30 Types of Freelance Writing Jobs and How to Get Them

http://www.freelancewritinggigs.com/2008/12/30-types-of-freelance-writing-jobs-and-how-to-get-them/

coffee

by Deborah Ng

We talk about writing for web and print as if there are only two forms of freelance writing – magazines and newspaper (print) and web content (web). This isn’t the case. There are so many ways to support one’s self as a freelance writer and the aforementioned print and web opportunities are only a part of it. Today I’d like to explore some of the different types of opportunities available to freelance writers, and offer a few hints as to how to land some of these jobs.  While this report is nowhere near being “in-depth” I did do a bit a research. I’m hoping this can be used as a starting point for further research. I give you:

30 Types of Freelance Writing Jobs and How to Get Them

1.Web Content

Associated Content, LovetoKnow, Constant Content, About.com , Demand Studios, WiseGeek, and many others are looking to hire writers to stock content for their websites. Many of these content sites request their writers rely on keywords and top search terms to bring in traffic and pay either a flat fee or a fee plus page view or traffic bonuses. Some web content places pay very little so do read all the fine print before signing on.

  • How to Get it: To work for web content sites, visit the website and look for a “Write for Us” or “Jobs” link and apply. Some places like About.com and LovetoKnow are strict in their acceptance policies. Others, like Associated Content, accept all who apply.
  • College: No
  • Experience: Depends on the content site.

2. Web Copy

Web copy refers to writing sales, promotional, or other copy for a website. The difference between this type of writing and the content writing mentioned above is that most web content sites are looking specifically to stock their websites with content in order to bring in revenue. Those who are looking for copy for their individual websites usually have another purpose in mind, to bring in traffic and foster interest in a product or service.

  • How to Get it: The most popular way to find jobs writing copy for website is to look on the job boards. Many site owners and web masters advertise at places such as Freelance Writing Jobs, Craigslist and others. You could also contact web owners directly and offer a letter of introduction asking them to keep you in mind for their writing projects. 8 out of 10 of the potential clients may say no, but it’s the 2 who say yes who really matter.
  • College: Not always but knowing something about proper grammar usage can’t hurt.
  • Experience: It helps

3. Blogs

Blogging jobs abound online now. Not only are individual bloggers doing well, but many blog networks are hiring too, but those aren’t the only game in town. Individual web property owners are looking for bloggers as are businesses. As many companies realize they need a web presence, expect to see more blogging jobs in the future.

4. News Reporter

Reporting for newspapers, magazines and even television might seem glamorous but it’s very hard work, often for little pay. You’ll be expected to sniff out stories, break news and even work on pieces that may not be so attractive. You might also be expected to travel on weekends and holidays and even go to dangerous places, it all depends on your contract with the newspaper or network.

  • How to Get it: Apply directly to newspapers and television stations and read the want ads.
  • College: A degree in journalism or communications is usually required.
  • Experience: For a small local newspaper, no. The more prestigious the news outlet, the more experience necessary.

5. Newspaper Columnist

As a former newspaper columnist I can assure you the pay most columnists receive won’t keep you in fancy shoes or pay the rent on an Upper West Side apartment like Carrie Bradshaw. Most newspaper columnists don’t earn much money at all. It’s a rewarding, fun gig, however, and can lead to bigger and better things.

  • How to Get it: Pitch your column directly to the newspaper.
  • College: Depends on the newspaper and the type of column
  • Experience: Not for a small, local paper. The big guns may want to see a resume.

6. Features Writer

Features writers write articles for newspapers, magazines and other news outlets that will be “featured”, in other words, it will get a cover, cover line, or other type of prominent display. There are many types of features, for instance, a celebrity interview or background to a major news story. As you can imagine, these gigs are coveted and usually go to folks who have long established themselves or have a good relationship with an editor. Also, many outlets employ staff features writers. Still, it’s not unheard of for a new freelance writer to pitch an idea with success. Feature writing is lucrative too – many feature writers are paid upwards of $2,000 a piece.

  • How to Get it: Pitch your query to magazines.
  • College: Helps
  • Experience: Most of the time.

