Web Writer/Editor

The Job and What's Involved

A web writer/editor is responsible for the content of websites. He or she may research, write and edit the copy (text) for whole sites or for a series of web pages, may and source artwork or photographs, and might also be responsible for the structure of the site.

The content written or edited may be intended for the public (to be seen on the internet) or for a company's internal intranet site. Web writers/editors may work on sites that sell products or services or that give news and information on a particular subject or organisation.

A web writer/editor is likely to:

  • Plan the style of copy required and the frequency with which it will need updating.
  • Draw up schedules and agree deadlines.
  • Write or edit content to suit the intended reader, the aims of the company or organisation and the web medium.
  • Research and gather material, which might also involve interviewing people.
  • Source images and artwork, and commission photographers.
  • Organise content for podcasts, vidcasts and blogs.
  • Liaise with clients or internal departments to check content, style and presentation.
  • Incorporate copy or amendments from other individuals or departments.
  • Maintain the site once it is live and ensure that the information is accurate.
  • Develop editorial, copyright and data protection policies, as well as best practice.

Web writers/editors may use a content management system (CMS), which employs standard, automated forms to make adding and updating content faster or easier. They may be required to use an application such as Adobe Dreamweaver or Microsoft Expression Web to create and edit web pages.

Web writers/editors may also take on the role of web-spinner (or webmaster) and be responsible for dealing with email enquiries or overseeing message boards. They may also get involved in analysing statistics to determine the popularity of the site, e.g. how many unique visitors it receives. However, in larger organisations this role is often separate.

Web writers/editors may work within an editorial team or alone. They work closely with a range of individuals, from web designers/developers and project/account managers to photographers and marketing professionals. It is essential that they understand their site's target audience and requirements.

This role requires creative writing and editing skills and is relatively non-technical, although technical understanding and ability is useful and can help career progression.

A web writer/editor usually works between 37 and 40 hours a week, 9.00am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Extra hours may be required to meet deadlines, which could include working weekends and evenings. Part-time work and flexitime are also possible.

Many web writers/editors are freelance and may work from home or on temporary assignments in-house.

It is usual to work in an open-plan office environment. There may be some travel for meetings with clients, to carry out interviews or to liaise with people in other parts of the organisation.

The average starting salary for a web writer/editor is around £18,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Web writers/editors may be employed by marketing and web design companies, media organisations, government departments or a company's marketing/corporate communication department. There are job opportunities throughout the UK.

Vacancies may be advertised on individual company and recruitment websites, in publications such as The Guardian (on Mondays), New Media Age, Marketing and PR Week or on websites specialising in creative and media or web-based jobs, including www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk and www.journalism.co.uk and www.pressgazette.co.uk.

Education and Training

There is no set entry route, although many employers expect applicants to have a degree.

Degree subjects such as communications, journalism and multimedia may be useful. Entry to degree courses is usually with at least five GCSE's (A*-C) and two A levels, or equivalent qualifications. Check with individual colleges and universities for entry requirements. Foundation degrees in these subjects are also available and may be topped up to degree level.

Some web writers/editors have a background in journalism or may have worked in advertising or marketing. Courses accredited by the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ) that include award of the Preliminary Certificate in Journalism may be useful.

There are VRQ's at Level 3 in copywriting and copy editing.

Employers usually want to see experience of copywriting, supported by relevant work experience and vocational skills. Applicants may also need to have some knowledge of or experience in the field they are writing about. Technical computing expertise is not required, although some basic skills in web design or desktop publishing are increasingly needed.

The Society for Editors and Proofreaders and City & Guilds have developed the Licentiateship in Editorial Skills. This provides recognition of professional development for people who have progressed into more senior roles but do not have formal qualifications. It is recognised as a level 4 qualification.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is mainly on the job, and may include in-house training courses. These may cover style requirements, research methods, copyright and privacy laws, and CMS.

The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Publishing Training Centre and the British Association of Communicators in Business (CiB) offer a range of courses, covering web writing, editing and online communication.

Web writers/editors are expected to keep up to date with trends in web editing, structure and design, and with new software packages.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A web writer/editor should:

  • Have excellent communication and copywriting skills.
  • Be creative.
  • Be able to alter writing style to appeal to the target audience.
  • Be able to multitask and prioritise work schedules.
  • Be computer literate and have good keyboard skills.
  • Be able to simplify and explain complex issues and procedures.
  • Be able to work alone or in a team.
  • Be able to work to tight deadlines.
  • Be thorough and precise, and pay close attention to detail.
  • Be able to follow style guidelines and client briefs.
  • Have a broad understanding of copyright laws.

Your Long Term Prospects

Opportunities and promotion prospects vary, depending on the size and type of organisation.

There may be opportunities to become more specialised, perhaps developing technical ability to take on a more consultative role. It may also be possible to move into a position in management, training or marketing.

With experience, there may be opportunities to become self-employed.

Get Further Information

e-skills UK
Tel: 020 7963 8920
Website: www.e-skills.com/careers

Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators,
Airport House, Purley Way,
Croydon CR0 0XZ
Tel: 020 8253 4506
Tel: Website: www.istc.org.uk

National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ),
The New Granary, Station Road,
Newport, Saffron Walden,
Essex CB1 3PL
Tel: 01799 544014
Website: www.nctj.com

Publishing Training Centre, Book House,
45 East Hill, London SW18 2QZ
Tel: 020 8874 2718
Website: www.train4publishing.co.uk

Society for Editors and Proofreaders,
Apsley House, 176 Upper Richmond Road,
Putney, London SW15 2SH
Tel: 020 8785 6155
Website: www.sfep.org.uk

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