On the Career Path: Freelance Writing Versus In-House Writing

In August, I’ll have a B.A. in English Professional Writing. My ideal post-graduation profession is freelance writing, with time to work on my personal projects. As such, writing within the confines of a company’s office (aka in-house writing) is not my preferred work situation. However, I acknowledge the real possibility of my having to take such a position when starting my career. In this post, I’ll compare freelance writing opportunities to in-house writing employment. Although freelance writing will be emphasized in this post, I’ll share some insight and resources to aid writers seeking either mode of employment.

Why I Prefer Freelance Writing

I officially perform at a lower level and make more errors when working with and around people, than when working alone. In my current job, I’ve made numerous embarrassing mistakes doing tasks I’ve often completed without conscious effort when entirely alone.

Oddly, results from a company-commissioned personality test categorize me as people-oriented and best suited for support staff work (see image below). These results led management to view me as someone with no leadership ability. Did I mention there’s no pay off to taking a corporate employee personality test with the genial, team-player mindset one would take a job entrance test? Once the corporate gates are entered, team players are viewed as weak, and genial or “nice” people are viewed as even lesser. Lesson learned. I’ve since vowed to answer any future corporate personality tests with a more aggressive mindset. Moreover, I’ve purchased Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office, to avoid much frowned upon “nice” behaviors, lest I slip up.

But, honestly, I don’t want a corner office. I want to work in my home office or from anywhere. I’m a fully autonomous worker. When people crowd around me, I malfunction. I won’t suffer any readers through the quirks of this personality flaw. I only mention it because I’m sure a healthy number of writers can relate to a desire to work alone, and additionally hold dreams of steady freelance work. According to some successful, outspoken freelance writers, dreaming isn’t necessary because there’s currently a plethora of opportunities, thanks to our ever-expanding digital world and accompanying demands for written content.

In-house Writing

I currently write for a small corporation. As with any writing position, deadlines are an important factor of my work, and with any assignment, I must consider the target audience, purpose, and goals of the assignment. Completing the work itself, however, is entirely within my control, and the work can be done anywhere; my presence in a corporate office is unnecessary. I have completed several work assignments at home as deadlines drew near. In fact, in a tight deadline situation, this is expected.

With take-home work still being a reality within a corporation or company writing job, why then would one seek an in-house writing position over freelancing? I believe income security is a major factor. And two sub-aspects of that might be personal laziness when it comes to building a clientèle or fear of limited freelance work.

Some people choose to work for companies because they don’t want to perform all that is involved with self-promotion to obtain work: presenting a professional portfolio; creating brochures, a website, an online following, and/or the like; pitching directly to prospective clients; following up with clients; collecting payment; enforcing payment; freelance tax situations – essentially establishing and running a business. All these factors can be overwhelming. And as a person who has participated in a family business and my own startups, I know half-assing your way through setting up and running a business pretty much heralds failure. To avoid failure, many of us choose to work for already established companies. There’s nothing wrong with that. In-house writers can get paid well and avoid the above headaches of establishing their own freelance businesses.

A cursory search I ran on several well-established job search sites returned over 100 results for in-house technical and speech writers, as well as unspecialized writing positions. Unfortunately, only one position is within my city of residence, and five jobs down the list, locations out of my state begin to populate. Thus, as I learned, in-house writing positions might be hard to come by depending on your location and the industry mix in your area.

Some in-house writing positions might be hidden under a different title. One example is my current position as an administrative assistant. Roughly 80 percent of my work is writing deposition summaries. However, since my official title involves generalized work and does not require a degree, I’m not paid at the level of a degreed writer – that’s why it’s a college job for me. Other positions with hidden writing roles can be management and operation positions, even marketing – someone has to write clever ads. One might also find success landing an in-house writing position through government and non-profit organizations in need of grant and proposal writers.

Freelance Writing

Among the multitude of advice and jobs I found researching freelance writing, was ElnaCain.com’s post “20 Ways to Find Freelance Writing Jobs (As a Beginner),” which has been shared over 42 thousand times and has over 430 positive comments. Elna Cain is a University of British Columbia graduate, who claims to have made “full-time income as a part-time freelance writer” within six months of freelancing, and leading up to the online course she offers, she writes, “I’ve been regarded as one of the leading experts in helping you fine-tune your on-boarding process, increasing your value and finding a new career out of your writing.” This claim is backed up by praise for her blog in a post on TheWriteLife.com, “The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2019.” Cain’s blog claims 3rd place out of 100 websites.

Cain suggests cold pitching, warm pitching, searching social media job posts/tags, networking with other writers, guest posting, visiting companies, and other additional suggestions. None of her ideas are outlandish or illogical, and based on knowledge of how some writers I’ve known over the years obtained work, I believe her recommendations can really jump start a successful freelance career.

With the above-delineated, tried-and-true ways to start a freelance career tackled, the intimidating process of setting up a business must then be undertaken. Alas, this post can’t help you with that. But Google is always a good place to start, right? And look, there’s Elna Cain again, offering her advice. (I swear, I don’t know Elna Cain – this post is not a pitch for her website or business.)

Last Word

In-house writing opportunities can vary depending on where you live and how vibrant the economy is. Freelance work, conversely, can be obtained from anywhere in the world. However, establishing a freelance business is not easy, and the business end of the work must be attended to regularly. Some writers begin their careers with in-house positions and slowly enter freelancing, after having researched how to properly set up a business. This is a smart solution. Still, other writers are content with in-house writing careers. Any number of factors can contribute to one’s decision to pursue a freelance or in-house position. My hope is this post has offered some insights and resources into both career options.

Further reading:

“20 Ways to Find Freelance Writing Jobs (As a Beginner)”: https://elnacain.com/blog/20-ways-find-freelance-writing-jobs/

DiSC Profile Overview: https://www.discprofile.com/what-is-disc/overview/

“In-House vs. Freelance Writers: Which Is Best For Creating Content?”: https://www.business2community.com/content-marketing/in-house-vs-freelance-writers-which-is-best-for-creating-content-01352518

Nice Girls Still Don’t Get The Corner Office: https://amzn.to/2Jzfo6w

“The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2019”: https://thewritelife.com/100-best-websites-for-writers-2019/

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