Can You Build A Career As A Poet?

make a living through poetry

Great poets like Maya Angelou, Williams Wordsworth were career poets who lived off their poetry but with the reclining interest in the art, is it still possible to build a career out of poetry and further more how does one build a career as a poet?

As you see the topic above, what comes to your mind? Is it really possible to get professional as a poet?
Is it really possible to build a professional career as a poet?
What are the hidden truths to becoming a professional poet or let’s an entrepreneurial poet?

In today’s article we shall be delving a little into our upcoming Business of Creativity course and shall be discussing how to build a career writing poetry or as a poet.

While some if not many see poetry as a side-thing they do just for fun or as another hobby of theirs, they write poems when their mind says so and post them on their preferred social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram as picture poetry etc., get a couple of ‘nice poem, great jobs’ as comments from their friends commending their interesting works, it really just ends there for so many people.

What these people however do not realize is that there actually is a career in this poetry writing of a thing and anyone, I mean any poet can tap into it.

But before we delve into that, let’s discuss some of the reasons why many individuals think poetry can never be a career or a source of living?

Controversies On Making a Career as a Poet

There have been so many controversies that beg the question ‘Can one make a living writing poetry’ and these ranges from the fact that the building a career out  of the art form to many is dead as they say – poetry is not being read by many people anymore.

So we shall highlight the major controversies on becoming a career poet.

  1. The relative unacceptance of the art form by the public or it’s less popularity in mainstream media: This has led poetry down the lane to be something many people regard to as just a joke or a waste of time for practitioners.
  2. Can you make money from poetry?:
    Check out Sarah Westcott’s How to make the leap to full-time poet on The Creative Independent. This educative article explains how a journalist dropped her journalism career to become a poet and it paid off.
  3. You can only make money as a performing artist: Errh, sorry but Maya Angelou was not a performance poet.
  4. The fact that publishers are usually unwilling to publish poetry books because it seems like a less profitable enterprise for them.
  5. The fact that there are many poets and less readers of poetry, is this true though?
  6. A decline in the readership or appreciation of the art style over the years.
  7. The fact that poets themselves take the art style with so much levity: Many just see poetry as a hobby or just something they do for doing for fun and do not take seriously enough to see the opportunity provided in it.
  8. So many individual think getting educated (on) and lecturing poetry is the only sensible way to make a career/living out of poetry.

But I choose to be the tenth-man!

What many don’t know about making poetry a career though is that, poetry is just like every other numerous art, it cannot be accepted by everyone.
Poetry is just another art style and the same way some like sculptures have people who love them and others don’t, so is poetry – poets have their audience too and these are those who are either heavily into the art or are well interested in it to want to promote the art and even pay for poetry works.

How to Build a Career Writing Poetry

With all the points stated above, does it really seem worthy to continue reading this post or better a question, is it even possible to make poetry one’s career or a career choice?
I’ll leave the wise answers to you my dear readers and continue this ministration of mine.

It is possible and feasible to be a career poet or an individual who bases his/her career on the art of poetry but there are strides, steps and stones to take on and overcome in a bid to make this an achievable dream.

0. Be Actually Good at Writing Poetry

Does your poetry have its purpose or are you just in this art become you seem to have lots of friends calling themselves poets and since the title seems so endearing, you decide to join in too since there’s no harm in trying, right?

Well, you’re wrong and right. You’re right because there really is no harm in trying but you’re wrong because you can’t become a professional poet or a career poet if you’re writing whack poems.

The world might be able to make professionalism off short corners in other industries such as Marketing, Sales and so on but unfortunately that trick doesn’t work well in the poetry scene. If you are good, you are good and if you are not – well you are either going to remain a whack poet as you already are or you can learn how to improve your poetry.

Being good however is not tied to your numerous awards or validations in the creative scene but instead is tied to you and your poetry.

We shall know them by their seeds and in this case your seeds are your works.

1. Improve Your Visibility –

Get Seen

Before anything can be built into a career, it first needs to be visible to others and for poetry – to get seen, one needs readers, critiques, reviewers, scholars, those who are ready to devour some more literature and be ready to allow them see yours, but how can this be done?

The innovation of social media and other facilities provided by the world wide web has really provided poets with a silver platter where they can improve on their visibility and get more individuals to see their works.
Apart from social media, other highly effective platforms that poets could make use of to grow their visibility includes getting published on literary blogs, poetry sites or forums, engaging poetry communities, getting your works featured in anthologies and interest niches, publication in magazines and so many others.

This allows poets build authority, a name on the on and offline base of the world today.

Get Known

Getting seen is one thing, getting known by your audience is totally another when it comes to building a career out of poetry.

As a budding professional poet, letting people get aware of you, your poetry and your writing is really a prerequisite to building a career out of the art.
Let people know you for who you are, or who you are about to become, make use of social media to promote yourself especially in the About sections or Bio on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Let the world see Poet on your bio even if your poetry is still a work in progress *haha!* This doesn’t just work to help you get known for poetry but also indexes search engines to find you.  

Some interesting ways to get people to notice you include

  • Becoming a Known Face in Poetry Activities:
    One interesting way to get known by people also is to become an active/engaging user of whatever platform you choose to work with.
    If Social Media for example, one should be ready to add contributions to other people’s works, become an active critic or reviewers as this way Friends of Friends (a Facebook term for other people) would notice you and might get interested in actually connecting with you the more. This builds influence, interest and is well a great way to build a career out of anything, really not just poetry.
  • Working on Social Media Meta Data:
    If you type the word ‘poet’ on Facebook, it will surely bring up some large pages and groups but also will bring out some People, Names, these people might not even necessarily have Poet in their names, but in their meta-data (hidden/dormant data) on the platform and this hereby makes them visible to more people, even those who might not be connected to them beforehand.
    These meta-data includes about, likes, interests, engagements and so on, search index notices these and ranks people on them.
  • Providing Answers to question pertaining to poetry
    Thousands of people make use of platforms such as Quora, Reddit to ask questions pertaining to poetry, literature. Sharing your own expertise, experiences, nuggets making contributions pertaining to the art enables more people to see you as an expert in the field even though you might not be.
    Check questions pertaining to poetry on Quora.

