What You Need to Know About Being a Young Freelance Writer

What is a freelance writer?

According to WritersBureau.com, “a freelance writer is a writer who works on a self-employed basis. They can work for just one magazine or, more often, they write for several different publications at a time. The more diverse a writer can be, the more likely they are to be published and paid for their work.”

I define freelance writing in a similar, but more personal way. To me, freelance writing is also a mode of advocating for one’s own voice to be heard. Freelance writing is utilized across a wide variety of literary and pop culture magazines, websites, and other publications. That being said, you probably read freelance writing all the time and don't even realize it. Many of the writers employed by some of the most popular publications, especially online, are in fact freelance.

The beauty of freelance, especially online, is that you can become part of a team, community or chapter from virtually anywhere, provided you have a computer and internet access. This appeals to many Millennials generally between the ages of 16-27, who have grown up accustomed to the instant communication that online activity offers us.

Why should I become a freelance writer?

First and foremost, freelance is becoming more and more accessible to people from all ages, cultural backgrounds, and socio-cultural groups. If there is a topic you are interested in—whether it be sports, music, politics fashion, etc.—chances are there is a popular or up-and-coming website just looking for writers! More established sites like Elite Daily, The Huffington Post, or Buzzfeed are such a hot commodity that they have works waiting to be published from hundreds of freelancers that do not necessarily promise a regular publishing schedule. Those sites are certainly worth the write; if you are published, having a piece published by a big name in the digital media world can carry that “wow” factor needed for impressing potential employers.

You should also consider writing freelance for the possibility of gaining exposure. Whether you are pursuing writing as a career or as a hobby, everybody wants his or her work to be seen. Applying to write for newer sites that are working out their kinks and are just now accruing their readership (and also may not have an extensive number of people on their writing team) is the best guarantee that your articles will be published on a weekly basis at minimum. Some people may be nervous about applying to low-profile websites due to their lack of notoriety, but doing so actually gives you the chance to attach your name to a start-up that could potentially become a game changer in the scope of digital media. Who doesn’t like being the one to start a new trend?

How do I become a freelance writer?

If you browse through a website, you will most likely find a  "write for us," "contribute," “careers,” or "about" tab on the website that will allow you to apply for a writer position or get in contact with someone who can tell you about how to apply. 

When you begin a freelance writing gig, you will initially be in contact with the editing or publishing manager of the website or magazine. These people will then most likely share various Google Drive documents, PowerPoints, and other paperwork that describes the mission of their publication or media site.

Why is online presence important?

Social media and online profile are both factors that heavily influence how you will be part of the freelance writing world as a young adult. A good online persona shows that you know your way around media. It should also demonstrate that you know how to advertise your interests and attract a following, both of which are important qualities and show that you have a good chance of attracting a readership. What you post, like, tag and share will speak volumes about you as an individual before anyone has even met you—if they ever will.

Your website, blog, Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, etc. will all be indicators of the social circles that you have influence in. Additionally, online publishers will hire recruiters to look through social media hashtags, geotags, posts and locations to see what users may seem like promising contributors.

When you are hired, websites and magazines will definitely want you to share your work with your network!

What is it like to freelance in college?

If you’re still in school, try to find a website that suits your schedule, interests, and personal needs as a writer. Knowing how to balance freelance writing with school, family life, and extracurricular activities is important to both your overall physical and mental health, as well as to the quality of your writing.

Be conscious of the time you can dedicate to writing outside of school that may be unpaid, incentive-based or paid. For college students, most writing will be unpaid, as publishing freelance generally stems from interest and exposure, and not need of money.

Interested in starting your freelance career? Here are some examples of sites and magazines that use freelance writers (and are open to beginning writers!) :

Why should you consider freelance writing?

Figure out what interests you personally, where your writing passions lie, and what you like to write about. Having your writing online before applying to write for a website is important and key. If you already have your own personal work online for fun, people will be more inclined to hire you freelance if they can get an idea of the type of content you create (your form, writing style, aesthetic, etc.) and also what you specialize in as it relates to your major, hobbies, passions and career goals. Will you be looking for a poetry site, or are you interested in writing pop culture pieces? This will determine where you want to write. Becoming an “expert” in whatever field you inhabit will make potential hiring editors interested in what you have to say and how you use media to say it.

The best way to figure out whether writing online is for you is by trying out a whole bunch of sites and styles. Apply for a variation of publications that can teach you different methods of writing and will also challenge you to learn about new topics or see things from a new perspective. Getting out of your comfort zone will help you become more successful, more convincing, and more appealing to both hiring staff and readers.

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“The digital media industry as it relates to freelance writing is a field where you don’t have to wait for publishers to give you the opportunity to write. You create those opportunities on your own by blogging, marketing yourself online, and reaching out to others who share your passions.”

As an English major and as a writer, freelancing has strongly impacted me; it has increased my love for writing and has pushed me out of my comfort zone in terms of style, tone and structure. It has also helped me become part of a community of other writers who want the same things I do, and it has given me mentors as well. There is a certain level of pride and accomplishment that exists in seeing your work being shared online. Freelancing as a young writer also gives you the opportunity to receive constructive criticism and positive feedback from peers, editors, and even strangers. The digital media industry as it relates to freelance writing is a field where you don’t have to wait for publishers to give you the opportunity to write. You create those opportunities on your own by blogging, marketing yourself online, and reaching out to others who share your passions. Writing for digital publications lets you learn about the online writing world, and is a fun hobby that can become a livelihood if people decide they like your writing.

For anybody on the fence, I would definitely say to give freelance writing a try. You have nothing to lose from giving it a test run, and you never know what could come of it!


Wandy Felicita Ortiz

Wandy Felicita Ortiz

Originally from Brooklyn, New York and raised in northern New Jersey, Wandy Felicita Ortiz is a rising senior graduating cum laude with a Bachelor’s in French and English at St. John’s University in Queens, New York. In her studies, Wandy has developed a passion for digital media, Feminist literary theory, and poetry in both languages. A regular contributor and editor for Millennial platforms including Odyssey, Society19, and the all-female site Her Track, Wandy is excited to be discussing her expertise as a college freelance writer via her favorite website for English majors! You can also follow her @wanderingfelicity on Instagram, @wandyfelicita on Twitter, or shoot her an e- mail via her blog for more information on where and how to freelance. When she’s not rushing out of class to submit an article, you can find her watching the day’s sunset, dousing her quarter-life crisis in that third cup of coffee, or watching videos of cute dogs.

Posted on June 8, 2016 and filed under Articles, Featured Articles.