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Freelance Writing Career

Career Description

Freelance Writers are self-employed and sell their work to publishers, publication enterprises, manufacturing firms, public relations departments, or advertising agencies. Sometimes, they contract with publishers first to write a book or an article. Others may be hired to complete specific short-term or recurring assignments, such as writing about a new product or contributing to an organization’s quarterly newsletter.

Common Work Tasks

  • Develop original written materials for books,  magazines, trade journals, online publications, company newsletters, radio and television broadcasts, motion pictures, and advertisements
  • Commissioned by a sponsor to write a script; or may be contracted to write a book on the basis of a proposal in the form of a draft or an outline
  • Regularly use personal computers, desktop or electronic publishing systems, scanners, and other electronic communications equipment
  • Produce materials for publication or performance
  • Work with editors and publishers throughout the writing process to review edits, topics, and production schedules
  • Conduct research on topics through personal observation, library and Internet research, and interviews
  • Select the material to use, organize it, and use the written word to express story lines, ideas, or to convey information
  • Revise or rewrite sections, searching for the best organization or the right phrasing

Other Job Titles

Freelance writers are also known by other titles, including:

  • Novelists
  • Bloggers
  • Authors
  • Political Commentators

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Some employers look for a broad liberal arts background, while others prefer to hire people with degrees in communications, journalism, political science, or English. For those who specialize in a particular area, such as fashion,  business, or law, additional background in the chosen field is expected.

Freelance writers must be able to express ideas clearly and logically and should enjoy writing. Creativity, curiosity, a broad range of knowledge, self-motivation,  and perseverance also are valuable. A freelance writer must demonstrate good judgment and a strong sense of ethics in deciding what material to publish. Use of electronic and wireless communications equipment to send e-mail, transmit work, and review copy often is necessary. Online newspapers and magazines require knowledge of computer software used to combine online text with graphics, audio, video, and animation.

High school and college newspapers, literary magazines, community newspapers, and radio and television stations all provide valuable—but sometimes unpaid—practical writing experience. Many magazines, newspapers, and broadcast stations have internships for students. Interns write short pieces, conduct research and interviews, and learn about the publishing or broadcasting business.


The median annual salary for a Freelance Writer is $51,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $100,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $26,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of freelance writers are:

  • Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers - $48,200
  • Advertising and Related Services - $65,190
  • Radio and Television Broadcasting - $54,660
  • Business, Professional, Labor, Political, and Similar Organizations - $58,820
  • Motion Picture and Video Industries - $95,250

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  13%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 17,000
  • Employment 2006 : 135,000
  • Employment 2016:  153,000
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