2. Learn Branding As A Poet

Become Your Own Brand

Make use of similar Hashtags, a logo, vectors, colors, signs – anything that represents a trademark of you or your brand as a poet when delivering your works on social media or blogs.

This would really go a long way to ensuring people can properly identity you as not just a writer, not just another poet they see and enjoy reading their works but a professional one.

For example, ArtHut has created the hashtag #ArtAndImpact as a form of representation on Facebook.
In the case you really don’t really know how, this article would help you on how to build and grow a personal brand.

3. Stay Relevant in the Poetry Scene –

Stay Relevant as A Poet

People may know you and may as well be aware of the fact that you’re a poet but if after a long while, they stop getting updates from you, stop seeing your works, there is every chance such a poet becomes obscured in the eyes of its audience especially in the social media world, you may be filtered out of people’s feeds.

To stay relevant however in the poetry scene, there are some simple steps on can take:

  • Be controversial in your dealings: Don’t just be the factual writer who delivers everything being discussed in a post or a video, rather hide some things from your audience and let them find their way around comprehending it. This alone has proven to be the most successful way to stay relevant even without publishing anything and keeps one’s work green for a long time, why? Because people are discussing it.
  • Contribute to rising issues concerning poetry or other related fields such as literature in whole, art, fiction and so on: Don’t just be a quiet poet, you should be current, stay updated with what’s going on in the community.
  • Continuously submit your works for publication to higher ranking sites or platforms: There are low ends and then there are high ends, even when poetry is taken career – there usually is nothing wrong with aiming higher and higher, getting more popularity and building more influence with your art. It’s a steps game.

4. Learn How to Monetize Your Art/Make Money from Poetry

This is the fun part but also the hardest, since there is no career that isn’t at some point or the other to generate some sort of either passive or active income to the individual practicing and I think you should agree with me on this too, if you don’t then I guess you must really be RICH that you don’t need money or you’re just being cocky with me *smiling*

Learn how to make money from your art. There are numerous ways to make money from your poetry and it ranges from what sort of poetry is being involved – written, page poetry or spoken word poetry.
Activities such as

  • performing poems at paid-for events
  • publishing a book
  • becoming an editor for book writers and anthologies,
  • Teaching Poetry to people formally,
  • Getting published in paying magazines,
  • Contesting for grants or poetry prompts
  • freelancing as a poet

There are other ways one can make money from their poetry apart from those listed above.

As some point, it all boils down to the poet himself, a really good way to make easy money as a poet is publishing an one’s own work – something of ever-green value like a resource book that would still stay relevant to the poetry community in years to come is of better value than a book of just poems and poems.
Another interesting way to make money through poetry is actually being an affiliate for other poets you know or enjoy their works.

Since most poets in recent times tend to publish their anthologies and poetry chapbooks on Amazon’s Kindle – you can make money off helping them sell their books and you earning commission, while this is not a high-paying way to make money from poetry, it does help in making few earnings.

Get Published Formally

Once you’ve built an audience with some 1,000 the pass mark for me is 1k because at this point, you’ve got over 200-400 active individuals who are interested in what you really do by this time, you can them move on to publish a book, an anthology of scattered poems or an array of poems.

One grave mistake many poets however make is that they tend to rush things for themselves when it comes to publishing. They leave point one, two to jump to three (publishing) and get frustrated because their works are not selling.
Why would buy a poetry book from someone I don’t know or even recognize when there are other prominent authored books smiling at me to ‘pick me, pick me’?

Note that formally is included in the point above because it helps to protect one from many copyright issues such as idea theft, ISBN tracing and sales. This might be such a drag-feet, so platforms like Amazon, Lulu and so on have made it easier for those interested in publishing their works as eBooks to get these formal stuffs out of the way easily through the provision of their own formal detailing of each books published on their site.

5. Promote Other People’s Poetry

A simple share of another poet work (a budding poet preferably) might seem like something less useful or totally useless to an established poet, but what it does instead it that it places one as an influencer in the poetry community. Don’t worry, your fans at this point know you – they understand you’re not just any poet,

6. Network with others on the same path

There are actually many poets who are into the art with hopes that this is what they chase for a long time, connecting and networking with these people would help you on your journey into becoming a career poet. They can help you with experiences and the mistakes they make do not need to be made by you too because they can help you with other tips and tricks as to how one can make a career out of poetry even way more than this article by a budding career poet can.

Conclusion

After reading all of these, do you think Professional Poet should be a word now? *Just my opinion though*
I kind of think so, because you my dear reader are well on your way to becoming one and I can’t wait to see you shine.

While I know the numerous activities listed in this article might seem really difficult and extremely tedious to do at the very beginning, it gets easier with time as you grow influence and you can then, choose which to continuously do to stay relevant or get more eyes on you.


The topic of whether or not one can actually make a career off poetry is still a controversial one and this article is not meant to give all the answers needed – but I know it will surely herald the discussion in the minds of people.

Let’s hear your comments on things.

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About Emmiasky

I am here to use my ART as a mean to make IMPACT in the world. Join me in doing so.

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