As the post-pandemic economy continues to shift, more laborers are turning to freelance, or gig, work, and more companies are outsourcing their work to freelancers.
A recent survey by Edelman Data & Intelligence indicates that around 60 million Americans participate in freelance work. That’s 39% of the overall labor market—the highest proportion on record.
One significant part of the overall gig economy includes freelance writers. Freelance writers are non-staffed individuals who provide written content for a company, possibly in the form of articles, e-books, blog posts, marketing materials, or social media deliverables. Recent Content Marketing Institute data shows that content creation (or freelance writing) makes up 84% of the communications work outsourced by companies.
What do those statistics mean?
It means that freelance writers are a valuable part of both household incomes and corporate teams. And because it’s Freelance Writers Appreciation Week (yes, that’s a thing!) we’d like to affirm the value of freelance writers and explore the realities of freelance writing as a career choice.
Celebrating Freelance Writers
In our Medi-Share community alone, there are a significant number of members who participate in the gig economy, many of whom are freelance writers. In fact, our communications team has depended on dozens of different freelance writers for content creation over the years.
To the freelance writers among us, we appreciate you!
Maybe you have a freelance writer in your household or sphere of influence. If so, consider celebrating them this week. Here are some ideas:
For freelance writers in your work scope:
* Write a “thank you” email with a few positive details about their work
* Give a shout-out on your team communication app
* Send an e-gift card to grab a coffee or treat on the team (Sugarwish.com has been one of my personal favorites.)
For freelance writers in your personal scope:
* Leave a sticky note on their computer with words of encouragement about their current project
* Send a text affirming their work overall (Add screen confetti or a funny gif for extra smiles!)
* Bring them actual food for lunch (Because we tend to forget about eating…)
Finding Freedom in Freelance Writing
As the workplace continues to change, we recognize that some of our members are exploring career changes as well. If you’re intrigued by the idea of freelance writing as a profession, we’re here to empower and uplift, as always.
I personally began working as a freelance writer about eight years ago. It has been a perfect career fit for me, one where I have the freedom to say “yes” or “no” to jobs based on my family’s schedule. Periodically people will ask for tips on how they could get into the same line of work. Here’s what I tell them:
Focus on what you know
Most content managers and editors will ask for samples (or “clips”) of published writing before taking on a new freelance writer. This presents a challenge for new would-be writers, of course. How do you get published when you need to already be published first?
When I started as a freelance writer, I was coming out of several years of staying home with babies. Though I have a marketing degree, I pretty much needed to build a resume and portfolio from scratch. But, with what? My “recent experience” included more diapers and playdates than data and performance indicators.
But that’s just it: when it comes to writing, your experience is experience — as long as you write it down in a way that engages an audience! So, I started writing about what I knew. I wrote about toddler groups, about traveling with young kids, about birthday parties on a budget, about fun free things in my community — I even wrote about choosing a minivan!
Every writer has to start somewhere in order to build up a portfolio of published samples. Consider what you are currently an expert in, then start writing about it.
Research relevant outlets
Writing is only as good as a document on your computer until you find a way to get your work published. As you write, you’ll want to research outlets that align with your current focus. Most likely, this will be blogs, websites, or newsletters.
Read the outlet’s content with an eye toward tone, audience, and format so that you can produce writing that is more likely to be accepted. When you’re first starting out, most work will have to be done “on spec,” which means you’ll need to produce the content first without a promise of publication or payment.
When you’ve got some strong pieces written, start sending them to your outlets of choice. Look for submission opportunities in the fine print of websites or emails, and follow the instructions carefully.
Expand your reach and network
After you have a few pieces published, start reaching out even further. Don’t be afraid to think big; you never know what’s going to happen. My first piece published by The Washington Post was accepted on the same day I submitted it! They had an unexpected production hole (due to someone’s sickness, I believe), and my listicle happened to hit the right note at the right time.
It’s also helpful to start joining freelance writing groups, specifically groups that share info about job and/or pitch opportunities. (Pitches refer to story ideas that are presented to an editor in paragraph or outline form.) Do a keyword search on social media and ask to join groups that align with your goals and demographic. Keep in mind that group mediators often request clips too, so be sure to have those published links ready first.
Establish long-term clients
Submitting spec work and pitching one-off ideas are both great, but most find that strategy to be unsustainable over time. Eventually, your goal in freelance writing should be to work with clients on an ongoing basis. That way, the writing assignments come to you, and you have income that you can (somewhat) count on.
To contract with long-term clients, it’s often helpful to think through a market niche. What sector aligns with your professional or personal experience? Do you have unique knowledge about aerospace? Do you naturally speak the language of finance? Are you comfortable in the health and wellness field? All of those niches need content, and specialized assigned content pays much better than spec work. Look on job boards for companies in your field that may be hiring freelance writers.
Challenges of Freelance Writing
As with any gig job, freelance writing comes with its challenges. Be prepared for:
* Unstable income. With the benefit of flexibility comes the flip side of instability. Some months freelancers may have more work than they can handle; other months may not yield enough assignments.
* Self-employment tax. Income is reported to freelancers on a 1099, which means they are responsible for a 15.3% self-employment tax in addition to income tax.
* No benefits. Freelance writers do not have the benefit of company-sponsored health insurance, dental or vision benefits, paid time off, retirement matching, etc.
Thankfully, Medi-Share can and does help with that last point. For three decades, Medi-Share has been offering a health care solution that fits the needs of our members, many of whom are part of the gig economy! Because our monthly sharing rates are affordable, many freelancers—who must pay out of pocket—find our model to be a good fit.
To those freelance writers who have chosen to join us, we appreciate you! Take a moment this week to go out and celebrate the valuable work that you do!