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How to Become a Writing Coach
Showing students of any age how to improve their writing skills can be a rewarding occupation for someone who is an accomplished wordsmith and enjoys the challenges of teaching. Since you have the flexibility of being able to mentor your clients in your home, at their home, in a coffeeshop or even online, you have the freeom to define your own hours and set your own rates and expend very little money to get started. Being a writing coach requires excellent writing skills as well as the patience to teach those skills to others and objectively evaluate their progress
Identify what type of writing coach services you will provide and how much experience you actually have in that genre. If you're a produced playwright, for instance, you already have a body of knowledge on how to write plots and dialogue that will be performed on a stage. If you're a published novelist, you can provide instruction about story structure, pacing, and point of view. If you have an academic background, you can teach students how to incorporate research into a compelling thesis. The Teaching Resource Center (see Resources) provides an overview of different kinds of coaching services that people typically seek.
Identify your target clientele and why they might need a writing coach (high school students wanting to write better term papers or get higher test scores, adult learners wanting to try their hand at novels, foreign students wanting to improve their written English). Decide whether you want to focus on just one type of client or make yourself available to anyone who wants to enhance their writing skills.
Decide whether your instruction will primarily take place in person or via online critiques. To be a great mentor, you need to customize lesson plans to address students' needs, read what they produce and prepare detailed analyses. If you have another full time job, for instance, you may only be able to work evenings or weekends with just one or two clients. If your coaching services are conducted online, you can increase this number because the submission and review process doesn't require both parties to be present at the same time. Research what other writing coaches are charging (see Teaching Resource Center link) and offer a competitive fee that factors in expenses such as hosting a website, photocopying assignments, and paying transportation and parking costs.
Design a website that describes the coaching services you offer, your fee schedule, a brief biography, and a client questionnaire (see Step 5). Pen a weekly writer's blog that provides writing tips, grammar quizzes and recommended reading lists. The style of your website should be consistent with your supplemental marketing tools such as business cards, postcards, flyers and brochures. Online print shops allow you to use a wide variety of templates as well as upload your own designs.
Develop a questionnaire that prospective clients fill out online and submit with a one-page sample of their writing. This questionnaire should reveal a student's writing experience, goals and writing strengths and weaknesses. It should also include an area where students can describe material they're submitting for evaluation.
Develop an evaluation form wherein you can comment on elements such as their originality, organization of content, knowledge of material, focus, perspective, spelling, punctuation, grammar and tone. This enables prospective students to see what she needs to work on and provides you with a starting point for customizing her lesson plan. This can either be done in a narrative format or as a report card in which you rank the writer's skill set. Provide concrete examples to support the rankings you give.
Define your instructional style. For instance, you may want to provide a brief lecture (written or in person) that illustrates a concept and then provides the student a homework assignment in which he will apply that concept. You may want to provide one to three short assignments per session that focus specifically on the student's writing weaknesses (see Resources). If a client has sought your coaching services in the context of developing a large project such as a novel, your role as a writing coach may take on more of an editorial role as you work together on polishing one chapter at a time.
Advertise your coaching services. Drop off flyers and brochures at high school and college campuses as well as adult learning centers, libraries, coffee houses, cafes, salons, gyms and anywhere else your target clientele tends to congregate. If your interest involves the corporate sector (teaching executives how to write better memos and letters), introduce yourself to the HR staff of local businesses and see if you can promote your services through their in-house newsletters or office bulletin boards.
With your clients' permission, you may want to post some of their best work on the website. This will keep your website fresh with new content and also help attract new clients.
If you're deriving an income from being a writing coach, you'll need to have a business license. The website of the Small Business Administration can walk you through the necessary steps to establish yourself as an official business entity.
If you plan to mentor students in your home, review your homeowner's insurance policy to make sure you are covered in the event of accidents.
Use humor sparingly in critiquing your clients' assignments. While humor is often used to illustrate a point in education, a sensitive client may construe it as sarcasm.
Always find at least one good thing to say about every piece of writing you review in order to encourage your clients.
- With your clients' permission, you may want to post some of their best work on the website. This will keep your website fresh with new content and also help attract new clients. If you're deriving an income from being a writing coach, you'll need to have a business license. The website of the Small Business Administration can walk you through the necessary steps to establish yourself as an official business entity.
- If you plan to mentor students in your home, review your homeowner's insurance policy to make sure you are covered in the event of accidents. Use humor sparingly in critiquing your clients' assignments. While humor is often used to illustrate a point in education, a sensitive client may construe it as sarcasm. Always find at least one good thing to say about every piece of writing you review in order to encourage your clients.
Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.