7. Magazine Freelancer

Getting your foot in the door of a magazine can only lead to bigger and better things. If a freelancer does well with a first assignment, this can land many more regular assignments. Once a writer is featured in one magazine, this leads to writing assignments within other magazines and publications. Breaking into print journalism is many writers’ dream. This isn’t always easy because so many writers are vying are pitching queries and most magazines only have a couple of open spots for freelancers each month. If a freelancer has a relationship with the magazine and its editors he has the best shot of landing the gigs. Still, new writers can and do land assignments and are encouraged to keep trying, despite rejection.

  • How to Get it: Troll the various magazine markets online or pick up a copy of the Writer’s Market (also available online.) Learn what each magazine expects from querying authors before sending your pitch. Not knowing who to pitch to or the proper format will result in rejection.
  • College: No
  • Experience: No, but it helps sometimes.

8. Catalog Description Writer

When I was an editorial assistant at a graphic design studio we did a lot of catalog work. For big jobs we brought in freelancers to help write descriptive paragraphs to sell products in the catalogs we designed. In many cases this was boring, boring work. The upside was that we got to keep some of the items sent for us to write about. Ask me about hair in a can or the flowbee sometime.

  • How to Get It: Align yourself with catalog designers, graphic design firms and advertising agency by sending your details and following up with some cold calling. Every now and then you might see these gigs advertised, but it’s rare. Most catalog designers go with freelancers from their own pool.
  • College: No.
  • Experience: Helps

9. Corporate Copywriting

Businesses often employ freelance copywriters to write brochures, promotional copy, employee manuals and more. Expect to see more of this type of hiring as the current economy will prevent many businesses from hiring a staff writer. Corporate Copywriters should be well versed in business writing and corporate business practices. A job well done often brings the promise of more work and referrals to other clients.

  • How to get it: Look for ads in newspapers and online. Cold call businesses and send introduction packets to advertise your services.
  • College: Yes.
  • Experience: Helpful but if you’re a good writer the work can speak for itself.

10. Advertising Copywriter

As with the Corporate Copywriting gig mentioned above, many advertising agencies hire freelancers because they don’t have to pay the overhead required of a full time staff member.  Advertising copywriters help to create the text for ad campaigns, brochures, promotions and more

  • How to Get it: Most ads for freelance advertising copywriters are advertised in newspapers or advertising trade publications. You could also try cold calling and sending promotional material to a potential client.
  • College: For Sure
  • Experience: Yes

11. Real Estate Writing

You know all those Location!Location! Location! ads you see in newspapers and flyers? Someone has to write them.  Many times they’re written by Realtors, but in busy offices they hire out. If you can make a hovel seem like a mansion and know how to write a description that sells, you can have a shot at writing real estate captions.

  • How to Get it: Contact your local Realtor offices.
  • College: Not really, but real estate knowledge helps.
  • Experience: No

12. Grant Writing

Grant Writers research and write proposals so non profits and other organizations can receive funding from various government agencies. The proposal involves writing an application, discussing the reasons for the funding and describing the applicant and its intentions.  The grant writer is also expected to handle all follow up. While many businesses do employ full time grant writers, grant writing jobs for freelancers abound.

  • How to Get it: Look for the ads, or research businesses that have received grants in the past and send them your details.
  • College: Absolutely
  • Experience: It’s a good idea

13. Non-Profit Writing

Non-profits often needs writers for grants, proposals, promotional material and fundraising events.  Writing for non-profits looks great on a resume and gives one the warm fuzzy feeling of doing something great for mankind.

  • How to Get it: Cold calling, send details to the agency’s human resources department, respond to newspaper and Internet ads.
  • College: For sure
  • Experience: Mmm hmmm.

14. Ghost Writing

Ghostwriting is non-bylined writing or writing a book or article but someone else takes the credit. This is different from using a pseudonym because your pen name still gets the credit. With ghostwriting, you do all the work but someone pays you an agreed amount for all rights in addition to removing your name from the project and replacing it with someone else’s.

  • How to Get it: Look for ads on the Internet and in newspapers.
  • College: Not necessary if you’re a good writer.
  • Experience: It’s all a matter of preference.

