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To become an advice columnist, you will need to develop strong writing skills as well as a good sense of your own limitations and abilities in providing advice to people who are coping with personal or professional problems and difficulties. Publishers may have their own criteria for advice columnists and may want you to have a background in counseling or psychology. In some cases, advice columnists focus on specific topics such as finances or sexuality and may be expected to have strong educational and claimant credentials within that particular field. For general advice columnists, publishers may only require you to have experience in writing for publication, though some may want you to have a college or university degree as well. If you do not have a specialized degree, you may be expected by your publisher to establish a network of professional advisers who can help you provide specific direction to your letter writers.
Professional writing is a challenging profession, and there can be significant competition for writing positions. Although it is possible to become an advice columnist without previous experience, most successful columnists begin their writing career by developing their ability to write well. This process typically includes reading good writing on a regular basis and writing material that you then submit to various publications. Some writers get their start by writing blogs or for company or church newsletters and then expand their writing to include different writing styles and topics. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to take writing courses or participate in writers' groups in which you can receive feedback on your work.
If you have a degree or other credentials in a specialized profession or trade, you may be in a better position to become an advice columnist because you are recognized as an authority in your field. You will still, however, have to develop good writing skills and the ability to work with editors and publishers. Keep in mind, however, that the kind of writing required of an advice columnist may be different from the academic or professional writing that you are used to producing.
Perhaps the most significant challenge in your quest to become an advice columnist will be persuading an editor or publisher to hire you for the position. Many publications simply purchase the rights to syndicated advice columns and may not wish to pay to hire their own columnist. Keep your eye out for notices about publications that are hiring an advice columnist and consider developing a relationship with publications that you think may be able to use your services. For example, you could start submitting articles regularly to a magazine or newspaper and then asking your editor if she would consider starting an advice column and hiring you as a writer.
Being an advice columnist is something many people think they can do because "anybody can do it," but that's not necessarily the case.
A person has to be genuinely interested in helping people and in some cases, educating them, too.
I'd say people really need to read a variety of advice columns before deciding that's something they want to do. Poking around in people's lives is an awesome responsibility and you have to take it seriously. It's not something you start because you want to make money. I think wanting to help people has to be at the core.
I don't know. I've seen some online advice columnists who couldn't write their way out of a paper bag -- a wet one.
Good writing has to be a foundation, for sure. Columnists of any kind live or die on their credibility, and crappy writing eats at that credibility quickly. Getting facts wrong, obvious mistakes -- it all erodes one's "hand" where readers are concerned.
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