Making a Living as an Animal Writer
Contributing to pet publications can be a great way to combine a love of animals and a talent for writing. This form of writing is a great fit for a freelance writer who has a love of animals and perhaps a background in other animal-focused careers.
Animal Writing Duties
The first thing the freelance writer must do is determine what topic they want to write about. Popular subjects for pet publications include veterinary or health issues, general care, breed profiles, exercise and activity ideas, behavior, training, nutrition, and traveling with pets.
Pet writers must have strong research skills to ensure that the material provided to their readers is accurate and current. That information must be presented in a logical, clear, and concise manner.
Pet writers must be able to work on a deadline. They must also have great attention to detail and strong proofreading skills to eliminate spelling and grammatical errors. Content and word count guidelines must be followed, and these vary from one publication to the next.
Many publications do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. Generally, it is best to carefully review the writers' guidelines on a publication’s website before submitting your work. Often you must first send a query or proposal, and then perhaps even a resume and writing samples from previously published work (often referred to in the industry as “clips”).
Pet writers can work for a wide variety of print and online publications such as magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and professional journals. They also may work in marketing or advertising for companies in the pet product industry, usually writing ad copy or creating website content. Breed organizations, trade associations, zoos, aquariums, and other animal industry groups may employ writers in full or part-time positions.
Many pet writers work as freelancers, setting their hours and choosing their assignments. Established writers may be offered staff writing positions at publications, or they may go on to find work as editors and creative directors.
Prominent pet publications include Dogster, Catster, Horse Illustrated, Horse & Rider, AKC Family Dog, The Horse, breed association newsletters, and many more.
Education and Training
No formal training is required to be a pet writer, but many have in the industry have animal-related degrees, writing or journalism degrees, or significant experience owning and working with animals. A solid grasp of spelling and grammar is essential. Writers should always take care only to submit their most carefully edited and polished work.
Professional animal writing groups, such as the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) and the Cat Writers Association Inc (CWA), can provide valuable advice, workshops, and networking opportunities for members. Participation in relevant groups can enhance a writer’s resume, especially if the writer is new to the profession.
Compensation for a writer can vary based on the length of the article, type of publication, and the number of articles published by the writer each year. Pet writers working as freelancers are generally paid for each finished piece.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that salary for authors and writers varied from less than $31,700 (for the lowest 10%) to more than $121,670 (for the top 10%) in May of 2018. The median was $62,170. The middle 50% earned between $44,890 and $85,580.
While part-time writers might not produce the volume of work necessary to pull in the higher end salaries, many part-timers use writing as a supplementary source of income and hold another full-time position.
With interest in pets steadily increasing, opportunities for pet writers should continue to grow as even more publications emerge to satisfy the demand. Opportunities with online publications should show significant growth.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, writers and authors held 45,210 jobs in 2018. While the BLS expects employment for all writers to grow at a slower than average rate (approximately 0%) from 2018 to 2028, the rate of growth may be different in this niche market.