The Great Resignation has seen many employees leave their jobs, some without new positions lined up. Many are turning to freelance and contract positions so that they can work from home and have greater control over their trade.
If you have written professionally before, or if you’ve worked in fundraising, you may be wondering if grant writing as a career is a viable option. If so, this post will help answer your most pressing concerns about how difficult it is to become a grant writer, how stressful a grant writing career is, and how much money grant writers make.
Are Grant Writers in Demand? Digging into the Data
The short answer is, yes. Grant writers are very much in demand right now. The reason is pretty straightforward – organizations want free money, and they’re willing to spend a lot of time writing grants to try and get it.
While grants have always been sought by organizations, the pandemic hurt many businesses and nonprofits, meaning that many are searching for grants just to be able to keep their doors open.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics cites job growth in the field of writing at 9% between 2020 and 2030, with just over 15,000 grant writing jobs available each year – and that’s just formal jobs offered by organizations. There are tens of thousands of gig grant writing opportunities on freelance platforms.
But once the pandemic is over, will those opportunities disappear? Never fear – many people are leaving their jobs and starting new businesses, and that means more people will need grants for years to come. There’s no end in sight for the demand for grant writers.
People who write well are always in demand, and grant writing requires a mix of technical and persuasive writing that most people simply aren’t comfortable producing.
If you have skills in this area, and you’re able to work with a range of clients with different needs, you will be able to find work.
How Hard is it to Become a Grant Writer?
Grant writing, unlike many professions, does not require a specific degree. Some grant writers studied Business or Nonprofit Leadership, others English, and yet others studied in fields that seem, on the surface, entirely unrelated to writing grants.
Though most clients will prefer a writer with a Bachelor’s degree, and ideally an advanced degree as well, it is more important that you have excellent writing and communication skills and the ability to translate your client’s ideas into a persuasive proposal.
The most important thing you can do if you’re hoping to become a grant writer is to actually start writing grants. Most clients will not ask much about your formal education – they’ll ask how many and what types of grants you’ve applied for and how much funding you’ve received.
Find a grant to work on. If you’re currently in school, ask your professors if there are opportunities to serve on a grant-writing team. If you’re a graduate student, write a grant to fund your research. Ask your university’s Office of Sponsored Programs to help you find opportunities.
If you volunteer with a nonprofit, see if you can help write a small grant. If you know a grant writer, ask them to let you help with a project to get experience.
Once you have a grant or two under your belt – even if they aren’t funded – you should be able to start finding work. Just make sure your rates reflect your experience.
Click to find the best grants for your nonprofit from 12,000+ active opportunities.
It depends on who you ask! If you like writing and supporting social causes, it could be a great career choice for you.
Writing for other people can make for a stressful career.
That’s why grant writers can earn very good livings, and it’s why many nonprofit leaders outsource this job to someone else. Writing grants involves careful organization, at times reading extremely dense RFPs (Requests for Proposals), and managing clients’ expectations.
So why would anyone want to pursue grant writing as a career?
Because the stress is offset by two things: the rewards of helping an organization you believe in land a good grant and the flexibility the career offers. If you’re writing grants as a freelancer, you get to set your own schedule.
Even if you’re writing grants for a singular organization, you might get to work remotely. There are many grant writers who fall into the ‘digital nomad’ category and move around the country or world writing for a living.
Writing grants as a contractor not only gives you the flexibility to write when you’re most productive, it also allows you to schedule time off whenever you’d like – so long as you let your clients know your plans and are careful of their deadlines.
There’s no need to go into an office if you’re feeling sick, to find care for your children or pets, or to dress a certain way. Just remember that you will want to set boundaries with your clients (no phone calls after 8pm, etc.) and make sure you schedule yourself days off to relax.
Do Grant Writers Make Good Money?
Like most specialized, skilled jobs, the amount you make by pursuing grant writing as a career will depend on your experience. The average income for a grant writer is just under $50,000 a year, but you will find grant writers on freelance platforms charging anywhere from $20-$150 an hour depending on how long they’ve been doing the work and how much money they’ve secured.
It’s important that you know your worth and that you increase your rates regularly as you become more experienced. When you first start out, try charging $20 an hour until you’ve had a few clients who’ve left you great reviews.
You may also find that focusing on grants in particular fields can make you money faster. For example, if you majored in Biology, you speak the language of the sciences. You may be able to charge more for writing scientific research grants than someone with an English major.
If you can write healthcare grants, you may find that clients in that field are willing to pay more than people running animal-welfare nonprofits. Always look at job postings and take note of what clients are willing to pay. Then look at what other writers are charging to keep yourself competitive.
What Types of Personalities Do Well in Grant Writing?
Introverts, extroverts, and everyone in between can do well in grant writing careers. Introverts may enjoy the absence of traditional office interactions; there’s little small talk in grant writing – if you’re talking to a client, you will almost always be talking business.
At the same time, extroverts may enjoy meeting with lots of different clients from many different fields. Often, clients will invite you to events or fundraisers, which extroverts might find exciting.
Though any personality can succeed in grant writing, keep in mind that the most important trait you can have is good organizational skills. You’ll want to keep notes of all meetings, keep folders for each of your clients’ documents, and keep track of all your deadlines.
A tool like Instrumentl is helpful for automatic deadline reminders and tracking all of your grant writing information in one place. Find what works for you early. You don’t want to find yourself balancing a dozen clients with no organizational method in place. See below for an example deadline reminder:
Wrapping Things Up: Is Grant Writing a Good Career?
Like all careers, you will get out of grant writing what you put into it. But if you love writing, have great organizational skills, and have a keen eye for detail, then it’s worth giving grant writing a try.
If you write one grant and you hate it, no loss. If you write one grant and you love it, you may be in for a lifetime of rewarding work. And trust me – nothing feels better than a client you spent weeks working with calling to tell you that the grant you wrote won them thousands of dollars.