Where Have All the
Freelance Writing Jobs Gone?

Freelance Writing

Two or three times a week, struggling freelance writers will email me questions. The messages are usually something along the lines of:

  • “I’m having a hard time finding writing gigs now. What am I doing wrong?”
  • “I keep sending out queries but nobody’s getting back to me. What else can I do?”
  • “Why hasn’t anybody gotten back to me? I sent out a ton of stuff a couple of weeks ago.”

And on and on and on.

How to Use a Down Economy to Your Advantage

There’s just no other way to say it. Right now, many freelance writers are treading water, wondering where their next assignment will come from. Fortunately, I manage to stay pretty busy as a freelance writer. To be fair, I’ve been doing it since 1993, so I’ve weathered the ups and downs of the freelance writing life in most every type of economy.

Luckily, freelance writing is a career that thrives in good economic times and bad. Why? Simply put, we live in the information age. No matter what’s happening in the world, information needs to be disseminated.

When companies cut in-house staff, the “words” still need to get out. Who else are they going to call?

Well, it could be you, if you make an adjustment to your thinking. One thing I think helps freelance writers get more writing jobs is to consider themselves as “information consultants” rather than freelance writers.

When you become an information consultant, your mindset shifts. Then you start looking to capitalize on trends.

How to Spot and Capitalize on Trends

One of the reasons I think I manage to snag writing gigs is that I’m a trend watcher. For example, one of my primary niches is real estate (mortgages). In my past professional lives, I’ve been a real estate agent and a loan officer.

I’ve been able to put this knowledge to use as a real estate writer, primarily focusing on mortgages, even though the industry is in turmoil. What’s hot in the news right now?

The subprime mortgage mess.

Banks are closing, foreclosures are up, and mortgage companies have been going out of business for a couple of years now. I capitalize on this by offering SEO articles to real estate and mortgage website owners, who are more than happy to pay me to help them stay afloat.

This is but one example of how to use the news to spot trends—and jump on them. There are plenty more out there.

The 2008-2009 Freelance Writing Jobs Report

Because so many freelancers seem to have problems finding freelance writing gigs, I pulled together a free industry jobs report (PDF). It’s an in-depth report that highlights “hot” freelance writing niches and sub niches for the next couple of years. It also offers four tips for recession-proofing your freelance writing career. Finally, there are some ideas for creating your own products using your skill as a writer.

At the very least, it will get you to thinking about where the freelance writing jobs are. And more importantly, which niches to focus your energies on.

Good luck!

About the Author: Yuwanda Black is a freelance writer and the publisher of InkwellEditorial.com, a website about how to start a profitable freelance writing career.

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Reader Comments (52)

  1. says

    Ah, brilliant. I just printed it and am incredibly thankful. I have been considering a few freelance jobs to make some extra cash. :)

  2. says

    Here is a tip for another trend — Stress Relief. I am more of a Subject Matter Expert than a Freelance Writer but it seems that stress, stress relief, and relaxation are hot topics right now.

  3. says

    For freelance blog coaches and proofreaders:

    You can register (it means – leave a comment, absolutely free) in my blog http://www.positioningstrategy.com/2008/07/freelance-blog-coaches-and-proofreaders-are-needed – sometimes my clients or other CEOs are seeking proofreaders and blog coaches. I do not guarantee leads from this but I hope that some of you will find a client or two.

    Sorry for that promotion, just want to help for some freelancers to find a job. Yuwanda, if you find this comment too promotional, offensive, please feel free to delete it.

    Last thought: maybe there are unexploited niche in blog coaching or proofreading?

  4. says

    Good write Yuwanda.

    ps. Linas, I do believe your site can’t handle the traffic or something. I’m unable to leave a comment. Please leave an email that people can submit to. Thanks

  5. says

    @Shaun: “Brilliant” may be going too far (but I’ll take it ever time). You made me blush!

    @Dave, thank you.

    @Aaron you’re so right. That falls under the health niche I outlined in the report.

    @Linas: No problem. If it helps other freelancers to find work — then the post is fine by me!

    @Jeffro2pt0: Isn’t it amazing how just a flick of the switch in how you think about what you do can make marketing so much easier.

    @Brian Clark: Thank you for publishing my article. I wondered why I had so many emails in my box this late in the afternoon (I’ve usually cleared most of them for the day by this time).

    And, FYI, thanks for fixing some of my grammar gaffes. I noticed that :-). I wrote this post after a long day of pulling together the report and I was dead tired.

  6. says

    Great resource. I think your point about redefining what you do is key.

    “When companies cut in-house staff, the “words” still need to get out.”

    Not sure it was exactly what you meant but we’ve found that an increasing number of small businesses are looking down the ‘content marketing’, ‘journamarketing’ route and hiring freelancers to help create informative content – articles, case studies, blog posts, ebooks and white papers.

    As freelance budgets in traditional media outlets tighten it’s an avenue worth exploring.

