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A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Become a Grant Writer

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If you have writing skills and have dabbled in freelance work in the past, you may want to consider learning how to become a grant writer.

Doing so could let you earn more than you would as a general freelance writer.

In this guide, we’ll teach you how to become a grant writer.

We’ll cover what grant writing is, the skills you need to break into the field, and how to find jobs.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a good idea if a career as a professional grant writer could work for you.

What is Grant Writing?

Grant writers work for nonprofit organizations writing proposals.

The Purdue Online Writing Lab defines grant writing as the act of using precise language to focus the reader’s attention and convince them to fund a proposal.

The role of a grant writer is one of the most critical jobs at a nonprofit agency, according to Human Services EDU.

Although nonprofits take in one-off donations from individual funders, their main source of funding often comes from grants.

Grants are non-repayable funds often provided by:

  • Government agencies
  • Corporations
  • Trusts
  • Foundations

Grant funding helps fund a nonprofit’s ideas.

This funding not only provides a public service but stimulate the economy as well.

What Skills Do You Need as a Grant Writer?

The most obvious skill that you need as a grant writer is the ability to write.

Not only do you need to write well, but you need to write persuasively.

Your goal when writing grant proposals is to earn funding for the nonprofit, and you need to make a clear case why you’re deserving of the funds.

You’ll also want to have strong editing skills.

If you’ve worked on writing projects in the past, you may have had an editor who reviewed your work for you.

As a freelance grant writer, however, you’re likely in charge of the entire proposal, from start to finish.

You need to have strong attention to detail so you can pick out the slightest of errors.

Furthermore, if you wish to be successful, you need to be organized and able to multitask, especially if you want to take on multiple grant applications at once.

But balancing different deadlines is hard work.

The amount of time that you spend on a project varies.

For instance, federal grant applications can take up to 60 hours to complete if you have experience in the industry.

Those without experience can expect to spend at least 120 hours on the project.

Foundation proposals, on the other hand, are much more straightforward.

You can complete these in around five hours.

Grant writers also need to have strong research skills.

You may not have in-depth knowledge about the grant opportunity or industry you’re writing about.

You’ll have to perform thorough research before starting the writing process and continue researching throughout, adding relevant facts and figures to help make a stronger case.

In this sense, technical writers may find it easier to become a new grant writer than those with more creative writing experience.

Lastly, grant writers need strong communication skills.

Before you begin the proposal writing process, you need a clear understanding of the client’s expectations.

Ask questions.

Don’t be afraid of criticism.

You should be open to accepting feedback and implementing changes into your piece.

How Much Can Grant Writers Earn?

The salary for a grant writer runs the gamut.

For instance, Glassdoor says that the national average is roughly $57,000 per year, with new grant writers making around $36,000 and experienced writers earning approximately $90,000.

Salary.com offers a narrower range, pegging it between $63,040 and $79,029 with an average of $70,347.

Your salary often depends on things like your experience and how much you’re willing to market yourself to gain new clients.

Pros and Cons of Grant Writing

journal with laptop
When deciding if grant writing is right for you, you’ll want to consider a few of the key advantages and disadvantages.

Pros

Working from home is the most obvious advantage of freelance grant writing.

You can set your own schedule and work anytime and any place that’s convenient for you, so long as you meet your deadlines.

Similarly, you’ll also have some say in how much you earn.

Freelance grant writers can typically set their own rates, creating the opportunity for high earning potential.

Lastly, one of the other amazing perks of grant writing is the fact that you’re making a difference.

The work is not only entertaining, but it can have a direct impact on your community as well.

This could give you a sense of purpose that is often difficult to find when freelancing.

Cons

As we’ll detail below in our four steps on how to become a grant writer, you may need considerable experience before you can succeed in the industry.

You might need to enroll in certificate programs, join professional associations, and build a portfolio before someone hires you.

Remember that nonprofits have a limited budget, and they can’t afford to miss out on grants.

Similarly, you’re going to need to invest some time in finding clients.

There may be more turnover in the grant writing industry compared to other writing industries.

For instance, a local nonprofit may only apply for one or two grants per year.

A website, however, may produce blog content every week.

You will need to spend a good amount of (unpaid) time finding and securing clients.

How to Become a Grant Writer in Four Steps

If you think the industry is right for you, you want to know how to get started in it.

Try the four steps below for how to become a grant writer now.

1) Take a Course

Grant writing is probably different than a lot of the writing that you’ve done in the past.

Start by taking grant writing courses to help hone your skills.

There are numerous free online courses on sites like Udemy and Skillshare.

You can also look to see if your local community college is offering a certificate program.

Remember that you can deduct any courses you pay for from your grant writing income, as they are a professional development tax write-off.

2) Join an Association

After completing your online courses, look to join a group like the Grant Professionals Association.

The reason for doing so is two-fold.

For one, you’ll earn instant credibility.

Your membership will demonstrate to others that you’re serious about your grant writing career, even if you’re just breaking into the industry.

Second, associations offer numerous resources that you can take advantage of.

From networking capabilities to job opportunities, associations allow you to dive headfirst into your new role.

3) Write a Proposal

Before you begin applying for jobs, you should write a sample proposal.

Pretty much everyone in the nonprofit sector will ask you for a sample when applying.

So take the time to write a high-quality piece free of errors.

Sure, you won’t make money on the piece now.

Writing it could take a lot of time.

But it’s an investment worth making in your career, as it could later pay tremendous dividends.

4) Find Jobs

Now that you have a sample proposal ready, you can start looking for jobs.

Consider freelancing websites as an excellent place to begin your job search.

The industry for technical and skilled writers is growing at a rate of 8%, which is faster than average.

There’s no better time to start your search for a grant-writing position.

Is Grant Writing Worth It?

How to Become a Grant Writer: woman holding change
Grant writing is not the best fit for those who don’t have any writing experience.

Take time to hone your writing skills and boost your portfolio before you begin applying for these jobs.

But if you are looking to take your freelance writing career to the next level, then grant writing could be for you.

The pay is quite lucrative, especially for those with experience.

You also can work part-time or full-time, setting your own schedule and rates.

Our recommendation is to enroll in online courses before looking at grant writing jobs.

Not only will this allow you to gain grant writing experience before applying, but you’ll also quickly figure out whether the industry is right for you.

When ready, you can begin your writing job search and advance your career.

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