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Robert Vega, Director FAC 18 / 2304 Whitis Ave. Stop G6200 78712-1508 • 512-471-7900

Freelance Writing

Freelance writers often start out with little published writing under their belts, so if you’ve had anything published anywhere, you may have an advantage over other novice writers.

Background Experience and Skills

The general advice given in the Careers by Discipline section to gain experience writing for multiple audiences is even more crucial if you want to break into freelance writing as a career. Freelancers need to have a keen sense for rhetorical context and how to vary writing for different audiences.

In addition to writing and research skills, you’ll need to be self-motivated to come up with ideas and meet deadlines.

Pros and Cons

The best parts of freelance writing are the independence the job affords and the opportunities for creativity, but there are some noteworthy downsides. Freelancers are responsible for advertising their services and finding clients, so you need to be able to sell yourself and network quite a bit, especially in the beginning. Having a contact who’s a freelancer can be a way to break in because they can refer jobs to you if they have too many offers.

Knowing what to charge clients is also an issue freelancers, especially new ones, struggle with. Freelance work is unpredictable, so your income may be impossible to predict. But once you are established and have a steady source of clients, the peaks and valleys can smooth out. [1]

Sources of Freelance Work

Corporations may hire freelancers through temp or placement agencies. Call the company’s HR department to find out where to apply. Alternatively, they may have a director of communications, editing services, or creative services—people you could set up informational interviews with.

Newspapers: start small and local—special interest publications (including foreign language newspapers), newsletters, alternative weeklies, then work up to bigger newspapers. Newspapers and magazines will be looking for writers who already have several ideas for future stories—include these in your portfolio or have them ready to discuss. Come up with some “evergreens”—ideas for stories that can be run at any time and are applicable to just about any city or organization—including new construction, budgets, statistics on allotment of resources, etc. [2]

Magazines: start with trade or speciality publications. The consumer magazines (the ones you've heard of) tend to pay better than trade publications, but the competition is also much more stiff since this is where a lot of freelancers tend to start their search.

Book publishers often outsource copyediting and proofreading work to freelancers. Contact publishers and play up your specialized knowledge.

You will need to have writing and/or editing samples, and maybe even a portfolio of several clippings to be considered for larger organizations.

Action Steps

  • Read the Q&A with freelance writers in Lemire 149-154
  • Gain experience writing for multiple audiences about a variety of topics. Start by volunteering or answering a local Craig’s List ad.
  • Assemble a portfolio of written materials
  • Join the UT Non-Academic Alumni Network on LinkedIn to contact current freelance writers

Print and Web Resources

Lemire, Timothy. I’m an English Major: Now What? Cincinnati, OH: Writers Digest Books, 2006. Print.
-    Also available as a free ebook download from

Taylor, Allan, and James Robert Parish. Career Opportunities in Writing. New York, NY: Checkmark Books, 2006. Print.

Camenson, Blythe. Careers for Introverts & Other Solitary Types. 2nd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2005.

Bly, Robert. 88 Money-Making Writing Jobs. Sourccebooks, 2009. Print.
-    Lists lots of jobs a freelance or full-time writer can have that you may not have thought about, and gives ways to get started and further reading for each one. Examples include ghost writing for people or corporations, direct mail or email, corporate blogs or annual reports, helping people with entrance essays or resumes, white papers and product instructions.

Bowerman, Peter. The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less. Second edition. Fanove Publishing, 2009. Print.

National Writers Union
American Society of Journalists and Authors
Aquent - a staffing agency for creative careers


1. Blythe Camenson, Careers for Introverts & Other Solitary Types, 2nd ed. (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2005), 13-19; 68-74.

2. Timothy Lemire, I’m an English Major: Now What? (Cincinnati, OH: Writers Digest Books, 2006), 146-147.

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