If you go to any coffee shop across the globe, you’re likely to see one or two people fervently typing away on a laptop. Some of these will be aspiring screenwriters, who may be pursuing their dreams of penning a top hit on the silver screen.

This is particularly true in Hollywood, where about 13,000 people are currently members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) which represents screenwriters. The Writers Guild of Great Britain is a little smaller with around 2,600 members, although this continues to increase year-on-year.

But what exactly is in the role of a screenwriter and how much can you earn in this position? Let’s find out!

What Does a Screenwriter Do?

In simple terms, screenwriters write and develop screenplays for film or television, either based on an original idea or by adapting an existing story (usually a novel) into a screenplay.

In terms of how to become a screenwriter for TV, you could also join an existing project, as part of a wider team that pens scripts on a recurring basis.

In order to become a successful screenwriter, you’ll also have to prepare your script in a way that enables readers to envisage the setting, while evoking emotion through dialogue and the quality of your collaboration with producers and directors alike.

Although people often ask ‘is it difficult to become a screenwriter?’, many currently operate as freelancers who supplement their early work and development with menial jobs. They may even work as extras or perform similarly low-level roles in the movies, in order to gain access to influential figures in the industry.

Aspiring screenwriters may also look to develop approximately three drafts of a screenplay (with the third known as ‘the polish’), which is then pitched to targeted producers and studios in order to secure a production.

Can You Become a Screenwriter Without a Degree?

This is another commonly asked question, and the simple answer is that you don’t need a degree to become a screenwriter.

Of course, you may improve your chances of becoming a screenwriter and the quality of your output by attending film school and honing your craft, while this also enables you to network with like-minded individuals and create contacts for the future.

However, this isn’t a prerequisite, so you don’t need a degree or formal higher education accreditation to work as a screenwriter.

Instead, all you need to become a screenwriter is one or a series of scripts that can attract the attention of a manager or agent, along with a keen sense of determination and willingness to put yourself out there in the first place.

screenwriter sitting on a typewriter for a blog on how to become a screenwriter

Can a Screenwriter Become a Director?

You may even speculate whether a screenwriter can be a director, and the truth is that many people assume multiple roles when conceiving, creating and producing scripts.

So, when answering the question ‘how long does it take to become a screenwriter?‘, it’s often difficult as the lines between different job roles behind the camera can become blurred over time and during specific productions.

Certainly, there will be times (especially during low-budget productions) where you’ll want to direct your movie as a screenwriter, especially as this can make it easier to deliver on your artistic vision.

Another question that remains is can screenwriters become actors?

While the answer here is also yes, it’s far more common for actors to move behind the camera after they’ve developed successful on-screen careers (see Tina Fey, Seth Rogan and Emma Thompson).

However, it’s often the case that screenwriters take on acting roles in small and independent productions, although this can be a stressful experience and one that may undermine your ability to perform either role to your full potential.

OK, So How Much Can You Make as a Screenwriter?

OK, we hear you ask, so how much does a successful screenwriter make? Well, those whose work appears on the silver screen and in Hollywood can generate millions of pounds through each individual production, while also seeing huge demand for their skills and banking significant sums on a recurring basis.

However, the average screenwriter salary in the UK is noticeably lower, as this also accounts for entry-level roles and smaller jobs that enable writers to make as little as £25,000 and £30,000 per annum.

It’s fair to say that screenwriters in television tend to tread the middle ground in this salary range, with the rate of pay for TV products varying wildly depending on the production in question, its popularity and time-slot.

Your salary may also be influenced by the level of work that you undertake, as you may earn less as one of a team of screenwriters.