15. Essay Writing

Writing essays for the back of a magazine or to include in an anthology is fun and rewarding. These gigs aren’t always easy to come by, however. Many essayists are vying for one or two monthly spots in each publication and your essay has to stand out above the others to be considered for inclusion. Moreover, if the publication already has a famous name attached to its regular essay section, your chances are slim. Having essays included in an anthology is easier but again you’re competing with many others for a few open spots. Plus, some  anthology editors don’t pay their contributors so you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons.

  • How to Get it: Query magazine editors or look for ads on freelance writing jobs boards.
  • College: Nah.
  • Experience: No, just the ability to paint a picture with words.

16. Business Plan Writing

Business plan writers are much in demand. With new startups seeking funding every day, an experienced business plan writer can earn a lucrative income. Business plans are also necessary for owners seeking assistance from the government or a bank loan.  Many business owners prefer to hire a professional to handle their business plan writing because it’s an important document and they don’t want to risk messing it up. In short, if you know nothing about writing a business plan or have no experience in the business world, this probably isn’t the writing job for you.

  • How to Get it: Check the freelance writing job boards, newspaper want ads, and network with business people in your community. Research startups and new businesses and contact the owners to discuss writing their business plan.
  • College: Most business owners would like to see some sort of education on a resume.
  • Experience: Yes

17. Press Release Writing

Press releases are needed by businesses and individuals alike. They’re used to introduce new hires, product lines, services or just announce the news. There’s a certain art to a press release as they have to give all the necessary information in an easy to read format. The purpose of a press release is to get folks interested enough to report on the enclosed news or spur people into action.

  • How to Get it: Contact businesses to find out if they can use your services. Don’t just go for PR firms, every business needs a press release writer at one time or another. There are also plenty of ads for press release writers on the job boards.
  • College: No, just a flair for the dramatic.
  • Experience: Helps but if you rock a good sample you don’t need it.

18. Technical Writing

Technical writing can mean many things, for instance it can involve writing a manual to use a certain product or a short how-to at a blog or a website. Technical writers need to be spot on with their information and detail oriented. Technical writers must also have the ability to stay focused as some of the writing can be tedious. It’s a lucrative career, however, and many technical writers have more work than they can handle.

  • How to Get It: Send details and cold calling places that hire technical writers, or look for ads on the job boards and in newspapers.
  • College: No doubt.
  • Experience: You betcha.

19. E-Book Writing

By now you know ebooks stand for “electronic” books and just about anyone with anything to say or sell has written one. For many online personalities, they’re a lucrative form of passive income. The beautiful thing about e-books is that you can either write your own and earn for years to come, or you can write them for someone else, and earn as you go. You can even do both. You don’t have to deal with publishers or agents, either. If you’re writing your own e-book there’s software and templates available, and if you’re writing for someone else, they usually handle the details. If you know your topic well, e-books are enjoyable and easy to write and a great source of income.

  • How to Get it: If you’re writing your own e-books, just start writing. To write e-books for others, check out the online job boards.
  • College: No
  • Experience: It helps to know something about the topic.

20. Book Writing (for others)

You don’t have to have your own ideas to write a book, sometimes publishing houses and individual hire writers to write books on certain topics. Many individuals have neither the time nor inclination to write thousands of words, but wish to have someone more seasoned expand upon their ideas. Writing or collaborating on book projects can be quite lucrative.

  • How to Get it: Respond to ads on job boards and trade publications such as Publisher’s Weekly.
  • College: I’m thinking people who want a book written are looking for college.
  • Experience: You’ll need to show you’re the best person for the gig.

21. Legal Writing

Law offices often employ freelance writers to draft contracts, stock legal websites, write legal briefs, research papers and more.  Many law offices are also hiring bloggers for the “blawgs” too. Getting in with the right firm or website can guarantee lots of return work. Also, great word of mouth referrals.

  • How to Get it: Ads on job boards, in legal trade magazines and cold calling potential clients.
  • Education: You must have a legal background
  • Experience: Helps

22. Resume Writing

In today’s job market there’s bound to be competition. Many employers are able to take their time and choose the best candidate from a large pool of applicants. One’s cover letter and resume must stand out above the rest. In fact, job seekers are willing to pay good money for resumes if it will make an employer take notice.