  7. says

    @Mark: A couple of people have commented on this phrase, ie, “. . . the “words” still need to get out.”

    I was just trying to be cute, as in saying, a company’s words, eg, sales material, blog posts, newsletter content, etc., still needs to get out. As you can tell from the report, my writing tends to be more conversational than formal. But, if it’s being misconstrued, then it’s just bad writing.

    Sorry about that everybody. :(

  8. says

    Good information! I recommend that seasoned freelancers take the slow times to go over their past contact list and get back in touch with people they no longer write for to see what their current needs are.

    I’ve experienced slowness in a booming economy and have been very busy lately in a slow economy, so I know that things are always in sync.

    Don’t get discouraged — keep plugging away and something will turn up.

  9. says

    It’s important to realize too that it’s not just freelance writers having a difficult time finding gigs.

    The freelance photogs I speak with are in the same boat as the scribblers. I’m sure the designers are experiencing similar slows.

    You mention real estate. New data released today on August home sales show that it is just that bad out there.

    Phoenix has been hit the hardest with prices down almost 31% year-over-year.

    Watch for us to put out a post on this within the next 24 hours.

  10. says

    Thanks for the info. I don’t freelance, but I know some people who do. They aren’t being effected by the failing economy one bit. Like you said, someone always needs an article written.

  11. says

    I was wondering if it was only me–I send out a lot of samples and cover letters but to no avail. Generally, the only ones that seem to get back to you often are the people who want you to write $3 blog posts about insurance. This could be because Craigslist is unreliable and the good jobs get snatched up quick.

    I agree that a change in (my) perspective is a good move.

  12. Jay says

    “No matter what’s happening in the world, information needs to be disseminated.”

    It’s true. I’m a freelancer and have found myself saying this to people a few times. It makes me feel almost guilty in a way, to be more or less totally immune from the economic crisis. Then I remember that it rocks and get back to writing. 😉

    Anyway, great article.

  13. says

    @Chris: Market to companies directly. Much of what you will find on places like Craigslist are companies seek cheap talent (although I have had some moderate success there over the years).

    Reach out to companies — on a regular basis — that aren’t advertising. Go through the phone book, do web searches by niche, etc. This is where the real “gold standard” clients are. They rarey haggle over price; they just want a professional writer who knows his/her stuff.

    FYI, you might want to revisit the types of samples/correspondence you’re sending out. If you’ve sent out a ton and aren’t getting any nibbles, then something might be wrong there.

    Good luck!

  14. says

    The “words” still need to get out…

    That’s a play on “The word still needs to get out…”

    My edit, and my bad if it went over badly.

  15. says


    Great post. I found the report very interesting. It is a very valuable resource. Now is the time to get a marketing strategy together for 2009. This report is a big help.

  16. says

    It’s a question that people ask me as well. And the first thing that needs to be understood is that if you’re able to sow, you’re not able to reap.

    So if you start marketing now, you’re going to get no bites till about 3 months later. Of course then you’ll get busy, and then all you’ll do is work, work, work. And then of course do no marketing.

    Which then causes you to not get any work at all. And then it’s back to the grind. And then three months later, the leads start trickling in.

    So one of the biggest problems with freelancers is the lack of continuous marketing. This sustains you on an even keel instead of up and down marketing.

    That’s one side of the picture.

    The other side of the picture is how your website looks like when a customer gets to it. Yes, the economy sucks and it’s going to suck for a while. And if it doesn’t suck, the media will make everyone scared and wary.

    But that doesn’t mean that there are no buyers. It just means that when they do find your business, there’s really nothing that marks you out as different from the rest. I’ve seen dozens of writer’s sites and they’re just crappy.

    There’s no clear target audience, no clear problem being solved and hence what you get is someone I’m not sure of hiring. Now admittedly at Psychotactics, we stopped doing any writing assignments in 2003, but even last week, I got two people asking me to write copy.

    You have to ask: How does a client trust you to write copy, when you don’t even have a button on your website that says “I write copy”. Why are clients still writing in? They write in because they read the copy off our site, and then they think, “I wonder if I can get him to write in that same tone and style too.”

    I’ve just passed on the jobs to others I know who are capable, but frankly I would be quite wary of hiring or even giving out a job to a writer, who didn’t first fix his/her own website.

    Write articles and information on your website that makes client want more. We give away an entire report on ‘how to write headlines.’ And it’s not just a yada-yada report. It’s a detailed, step-by-step method. And guess what? We’re not even trying to get work.

    And if you’re trying to get work, then impress the hell out of me with your ability.

    Then I’ll buy :)

    Ok, so it was a rant. But if you want to be really in demand, you’ve got to create your own demand.


  17. says

    I’m working on a partially automated prospecting system that consists of the following:

    1. Using Google to find contact emails (maybe 10 a day)

    2. Bulk email program to blast a pre-written email to those addresses. This email is only to ascertain interest in copywriting services, there is no examples or references or anything. If they are interested and desire to see examples etc, they are instructed to reply to the email.

