Is Screenwriting a Good Career?

Screenwriting is a dream job for many aspiring writers, filled with the allure of Hollywood glamour and creative storytelling. However, the reality of pursuing a career in screenwriting is often far more complex. While it can be incredibly rewarding, it also comes with significant challenges and uncertainties. Here’s an in-depth look at what it means to choose screenwriting as a career from someone who does it.

The Reality of Consistency and Side Jobs

One of the most critical aspects of a screenwriting career is the inconsistency of work. Most of us cannot rely solely on screenwriting to pay the bills. The nature of the industry means that work can be sporadic, leading many screenwriters to take on side jobs to maintain a stable income. This “feast or famine” cycle is a common theme, where periods of intense work and income can be followed by long stretches of nothing. Many screenwriters work as teachers, mentors, editors, readers, or even something completely unrelated. Side note: There is no shame in working a side gig to make a steady income. Which leads me to…

The Feast or Famine Nature of Our Work

In screenwriting, there are often intense periods of work followed by long lulls. This Season of Screenwriting can be particularly challenging for those who prefer a steady paycheck. The feast or famine nature of the industry means that screenwriters must be financially savvy, saving during the feast periods to cover the famine times. Planning and budgeting are crucial skills for anyone looking to make a long-term career out of screenwriting. This unpredictability can be stressful, requiring screenwriters to constantly hustle for new opportunities and stay proactive in seeking out work.

Full-Time Feature Writers

While the idea of being a full-time feature film writer is appealing, the reality is that very few screenwriters achieve this status. It is estimated that only a few hundred screenwriters in Hollywood make a full-time living writing feature films. This is out of the hundreds of thousands of people in the United States who identify as screenwriters, whether professional or aspiring. The competition is fierce, and even successful screenwriters often find themselves working on multiple projects simultaneously to ensure a stable income. Breaking into this elite group requires not only talent but also significant networking and persistence.

The Life of TV Writers

Television writers often enjoy more consistent work than feature writers, but their careers are still fraught with uncertainty. TV writers work full time while a show is in production, but once a show is canceled, they are out of a job. They must quickly find a new project to work on, which can be stressful and uncertain. The competitive nature of the industry means that even experienced writers may face significant gaps between jobs. Despite this, TV writing can offer more stability and frequent paychecks compared to feature writing, making it an attractive path for many screenwriters.

Financial Realities: Agents, Managers, and Lawyers

When screenwriters do land a paying gig, a significant portion of their earnings goes to industry professionals who help them manage their careers. Typically, a screenwriter will have an agent, a manager, and a lawyer, each of whom takes a percentage of the writer’s income:

  • Agent: 10%
  • Manager: 10-15%
  • Lawyer: 5%

These percentages can add up, significantly reducing the take-home pay from any given project. It’s essential for screenwriters to understand these financial realities and plan accordingly. That’s up to 30% gone off the top and that’s before the tax man comes knocking. This makes financial planning and saving crucial for long-term sustainability.

Additional Considerations

Networking and Persistence

Success in screenwriting often comes down to who you know and how persistent you are. Building a network of industry contacts can open doors and lead to new opportunities. Persistence is equally important. It’s taken me 20 years to get here having faced numerous rejections before achieving my success. Attending industry events, joining writers’ groups, and consistently pitching new ideas have helped me build my successful screenwriting career.

Passion and Resilience

A career in screenwriting requires a deep passion for storytelling and resilience in the face of setbacks. The path is rarely smooth, and only those with a genuine love for the craft and the determination to keep pushing forward are likely to succeed. Rejections and revisions are part of the process, and screenwriters must be able to handle criticism and continue refining their work.

Continuous Learning and Adaptation

The entertainment industry is constantly evolving, and screenwriters must keep up with trends and new technologies. Continuous learning and the ability to adapt to changes in the industry are crucial for long-term success. This includes staying current with industry standards, exploring new formats like streaming series, and being open to feedback and new approaches. You don’t want to become the old out of touch unapproachable screenwriter.

Creative Fulfillment

Despite the challenges, screenwriting can be incredibly fulfilling. The opportunity to create stories that entertain, inspire, and move audiences is a unique and rewarding experience. For many screenwriters, this creative fulfillment outweighs the financial and practical challenges of the career. Seeing your work come to life on screen and impacting audiences can be a powerful motivator and make it all worth it.


Is screenwriting a good career? The answer depends on your perspective and what you’re willing to endure for the love of storytelling. While it offers the potential for creative fulfillment and occasional financial reward, it also requires resilience, flexibility, and a realistic understanding of the industry’s challenges. For those who are passionate and determined, screenwriting can be a rewarding career path, but it is not without its hurdles.

For more insights and tips on pursuing a screenwriting career, be sure to check out my book, The Guide For Every Screenwriter. Additionally, explore this site, The Successful Screenwriter, for resources, tips, and a supportive community of screenwriters.

Follow Me

For more tips and insights on screenwriting, follow us on Instagram @screenwriterpod and join our community of aspiring and professional screenwriters. Don’t hesitate to ask questions for our live AMA sessions!

Want more? Check out these free screenwriting resources!

Gain instant access to a wealth of resources tailored to elevate your craft and help get your work noticed:

  • Over 100 Screenplays: Immerse yourself in our vast library of critically acclaimed films.
  • Interactive Forums: Join discussions with fellow writers and industry experts.
  • Logline Builder: Craft compelling pitches that grab attention.
  • Industry Insights: Benefit from interviews and workshops with professionals.
  • Script Requests by Producers: Get your script in front of the eyes that matter with exclusive leads and requests from our sponsor at InkTip.

Seize the opportunity to transform your screenplay from good to unforgettable, all at no cost to you.

Join for Free Now – Your script deserves the spotlight. Let’s make it happen.

#Screenwriting #ScriptWriting #Filmmaking #Storytelling #WritingCommunity #ScreenwriterTips #TheGuideForEveryScreenwriter

Leave a Comment