What can you do with your English degree?

Oh, you poor bastard. You majored in English, in an English-speaking world. Me too. Shame they didn’t teach us about supply and demand.

Well. Generally speaking, you can teach or you can write. Personally, I’d recommend that you write.

There’s no one particular way to kick off a writing career… but you can bet there may be some unpaid writing involved to get it started. I can tell you what I did, at least, and maybe something in the ramblings below might give you an idea to start your writing career. Or at least give you a poke in the right direction.

Me? I’m a free-market person. I’ve never liked the idea of teaching. After graduating with my English degree I really just wanted to put my senseless obsession heartwarming passion for writing to good use.

I’d tried contributing blog articles, and a bit of spoken word, but you ain’t gonna see a penny there. Scriptwriting was a drawn-out lottery, and poets die poor for a reason. The only real practical avenue was copywriting, or content writing as it’s more widely known.

(Because everyone assumes that a “copywriter” has something to do with legal and copyright. Calling yourself a content writer will make you more friends.)

Alongside a few menial jobs to pay the bills, my ceaseless pestering eventually bagged me a snip of work experience with a radio station, scripting ads. Following countless job applications and some freebie articles in the meantime, this was enough to persuade another company to give me a three-month contract as a full-time writer.

With some hard work and study on the company merch, along with a good few books on copywriting to learn more about the trade, I stretched out this short-term contract to a few more months. (It’s really just about getting more experience on the clock.)

Balancing perilously on a couple of months’ savings, I landed another job as a copywriter and proofreader. Then another job a couple of years later, where I could dedicate all my time to copywriting in sales. And another content writing job twelve months after that, which I left last year to work for myself.

Because every night since I’d graduated, I was writing stories as well. The vast majority got binned; they were shit. But getting gradually less shit every time. The way I saw it, the day jobs were paying me to hone my skills. Paid training all week, and unpaid fiction training during evenings and weekends. Now, thankfully, I’m doing exactly what I wanted to do since my student days: writing fiction full-time. I just self-publish on Kindle; no middle man.

I’m not saying that to brag, but to tell you that it’s absolutely possible if that’s your dream as well. I know, for me, that it’s always been the ultimate end goal of my writing career.

It’ll take a lot of late nights, but you’ll get there too if you really want it. But the first step is to get your writing out there.

Don’t be afraid of critique and rejection – it shows you the boundaries and tells you how to improve. The more criticism you can take, and the more time you put into your writing, the better you’ll become. With enough time and willpower, you can make any career in writing that you like.

But you have to start now.

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