It occurs to me that many of you reading this blog may have no idea what ‘freelance writing’ really is. What does it consist of? Who hires freelance writers? How does freelancing ‘work’?

This November, I’m writing a series of short blog posts that get down to the nitty gritty and answer your most basic questions about freelance writing.

This week: What is freelance writing, anyway?

Freelance writing is an industry in which independent contractors (freelance writers) produce various materials for clients. I’ll go into more detail next week about exactly who hires freelance writers, but suffice it to say you can find clients almost everywhere. From your metaphorical backyard to the other side of the globe, companies need competent writers.

Freelance writers are self-employed. They set their own work hours and conditions. They do not receive health insurance, paid vacation or any other type of benefit from their employer because…they are their own employers. To succeed as a freelance writer, you must have a basic grasp of business concepts — or seek out sites like this one, mentors (like me) and communities to gain knowledge.

Freelance writers don’t need any type of college degree or advanced training. They do need to be able to knit two sentences together in a coherent and grammatically correct fashion. Many people can teach themselves to do this. If you need extra help with your writing skills, check out this past blog posts with links to excellent online resources.

Freelance writing, as an industry, encompasses a wide variety of types of writing, including:

  • Articles for the general public (aka ‘consumers’)
  • Articles for professionals
  • Scholarly articles/research studies
  • Trade journalism
  • General journalism
  • Blogging (for others, under a byline)
  • Ghostblogging (blogging on behalf of someone else, under their byline as if they wrote it)
  • Website copy
  • Pharmaceutical writing
  • Grant writing
  • Case studies
  • White papers
  • Brochures
  • Leaflets
  • Pamphlets
  • Copywriting
  • Advertising
  • Sales letters
  • Sales emails
  • Essays
  • Opinion pieces

This is a HIGHLY incomplete list. I’m writing off the top of my head and only including the types of writing that pay decently. For example, I have not included fiction (novels, short stories) because it doesn’t fit my narrow definition of “freelance writing.”

Here’s how I put it to my fellow nurses who have no idea what freelance writing is: Think about every piece of literature you hand out to patients every day, from that brochure on breastfeeding to the page you printed off the computer that discusses what hospice is. Those things don’t write themselves. A human being wrote every one of those items. Someone like me. Maybe someone like you?

To the uninitiated, freelance writing can seem like a ‘hidden’ industry. But when you think about the fact that no content of any kind can magically produce itself, you start to get an idea of exactly how big this industry is.

Next week: How does freelancing work?

What other questions do you have about freelance writing, as an industry? Post them for me in the comments!

Wishing you well,

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