Dec 03 2007

So…you wanna be a freelance writer

WriteA few readers have asked me to discuss freelance writing. I haven’t been a freelancer for long (only since September) so I’m absolutely no expert. I’m hardly qualified to write on this topic, but I’ll do some research to help us all (I hope).

I’ll be writing a series of posts about freelance writing, and if you have resources or ideas to share, please do.

Freelance writers are essentially independent contractors. It’s basically like having your own business–you have clients, pay taxes, and a whole lot more.

If you’re serious about becoming a freelancer (whether you choose to be a freelance writer, designer, photographer, consultant, seamstress, etc.) you need to know that it’s a lot of work. In some cases, being a freelancer is more work than if you held a regular 9-5 job.


Because you are an entire company. You are responsible for marketing yourself, advertising your services, finding your clients, working with them to deliver them their product, actually doing the writing (or whatever you were hired to do), and paying taxes.

Since you are working for your clients to produce work they want, you will not have complete creative control. You will not be able to write whatever suits your fancy; rather, you must write what your client wants–that’s why they’re paying you.

Breaking into freelance writing might be good for you if…

-you love writing (or whatever skill you’d be selling)

-you have income coming in from another source (if you have a steady job or have a spouse who has one), at least while you get established

-you’d be happy doing freelance work, even if that meant you potentially wouldn’t earn much

You have significant obstacles to overcome if…

-you have limited time to devote to finding and producing work

-your spelling and grammar skills are weak

-you’ve never been paid for your writing or editing

-you have few work samples or references to show potential clients

-you have no relevant work experience

If the above statements are not true in your case, then you’re in good shape. Think about it: Would you pay someone to create a brochure for your company if they had no published samples to show you? Or if they had no time to work on the project? Or if they can’t spell? Probably not.

So, if you’ve never been published, you’ll probably need to do some volunteer writing to get started–anything you can do to get relevant experience.

For example, if you want to volunteer at an animal shelter, see if you can help with designing or writing the organization’s newsletter, compiling the annual report, writing press releases, creating bumper stickers for fund raisers–whatever they need and whatever you can provide.

That volunteer opportunity would help the organization and would give you work samples you could use to help get your first paid writing gig.

So, the first step to take if you want to be a serious freelancer?

Get experience and work samples.

In my case, I worked as a reporter and editor at my college newspaper. That experience earned me about 50 published news stories and gobs of editing experience. I also had internships at two daily newspapers and a public relations internship at a nonprofit. In all, I have written 150 news stories, designed a newsletter and created content for it, written and submitted press releases, created a press kit, and other similar types of work.

While I have some experience, there are many writers out there that have thousands of work samples, published books, and have general experience at a wider range of mediums.

We shouldn’t be intimidated. Sure, it’s competitive. But ya know what? Lots of things are competitive–so state your goals, lay out a plan of action, and go get ’em.

6 Responses to “So…you wanna be a freelance writer”

  1. Great Post as usual :)

    I just wanted to let you know I tagged you :)

    You can read about it here

  2. Indeed. I’m a bit nervous (since I’m just starting out this month) as to whether or not I have enough experience, but we’ll see. If not, I’m prepared to go to a temp agency or try to find other jobs which I have better qualifications for. I’m giving it a few months and we’ll see.

  3. Great idea for a series! I look forward to what else you have to say. :) I’ve always been a writer (though not a published one) and DH and I are professional photographers (though not freelance), so I’ll be interested in your research on the topic!


  4. Great post! I can’t wait to read more.

  1. 2 Trackback(s)

  2. Mrs. Micah: Finance for a Freelance Life / Wear clothes when you work at home…
  3. Just a few ideas for the budding freelance writer | Sense to Save

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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