A grant writer generally isn’t the first writing career that comes to mind for aspiring writers. Many people who pursue a career in writing tend to choose fields or subjects that they are interested in. Although this can be fun to research and write about, the best paying writing careers often require writers to have technical expertise.
A grant writer is one of the most desired types of writers in the economy because they directly impact the bottom line of organizations. With a competent grant writer on staff, an organization can compete for many types of funding that can help meet their overall organizational goals.
If you do a quick Google search on grant writer jobs, you’ll quickly see how much demand there is for grant writers. Many companies offer lucrative salaries and compensation for grant writers. Many grant writing positions are remote, so this is a great profession to pursue for writers.
In addition to being a financially rewarding writing career, grant writers can also make a large community impact. Some grant writers choose to work for organizations they strongly align with because their work provides funding for causes they are invested in.
What is a grant writer?
A grant writer is a writer that researches, drafts and submits proposals to help an organization receive funding.
When an organization wants to receive funding for their operations, they have to tailor their application to the specifications of the grant. A grant writer is responsible for ensuring an organization has the best written application to maximize the chances of receiving funding.
What does a grant writer do?
A grant writer performs several main functions, they include
Researching: Grant writers spend time researching and finding the different types of funding that their organization is eligible for. Researching is a very important part of grant writing because it prevents wasting time on applying for grants that will likely be rejected.
A grant writer may look through databases, government sites, donor sites and other resources to find the grant programs their organization is most eligible for.
Drafting proposals: After finding eligible grants and funding programs, the grant writer will help lead the application by drafting the proposal. The proposal process can take a lot of time because the grant writer has to go through creating the first drafts, sharing with the company and reiterating based on feedback.
Once grant writer has reviewed the proposal with colleagues and managers within the organization, they can submit the grant proposal.
Editing/resubmitting proposals: Once a grant is submitted, the organization will receive feedback to indicate if the grant has been approved, rejected or if it needs more work.
If the grant is approved, no further work needs to be done by the grant writer and they can start working on researching new grants.
If the grant is rejected, the organization will receive feedback as to why it was rejected. The grant writer has to make any edits and re-submit the grant application after it has been finalized.
These responsibilities may differ from company to company, but you’ll focus primarily on the tasks listed above. If you work for a smaller organization, you’ll likely have more responsibilities than an if you work for a larger organization.
What is the typical salary of a grant writer?
The average salary of a grant writer in the U.S. is $69,518, which is about $33 per hour. This makes grant writers one of the most well-paid writers in the U.S.
The salary above is just an estimate of what a grant writer can earn. There are other factors that will influence what you as a grant writer will earn. These factors include:
Education level: Grant writers who have higher education like a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree will typically out earn other grant writers.
Size of organization: The size of the employer typically impacts the salary of a grant writer. Many nonprofits have very low budgets and that will likely correlate with how well they can pay grant writers. Joining a larger, more established organization will likely pay better.
Skill/years of experience: The skills, experience and track record of a grant is the most important factor in determining the salary of a grant writer. If you can show your employer you have the skills to land them a grant or you have proven track record, you can demand very high rates.
Typically, entry level grant writers will earn less than the national average. They can demand higher salaries as their skills and experience increases.
Career paths for a grant writer
Staff grant writer:
The first path you can pursue as a grant writer is to join an organization full-time. This is the path most grant writers pursue and it can be a very rewarding career.
As a staff grant writer, you will typically have normal work hours and you can get the opportunity to be promoted as you increase your skills and experience.
As you build your resume as a staff grant writer, you may get additional opportunities to do grant writing for other companies that may offer better pay and compensation.
Management: As a grant writer, you are knowledgeable on one of the most important aspects of managing an organization: funding. As you spend more time as a grant writer, you’ll be more versed on how an organization operates and you can get a chance to get promoted.
Depending on the size of the organization you work for, you can be promoted to mid-level or senior-level managerial positions.
Freelance grant writer: Another path you can pursue is becoming a freelance grant writer. As a freelance grant writer, you can take on clients that you do grant writing for.
With freelance grant writing, you can choose your rate, work schedule, etc. It also comes with additional challenges like finding clients, inconsistent income, etc.
Many freelance grant writers choose to freelance on the side while they work their full-time job. This allows them the freedom to build up their clientele until their freelance business out earns their 9-5.
