I often get asked about what I do, how it works, and how it came about. To be honest I’m equally proud and embarrassed by my job. I’m proud of the reality (bloody hard work which has, over time, translated into a fantastic business), and embarrassed by the (incorrect) assumptions people often make about what I do. So with the new year being the time people often decide to take big leaps of faith alongside big challenges, I’ve decided to answer these questions once and for all. If you want to know how to become a paid writer with no qualifications beyond GCSE, this post will help you to do just that.
There’s just one caveat: you have to be committed. Because that’s one of the incorrect assumptions people often make about bloggers – that it’s easy and everything falls into our laps. Not true. My journey to the job of my dreams was long and tough…
How to Become a Paid Writer With No Qualifications
There’s a proverb about being happy that goes something like this:
To be truly happy, you need to be content in three areas of life: your marriage, your home, and your job.
When I heard it, I thought it was bang on – because feeling something is lacking in any one of those situations is enough to make you miserable. Of course, success means different things to different people; and it’s naïve to think any of us can be constantly happy – after all, it’s the shade which allows us to appreciate the light, right?
But mostly, I like the concept. It’s one I try to be consciously aware of too; as in, if I ever feel dissatisfied with my lot then I examine each of those areas to see what can be improved. Admittedly, though, that mindfulness is recent, because here’s the reality for most of us:
Change is haaaaard.
Better the Devil You Know?
I know people drawing their pensions who remain in unhappy relationships. Their kids are grown and have their own families – yet still the status quo is preferable to confronting a glum existence at home.
Equally, moving house is usually not a straightforward decision based on whim (if only!); finances are a major factor – a majorly restrictive factor more often than not.
And as for work… Well, how many people do you know who love what they’re doing? That’s just not real life.
After all, if we’re reasonably content, well – we’re not in such a bad place, are we? If you can get up and go to work without feeling completely wretched, then you’re doing alright. A little despondency is totally worth being able to cover the bills and have enough left over for the occasional splurge and a holiday once a year. Merely coasting along comfortably is fine: you don’t have to be fiercely ambitious to be respectable;you don’t have to be top of your game to be accomplished.
You’re doing okay as you are – and that’s…okay. You can sleep at night knowing you’re not fulfilling your potential, right? There you go then: mediocrity is nothing to be regretful about, is it?
I studied quite hard at school. I applied myself and came away with the qualifications I deserved, ie. when I worked for it I got A’s, when I was lazy I got C’s. So, overall my grades were acceptable – I could easily have attended university. Alas, there was something else calling to me; something stronger than the pull of hedonism and a degree:
Cold. Hard. Cash: I needed a job.
Work-wise I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I did what any foolish teen does in that situation and took the first office position that fell into my lap: I became a shipping clerk. It was pretty dire, and a year later I was off to work at a much better company in London. And that was my undoing…
Whilst in the Big Smoke, I learned what it was to earn well and be respected. I had a taste of independence and success – and once I’d known it there was no way I was giving it up.
So, even when I reached the glass ceiling, I was unable to walk away to find a better job. I’d spent nearly a decade learning the trade, and that knowledge was worth thousands of pounds to me. If I left to start over, I’d return to the bottom rung of the ladder – and I wasn’t prepared to go back there.
And On and On. And On…
Eventually, I realised my error – which turned out to be significant.
Every so often I’d find myself wishing I’d left the industry a few years earlier, while I was still young enough to retrain and do something worthwhile with my life – something that would excite me. But each time I had that thought, I believed that by then it really was too late: I’d missed the boat.
I remained in this limbo for so long it became tedious. I was always changing jobs, always on the lookout for the role that might finally lead to greater responsibility, greater recognition, greater respect. And yes, a pay-rise too. I was quietly ambitious, but lacking in confidence. I wanted to feel successful again and instead I was stagnating. Ring any bells?
But then one day, my hand was forced…
Pushed Before I Was Jumped Before I Was Pushed
While pregnant, my then MD backed me into a corner I had no way out of. We weren’t sure we could manage solely on my husband’s income, and I had to find a way to contribute.
I had one saving grace: the baby flourishing in my belly gave me a hiatus.
Desperate, I trawled the net, unsure what I was searching for. Because really, I was hunting for a miracle – only I’m not religious.
I focused my search around work I could do from home, and looked tirelessly for something I dared hope I may even enjoy. I love writing. It’s what I’ve always excelled at, and so I was naturally drawn to anything involving this aptitude. I scoured page after page of jobs and courses, in the vain hope that something would leap out at me.
And then I found it.
Now, of course, I’m a blogger. But I didn’t take the traditional route into this industry.
I stumbled across a new course, still in its infancy – and therefore costed at a very reasonable price. Crucially, a price that my husband and I could justify – despite knowing I was imminently to be unemployed.
Long story short, I found an SEO writing course, run by the brilliant Karen of Untamed Writing. (Incidentally, I was unable to complete it because my daughter was induced as an emergency. But that’s no longer relevant – I found the path which would take me away from shipping and towards my vocation.) After learning a bit about SEO and then taking a short break during a sleep-deprived haze of nappies and baby sick, Karen brought out a second course, called Start Content Writing. It was an introduction to blogging and copywriting and sounded much more ‘me’, so I ditched the SEO to learn about blogging for other businesses. I enrolled in the beta version and began swatting up on ghostwriting.
Essentially, it was the tool which took me from passion to profession.
