Becoming a professional writer is a challenging and rewarding goal. Whether you want to work from home as a freelance writer or get a writing job working for someone else, it is helpful to understand the basic elements of a successful writing career.
Decide what you would like to write about. Although it is possible to be successful as a writer without specializing, it is often very helpful to focus on a specific genre of writing. For example, you may have a particular preference or talent for writing biographies, non-fiction travel articles, science fiction stories, romance novels, medical articles, etc.
Evaluate your current skill level. Writing is a demanding and competitive career choice, and editors are often a "tough crowd." While you don't have to be Hemingway to get started, don't expect others to forgive basic mistakes. Be honest with yourself about your writing skills. If you aren't sure you have what it takes, proceed with caution. It's not impossible to succeed in writing without high-level skills, but you should be prepared to work considerably harder.
Hone your skills. If you are able to identify areas in your own writing that need improvement, consider taking a a few writing classes, or working with a well-established mentor. If neither approach is an option for you, at least be sure to do some practice writing in an environment where constructive feedback is available. No matter how you choose to work on your writing skills, always be willing to accept feedback and constructive criticism.
Make the decision to "go pro." Once you have addressed any problems in your writing and gained some experience dealing with editors and peers, it may be time to take the plunge into into professional writing. Evaluate your needs and capabilities in order to decide whether freelance writing or traditional employment is preferable for you. In either case, the procedure for finding work is largely the same.
Begin seeking paid work. If you are comfortable mentioning your new career choice to family and friends, this may be a good place to start. If you would rather seek work privately, the Internet offers a number of websites which frequently post job opportunities for writers. While you will not be a perfect fit for every job (and you may not get every job for which you are qualified), a determined search will eventually yield results.
You may find it helpful to create a website which highlights your skills as a writer and the services you offer. If possible, become familiar with basic web design and do this yourself. If that isn't an option for you, hire a web-savvy friend or an affordable design professional to create your website. A well-designed website can influence editors and potential employers to give you a shot. In order to gain credibility with a potential job source, it is important to be familiar with the basic process of dealing with editors and other authors. There are a number of collaborative writing websites available which can provide excellent opportunities to "get your feet wet" in the world of writing.
Initially, professional writing can be a low-paying career choice. Until you become established in your own right, it may be difficult to make ends meet with writing income alone. Take this into consideration when developing your long-term plans and goals.