This article is part of the “Write For” series, a collection of writings produced by the University of Central Arkansas Department of Writing to highlight incredible organizations that rely on professional writers. To learn more about Professional Writing and the opportunities it offers graduates, click here.
Commuting to work can be a frustrating hassle. Between fender benders and horrible drivers experiencing coffee-fueled road rage, it can be tempting to “forget where your keys are” and never leave the house. Then again, some enterprising professional writers are learning that they don’t need to leave the comfort of their homes to make a living. The Internet has drastically changed the way clients with blank sheets of paper or empty websites connect with freelancers who create quality content.
Freelancing, or pursuing a series of career opportunities without long-term commitments, can be a fulfilling, profitable experience for writers willing to invest the time and energy. Almost 40 percent of the 1,491 freelancers surveyed for the International Freelancers Academy’s 2012 industry report were writers, copy editors and copywriters. When it came to wages, the study found 46 percent of writers, 74 percent of copy editors and 36 percent of copywriters made between $20 and $59 an hour.
Freelance writers must be versatile and flexible, because they never know what project will land in their email inboxes. A typical Monday could involve writing Facebook posts for a client on Fiverr, a break for lunch before putting the finishing touches on a website design gig assigned through Scripted and shooting photos for a brochure job found on oDesk after dinner.
This wide spectrum of projects means that writers must be comfortable using cameras and a variety of editing software. Shelle Stormoe, a former UCA writing professor with freelance experience, said it’s important to have a writer’s toolbox brimming with skills. Familiarity with Gimp, Photoshop, Premier Pro and iMovie can lead to a rich and diverse freelance portfolio like Stormoe’s, which includes Arkansas Times articles, electronics installation manuals and website content.
These kinds of work opportunities don’t come easy. Freelancers must be aggressive to elevate their trade from a part-time moneymaker to a career, a process Stormoe calls a “hard slog.” She says writers should consider the discipline and focus required for success before striking out on their own, because not every project will be something familiar or fascinating. “You really have to have extremely good research skills and be willing to go down a rabbit hole with something you’re not interested in,” Stormoe said.
Stormoe also stressed the importance of being business savvy. For example, contracts are a must-have when it comes to working with clients on a freelance basis. Online resources like Docracy and the Freelancers Union’s Contract Creator offer streamlined, professional contracts that can be tailored to any project. A business-minded freelancer will closely track his or her project hours, ensuring that work is completed in a timely, profitable manner. “You are the master of your time,” Stormoe said, alluding to the dual-edged sword of freedom and responsibility that comes with freelancing.
If you have a knack for picking up new skills, unwavering determination and an entrepreneurial spirit, you may be cut out for the freelancing life. Professional writers who embrace the Internet and all the opportunities that come with it can become one-person companies with never-ending pools of projects.