  • How to Get it: Apply to resume writing firms, answer job ads and advertise as a resume writer.
  • College: No but having a background in career counseling, human resources or business is a great starting point.
  • Experience: Not necessarily but it’s a good idea to know how to format and word a resume for optimal results.

23. Musican/Band Bios

Serious musicians and bands are always on the hunt for bio writers. These bios are needed for demo packages to send to record companies. A good bio also helps band management when it comes to booking gigs. A good band bio writer has a love of music and interest in helping musicians succeed.

  • How to Get it: Print up some business cards and flyers and pass them out at clubs and concerts, contacts a record company’s A&R Department and look for ads on job boards, musician and entertainment newspaper “help wanted” ads and leave flyers and promotional material on music studio bulletin boards.
  • College: No, man.
  • Expereince: No, just the ability to rock the keyboard.

24. FAQ’s

Websites, forums and businesses all need FAQ’s or “Frequently Asked Questions” written and answered for their online resources.  This can be a simple Q&A or something technical depending on your clients needs.

  • How to get it: Online job boards and bidding sites.
  • College: Nope.
  • Experience: Depends on the client.

25. Annual Reports

Public companies communicate to their shareholders with an annual report. These reports discuss the state of the business, the budget, changes in personnel at more. Annual report writers must be well versed in business terminolgy and be able to speak to shareholders in a language they’ll understand. It’s also important for them to know the nature of the business and proper annual report formatting. Very lucrative – one annual report can pay several thousand dollars.

  • How to Get it: Advertisements on job boards and in newspapers, write and cold call publicly owned companies.
  • College: Yes
  • Experience: Without a doubt

26. In Flight Magazines

You know those complimentary magazines tucked in the back of each seat on airplanes? Those are called in-flight magazines and they’re very willing to publish articles for freelancers. In flight magazines accepts essays, humor, puzzles, travel pieces and more. They also pay quite well, sometimes a dollar a word.

  • How to Get It: Query each individual magazine – but research and read each one first.
  • College: No
  • Experience: No, but you will need to show good samples of your writing.

27. Trade Magazine

If you’re well versed in a particular hobby or no a particular business inside and out, you might consider working for a trade magazine. For some, the trades are a little dull. I mean, who wants to write day in and day out for Button Maker Digest or Yarn Dying Monthly but for others they’re good steady work and a great way to make money. Plus if niche is right up your alley it’s another way to establish yourself for an expert.  Some trade magazines pay very well – even $1.00 a word.

  • How to get it: Query the magazine
  • College: No but you should know the trade.
  • Experience: See above. Plus you should have good writing samples to show.

28. Instructional Design

Instructional designers write courses and manuals for various businesses. Most businesses that use Instructional Designers have full timers on staff. However, some industries do employ Instructional Designers on a freelance basis. These jobs are rare though I do see several advertised per year. Most  pay very well. (Side note: My mother was an Instructional Designer. She wrote courses and textbooks for accountants.)

  • How to Get it: Check the job ads or research which businesses might use Instructional Designers and give them a jingle.
  • College: Yes.
  • Experience: Yes

29. Research Writing

Research writing can mean many things to many businesses. It can mean putting together a trends report for a business or writing an in-depth article on a particular topic. With this kind of writing, “research” is the key word here. You’ll have to interview experts, read reports and articles, books and more. This isn’t your usual Google and write type of writing.

  • How to Get it: Look for ads on the job boards. Research which companies need research writers and cold call or send your details.
  • College: Yes
  • Experience: Yes

30. Speech Writing

Many of the folks you see standing behind a lecturn didn’t write their own material. They hired speech writers. Speech writers need to have a flair for the dramatic and the ability to draw in listeners and keep them tuned in throughout. They know when to add humor or tenderness and must write with each particular audience in mind. Jobs and reputations depend on well-written speeches.

  • How to Get it: Look for ads or send your details to and cold call public speakers.
  • College: Not necessarily.
  • Experience: Yes

Hat Tip: The inspiration from this post came from my friend Lorna Doone Brewer over at Freelance Parent.  She recently posted a great list of niche writing gigs, which prompted the idea for this post.

