How To Get Paid As a Poet 

I gradually picked this stuff up as I went along. Then I forgot I knew it. It seemed like stuff I always knew. Sometimes we can forget that there are people going “I want to do this-how do I start?”. Underneath it all of course there’s “Is it feasible?” “What can I actually earn?”. I’d say it’s better if you start the steps below when already earning money doing something else. They can take time and resources. I’m acutely aware they’ll be harder to access for some than others. Though my emphasis on being able to do paid gigs partly comes because that then makes it accessible to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to take the time to develop as poets. My paid poetry work enabled me to take the time to become a better poet. 
How poets become semi/professional poets has come up a couple of times this week in various contexts. Can be harder to answer as someone who has been one for 11 years full-time. But perhaps I should put something on my website about possible routes. Am I missing some? 
1. Enter poetry competitions. Small and large. Writing comps and slam comps. Travel further afield if you can. The aim is to have your work seen/heard. 
2. Develop your work. Read and write as many poems as you can, see and speak as many poems as you can. When people start offering you paid work, this can be a sign you’re getting better. Or at least, more payable. 
3. Connect with development schemes and awards whose function is to signal that you’re the future. The Eric Gregory award/New Writing North awards/Verb new voices. 
4. Look at what poets a step or two above the ladder than you are doing and see whether that route’s for you. 
5. Develop your work more. And more. Go on workshops, get a bursary for an Arvon course.
6. Make things happen. Start a gig so you have stage time and make connections with other poets at all levels. Run groups or workshops for others, start a festival or a magazine. 
7. Develop your own poetry projects and apply for Arts Council funding-for a show or a project working with particular people. 
8. Take a show to the Edinburgh Fringe. Consider being on a bill with one or two other poets and sharing slots. 
9. Get plugged in to local and national opportunities and funding. Subscribe to newsletters (I think I’m on New Writing North’s and the Arts Council’s). 
10. If you start getting paid gigs/workshops, consider saying no to unpaid ones. Or at least, asking for payment.
11.Present your work like a professional poet. For some that will mean having a book (if not via a publisher then a decently self published one). For nearly all that will mean having a website. Possibly a reasonable quality video of you live gigging. Maybe at very least a business card.

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