While white picket fences and a family car might be the American Dream, the Writerly Dream is just making enough of an income from your writing for it to be able to support itself. The average Australian writer makes $12,900 a year, which confirms just how unattainable this dream can be. It can be frustrating to think of all the awesome things we could do if we just had enough money to get started.
One often forgotten way that writers can be supported while creating projects and building their career is by applying for grants. Here’s everything you need to know about finding the right grants to apply for and the application process.
What is a grant, anyway?
Grants are when an organisation, often related to a government, offer money for a specific purpose. Most arts organisations are funded by government grants, but there are is also project and out-of-round funding that individuals can apply for, including writers.
Project funding is granted on a single project basis, for anything from writing a novel to starting a small publisher. Out-of-round funding is usually offered by state/territory arts departments, and can offer artists money to travel to interstate development opportunities in certain circumstances. Note that for out-of-round funding, the application process may not be available online, and you may need to contact the funding body directly.
If you’re not sure whether what you’re doing is suitable for the grant you’re applying for, you should be able to find past recipients online to see how the money has been used previously.
Where Can I Find a Grant?
Writers are usually looking for writing or arts-based grants, unless it has a specific purpose. For example, a travel, health or environmental writer may be able to look towards government departments, charities and other major organisations that work within these fields.
In Australia, the key places are the Australia Council for the Arts, and then each state/territory’s arts department. The Copyright Agency also has a Career Fund for both emerging and established individuals. These grants usually run on a calendar basis, and it’s useful to jot down the due dates for each one.
There are also occasionally one-off grants from organisations, as well as other opportunities such as fellowships, subsidised opportunities and residencies. The best way to keep on top of everything that you can apply for is to get in touch with your state writers centre and other relevant writing organisations.
How Do I Apply?
Take a look at the website of the grant you’ll be applying for to see the application process. Often it is some kind of online form, but this can differ from organisation to organisation. Again, it’s also a good idea to take a look at the people who have received funding previously.
Regardless of the grant, you’ll need to include how much money you will be asking for, a proposal of what you will do with the money, a short history of the project, any ‘in-kind’ support you’ll be providing for the project, and a breakdown of your budget. Letters of support from trusted organisations or individuals can also help to set your application apart.
It’s best to be as realistic as possible, to pay people (including yourself) fairly for their involvement, and to already have some experience in the field you’re requesting money for. If it’s an individual writing-based project, you may also need to include some sample writing.
Remember that this is a professional application. The tone should be vibrant and optimistic, to excite the reader. Take a look at the official documents produced by the organisation administering the grant to get an idea of their preferred style, but be sure to include a bit of your personality and branding as well.
What Are My Responsibilities?
If you receive a grant, you’ll sign a contract or agreement about the terms of the grant, and you will be expected to follow them. This means that you’ll need to use the grant for what you originally stated the grant would be used for within the time frame, acknowledge the funding body when appropriate, and complete the acquittal process, as well as any other requested reporting.
The acquittal process isn’t as scary as it sounds. Basically, you’ll need to show how the grant was used, detail your successes, and give the final budget breakdown. If any events were held (such as a book launch, workshop or festival), it’s great to include some photos or feedback. If you can’t get the acquittal in on time, contact the funding body immediately to request an extension.
What About Other Opportunities?
While grants are the most structured form of support, there are other opportunities that writers can apply for as well. These pop up throughout the year, and it’s good to look out for them and add them to your writing calendar.
Writing residencies are a great example, where a writer can have access to a space to just write. Often a stipend is provided by the venue to cover the writer’s daily expenses. If you can get away from work for a week or two, these are definitely worth applying for. There are also fellowships, and other subsidised opportunities.