Comments

  1. Great list, Deb. You’ve given me more food for thought as the New Year approaches!

  2. Great post. I’ve been looking for new job leads.

    I disagree with some of your information about press release writing. Although someone may be hired to write, that’s only the first step. If you’re writing the release, you’re probably also expected to pitch it. Here experience and relationshipswith the media helps. It’s almost like pitching for a feature or other media job.

    Thanks.

    ZM

  3. This is just what I needed! Thanks so much, Deb!

  4. Excellent list! :)

  5. Great list, with some options I hadn’t thought of. I wanted to mention, though, that you’d be surprised at how popular yarn dyeing is! (And, really, you’d probably be surprised at how many of my friends do that–but then, I suppose that’s normal when you’re a spinner and a knitter, huh? Maybe?) (And, psst, it’s “dyeing” with an “e.” The non-e kind of dying is, um, much more permanent…)

  6. Deborah

    Wow, you sure did cover plenty of areas. Impressive, bookmarked! Thanks for sharing. Know of any helpful tools for ebook writing? Thanks!

  7. thanks Lorna, and thanks for the inspiration!

    Thanks Zack and you’re right!

    @D.Cole – Thanks and enjoy!

    @Deb – Thanks! After four days of research and writing I was dying myself at this point.

    @Miguel – We did an awesome podcast regarding ebooks – check it out at http://blogtalkradio.com/fwj-radio

  8. Hi Deb
    Extremely useful and informative, as always.

    Just a couple of comments regarding my own experience–I started out years ago writing business news and advice articles in my non-profit job. When I went out on my own, I contacted the editors I know–one local weekly and one state-wide business paper, and have been writing regularly for them. I find and pitch stories. Love it. Pay is ok, about .25-.45 word. Leverage your experience. I was able to get an article in the Boston Globe this way and now I’m leveraging that too.

    Re: business plans. I’ve also done some of those, as that was my non-profit job, helping businesses with those. Miffed that there is a lot of low-end business plan writing out there. It takes 40-80 hours to write a real business plan, including the consulting piece to help the business owner think through their strategy and do the financial piece. When I see $500 business plans, I just can’t believe it. “Formatting” a business plan is more like it for that money.

  9. Deb,

    Thanks for this list. It’s soooo useful. I’m really excited about it.

  10. I love you, Deborah Ng. What a great list!

    I am a bit surprised that you wrote that the freelance grantwriter would handle the follow up. Many of the foundations that fund nonprofits expect that the grantwriter would be part of the team involved in initial conversations, but in Rhode Island, they often expect the ED to do the follow up. This is because there are so many other factors than just the writing that affect the decision to be funded or not. And often only the ED or Program Managers have that global view of how one particular proposal fits into the overall vision and plan of the agency.

    This is just my take on it, and I know that this community has a grantwriting extraordinaire who posts often. Is it Erik? Maybe he’ll weigh in.

  11. Lots of creative ideas. Great post!

    Stumbled. :)

  12. This is an excellent list, and one that I will be recommending to others. You point out that “musicians and bands are always on the hunt for bio writers”. I’d like to add that this is also true for just about any profession. Consultants, Realtors, Craftspeople, Tradespeople…just about anyone who has a web presence will need a bio.

    I have a website at http://www.HowToWriteBio.com where I provide fill-in-the-blank templates for people to use. However, judging from the number of requests I get for custom bios (which I don’t write), there is also a good market out there for freelance bio writers.

  13. Claudia Peel says:

    Great list, Deb.

  14. Educational writing is my bread and butter. I write for copy for textbooks and teacher’s editions, test items, and other support materials. Most jobs do require a background in education and often ask you to take a test before being hired. Spotty work at times, but pays well.

  15. Fantastic article. Thanks.

  16. This is one of your best posts, Deb. Thanks for the nice breakdowns!

    I’m sure everything won’t apply in every case (we all have different experiences doing similar things), but overall, it’s a nice primer on what’s out there. :)

  17. I echo the praises of the others. What a great list, especially in these times when so many people are looking for work. I’m going to include a reference to it on my blog to show my readers the many other opportunities out there for writers. Thank you for doing this.

  18. Actually, so far, I’m very disappointed. I checked out the sites like Associated Content etc and they all pay extremely low if you get paid at all.

    This site makes it look like jobs are plentiful and that’s not true. This site must have been written when the economy was booming. Writing really sucks these days. There’s nothing out there@!

