Each month we take a look at one of the 650 career pathways featured within Indigo. This month, we explore the role of an Author – a dream career for many budding writers.

Children’s author Sue Purkiss shares her insight into a career in writing with this video career profile from the Indigo Careers module.


So what is an Author?

Authors write the text for books, magazines, IT resources and more. This can involve developing initial ideas to create a complete piece, or simply rewriting sections.

Authors often specialise in a particular subject area such as technical writing, science, medicine, cookery, travel or education. A small number of authors write and publish creative works of fiction, poetry or drama.

Some authors write for tiny audiences and live their lives in relative obscurity.  Others achieve national or even international renown and sell millions of copies of their work.

Authors tend to work long hours to meet project deadlines. 


As the majority of authors and scriptwriters are self-employed, you will usually work from home. There is a high concentration of writers and scriptwriters in London and the South of England.

Type of work

It may be necessary to juggle deadlines with other part-time employment taken on to supplement income.

Most authors/scriptwriters are employed on a project-by-project basis, so the work provides very little job security.

Things to consider

This type of work can provide the satisfaction of being creative and seeing your work in print and in the public domain.

Unpredictable/unstable profession
Not all authors succeed in publishing their work and you might need to take on other types of work to make a living. You may need to have a second job to support you, especially at the start of your career.

Flexible hours
You will have to meet deadlines but will be able to write whenever and wherever you want.

Creative freedom
If you write works of fiction, poetry or drama then editors and proofreaders will check and streamline your work but you are the driving creative force.

Potential for knock-backs

Your first few pieces of writing are likely to be rejected by publishers.

Most people have an undergraduate degree and you will need natural ability in your chosen field

Natural ability is the most important aspect of this profession. There are a variety of courses available that are designed to improve a writer’s technique, ranging from evening classes to a postgraduate course, but style, originality of ideas, imagination and use of language are key.

Salary progression
Earnings vary depending on the nature of the writing project, your experience, and your popularity as a writer. The median salary for professional writers (writers who dedicate 50% or more of their time to writing) is currently £11,000.

Top Tip
Making a living as a professional author can be challenging. Having an established network of contacts helps and you must look for opportunities to publicise yourself. A variety of support groups and courses exist to help people develop their writing skills and are important ways to remain up to date with new technologies.

Click here to explore the full library of over 650 career profiles, including multimedia content and LMI data for students to interpret and discuss.