    The benefit here is that you can measure the interest. I have found that I would get a high response rate for more info, but a low response rate after (for actual work). But if you just send one email with all your examples etc. and no one responds, you don’t know if it’s because they have no work for you at the moment, or if they are just not interested.

    Split up your emails and you get a feel for interest.

    3. Use auto-responder software to monitor email account for reply emails and send pre-written email containing examples, business references, resume, contact info, etc.

    All who respond for more info get added to a new list of prospects (those who are interested)

    4. The key here is to stay in front of prospects’ faces. So every time I have a new example for my portfolio, or a new business reference, or new blog post etc., I send a new message to everyone on the list. So, say every month everyone on the prospects list will get a new email with more examples etc. Of course, there will also be a link for them to unsubscribe from my list.

    As far as I know, you can’t use services like AWeber to do this.

    In other words, you can use email marketing techniques for prospecting.

    If you know of a good email harvesting program you could even automate the process almost completely.

    I figure if I can methodically send out 10 emails a day every day it will start to pay off in clients.

  18. says

    I recently started a new venture (not really quite sure what category it fits; Agency, Marketing Firm, Media Shop, etc) and I’m on the other side of this equation, always looking for fresh talent that understands the informality and candid nature of writing online. As a Copy Blogger regular my first place to check was the Copy Blogger Job Board, which seems to have disappeared. Does anyone know of an online job board for bloggers/copy writers who get this whole social media thing? How do you find these valuable people?

    I got the ‘words need to get out’ line, and thought it was quite witty.

  19. says

    Amen to what Sean said about persistent marketing. I’ve noticed a 3-month lag too if I don’t continue to market.

    I also highly recommend being persistent with follow-ups. If you mail or call them once and they don’t need you then, keep in touch. My veteran sales mother always says, “No means not right now.” Set a schedule for follow-up and keep on it and eventually many will need your services.


  20. Rebecca says

    This is a great post, with so much info (I will have to go back and read it all again to make sure I didn’t miss anything). I thought I might just share some interesting stats I recently came across and maybe get some opinions. They show freelance writing jobs on the rise, which I find fascinating given the state of the economy right now. Thoughts?

  21. Sofia says

    In today’s market it can be hard for your company to stand out in the vast online crowd. That’s why we need employees for our organization with outstanding skills. And in the present scenario the global economy is going down and down tremendously. In such circumstances it’s very difficult to manage “needless reports, high recurring expenditures and unfriendly, unknowledgeable outsourced staff”.
    What to do?
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  22. says

    Thank you for this incredibly insightful ebook/article – you could have sold this info for how worthwhile it is. It gives me much hope for entering the freelance writing field.

  23. says

    Thanks for giving your insights and sharing the special report. I went through it and read everything including the links. This is a real eye-opener since my fiance is highly considering a full time freelancing stint doing seo writing jobs.

  24. Diane says

    Every time I consider leaving the corporate world for full-time freelancing, I’m discouraged to see how little many would-be clients value the copywriter’s craft. I mean, those SEO firms who pay $12 for a 350-word article requiring in-depth preliminary research — what are they thinking? $12 will buy them a piece of crap. Is that what they want — a piece of crap stuffed with the appropriate keywords? Apparently yes. But surely there must be clients out there willing to pay for quality writing. Sigh!! I will read your report right now and see whether there’s any hope. :-)


    Corporate In-House E-Commerce Copywriter

  25. says

    Freelancing has in no doubt become a great income resource during hard economic times. The web has definitely been a life saver for many freelance writers. I found this post very useful, thank you!

  26. says

    Thanks for the info. I don’t freelance, but I know some people who do. They aren’t being effected by the failing economy one bit. Like you said, someone always needs an article written.

  27. says

    Thanks for the info. I don’t freelance, but I know some people who do. They aren’t being effected by the failing economy one bit

  28. Zack says

    Am I missing something here? How does anyone survive writing articles at $3 per 450 words? Are you kidding me?

    I was an editor in the motion picture industry for many years. I write fiction for a men’s magazine and get $900 per 1600-1800 word article. I guess I should consider myself very lucky.

  29. sam ricky says

    Bit of an inspiring post, especially about changing your mindset to being an information consultant and not just a writer.

  30. says

    Another idea is to stop selling something that people don’t want (words on a page) and start marketing the real result that comes BECAUSE of the words on a page. If you make your business simply about stringing words together, the discussion will tend to focus on two things:

    1. How cheaply will you write those words?
    2. How fast will you write them?

    When the focus goes there, you’re pretty much in a race for the bottom. Ouch.

    The market for freelance writers isn’t drying up, because there is opportunity everywhere for those skills to be applied in an effort to create big results. It just takes some creativity to PACKAGE the art of writing in a way that your prospect GETS the value of what that can produce.

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