Is Freelance Writing a Career?

Before you say “Yes. Of course!” (with proper righteous indignation), consider that a career seems to move a person toward increasing levels of responsibility, toward tasks that require more maturity, toward more money (one can dream). Pick any company and follow the career path of say…well…how about a communication specialist? The communication specialist will write, manage projects, take care of details. They do well, so they are promoted to communication manager. In that position, they do some of the same tasks, though in lesser quantities, plus they manage people. They do well and graduate to director. In that position they have no project work, write only memos and emails, sit in meetings discussing what they’re teams are doing, aren’t doing and should be doing. And so a career proceeds until stopped at the individual’s level of incompetence.


This management person who was (possibly) a writer is now not writing at all and is instead directing others who carry out communication tactics. To many that is a satisfying, perfectly reasonable trajectory. And even for those who write or love to create, they can find opportunities in those positions to use their creativity to positively influence others. I’ve known some creative folks who have risen to management positions and done very well at creating imaginative and loyal teams and organizations.


But for others, this career path represents gradual movement away from craft, and away from the heart of what made work fun in the first place. A career presupposes that new skills are developed even as vision widens, which lands a person in a different job. But that is not quite the case for freelance writers. They often entertain dreams of, well, writing. It’s what they want to do. And so a career path for a freelance writer is less about successive positions (especially since freelancing is by definition outside typical corporate structures with their fixed paths) and more about finding work and the work itself.


The work itself is the career path for a freelance writer. Where there is joy in completing the work, where there is curiosity about how communication tools can fit to new situations and how those tools can resolve substantial problems—those are the milestones on the freelance writer’s career path. And over time, the writer finds herself or himself accomplishing a set of tasks with maturity and grace (one can hope). And looking back, the craft that helped accomplish tasks and assignments will have the distinct look of a career.





8 responses to “Is Freelance Writing a Career?

  1. Pingback: Consulting: Escape or Career? « Engage Your Target Audience

  2. Kirk, you’ver written a manifesto for freelance writing. I would argue that “profession” and “career” are entirely different entities. We must keep in mind that the verb “career” means to go at top speed, especially in a headlong manner. Hence the “crash” when one finally reaches the position for which one isn’t qualified!
    Give me a profession any day!

  3. Dorian–thanks for the comment. I like your ferreting out the root of “career.”

  4. I especially like the “movement away from craft” line.

    For a writer, success can be difficult to define. Is it found in a title, a pay increase, or a secure position? Would we — could we — write without hope of an audience, a book contract, or a bit of applause?

    What happens if we produce a compelling piece, but it isn’t what the client had in mind? Good writer, bad writer? Does such a flub mean no future assignments?

    Ah, the freelance life.

  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m a starting freelance writer too, and I’m writing my thesis on freelance writing. Your thoughts are appreciated.=p

  6. Pingback: Is Freelance Writing a Career? « Engage Your Target Audience

  7. Part-time jobs might be an excellent method to experiment with a couple of distinctive professions at one time even though still offering a worthwhile income. This will permit for ample time to see how you certainly really feel about the work and can provide an excellent reference for a resume if you will need it later. Also, a part-time position is also an excellent way to continue education until you might have made a final decision.

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