  19. Great list of writing resources! I will be checking back often to thid site for more information.

  20. Very helpful! Thanks so much for sharing!

  21. Really useful post, and lots of ideas for me to get my teeth into!

  22. Avril Lobo says:

    What a fantastic post! I’ve been working on getting myself out there as a writer, and expanding my repertoire. Finding freelance work locally can be difficult and involves a fair bit of networking. But all the same I find writing fulfilling, and Im grateful for all these ideas!

  23. I found this post very useful and entertaining to read. I’m 15, soon to be 16 and will be leaving school in the foreseeable future and I was contemplating areas to go into, and freelance writing has always interested me. I found this article a very good read, and I am grateful to stumbleupon for helping me discover the article. I don’t normally comment on things online, but I felt the need to due to how helpful I found this to be, though this article wasn’t directed at me, I wish to thank you for the help it has provided me with.
    Regards, Sean.

  24. superb. i had never imagined that paid writing can have that many categories. really helpful for me. Actually i am a newbie and have started working on few blogs by some creative writing as well as re writing. I develop some skills in rewriting that my rewritten article must past copyscape. Can you identify some online sources that pay for article rewriting.

  25. can you help me know a source to get paid for article re writing.
    .-= adeel´s last blog ..Men and Women – How Do They Use Internet? =-.

  26. Great roundup. Just wanted to add that with Constant Content you basically write articles and then put them for sale through CC. They can be any type of article (excluding fiction or personal narrative). I’ve actually had several articles from there sell to print magazines. One was a 2,000 word article which detailed a plan for managing money within marriage. You can submit fully researched academic-style articles as well. Many of the articles in the “premium” section (chosen by the editor) could easily be sold as features and aren’t your typical Internet copy.

  27. Hi! So I’m fourteen and I’m looking for a writing job since it’s the only thing that seems to fit with my schedule. I’m good at it, I just don’t know where to start. I wouldn’t say I’m very knowledgeable on business and finance, but I can always write on feelings and emotions and things that affect me and people around me. Is there any kind of job for that? Thank you!

    • I am also 14 and I also like to write about feeling and all that stuff and i know i want to be a writer but i’m not sure what kind yet, um I haven’t really found any people my age to help me and you said you were good? Do you think you could give me tips and I guess when I write I want someone To give me opinion and feed back, can you help?

  28. In regards to real estate you can literally help Realtors build an online presence and write web content for them as well. I’m currently in the process of developing several blogs and doing the copywriting for a local blogger then creating a referral arrangement for leads generated through the blogs. It’s more of a delayed gratification approach, but has the potential to make significant money.
    Ryan @ Milwaukee Condos´s last blog post ..Townhomes at Mill Reserve

  29. Great list! I’m glad I found this article!
    Thanks so much!
    Keep on writing! Goodluck!
    -The Triond Experiment
    The Triond Experiment´s last blog post ..Welcome Stickman!

  30. Thanks thats a great list to have a look at. I needed some good writing resources, and youve just put me in the right direction, thanks again.
    Simon Noble´s last blog post ..Weather Stations

  31. Wish I had discovered this article earlier, amazing post!

  32. This has been one of the most (if not THE most) informative writing articles I have ever read! Thank you for posting articles like this, you are so helpful!!! I visit this site almost daily and have always found something new and interesting!!!! Thank you!

  33. Hello there,
    Thank you for this wonderfully informative article. This was very helpful for me, and in the nature of quid pro quo I wanted to share two observations about your article that I had. The first is ‘experienced’ is misspelled under caption #25, the other is that you used the wrong ‘no’ under #27. I mess up spelling all the time, but I also know that many writers link back to old articles as samples, and didn’t want to see someone as helpful as you get flagged by a small faux pas.

  34. Thanks Deb for creating such a great post with ‘such-a-nice-style’ . I loved it;)
    aivilvin´s last blog post ..BEST FREE PHOTO EDITING SOFTWARES, PROGRAMS, SITES-TOP 20 LIST | [Blog-About Top 10 Best Listed Web Sites] [del.icio.us]

  35. Thanks for sharing this!! provide good knowledge for everyone.

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