Become a Freelance Writer: Career Guide

Research the requirements to become a freelance writer. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in freelance writing.

Do I Want to Be a Freelance Writer?

Freelance writers are contracted employees who are typically paid per writing assignment or per batch of assignments. These professionals often work from home and may be employed by multiple clients. With the evolution of technology, freelancers typically conduct most, if not all, of their work using computers and often submit finished pieces to clients through the Internet. As salaried positions become more difficult to secure, competition for freelance jobs may become even more strenuous, and writers' incomes may be somewhat unpredictable.

Job Requirements

Education is helpful in developing and honing writing skills, but experience and samples of published work often carry more weight with prospective employers. A degree in journalism or a related field might be advantageous, however, when competing for assignments. The following table outlines the requirements for freelance writers:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Although not always needed, some clients may require a bachelor's degree*
Degree Field English, journalism, communications*
Experience Varies based on client expectations*
Key Skills Writing skills, including excellent spelling, grammar and research abilities, creativity, persistence, persuasion abilities*, flexibility**
Computer Skills Multimedia software, word processing programs, quick typing ability*
Additional Requirements Basic knowledge of graphic design and page layout; marketing, management, accounting and other business skills can be beneficial*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **Michigan State University.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

While formal education isn't required, freelance writers often have a bachelor's degree in English, journalism or communications. Common courses in these programs might include literature, creative writing and introductory journalism. Some colleges and universities even offer freelance writing courses that can benefit students looking to break into the field.

Success Tips:

  • Write for school publications. Writing for student-run publications, such as newspapers, magazines, blogs or newsletters, can help aspiring freelance writers improve their writing skills. These opportunities can also provide writers with valuable experience and professional writing samples.
  • Take business courses. Marketing and accounting classes can show freelancers how to promote themselves to clients and manage their finances as independent contractors.
  • Take computer classes. Since the majority of freelance work is conducted online, the more computer-savvy a freelance writer is, the better. Computer classes can help an aspiring writer learn how to use word processing, spreadsheet and multimedia software.
  • Participate in an internship. An internship in journalism can help aspiring freelancers advance and build upon their skills outside of the classroom. Internships may also appeal to potential clients when listed on a writer's resume.

Step 2: Build a Portfolio

A portfolio consists of samples of published work that highlight a writer's style and composition skills; it's perhaps the most important thing a writer needs when finding freelance work. A beginning writer's portfolio may include work completed in college or through an internship. Collecting a body of published samples may entail writing for newspapers, magazines, blogs or other publications.

Step 3: Seek Freelance Assignments

Much of a freelance writer's time is spent finding work. Writers can find job opportunities through both print and online media. Freelancers can apply for writing positions or send out query letters and article proposals directly to editors of various publications. If an editor approves a proposal, he or she may negotiate a contract with the freelance writer and outline requirements for the article. Freelance writers seldom work for just one publisher and often work for several at the same time.

Success Tip:

  • Join a professional organization. Professional organizations, like the American Society of Journalists and Authors or the National Writers Union, can be helpful for beginning writers. These organizations may offer networking opportunities that help freelancers find new clients, internship opportunities and even insurance discounts. Local writing organizations also exist for writers living in or near major cities.
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Popular Schools

The schools in the listing below are not free but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    • Eligibility and relevancy of sample programs below will vary by article and program
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Arizona (3 campuses)
    • California (16)
    • Colorado (3)
    • Florida (6)
    • Georgia (5)
    • Illinois (7)
    • Indiana (2)
    • Maryland (1)
    • Michigan (1)
    • Minnesota (1)
    • Missouri (2)
    • North Carolina (2)
    • New Jersey (3)
    • Nevada (1)
    • New York (2)
    • Ohio (4)
    • Oklahoma (1)
    • Oregon (1)
    • Pennsylvania (4)
    • Tennessee (2)
    • Texas (7)
    • Utah (1)
    • Virginia (3)
    • Washington (3)
    • Wisconsin (1)

    What is your classroom preference?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    • Bachelor
        • BFA in Illustration - Children`s Book Illustration

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be 18 years of age or older
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    What is your highest level of education?

Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • Michigan (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Michigan State University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • Communication Studies
      • Comparative Language Studies and Services
      • Digital, Radio, and Television Communication
      • English Composition
        • Writing
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
      • Journalism
      • Public Relations and Advertising
  • School locations:
    • Iowa (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Iowa State University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • Communication Studies
      • Comparative Language Studies and Services
      • English Composition
        • Writing
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
      • Journalism
      • Public Relations and Advertising
  • School locations:
    • Virginia (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at James Madison University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • Communication Studies
      • English Composition
        • Writing
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
  • School locations:
    • Virginia (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at George Mason University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • Communication Studies
      • English Composition
        • Creative Writing, General
        • Writing
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
  • School locations:
    • Washington (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Washington State University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • Communication Studies
      • Comparative Language Studies and Services
      • Digital, Radio, and Television Communication
      • English Composition
        • Writing
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature

Popular Schools

The schools in the listing below are not free but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Avg. Wages For Related Jobs

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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