How To Become a Lyricist (Plus What They Do and FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated September 14, 2022

Published February 4, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A lyricist is a writer who works with composers in the music industry to create lyrical poetry to be used for songwriting. Lyricists work in a specialized niche of writing. Understanding what a lyricist does and what skills they need can help you determine if this is the right career choice for you.

In this article, we show you how to become a lyricist, discuss the primary duties of a lyricist, and answer several FAQs about the career.

How to become a lyricist

If you want to learn how to become a lyricist, you can follow these steps:

1. Consider relevant education

There's no required degree to become a lyricist. Many lyricists simply have ample creativity, a mind for poetic prose and a good ear for musical melodies. If you are considering a college education, a fine arts degree in writing or poetry may help you develop the skills necessary to be a strong lyricist.

You can also get a music degree to help you better understand the structure and melody of musical composition, which may be helpful for matching lyrics and melodies to instrumentation. A bachelor's degree is typically enough to become a lyricist, depending on your goals.

Related: How to Get a Job After College

2. Write songs and create a portfolio

Lyricists write lyrics, so having a strong portfolio of your work can be crucial to proving that you have the skills for the position. That means making time to write the lyrics to songs and creating your own unique melodies. You can use a website or CMS editor to store your portfolio of lyrics, or you can use a database or simply send them in PDF format. You may want to have between five and ten complete lyrical pieces to show a prospective employer or musician to provide a complete picture of what you're capable of.

Related: 15 Jobs for Music Lovers (With Salaries)

3. Look for freelance opportunities to sell lyrics

With a portfolio ready, you can look for opportunities to sell your lyrics to both earn some money and start creating a professional reputation. You can do this by using websites that connect freelancers with sellers. These websites allow freelancers to bid on jobs for a small finder's fee. You can also search your local and online classifieds to find freelance opportunities. If you work within a certain niche, search keywords like "love ballad lyrics" or "rock song lyrics" when looking for freelance gigs to maximize your search results and connect you with the right people.

Related: Everything You Need to Know for How To Become a Music Producer

4. Grow your network

The music industry is highly competitive and a great way to become a part of it is to know people who can help you boost your career. Luckily, even if you don't live in a city known for music production, business social networking sites make it easy to connect with people who have the same interests you do all over the world. Consider connecting with music industry executives, local musicians, studio producers and other professionals in the field to expand your social network and find work or opportunities to learn more about the industry.

Related: 21 Jobs In Music Composition

5. Search and apply for lyricist jobs

With freelancing experience and a complete portfolio, you can search for dedicated lyricist roles with music studios or attempt to partner with an established musician or group. Use a search engine to locate job websites and posts or attend local music events to meet new people. You can offer your services for free to begin, so you can gain the opportunity to show your talents. You can also contact music studios and ask for internships, entry-level positions or even to observe a recording or writing session.

Related: 7 PR Jobs in the Music Industry (Plus Career Tips)

Lyricist FAQs

Before starting your career as a lyricist, consider these FAQs about the career:

What skills should a lyricist possess?

A lyricist should develop the following skills to be successful in the profession:

  • Artistic ability: Lyricists are writers and musicians—they should be skilled at this craft.

  • Organization: For anyone who has to self manage, organization is key.

  • Following directions: Lyricists will likely be given a description of the kind of song they must create and should be able to follow it.

  • Open to feedback: Sometimes changes might occur and work needs to be edited. Lyricists should respond positively to feedback and make changes as needed.

  • Understand the basics of music: Knowledge of concepts of melody, harmony, rhythm and chords.

Related: 12 Jobs in the Music Industry

What's required to be a successful lyricist?

To be a successful lyricist, you should have the ability to do the following:

  • Remote work: Be able to work remotely and be successful at collaborating and meeting deadlines.

  • Networking: Networking is an essential skill to boost your career. Aspiring lyricists should practice networking to develop this skill.

  • Scheduling: Freelancers need to be able to schedule work and stay organized.

  • Writing daily: Lyricists write every day and need to be able to sit at a computer for a long time without getting uncomfortable or distracted.

Related: Music Careers: How To Pursue Them and Different Types

What's the fastest way to find work as a lyricist?

The fastest way to start working as a lyricist is to freelance. Finding a full-time job in the profession is far rarer than gig work. Luckily, several websites exist to connect users with gigs, including Indeed Gigs. Using the internet, you can connect with lyricist freelance work that will help you build a portfolio and secure future clients.

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