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Freelance Writer Jobs: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for freelance writers. Get the facts about degree requirements, salary and career outlook to determine if this is the right career for you.

What Does a Freelance Writer Do?

Freelance writers are self-employed writers who submit articles, stories and essays to various publications such as websites, magazines and newspapers. Freelance writers generally work from home and spend a significant amount of time submitting story ideas to publications. They can either work on a one-time project or accept recurring writing assignments from their clients.

See the table below to find out about possible education programs you could complete to become a freelance writer and potential earnings in this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Communications, English, journalism
Key Skills Writing, time management, creativity, research
Certification Certification is voluntary
Job Growth (2018-2028) 0% (for all writers and authors)*
Median Salary (2019) $40,000 (for all freelance writers)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Types of Educational Programs Are Available?

There is no single accepted educational pathway to becoming a writer. Educational programs that can help prepare you for a future of freelance writing include English, communications or journalism. You may also want to consider a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree program in creative writing or a bachelor's program in technical writing.

Each of the above-mentioned degree programs should help you to be a better writer and communicator. These degrees may also help you develop a portfolio of written work that you can use to show potential employers that you have what it takes.

What Do I Need in Addition to My Degree?

With some freelance writing positions, you'll need more than just an education. If you want to write about a specialized area of knowledge or experience, you'll need to know what you are talking about. For example, a scientific journal looking to hire freelance writers to submit articles for their publication will expect applicants to be familiar with the esoteric and exacting language of science. To be a successful freelance writer, you should have a broad base of experience, knowledge and interests. You should also be creative, curious and self-motivated.

What Could I Expect to Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for writers and editors were expected to have little to no change between 2018 and 2028 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also states that this job growth is due, in part, to the increasing demand for web content. Therefore, freelance writers with web and multimedia experience should encounter the most favorable employment opportunities.

The website PayScale.com reports that the median income per hour for freelance writers was $22.46 as of November 2019. Freelance technical writers earned an hourly wage of $28.50 in the same year. The BLS states that the median annual salary for all writers and authors was $62,170 as of May 2018. District of Columbia and California were the two top-paying states for this occupation.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You may explore a career in copywriting or content writing. As a copywriter, your main job is to create compelling materials including advertising copies to help drive a company's business goals. As a content writer, on the other hand, your role is to create useful and engaging content to be posted on a company's website, blogs or social media assets. Both copywriters and content writers may either work from the office or pursue freelance careers.