Education and skills requirements for grant writers
Generally, a grant writer needs a Bachelor’s degree. Degrees like journalism, English and communications are preferred. Grant writers with Master’s degrees can demand higher rates and can be more attractive candidates.
Although the education requirements can make you a more attractive candidate, the most important qualification is previous grant writing experience. This is what sets grant writers apart.
More specifically, employers like to look for grant writers that have experience in their industry. For example, an employer will in the healthcare industry will want a grant writer with experience writing grants for healthcare organizations.
This is because the grant requirements vary drastically between industries. In sectors like healthcare, there are far more compliance demands that grant writers need to meet in comparison to other industries.
The traditional path for many grant writers is to enroll in a college degree program and do grant writing internships. This provides them the industry experience that’s required to get hired.
Other grant writers may start taking internships or working after college and get their desired role within 1-2 years of being a grant writer.
Can you become a grant writer without formal experience?
The short answer is yes, but it’s not easy. I’m personally a freelance writer and have been asked several times by clients to write grants for them.
If you don’t have a formal background for grant writing, you have to make up for it with actual grant writing skills. That’s the only way you can convince an employer or client to hire you.
This is what I did with freelance writing. I started as a beginner with zero writing background. Here’s what I did to break into freelance writing and you can do the same with grant writing.
- I set up a website that showed I’m a freelance writer (took less than 3 hours)
- Emailed a few companies to do writing for them for free (2-3 companies)
- Once I had a few samples of work, I started to email companies asking if they needed writing services. In a few months, I got my first few clients.
Grant writing is obviously more difficult than writing blogs. I’d still recommend doing one grant as a sample of if you can do an internship, that’d also work. Once you have at least one sample, start reaching out to companies to write grants for them.
It’s going to be difficult at first, but once you have a few grants under your belt, you’ll know what you need to do. Without the formal experience, you need real life experience with grant writing. It will take time, but it’s probably a more cost-effective route than going back to school for grant writing.
What do the highest paid grant writers do?
As a freelance writer for nearly 3 years now, I’ve learned one major lesson when it comes to making money as a writer: your writing ability does not equal your income.
Have my writing abilities changed a lot since I started writing 3 years ago? Not really. Of course I’ve learned new strategies and tactics, etc., but my actual writing ability has not changed.
What changed? My ability to market myself. This is the same for grant writers, whether they are self-employed or staff grant writers.
The highest paid grant writers are typically the most visible. This means if an employer or client is looking for grant writers online, they should be able to find you.
Simply having an online presence will separate you from 99% of other writers. This makes it much easier for you to attract employers and clients.
How can grant writers market themselves?
The one thing I learned about marketing yourself is that you don’t have to be an expert to do so. There are several ways you can market yourself as a grant writer, focus on one. Here are some possible ways:
Website/blog: If you are working with any clients or employers online, a website is extremely important. A website allows you to showcase your experiences as a grant writer and you can become an authority in a year or two.
Take my blog for example: I’ve started this 6 months ago and I’ve been basically writing about my journey in building an online business. In this time, I positioned myself as an expert in writing and blogging.
You can place your portfolio, thoughts and experiences with grant writing on your site. You don’t need to have the best website in the world, just set it up so employers can see you’re a grant writer when they search for you online.
LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a requirement. Whether or not you decide to invest further in LinkedIn is up to you. LinkedIn is basically the first place all employers go to check out any candidate for a job.
Make sure you spend at least a day setting up your LinkedIn and connecting with people in the grant writing industry. Include grant writer in your name, so when employers search for grant writers, you’ll be found.
Online community: Joining an online community like a Facebook group, Twitter, etc can go a long way in your career development. There are many people who do grant writing for a living and being around them will only help you.
It’s free to join any online community. Most are very welcoming to beginners and you can use those communities to get contacts within grant writing.
This is an overview of how you can get started in a grant writing career. I would recommend using all of the free resources available to you like Google, YouTube and online communities to learn more about grant writing.
Make sure to spend time setting up a LinkedIn account, website or something similar, so you can have an online presence as a grant writer. This will go a long way in helping you find opportunities to further your career.
To learn more about grant writing, here are the best places to search for if you’re looking for grant writing jobs.