English degrees got a bad reputation that’s still hard to shake.
However, what many people don’t realize is that in a tech-heavy era, writing is paramount for nearly every single business. There are full-time jobs for search engine optimization (SEO) wizards, social media managers, marketing managers who take on e-newsletter campaigns and technical writers, copywriters, senior editors and a bevy of other related careers.
The one thing they all have in common is that you have to be a killer writer to get it done.
You can have a degree in business or even an MBA and not be a good writer. Your educational background might catch the eye of a recruiter better than an English major — but not if the recruiter knows what he’s really looking for. Just like with healthcare workers, strong writers with the right technical skills are invaluable to companies and the demand will only grow. Here are a few ways to really make it big with your English degree.
The Tipping Point
First, understand that if you just have a bachelor’s degree in English, no experience and no portfolio, there are thousands of people just like you. Getting an advanced degree in a related subject like writing helps you stand out from the crowd. You can also use your graduate program to put together a diverse portfolio showcasing your writing talents including blogging, writing technical specs and self-teaching SEO. You should have a constantly updated and flawless portfolio, both in a PDF format and on your professional website (yes, you need that, too).
It’s also in your benefit to know many English majors self-destruct. A lot of them are creative types and, like many other artists, it takes ambition as well as talent to succeed. They’ve also been told for their entire academic career there’s no money with an English degree and all you can do is teach or work at a bookstore. That’s far from true, and in fact most English teachers at advanced levels actually have backgrounds in education as well as English.
Marrying technology with writing skills is your best approach to making a lucrative salary as a writer. Technical companies often hire full-time tech writers, but you’ll be expected to know a bevy of software programs and languages.
Take every opportunity to learn a new technical skill, but start with SEO, basic HTML and of course Microsoft Office, Photoshop, InDesign and Sharepoint. These are the major skills most companies want unless you get into a niche field.
You’ll also be expected to have a lot of experience, so you’ll be starting from the bottom. Don’t consider it a waste, because these early learning experiences are actually paying you to learn new skills. To make the most of it, freelance on the side (or full-time if you can) so you have more control over your income and are diversifying your skills.
What’s a Copywriter, Anyway?
You’ll find a lot of different job titles for a copywriter, but it’s just what it sounds like: A person who writes copy. This could be for a company that makes a special wide belt sander, an aviation company or a mega tech leader like Intel or Microsoft. You’ll need writing samples that showcase similar articles, documentation or manuals and a knack for understanding difficult jargon and translating it into laymen’s terms.
No matter what kind of writing you do, the formula for success is equal parts quality and speed without letting either suffer. This is where many writers fall short. We’re naturally perfectionists and if you easily get distracted, that’s a big problem. Those who really succeed as copywriters, technical writers or anyone else who has a way with words, are people who have an iron grip on their ambition.