Freelance Writing: For Me or Not For Me?



After all the information I learned from attending the English Career Night on non-profit work, I was eager to visit another seminar geared toward English and Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse students. I had the chance to satisfy this personal yearning during a program on freelance writing put on by Career Center Assistant Director and Alumni Sharing Knowledge mentor Ed Childs, and Financial Fitness Associate Director Brenda Williams.

If you were unable to attend this seminar here is what you missed.

Ed Childs began his presentation with a basic definition of what being a freelance writer means, and that is simply a writer who is self-employed and choses when and what projects they wish to work on.

What kind of projects do freelance writers often find themselves dedicating their time to? Well, the list is essentially endless, but these are some of the more popular projects that freelance writers get involved with:

  1. Writing for Business: Writing business/corporate materials – Often more steady
  2. Ad Agencies: More freelance work here compared to public relations
  3. Magazine Writing: “Nonfiction magazines represent the largest, most accessible market for freelancers.”
  4. Online Periodicals/E-Zines: Fast pace, online market doesn’t pay as much as print market
  5. Newspapers: Work on shorter schedule than magazines, often incorporate a “news” angle in writing
  6. Nonfiction Books: Considered hardest way to start freelance writing, doesn’t always require a publisher
  7. Search Engine Optimization: Getting websites on first page of search engine, embedding specific words/phrases to draw attention

Following this introduction, Ed Childs elaborated on exactly what it takes to succeed in freelance writing. To begin the adventure of freelance writing, the most important tool is a workspace of your own that is completely dedicated to your writing. In addition, a computer, an internet account and a phone of your own will most likely be necessities. As your freelance writing expands, additional office tools may be required.

Aside from these physical tools, you will also need some personal skills and characteristics that will help lead to success in freelance writing. The first skill, and probably the most obvious, is a strong writing ability. If you start receiving continuous rejection letters with no feedback attached, unfortunately, it might be time to rethink your career path. A business sense and professionalism are also important. As a freelance writer you are essentially developing written materials to sell to publications, not just formulating your own creative expressions. However, creativity and independence are nonetheless very important. Lastly, the desire to be in this field is very necessary, for it takes motivation and discipline to set your own schedule and physically sit down to work on your various writing projects.

Adding on to these physical tools, skills, and characteristics, here’s a quick list Ed pointed out of mistakes that freelance writers often make:

  1. Not using an editor
  2. Giving clients sloppy seconds
  3. Building a platform to trumpet their own success
  4. Not keeping up to date in their field
  5. Lacking customer service
  6. Taking on too many projects
  7. Missing deadlines

The next part of the seminar included a presentation about financial advice surrounding freelance writing, by Brenda Williams from Financial Fitness. Brenda’s first recommendation was to start growing your savings account now before you graduate. It is best to have six to nine months’ worth of living expenses already saved up. The next suggestion was to set up different bank accounts for different purposes. Brenda’s example included accounts for taxes (25%), retirement (10%), savings (5%), and a final account for bills and spending with whatever money is leftover. Setting up a regular paycheck schedule was another provided tip, so your payment is dispersed, based on your lifestyle. Lastly, knowing your credit score and practicing good credit habits are two things to prioritize, not only with freelance writing, but also with any career.

After reading all this, are you still not sure if freelance writing is for you? Don’t fret. Here’s a final, quick list of ways to get your feet wet with freelance writing before diving completely in.

  1. Moonlighting – Easy way to gain experience without quitting your current job
  2. Alumni Sharing Knowledge – Directly communicate with alumni in this job field
  3. Career Center – Help you locate projects and internships, gain experience
  4. Linkedin- “Connect, share ideas, and discover opportunities.”

Written By: Mackenzie Canfield

One thought on “Freelance Writing: For Me or Not For Me?

  1. Nice overview of freelancing! I’ve been a full-time freelance writer for 4 years (5 years total as I moonlighted for my first year) and I can say without hesitation that freelancing is for me. I encourage both college students AND high school students who have an interest in career writing to start now. Editors won’t know your age and the right query letter can land any assignment.

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