You’ve told your parents, friends, and pets that you’re going to be a writer when you grow up and they’ve all given you that look of pity that roughly translates to You’re never going to move out, are you? You want to write for a living because as much as you love writing, you don’t want to do it for free (and you shouldn’t have to), but what are your options?
When people think of professional writers their imagination only goes as far as novelists before it taps out, but there are so many paths to choose from on the writing track.
Tell your parents there’s no more need to worry that you’ll be performing your poetry on the street in exchange for a bite of someone’s hamburger- although that might be an upgrade to what you’re currently selling your writing for.
Here’s a list of freelance writing positions for writers of all experience levels and education levels; these jobs rely primarily on your capabilities as a writer and ability to sell yourself.
Online Content Creator
If you’re here you probably already do this, but may not even know it. Content creators create original content for online audiences, these are typically blog and article writers. This content can be to inform, sell a product, or simply to entertain. A lot of popular blogs hire out their work to freelancers, whether it be travel, food, or fashion blogs. Next time you’re on your favorite blog or website see if they have a “submit” or “contribute” tab on their website. Most sites will have this somewhere unless they exclusively hire staff writers.
Copywriters are often confused with content writers because they have similar duties of creating content to inform the masses. Copywriters differ slightly because their writing is aimed at generating interest and trust while calling the reader to action, this can be in the form of direct emails to customers, product descriptions, or landing pages to name a few.
Copy writing is one of the more lucrative writing jobs because it directly affects a business’s sales. Good copy means more sales for the business, and more money and recurring work for you.
Technical writing is one of the harder fields to get into without some relevant education in marketing, experience, or knowledge of the product because of the amount of research required for the job. Technical writers enable readers to use a specific product or complete a task by transforming complicated information into simple terms and delivering it through manuals, safety instructions, how-to guides, and FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions). If an activity needs a certain skill to perform, a technical writer lurks somewhere behind.
This path is especially profitable if you already know the area you’ll be writing for, otherwise you’ll spend a lot of time researching. If you don’t have the slightest idea how a H-VAC system works, don’t think you can learn about the product while you’re writing about it.
Press Release Writer
When companies need to let their customers and clients know something newsworthy such as upcoming events, new products, and sales – that’s where press release writers come in. Writers can get press release writing jobs by pitching directly to companies or looking on job boards. Be aware that some clients may also want you to distribute the press release. I personally don’t do press releases, but have heard other freelancers say they prefer just to write the release and if they distribute it, they offer it is an extra service.
Editors can do as little as fact check and remove any errors in spelling and grammar, all the way to completely rewriting a customer’s work for overall quality and clarity. The kind of editor you can become is dependent on your experience and writing skill. Editing is a good job for you if you’re extremely attentive to detail, as you’ll have to read and edit a piece thoroughly multiple times before sending it back to your client as complete.
A proofreader is an editor’s underappreciated ginger stepbrother. Editors and proofreaders have a lot of similar duties, and because of this an editor may also be a proofreader, but typically a proofreader will stick with checking spelling and grammar.
You do not need a qualification to be a proofreader but it is helpful to learn some of the standard skills by reading or taking online tests to see where you stand.
Magazine freelancers pitch articles to editors and if approved can make a nice sum and get recurring work. This is especially good for travel writers and those who like journalism.
It can be difficult for new writers without clips to break into magazine writing because effective pitching does not come without practice. Start by pitching to smaller publications online, your local publications, and student newspapers so you stand a better chance of landing article and getting clips to build your portfolio, then shoot for those bigger magazine-fish. Online magazines usually have a “submit” or “contribute” section on their site, too.
Ghostwriters write for other people, typically books and articles, but give up all rights to the work once finished. This has it’s positives and negatives. For one, because ghostwriters do not get any credit for their work, they usually get paid more for it. The negative is that because you are giving up the rights to your work, you can’t include it in your portfolio or resume.
Ghostwriters have an extensive background in freelance writing and maybe a book (or ebook) of their own published; having the extra notch on their resume won’t significantly change their chances at getting a job, so ghostwriting is a win all around for them. New writers aren’t likely to get a ghostwriting job and probably don’t want to because it won’t be able possible to include it as experience.
I recently saw a job to rewrite the rules for a sex dice game and knew I’d picked the right industry for me. Videogame writing is great for those of us who love fiction writing, and is unique because it involves working very closely with a team. I’m working on a videogame right now and learned that there is a lot of communication and even more rewriting as the project goes forward. Overall, videogame writing is one of the most creative of writing jobs because there is a lot of free reign with dialogue, plot, and scenery (as long as it fits with the game play).
There you have it: real writing jobs that pay real money, mama would be proud! I hope this has shed some light on the ever-elusive professional writing career. A lot of these job’s duties overlap, so if you qualify for one you’ll probably be able to do another, and another. And (especially in the beginning) you’ll need to do some juggling of jobs in order to get the ball rolling into a proper check. The kind that takes care of rent and bills and other grown up words.
I’ll follow this up next week with a post on exactly how much money freelance writers make in the United States, especially in those terribly expensive cities like Los Angeles.
Have you done any of these jobs or care to share your experience as a freelance writer? Are there any other jobs that should go on this list?