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: Who hires freelance writers?

I think a lot of people believe companies employ staff writers to produce their printed materials. For example, your health clinic may stock brochures produced by the American Cancer Society, and so you believe (if you gave it any thought at all) the ACS probably employs writers to create that stuff. It’s possible but unlikely. Most organizations contract out their writing and only employ staff people to oversee the process.

For instance, an organization may have a Director of Marketing, a Communications Director, or (these days) a Content Director. Those folks oversee the independent writers who produce the actual works. Not every company operates this way, but, in my experience, most do. It would be cost-prohibitive to employ staff writers. It’s much more cost-effective to hire writers on an as-needed basis.

Of course, magazines and other publications need writers, too. Have you ever picked up a copy of Family Circle magazine at the grocery store, read an article, and thought, “I could write something like that!” Well, you’re right. And you could get paid for it.

Nearly all of the glossy newsstand magazines use freelance writers to create the content. If you look at the magazine’s ‘masthead’ (the boxed area on an early page that lists the editor and other personnel), you might note a section of ‘contributors.’ Those folks are freelance writers.

Check out this masthead for Harper’s magazine. The only employees listed here are those above the editorial interns. Most of Harper’s editors don’t actually write for the magazine; the content is produced almost 100 percent by freelance writers.

And it’s not just newsstand magazines that need writers, either. Trade publications and magazines aimed at a professional audience rely heavily on freelancers to write stories.

Who else hires freelance writers? Here’s a wildly incomplete list:

  • Companies that need help producing regulatory documents
  • Marketing and content agencies
  • Any healthcare entity with a website
  • Any healthcare entity that produces patient education materials

If you want to get a good idea of how big the market is for freelance writing, try this: Over the course of one week, pick up and keep one copy of every item of printed material you come across each day. This includes magazines, junk mail, member magazine from your insurer, every brochure/leaflet stocked by your clinic/hospital/organization — the list goes on and on. Collect all of these items in one place. At the end of the week, take stock of all that lovely content. Some person — probably a freelance writer — wrote all that stuff. And someone hired that freelance writer.

So, when you’re wondering who hires freelance writers, the answer is: Almost everyone! Of course, if it were that easy, everybody would be a freelancer. The truth is some of the people and places I listed don’t pay very well. And therein lies the rub. Subscribe to RN2WRITER newsletter (box on the right hand side of this page) for practical tips and advice every week on how to identify (and land!) prospects that pay well.

What other questions do you have about who hires freelance writers? Post them for me in the comments!

Wishing you well,