Writing is one of the many arts people consume on social media, newspaper publications or even spoken word, yet many writers still fail to make a living through this art.
They live to listen to the old adage that writing does not pay and thus need something practical or conventional; yet, for an art that knows no age or gender, there are many opportunities within writing that can make one a paid writer as opposed to a person that enjoys writing.
Writing for publications
The most known opportunity for writers is in the publication industry. It may be true publication mediums could be losing a big lot of their audience but a very big number of new ones are opening up for all sorts of reasons, and they need written material especially if it is drawn to a certain niche, such as travel, tech, food and other fields that few people write about.
The other content needed by publications could be creative writing, which many times can be used for serialised columns in newspapers and magazines.
And today, in an era where people’s attention span is low, some publications have resorted to compiling short stories from different writers into anthologies.
With the world heavily migrating to digital platforms, blogging is one way writers are making money. Different writers set up blogs about different topics and create a following in that specific area, for instance, Nyana Kakoma, before Sooo Many Stories, became an independent publication to churn out books like The Headline That Morning and Flame and Song, it was a blog that shared short stories and book reviews, among other things.
Other bloggers write about topics such as food, travel or fashion that have specific audiences that do not only read but are willing to pay for the content.
Blogs market their writers and it is from here that many of them get paid to contribute to publications, sites and platforms interested in that specific content. Other bloggers also get paid through advert placements on their websites.
“The biggest opportunities right now are in digital content and ad copywriting. If you can master creating and curating written content for social media and adverts, you’re on the money,” says Edna Ninsiima, a freelance writer.
She says getting one’s work noticed depends on a combination of skill, consistency and social media reach. “Social media audiences are good because there is not a more viral form of art exposure right now. Most, if not all of the jobs I have got were from a client seeing my work on social media.”
Like most creative writers, a person that writes a copy must possess a sense of curiosity and refined writing skills. Most copywriters did not necessarily study to do that but started off as writers in other fields. Others simply got discovered by posting their creative writing online for public consumption.
Edward Nimusiima, a digital marketer, is one of the many that started out in the newsroom. He thought he had an eye for advertisement and thus tried to focus his writing in that direction, although transitioning from the newsroom writing to 100-word messages was not easy.
Social media marketing
Social media marketing is one of the new forms of employment. But even when it is very important to have a big following on social media, the content offered by the social media marketer or influencer is even more important. Much of this content is written in a creative manner to create an impression about a product, place or event that someone is marketing.
Most social media marketers use stories that are drawn from real life experiences packed with wit and humour before driving the advertisers’ message home.
Nimusiima’s skill as a storyteller had been seen on social media. He would post stories; “I love storytelling thus many times I would share stories in about 100 words.”
Soon, when the number of people following him kept surging, he realised he could turn the page into another one of his cash cows.
Today, he is a digital advertiser for telecom companies, holiday destinations and beverage products, among other clients.
Ghostwriting is one of the commonest opportunities for writers. A ghostwriter is hired to write journalistic and other literary works that are accredited to other people as authors.
In a world where every successful person wants to write a book, ghostwriters come in handy, and of course, at a fee.
For years now, ghostwriters have been used to represent thoughts of politicians, business moguls and celebrities that do not have time to sit and put a book together.
However, ghostwriting has its pros and cons, for instance, it has non-disclosure agreements that may see a writer never claiming the work even when it is them that did the writing.
Where to publish
Sooo Many Stories. Sooo Many Stories was initially a blog that later turned into a publishing power force. Today they have worked with poet Peter Kagayi and writer Kabali Kagwa.
Femrite. The Uganda Women Writers’ Association is a women’s organization that trains and promotes writers.
Fountain Publishers. One of the oldest publishing houses in Uganda, Fountain has worked with poet Taban Lo Liyong, Mary Karoro Okurut, Charles Oyango Obbo and Goretti Kyomuhendo, among others.
Digital spaces. As publishing spaces keep shrinking, the digital spaces keep springing up, these are websites, personal blogs that at times are tailored to serve specific topics.
Tips for budding writers
• Read a lot and a variety
• Write your thoughts
• Watch documentaries
• Look for a fiction writing class
• Write something everyday