! Fingers crossed by the end of 2015 you’ll be an award-winning novelist who does a bit of IT on the side. One way or another I smell major achievement!

      (Sorry about all the exclamation marks. It’s the pre-Monday jitters settling in.)


      • February 17, 2015 at 8:21 pm

        Thanks so much, Tara! I’m just going to enjoy the night and try not to get ahead of myself too much, that way only lies heartbreak 🙂


        • February 17, 2015 at 9:23 pm

          I’d be the same, but it’s already huge that you’ve been nominated so every single second of that night should be spent in a sea of congratulation!

          Liked by 1 person

  12. February 16, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    It seems to me that the right kind of job will depend on what you plan to write about – after all it’s an ideal opportunity to do some research and get paid for it. So I need to find a job that incorporates: rowing, swimming, driving fast cars, jumping out of planes, negotiating with trolls, sword-fighting and travelling through time. (I know, half way through that you were thinking I should see if they’d re-boot the old Milk Tray adverts – and then you saw the trolls…) Any suggestions?


    • February 16, 2015 at 7:23 pm

      Suggestions? Of course I do, but you knew that, Graeme…

      How about future James Bond’s social media advisor? Fitness trainer for quantum mechanics? Or keep things simple as a video game designer?

      Liked by 1 person

  13. johanna buchanan
    February 16, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    I heard of one writer who works in a morgue and she loves it because of all the quiet time for writing. I have worked at retail, waitressing, bar-work, cocktail waitress for a racing (and racey) crowd, where I wore a short satin mini-skirt and a jockey cap (mortified at the memory now but loved it at the time!), a Barbarella girl (something like the previous role, but wore kind of less clothes and didn’t last as long at it because the reporter who came to cover the event made me think I could do better, which is when I went into journalism.) Also receptionist, data input person, switchboard operator, print journalist, broadcast journalist, pr consultant.That’s only the stuff I remember. Have my eye on Life Coach now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 16, 2015 at 9:44 pm

      You know, Johanna, when I was making these suggestions, I had in mind a selection for writers to pick from, not a selection for 1 writer to go through in its entirety! I hope you’re working all these jobs into your stories. Especially the Barbarella one. Although that does now cast you in rather a different light, you know.

      Liked by 1 person

      • johanna buchanan
        February 16, 2015 at 9:47 pm


        Liked by 1 person

    • carolannwrites
      February 17, 2015 at 8:21 pm

      Exhausted just reading this! Plenty of experience there for a Life Coach!

      Liked by 2 people

  14. February 16, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. February 17, 2015 at 12:25 am

    well now, journalist, short order cook, exam invigilator (didn’t much care for the discipline of that one), cinema usherette, copy editor, teacher, saleswoman (my accountant laughed when he saw how much money I didn’t make for that), washer upper, and even when I got published I still had to work on the Street of Shame. Still. All good copy….


    • February 17, 2015 at 9:40 am

      Did you slap the accountant? I hope so, particularly if you were paying him. An accountant should never laugh. The sound makes small children cry. Still, that’s an illustrious career path you’ve got going there. You should be able to squeeze another 6 or so professions in before retirement, no?


      • February 17, 2015 at 10:10 am

        Yup. I quite fancy being a fan dancer, just to embarrass the children. Although, really, I’d just like to get another book published…


        • February 17, 2015 at 10:21 am

          Why not do both? And save the dance of the 7 veils for launch night.


          • February 17, 2015 at 10:24 am

            Now there’s an idea….and I’ll start making my fans and veils and things now, so as I can avoid writing for a bit longer.


            • February 17, 2015 at 10:28 am

              Splendid idea! You should start a Pinterest board for it too. And a new dance blog to flesh it out a bit.

