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What Kind of Freelance Writing is Right For You?

writers-puzzleIf you asked a bunch of folks what they thought freelance writers did, most of them would probably say they write novels, short stories and magazine articles. While there are writers who make their living with those, the world of freelance writing is much larger than most suspect.

‘For instance, freelance writers are writing:

  • ad copy for big and small business alike.
  • white papers and other technical and semi-technical documents for big and small companies.
  • greeting card copy
  • essays on everything from politics to film
  • scripts for film, tv and theatre
  • grants
  • web content from 140 character posts to twitter to lengthy think and policy pieces
  • autobiographies and books on all sorts of subjects for individual clients and for organizations

The list goes on and on. Anything you see in print or on the web or anywhere else, including the sides of buses and in the sky, might have been written by a freelance writer .

Write For Publication or Clients?

In many ways the career of freelance writing breaks into two parts – writing for publication and/or writing for clients. Writing for publication generally means writing you do for yourself and includes includes books, booklets and articles. etc.  that are actually published by someone other than you, unless you go for self-publishing, which is also a viable option.

Writing for clients means others hire you to write for them. The most obvious example of this is ghostwriting, marketing writing and corporate writing.

Each has its advantage and it’s quite possible to do both. If you’re going to seek out clients, your marketing needs to be focused in that direction.  When you’re writing for publication, your marketing consists, for the most part, of submitting either completed manuscripts or queries to editors or agents.

Do Freelance Writers Need to Specialize?

Obviously a successful freelance writing career requires some sort of specialization – no one can do it all. I think, however, it’s a mistake, at least in the beginning, to worry too much about specialization. You already know, at least in a general way, what you want to write. You know, for example, if you want to write fiction or non-fiction. That’s where you start, with your passion. As you build your career, your specializations, and there’s often more than one, will develop more or less automatically.

Do you have a writing specialty?


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{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Ed

    The key to longevity in freelance writing is first building your credentials. The next step is building your credibility and expertise. The third step is becoming the go-to person for whatever niche you decide to master. All steps require creating and maintaining a network of editors and clients.

    @Lori: As a publication writer I agree that editorial budgets are tighter than ever, forcing many writers to look outside that niche to other areas, such as corporate or client work.

    Ed’s last blog post..Chicago Sun-Times Files For Chapter 11

  • I do have a specialty that came on me unexpectedly, as you suggest. But I agree with you totally – in the beginning of the career, the focus should not be on specialization. It should be on building networks and creating the business.

    At the moment, writing for publications may be tougher than usual. Just lost the second of my magazine clients to budget issues. If I were a beginning writer, I’d be looking for online work that paid well. From there, specialties and careers can build.

    Lori’s last blog post..Meet the Author: Colin Galbraith

  • Thanks for the great insight Anne!

    • Anne

      you’re more than welcome!

  • That’s a really nice post, thank you so much for sharing!

    I, myself, stick to entertainment topics and meta-writing. Those are areas I feel really comfortable in. Though I branch out sometimes. Even if only to try new things.

    • Anne

      Jane, what do you mean by ‘meta’ writing?

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