A freelance writer is a private contractor who takes on different content assignments at will for various industries. They may work as journalists (following proper reporting, sourcing and investigative protocols), marketing (focusing on supporting a company’s messaging), and in other ways. They’re usually experienced people who have a way with words and follow all professional expectations, including making deadlines. The following guide is curated for writers to learn practical tips on how to craft a resume that reflects freelance writers’ expertise and helps them land a job.
Let’s start by looking at three sample resume formats:
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Job Duties of Freelance Writers
Freelance writers are self-employed and have the scheduling flexibility to take on various projects at the same time. The job responsibilities of a freelance writer may vary depending on project requirements, but mostly include the following:
Communicating with clients.
Conducting extensive research to gather authentic information on project-specific areas of inquiry.
Adhering strictly to deadlines and ensuring project completion.
Creating content for a wide variety of paper and digital audiences and platforms.
Editing and proofreading drafts.
Coordinating with publishing clients to understand content performance, bonus metrics, and reader feedback.
Researching similar content to produce original, non-derivative content.
Following client — mandated editing and formatting styles. For example, writing content for an academic organization may force a freelance writer to follow specific citation styles.
Formulating content depending on the voice of the platform. For example, when they write technical content for guides or how-tos, writers cannot use informal, humorous language.
Salary Expectations for Freelance Writers
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, writers and authors with a bachelor’s degree can earn up to $63,200 per year, or $30.39 hourly, as freelance writers. You can work in specific niches, such as technical writers, that may earn higher wages, up to $72,850 per year or $35.03 hourly for this example in particular. The compensation software and data company Payscale says that freelance writers, on average, earn between $12.20 and $61.83 per hour.
Top Skills for Freelance Writers
To excel in your career as a freelance writer, you need to acquire certain qualities beyond strong writing skills. Possessing the attributes below will help you to distinguish yourself:
- A natural writing style: Capturing your reader’s attention is easier to do when you write cleanly, clearly, and without unnecessary embellishment. To convey clear narratives, you need to have an excellent understanding of language components such as semantics and grammar. And having a “natural” writing style doesn’t mean you cannot work to get better at it.
- Self-discipline: To excel in your career as a freelance writer, you must develop a highly organized, disciplined lifestyle. Time management is crucial for strictly adhering to numerous deadlines and effectively managing multiple projects.
- Strong research: Though you may not be a subject matter expert, having exceptional research skills will allow you to produce rich content for any domain or topic.
- Analytical: You have to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information, authentic and fake sources. The ability to create fact-based, information-rich content from clustered data and the ability to present it in a structured manner increases your career prospects.
- Networking: Excellent socializing and networking skills are imperative to expand clientele and find new projects. Use various professional networking platforms such as LinkedIn, niche Slack communities, and even Instagram or Clubhouse to find a job or project openings.
- Self marketing: With immense competition in the industry, writers must know how to market themselves. This includes using multiple platforms such as a personal website or Facebook to showcase and promote your work to a larger audience. Use SEO-enabled writing techniques and content marketing to increase your work’s visibility. Carefully planned, strategic marketing can save your career from getting lost on the internet.
Education Requirement for Freelance Writers
DegreeWhile most employers prefer a formal bachelor’s or master’s degree in creative writing, English literature, journalism or mass communication, anyone with relevant experience writing for publications and good writing skills can become a freelance writer.
What does a degree in journalism, creative writing, or literature do for you? It exposes you to the various styles and nuances of writing but, maybe, more importantly, helps you develop business connections for the rest of your career. Many programs, such as Columbia University’s journalism program, enable their students to find employment through placement and internship opportunities.
Suppose you want to write for a niche slice of the content industry, such as in science, medicine, or the law. In that case, employers may prefer individuals with a degree in that relevant field, as long as they also have sound, high-quality writing skills.
Freelance Resume-Writing Tips
Freelance writers need to curate their resume very carefully. They have to convey their skills and experience expertly, using clear and direct language. If you fail to be clear, the employer will determine that you cannot do it on an everyday basis. Here are three tips we urge you to consider when writing your resume.
- Highlight your most significant achievements. While you might have several writing assignments to your credit, you still have to emphasize your most critical accomplishments in the resume. Whether it is your association with a high-profile client or organization or writing something that affects the community, your published work must always be summarized in bullet points and possibly bolded.
- Include keywords from the job description. Given how recruiters are bombarded with resumes, using keywords from the job description in your career objective or profile summary is one way to capture attention quickly. A Forbes article states that keyword customization also ensures your resume bypasses the applicant tracking systems (ATS) in a digital recruiting process.
- Quantify your achievements. Critical figures and statistics are crucial to conveying the impact you’ve had. Be it the number of projects undertaken, including various types of publications, clients acquired, or the years of experience, relevant facts in your resume help convince any reader about your value proposition.
- Emphasize your educational qualification and certifications. If you have an English literature or creative writing degree, don’t forget to mention it in your resume as employers commonly prefer these qualifications. Mention all essential certifications to your credit. Additionally, if you apply for writing jobs related to a specific field, mention all relevant degrees to validate your subject knowledge. For example, freelance writers with a degree in computer science get an added advantage while applying for technical writing jobs in the IT industry.
What defines you as a freelance writer?
A freelance writer is a self-employed writer or individual who undertakes numerous writing assignments for a diverse clientele and receives wages on a commission or project basis. As a freelancer, an individual may also be associated with an organization for delivering services.
Freelance writers contribute to numerous projects such as blogs, websites, national dailies, magazines and publications. Depending on their niche or area of interest, most freelance writers develop expertise in various industries such as digital marketing and science.
Freelance writers have the flexibility to accept or reject projects based on their convenience.
What is required to become a freelance writer?
While most employers prefer a formal bachelor’s degree in creative writing, English literature, journalism or mass communication, anyone with relevant experience and writing skills can become a freelance writer.
Individuals without a desired degree must develop their writing portfolio and take up numerous projects to become an established writer.
With practice, individuals can always develop their expertise in a particular niche like copywriting and use various platforms such as Freelancer or Upwork to find work.
Is a freelance writer a lucrative career?
As per reports by Forbes and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 57 million Americans prefer freelancing writing as a flexible alternative to conventional full-time jobs. With widespread internet expansion and the digital revolution taking industries by storm, quality content is in extreme demand, and freelance writing has emerged as a good career option.
Whether you wish to pursue a full-time career or work as a writer as a side hustle, becoming a freelance writer gives you growth opportunities.
Given how the COVID -19 pandemic has led to significant job transformations, 47% of hiring managers surveyed said they are more likely to employ independent professionals in the future. This trend will affect freelance writers.
What skills do I need to become a freelance writer?
To embark on your career as a freelance writer, you must possess strong writing and editing skills along with soft skills such as self-discipline, time-management, and networking skills. Additionally, expanding one’s knowledge of writing different styles and updating your core technical competencies is crucial to retaining more jobs.