What’s really great about the business model I was learning is that you can make it your fit your interests. Excited by all things culinary? Cool. Thrilled by fantasy fiction and comic book heroes? You’re unlikely to receive a dinner party invite to my house anytime soon (unless hubby has control of the invites)…but who cares – other people out there share your enthusiasm and that means you can totally make a living writing about what you love.
Whilst studying I learned how to build my own website – something I’d never have dreamed I was capable of. Then I used this website to start showcasing my blogging prowess in the hopes of gaining clients for whom I could write professionally – and so began my blog. Kind of…
A Business Blog, Versus a Blog As a Business
In those early days I was publishing posts just once a week, with the intention of honing my craft, displaying my talent, and hopefully – in time – to start driving traffic to my freelance website. But after several months, it occurred to me that I didn’t want to be doing this for anyone else – I love blogging and I wanted to focus on that for myself.
This meant that rather than using blogging as a tool to promote a freelance business, I had to completely restructure my website and branding. It also meant working for free for far longer than I (probably) would have done if I hadn’t completely remodelled my business. But it has been so worth the hard work.
Fast forward to just a few months later, and I was shortlisted for the Fresh Voice category of the BritMums Brilliance in Blogging awards. Quite the accolade.
That was two and a half years ago (June 2016), and since then my blog has gone from strength to strength. I’ve had some fantastic opportunities and attended some incredible events thanks to my blog; here are a few of the highlights:
- Taking Pixie behind the scenes at the London Aquarium to feed the rays;
- Meeting my heroine, Cherry Healey – and later going to her house!
- Being invited to take part in a press call with UNICEF, the WHO, and the First Lady of Nigeria, amongst others;
- Writing for Huffington Post, BritMums, and most recently Mothercare for World Breastfeeding Week;
- Collaborating with other incredible brands such as Silver Cross and P&G.
What About You?
What are you doing for work? Do you enjoy it? Do you also crave change, but you’re too anxious to throw caution to the wind and put yourself out there?
Would some suppressed part of your psyche rather scratch your own eyeballs out than make pleasantries with your irritating colleague for five more minutes? Do you – even on some level you’re trying hard not to acknowledge – wish a nasty bout of D&V to befall your arrogant supervisor (but only for the duration of the weekend, obvs)?
Do you avoid your own eye each time you look in the mirror because you keep agreeing to work overtime (unpaid, of course) – yet you keep missing out on that long-promised promotion?
Or do you, perhaps, want a gentle shove to propel you forward, because the truth is that you’re actually slightly fearful of your egotistical boss and the power they wield over you – and you hate yourself for it a little bit?
All of these things are the mediocre but realistic existence so many people live with every day of their working life. And that’s okay – unless it’s really not.
Mediocrity is nothing to be ashamed about; but it sure as hell ain’t something to be excited about either.
You Think It’s Never Going to Happen for You…
Until you make it so.
You know how people say they thought it would always happen to someone else when talking about illnesses brought on by their very silly smoking habit? Well this is exactly like that…except the complete opposite.
Basically, it’s true – it really will never be you. Not unless you invest in yourself. Because awesome jobs don’t just fall into laps. That, my friend, is not real life. But people loving what they’re doing for work? That’s not a fairy tale.
I know, because I truly love what I do.
And it’s totally attainable for anyone prepared to knuckle down and Make. It. Happen.
What’s the Secret to Becoming a Paid Writer With No Qualifications?
If you’ve got this far, you must be really keen to know how to become a paid writer with no qualifications. The good news is, it’s not like it’s some secret club – not exactly. There kind of is a club, actually – but I can get you in the door.
If you’re up for it, over time you’ll gain access to a rather tremendous bunch of writers. Paid writers – many of whom hold no formal writing qualifications – writers who have been where you are today, who found the balls and grit to work towards starting over. Many of whom, just a few short months later, actually started earning money at it. The parent blogging community is pretty amazing, and once you begin, you’ll find we’re a friendly bunch with lots of groups on Facebook that you’ll be able to join and make use of.
All of us thought at one time that it wouldn’t work, that it was too…simple. And it is simple: all the info I needed to get started by myself is freely available on the big wide web (I’ve since created my own post with some top tips for new bloggers). But here’s the clincher:
Simple ain’t the same as easy.
Essentially, you need to start. Start building a website, start writing content, start working on your SEO and social media. Just start.
Finding Success As a Writer
I’m not the best example of what you can earn and how quickly – because I took my own path. But suffice to say I earned money writing SEO articles and I earned money blogging for someone else prior to focusing on my own project. And I’m proud that now, this blog is also profitable.
Ultimately, you just need to commit to building a website, and writing. Consistency over time will translate into a valuable product you can monetise. And the best bit is that you can choose to do this from the comfort of your sofa. You can work from your lounge, an airport lounge – or a freaking beach.
Finding clients as a writer buys you freedom.
Freedom from the constraints of an office and an arrogant boss; and freedom from being tied to a desk in a particular part of the world.
The Reality of Blogging
I’ll leave you with this last piece of wisdom: if you don’t love it, you won’t succeed. Success looks different to us all, but if you want to earn a living through blogging then you need to be invested.
I’m so thankful for my business and all it’s led to, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But please, make no mistake – blogging is not the way to make a fast buck. I rarely take a day off where I don’t spend at least some time working, whether on my blog itself or on supporting social media (writing is actually one of the tiniest parts of what we do). It’s intense and all-consuming.
It’s a way of life. And it’s exhilarating.