Do companies hire freelance writers, or do freelance writers mainly create web content?
You bet that different types of companies hire writers, and some of those projects pay quite well too. If you have solid business writing experience and good skills, chances are good that you can find writing work within a company.
Last week we examined a dozen high paying writing fields. Today, we’ll explore how the size of a company affects the work that it offers. We’ll look at some general advantages and disadvantages of writing for small, medium, and large companies so that you can make the best choice for your situation.
While there are many definitions of what comprises a small, medium, and large company, for the purpose of this post I’ve provided my own, somewhat arbitrary, descriptions of each type of company. (Remember that each company is unique, so these generalizations may not fit a specific company or situation.)
Writing for Small Companies and Startups
A small business employs less than fifty people. In many cases, a small business is a sole proprietorship or a startup.
Startups are brand new companies that have only been in business for a short time. A startup may be funded by investors, or by the owner’s own hard work. A sole proprietorship consists of a lone individual. A sole proprietor may be another freelancer, or they may operate a small service-oriented business.
In the Web 2.0 culture, both sole proprietors and startups are plentiful. In many ways, small companies and startups are somewhat similar, so we’ll examine them together.
Pros of writing for a small company or startup:
- Opportunities are plentiful, especially online
- May work directly with the owner or other key player in the company
- Can provide opportunity to try out new or experimental applications
- May lead to something bigger in the future
- Most likely to be flexible with hours and/or work location
- Can potentially play a bigger role in a project
Cons of writing for a small company or startup:
- May not be financially sound
- Pay is likely to be less than average
- May work longer hours or have more “rush” work
- Projects may be small or one-time projects
- Small company may fail financially
Bottom line: Many freelancing success gurus advise against working for small companies and startups because the risk is much higher that you won’t get paid. However, I disagree with this advice. If you can find a good paying opportunity with a small company or a startup, I think it’s okay to take it. After all, today’s big corporate names were startups once. Just be aware of the risks before you accept the job.
Writing for Medium-sized Companies
A medium-sized company has fifty to around five hundred employees. Medium-sized companies are the backbone of our economy. Many have been around for years. They may be family-owned (privately held) or they may be incorporated. Either way, they are likely to need freelance writers because they probably don’t have a large in-house writing staff.
Pros of writing for a medium-sized company:
- More stability, financial and otherwise
- May be working directly with a manager or with lone writer
- Usually provides a good pay rate
- Less bureaucracy than with a large company
- Usually offers flexible hours and location
Cons of writing for a medium-sized company:
- Work may be infrequent or come in spurts
- There’s more potential for a personality conflict since you will likely work with one or two individuals
- Projects may offer less variety than a small company
- May have “rush” work
Bottom line: For the freelancer, a medium-sized company can be easier to approach than a larger company that already has an in-house writing staff. For one thing, they probably hire freelancers directly and not through an agency. These company are just large enough to need a writer, but not large enough to keep one on staff.
Writing for Large Corporations
A large corporation has more than five hundred employees. The larger the corporation, the more likely it is to have its own in-house writing team. However, large corporations do hire freelancers. When I was an employee in the technical communications department of a large company we often brought in contractors to help on projects. Several times over the years, I have also been brought in as a contractor at various large companies.
Pros of writing for a large corporation:
- Large projects mean long-term work
- Fierce competition for projects
- Better pay
- Structured environment
- Work within a team, learn from other writers
- May have rules and/or guidelines for writers
- Prestige and name recognition
Cons of writing for a large corporation:
- Less likely to offer flexible location or hours
- May require thorough background check or even drug testing
- Many corporations only hire freelancers through an approved agency
- Many levels of management and lots of bureaucracy
- May be assigned mundane tasks
- More likely to require a degree
- If the company hits a rough patch, contractors are the first to go
Bottom line: Many freelancers seek out and compete for a limited number of corporate opportunities. It can be hard to break into the corporate market. Once you do, the corporation is likely to use you over and over again. Plus, many corporations are household names. Working with a household name will look good in your portfolio or on your resume.
Have you done freelance writing for any of these types of companies? What size company did you work with?
Can you think of any more advantages or disadvantages?
Leave your answers in the comments.
Next week, we’ll focus on large corporations. We’ll talk about how they hire writers. Stay tuned!