The age of the internet has seen an astounding increase in the demand for freelance writers, and the demand continues to increase. Freelance writers work on jobs of their choosing, often writing for various fields and markets, set their own hours, and typically aren’t confined to the location of their workplace because the world is their workplace. Although there are many types of freelance writers, be it technical, business, or entertainment; I’ll be discussing freelance writers in a general sense.
Despite the many advantages of freelance writing, the number of caveats continues to grow, painting a possibly grim future for freelance writers. But the future doesn’t have to be so somber. Understanding the changes freelance writing is going through will help future freelancers be well prepared for whatever lies ahead. There are two big changes in the profession that I deem substantial.
The first big change within the field is the sheer number of freelance writers looking for work. Gary Stewart, CEO of the freelance marketplace oDesk, predicts that one in three workers will be hired online for freelance work. Albeit, this is not simply the percentage of writers, but designers, programmers, researchers, and many other types of freelancers. Still, this statistic is daunting. Freelance writing can already be a competitive profession depending on the type of writing; the competition will only continue to increase as the supply of writers grows. Even with future demand increases (According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of writers is expected to grow 3 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than most professions.) competition will still be very stiff.
The second big change within the field of freelance writing is the amount of work freelancers are expected to do. Freelance writing used to be quite simple. One would write the required amount of words, submit, and be done with it! But freelance writers today are often expected to maintain a social media presence. And with our growing cultural (and economic) reliance on social media, it will be tougher for writers to simply write. A quote from Karen Streen, senior editor of BNET, in Stanford University’s “The Future of Freelancing” explains the situation of freelancers quite well:
“When you’re a blogger, you publish your own stuff,” Steen said. “You’re the writer, the photographer, the copy editor, the video producer. You have to optimize for search engines and choose topics that will be of interest. I encourage my bloggers to use tools like Google Trends and Google Insights to learn what topics they should be writing about. There, you can get the top 20 things people are searching for today.”
And those are the requirements of freelance writers now; imagine what will happen in five years, or ten! Freelancing is an extremely viable profession for writers, but an understanding of its future is necessary for those who want to go down its path.