What they are and how to choose the one that suits you.
I’ve been a full-time freelance writer for nearly a decade now and I was freelancing part-time prior to that.
I can remember in those early years, struggling to comprehend all of the different types of writing jobs that were out there.
I spent a lot of time being confused, doubting myself, and wondering if I could really make it as a freelance writer.
In hopes of easing the struggle for new and relatively new freelance writers, I thought I’d share what I learned over the years about freelance writing.
If you’re an aspiring freelance writer or if you’ve just gotten started freelancing, one of the most common tips you’ll hear is choose a niche!
And while choosing a niche is definitely important to your long-term success, there’s something you need to do before you choose a niche.
You need to identify the type of writing you want to do or the type of writing that might best suit your existing skills and personality.
Choosing your type of freelance writing is a lot like choosing a hat to wear. Sometimes you may choose a hat that fits your personality or to match your outfit, other times you choose a hat to protect you from the weather.
There are tons of different types of writing you can do when it comes to freelancing and getting paid to write. You can choose the type of writing you will do based on what’s familiar to you, what you’re interested in, or based on your skills.
Sometimes you may choose your type of writing because it’s best suited to your income needs or your current situation.
To help make it easier, I’ve categorized them for you below:
Content writing is writing content for the Internet. This can include blog posts, personal essays, Op-Ed pieces, journalistic feature articles, and social media posts. It’s likely one of the most common forms of freelance writing and it’s a good place to start if you’re a beginner in the industry.
This is where I started out when I first began freelance writing. I started out on Upwork, which is a 3rd party freelance writing platform.
But content writing is a great way to get your feet wet in the writing arena.
The focus of content writing can be educational, promotional, informative, or entertaining. The length and format can vary widely and largely depends on the client goals.
To be a more effective content writer, you’ll want to understand target audience, how content format is tied to user intent, and search engine optimization (SEO).
If you like sharing your knowledge with others, if you’re a natural teacher, or entertainer, content writing might be a good fit for you.
When it comes to promotional materials and marketing materials, this is where the copywriter shines. If you want to be a copywriter, it’s critical that you understand the primary goal of this type of content is to sell.
Copywriters work on a variety of different types of content and the focus is to promote, persuade the reader to take action, or to sell a product.
- email sequences
- product descriptions
- buyer guides
- product reviews
- category descriptions
- sales pages
- gift guides
- white papers
- case studies
- website copy
To be a more effective copywriter, you’ll want to learn the techniques copywriters use to persuade and encourage readers to take action.
If you have experience in sales of any kind or if people have told you that you could sell water in the middle of a tsunami, copywriting might be right up your alley.
This is also a good field if you like telling stories about a company or product and it’s history, if you love to shop online, or if you are good at researching different products and comparing them. If you don’t like sales then this type of writing probably isn’t the best fit for you.
If you happen to have a background in a specialized field such as engineering, computer science, or medicine, consider that you might be good at technical writing. Writers in this specialty, write manuals, SOP’s, and evaluation reports targeted toward other experts in their field.
But technical also encompasses things such as business plans, user guides, tutorials, legal briefs, grant proposal writing, instructional or training content, and curriculum.
Technical writing is a good fit for those who naturally write in a more formal way and for those who are good at organizing content, workflow, information, and data. If you’ve been told you can explain complex topics in an easy-to-understand way, technical writing might be a great fit.
Another type of freelance writing is traditional journalism. These are writers who specialize in writing feature articles and sometimes investigative reports about a topic or event. Often journalistic articles are a more comprehensive projects with tight deadlines.
The focus of journalistic writing is on presenting facts, verified and supported with first person interviews, statistics, and other sources. Attention to detail and the ability to unearth sources to verify the accuracy of your article are critical. It can be a lucrative area but can be difficult to break into as a beginning writer or if you don’t have the required credentials.
Journalism is for the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys of writers. If you love a good mystery and don’t mind putting in extra effort to get down to the truth and reveal the facts, consider journalism.
Other types of freelance writing
As with any career, there are some type of freelance writing that don’t fall neatly into the above categories.
When you are a ghostwriter, you are writing content for someone else. This means your name won’t normally be associated with the final result. The client gets all the income from the sale of the final result and any future products from that content.
Sometimes you are ghostwriting for someone who has a story to tell but isn’t a writer. Other times you may be asked to write blog post content in the same tone and style as the blog owner who is just too busy to write their own content.
You also won’t receive any royalties or residuals if you ghostwrite a book. It can be a very lucrative freelance writing job because the expectation is that you can charge two to three times the rates of content writers.
Keep in mind that if you ghostwrite content, you won’t be able to link to in your public portfolio without permission from your client. When ghostwriting, make sure that you clarify what ways you can use the finished product with other potential clients. If nothing else, list the type of business and the type of work in your portfolio without naming the company or linking to the work.
Ghostwriting is a great fit for those who can tell an engaging story and who don’t mind being behind the scenes. If you love to research and write but the thought of having your name on the cover of a book makes you want to curl up in a ball, you might make a good ghostwriter.
Most of us are familiar with fiction writing. It’s storytelling that is fictionalized by you, the author. It is possible to ghostwrite fiction in which case your name wouldn’t be listed as the author.
Types of fiction include:
- Flash fiction
- Short fiction
Fiction can be commercial or literary and is categorized into genres such as romance, mystery, horror, etc. Many genres are further divided into sub-genres. Each category is identified with a BISAC code.
If you have a great imagination and can tell a good story that keep readers turning the pages and wanting more, consider fiction writing. If you’ve always wanted to see your name on the bestseller’s list, fiction writing is one way to do it.
This type of writing is exactly what it sounds like. People who need a high-quality resume, will often pay a freelance resume writer to write the content for them. Many freelance writers specialize in writing resumes and it can be a lucrative arena, depending on your skill level and the clients you serve.
If you understand how to elevate a housewife to a domestic engineer and if you have a variety of knowledge about different jobs and careers, consider resume writing.
If your friends and family often come to you for help when they need a resume to apply for a job, this could be well-suited type of writing for you.
If you have a way with words, especially those used to celebrate special life events, holidays, and everyday occasions, consider becoming a greeting card writer. There are numerous companies who will pay you to write greeting cards which you can find using a Google search and the phrase "write for us greeting cards". This area of writing is especially well-suited for those who are more artistic writers.
If you have a way with words and can evoke emotions without breaking a sweat, you might be able to earn money as a freelance greeting card writer.
If you love to write poetry and don’t mind spending time to select just the right word to say what you need to say, this could be a good option for you to try.
There you have it. My suggestion is that you choose from this list based on your personality and personal interests. Spend some time researching the type of freelancing writing you want to do and try it out to be sure it’s a good fit.
Once you know which type of freelance writing suits you, it will be a lot easier to think about the next step, choosing your niche.