              Liked by 1 person

  16. February 17, 2015 at 8:36 am

    I have the answer… marry someone substantially older than you then, when they retire (pretend reluctance) agree to their suggestion that you should give up work too.. It must have worked as (sorry, taking every chance I can) my first book Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa is published on Friday 20th February. X


    • February 17, 2015 at 9:44 am

      Nifty, Yvonne! But I’ll allow it 😉
      The very best of luck with your big publishing day! And your masterplan sounds pretty damn perfect to me. Unfortunately I’m married to a self-employed person, so my chances of sunny retirement will have to be based on a solid life of crime, or something similar…


  17. February 17, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    I might try number 4, what inspiration ! Remember “authentic New York garbage” packages a few years ago. Suggestions for a similar Dublin package would be a book in itself, especially if you promised to keep it odourless. Meanwhile I think my local Spar shop is staffed by writers, dreamily gazing out the window while handing me my change.


    • February 17, 2015 at 2:05 pm

      Oh, please do try it, Anne… Then come back and tell us what happened, after you sell your blockbuster thriller set in an incineration plant in a dystopian Ireland where nothing is wasted… not even WASTE. We’ll go to your local Spar together and round up a few writers to ghost-write your next trillion-dollar recycling epic.



      • February 17, 2015 at 3:56 pm

        You are on a roll there Tara ! Done deal. I,m just back from Spar and I think I have the opening line, (recycled of course). When the ghost writers are not looking out the window, they are chatting amongst themselves. I heard one of them say “I was wrong once”. That will be my opening line.


        • February 17, 2015 at 4:47 pm

          Love it. A self-aware ironic twist on the common roots of all tales by using a recycled story. It’s a Möbius strip of narrative headwreckery. It’ll sell out. I want 10%. 😀

          Liked by 1 person

          • February 17, 2015 at 7:27 pm

            yes 10% if I can have your Thesaurus. Mobius ?? Science fiction ?

            Liked by 1 person

            • February 17, 2015 at 9:20 pm

              If you like. I don’t mind if you call it Hamster Wheel Fiction if I get my 10%…


  18. February 17, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    Both my daughters (artist and theatre director) are playing this other-jobs game very successfully. I’ve done so many things to fund my non-moneymaking lifestyles (plural) as a sculptor and a writer: sewing, art school modelling, theatre cafe, weeding in a nursery, landscape design, occupational therapy assistant in mental hospital… but by far the best idea I had was to marry a banker (not that kind of banker, I married the archivist), but it dealt with the last crust problem. I actually started writing whilst doing some proper full-time earning (there’s a lot to be said for the 9 to 5). I don’t personally earn enough now to pay tax, but the banker’s pension keeps me in essential computer parts. It is amazing what you can survive on if you are doing what you want to do.


    • February 17, 2015 at 9:25 pm

      Great point, Hilary. For some it’s many stepping stones, for some it’s a few larger ones. Either way, bills get paid and words get written.


  19. February 19, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    I’ve done the office thing…now I’m getting ready for the teaching thing. Time has always been my enemy, it’s hard to fit it all in.


    • February 19, 2015 at 4:51 pm

      Still room for more, L.T. Ever think of taking up dancing? Lion taming? Dermatology? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • February 19, 2015 at 9:42 pm

        Do we have the pay rates for lion taming? I think if I can take on teenagers, then I possibly could take on some lions :))


        • February 20, 2015 at 11:09 am

          Oh, yes. Lion taming will bring in precisely one-tenth of an annual prescription for someone with dermatitis. I know which one I’d be gunning for, but you’re dead right on the teenager thing.

          Liked by 1 person

  20. September 20, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    What a great post. I am a PR rep. Pays the bills. My work is to convince others to write about our clients’ products. This post got me thinking about the writers I know. Definitely, the most pleasant are those with full or part time work outside of the writing sphere. Am writing my first book and stumbled on your blog today. I am on outline #7 and loving the challenge. Fiction is far more fun than non in my humble opinion. Just read your Narrator 1, 2, 3 post. Lots of food for thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 20, 2016 at 4:39 pm

      That’s a good point, Boomergirl – the most stressed out and unhappy writers also seem to me to be those who are doing it full time. Thanks for your comment!


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