Living The Dream Job: A Day In The Life Of A Freelance Writer
Plenty of people dream of making it as a freelance writer and having the ability to choose both what they write and when they write it. While freelance writing is a great gig, there are plenty of challenges as well – something I can attest to as an on-and-off freelance writer since my college days!
According to ZipRecruiter, the average freelance writer salary varies state-by-state from about $50,000 a year to $75,000 a year. Not too shabby. Of course, it takes a lot of work to become a full-time freelance writer – building up a portfolio, connecting with clients, and staying on top of deadlines. And those numbers don’t reflect the many freelance writers, especially mothers, who pick that career path so that they can work fewer hours with more flexibility.
So, what does a day in the life of a freelance writer look like? Well, it totally depends. I had a great freelancing gig while I was a college student. I interned for a local newspaper the summer before my junior year and continued writing for them weekly after I returned to school. I typically made $100 to $200 per piece, depending on the word count – which felt like a lot of money for a teen writer! Freelancing also helped me keep my skills sharp and let employers know I had a good amount of experience once I graduated.
Back then, I would conduct interviews between classes and write whenever I could find the time. Using short breaks to write wasn’t always the most efficient use of my time – now I try to set aside at least a few hours for research and writing whenever I have an article due.
I’m lucky enough to have a job in media that allows me to write for outside publications as well as maintain my own email newsletter. Freelance writing isn’t a big part of my income. It’s just something I love to do, especially since I get to write about my favorite topics including style, relationships, and pop-culture.
Who Can Freelance Write?
All of this leads me to my next topic: Who can freelance write? Anyone who loves to write can figure out a way to freelance. Whether you’re fresh out of college and open to writing about any topic, or have 10 years of experience in a particular field you would like to share about, there are opportunities for you. While it may take time to build into a full-time career, there’s no cookie cutter formula for who can be a successful freelance writer.
Many freelance writing opportunities are not stereotypical magazine or newspaper stories. Writers often specialize in business-to-business writing, industry news, or another niche with a very specific audience. Sometimes your name may be on a byline, sometimes you may be ghostwriting. If you want to get acquainted with the many kinds of freelance writing out there, check out the Reddit page r/freelancewriters. Experienced full-time freelance writers often do very insightful Ask Me Anything sessions.
For example, subreddit moderator Tiffany, a freelancer with 30-plus years of experience, shared her advice for aspiring freelance writers here.
“I would encourage anyone who has niche expertise in anything to use it to get started,” she wrote. “So often I see people who want to break into freelance writing saying things like, ‘I've always wanted to write, but I've been grooming dogs for 20 years, so I have no relevant experience.’ Well… if you're pitching a dog grooming site, or a vet, or an animal shelter, or a pet care site, or a pet store, you do. It cuts right through the difficulty in distinguishing yourself as a newcomer.”
“From there, I think it's all personal choice. Niche work is generally more lucrative, but some people really enjoy the variety of working as a generalist. Some people are going into freelancing because they hate the area they're an expert in. That's okay – once you get some experience/real life samples/reviews, it's not hard to branch out,” Tiffany added.
Finding Work as a Freelance Writer
But how do you connect with clients (and avoid scams)? Fiverr and Upwork are two websites that connect freelancers with paid gigs. And apparently, LinkedIn, a website often mocked for having no purpose, is actually good for something – many freelance writers are able to find work via the networking platform.
“When filling out your experience (online resume) on LinkedIn, I wouldn’t fill out your current or past work if you want to be a freelance writer,” writer Elna Cain said in a 2020 blog post on optimizing your LinkedIn account. “Instead, I would make your LinkedIn profile just for your freelance writing business. However, if your work experience lends itself well to your freelance writing niche, then leave it.”
So maybe it’s time to refresh your LinkedIn profile and see what opportunities come your way. Self-promotion is an important part of freelancing – and it can be the hardest part of the job to get used to. Posting your work on social media and using your network to find gigs can feel intimidating. But if you’re proud of the writing you do, there will be people who find it helpful and interesting.
One of my biggest recommendations for aspiring writers is to start your own newsletter. With platforms like Substack, it’s easier and cheaper than ever. Whether you are publishing weekly musings or just using your newsletter to share the most recent articles you have written, email newsletters are a digestible way to connect with people who value your writing. You never know who will come across your work (or even a Twitter thread you wrote) and have a paying job for you!
#MomLife and Freelancing
Some mothers are drawn to freelance writing because they can work while their children are napping, at school, or otherwise occupied. It can be a difficult balance but one that works for a lot of people! Maybe your specialty is a topic wholly unrelated to motherhood, but there is also a lot of hunger for parenting content that any mom would have the experience to write.
Health and fitness writer Colleen Travers shared why she chose freelance writing as a mother in a July blog post. After spending years in the journalism industry, Colleen was laid off from her office job and decided to give freelancing a try.
“Once I had kids it really bummed me out how little I spent with them during the day,” she said. “Because of my commute, I was only getting to spend about an hour in the morning and maybe two hours at night with them. Also, these are not the best parts of the day for kids (or at least my kids!) – they were usually cranky, hungry, or tired and weren’t interested in playing with me come 6 p.m. so I felt like I was just doing all the ‘unfun’ parenting stuff and not getting to enjoy the little people we created.”
Now, Colleen is able to enjoy life with her kids and earn income. That’s what I call a win-win situation!
A day in the life of a freelance writer can look like a lot of different things – but in the end, it’s important to share your work with the world and take everything one job at a time. And who knows – maybe you’ll find yourself submitting a freelance pitch to Evie Magazine!
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