How to roll with changes in the freelance writing landscape

February 16th, 2012

I recently was interviewed for the freelance journalism site Ebyline by Susan Johnston of the The Urban Muse. Here’s my favorite question from the bunch. (You can read the interview in its entirety here.)

What changes have you observed in the freelance landscape over the past several years?

Online assignments have gotten shorter. Many national media outlets that once asked writers for 800-1500 word web stories are now asking for 300-600 word blog posts. This has decimated pay rates for freelancers writing for these sites. Online aggregation has become the norm, too, with many leading sites heavily relying on partner content (for example, routinely using stories from sites like and This also means fewer opportunities for freelancers.

But not all hope is lost. Freelancers who want to write for mainstream web outlets just need to fold in more lucrative assignments to supplement their income. Consumer magazines, trade and custom publications and copywriting remain a good bet, as do editing, teaching and coaching. And diversification, staying on top of publishing trends and following the money is perhaps more important than ever before.

A few other changes that seem to be the norm now thanks to web and mobile publishing:

  • More freelancers are expected to provide links, photos, videos, audio and/or HTML tags when filing their stories, as well as promotion via social media outlets when the story runs. Depending on how well you negotiate with editors, this will either mean a bit of extra work per assignment or a bit extra of pay.
  • Given all the aggregation that’s happened in recent years, all-rights and work-for-hire contracts are fairly standard for online writing these days. That’s not to say you can’t negotiate or can’t find an outlet that will let the rights to your work revert back to you at some future date. It just seems that these deals are more scarce.
  • Many online startups have no qualms asking freelancers to write for free or close to it. Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of new, hobbyist or exposure-hungry writers willing to take the bait. For this reason, I advise inquiring about the rate in the first conversation you have with a new-to-you outlet.

[Read the rest of my Ebyline interview here.]

Entry Filed under: Money honey,Q&As,This freelance life

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. All Freelance Writing | A&hellip  |  February 17th, 2012 at 9:37 am

    [...] How to Roll With Changes in the Freelance Writing Landscape – Michelle Goodman at The Anti 9-to-5 Guide [...]

  • 2. Elizabeth  |  March 7th, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    How do you find online startups that pay decently? It’s seems like it’s difficult to find any.

  • 3. Michelle Goodman  |  March 7th, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    Hi Elizabeth, that’s such an open-ended question. Can you give a bit more detail about what type of work you’re hoping to find in these startups and where you’re looking? I seldom work with startups, unless they’re an arm of a larger proven corporation (and thus actually have a budget) or I heard about them from someone who can vouch for them and their rates.

  • 4. 16 Recent Articles to Kic&hellip  |  April 8th, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    [...] How to roll with changes in the freelance writing landscape, Anti 9 to 5 [...]

  • 5. Sarah  |  April 27th, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Just wanted to say THANKS for your fabulous book – My so called Freelance Life.
    I set myself up in business as a freelance medical/science writer nearly 2 years ago after leaving academia to have kids. It has been THE best career move I’ve ever made!
    I’ve been inundated with work in the past year or so and now for the first time have a few weeks with nothing… so I’ve upgraded my website and stumbled upon your book. It has really been a great read at the perfect time…just what I needed to keep motivated (and not accept a full time job!!!).

  • 6. Freelance Writer's Guild  |  August 13th, 2012 at 2:20 am

    Thank you for your wonderful book & great post here. It inspires me a lot on my freelance writing journey.

  • 7. DM  |  August 15th, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    These are all great tips and I will be reading the rest of the interview. Freelancing now seems more impossible than ever unless you already have a bunch of contacts, which you often have to get from having another job… :/

  • 8. Michelle Goodman  |  August 19th, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    I respectfully disagree, DM. Savvy freelancers network beyond the confines of 9-5 work and continue to make professional contacts long after their day job ends. The web makes doing so a cinch.

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Who I am

Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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