Whether you need a degree to become a freelance writer is a common question beginners have. I’ll be upfront and tell you immediately that you do not need a degree to become a freelance writer.
There are other more important things you do need though, and I’ll go through them in more detail below. I’ll also discuss when you might actually need a degree to land specific clients, and how you can become a freelance writer without a degree.
Do You Need A Degree To Be A Freelance Writer?
You don’t need a degree to be a freelance writer. There are other things more important to potential clients than your level of formal education. The best way to prove that you’re capable of something is by doing it. So, if you want people to know that you’re a great writer, the best thing you can do is produce great writing!
I’ll talk more about the specific ways you can get freelance writing clients without a degree later. For now, it’s just worth reiterating that your expertise, experience, and writing abilities are typically going to be far more important than whether you have a degree. But there are some occasions where you might need a degree, so let’s briefly mention them.
When You Might Need A Degree As A Freelance Writer
The easy answer to when you might need a degree is when a client requests it. Some jobs will simply need degree-level expertise, or the client may want some additional proof of your knowledge in the sector. This is unlikely to be the case for blog posts, but if it’s a technical piece or in a niche like finance or medicine, don’t be surprised if the high-paying jobs require a relevant degree.
These kinds of niches are often called YMYL niches, which stands for Your Money or Your Life. Things like law, medicine, and financial guidance can have a massive impact on a reader’s life or financial situation, so clients need to take care when hiring writers in these niches.
This means many of them will require experience in the niche and often a degree. This is becoming more common on websites where site owners are listing authors or article reviewers with their relevant degree to appear more trustworthy. So, you may need a degree to work in these niches.
Some clients, particularly big publications, may also require you to have a relevant English or journalism degree. This is often the case for big newspaper or magazine sites that put a big focus on editorial standards.
Is A Degree Helpful As A Freelance Writer?
A degree can be helpful when it comes to freelance writing but it’s not a necessity (outside of the cases I’ve mentioned above). It can add value to your writing or help you with some aspects of working for yourself, but a degree won’t fully prepare you for freelancing.
As an example, I have a degree in Biology and a Master’s in Forensic Genetics. My background in sciences gives me an edge when I’m writing about scientific topics. It also made me a researching machine! But my degrees didn’t prepare me for all the other aspects of freelance writing.
From monetization and marketing, to creating a writing portfolio and pitching to clients. My desire to learn and succeed (along with some help from the internet) helped me to learn these things, not my degrees. There’s no doubt an English or other writing-focused degree could help with your writing skills, but it really isn’t essential.
Note: If you are currently studying for your degree, we have an article all about freelance writing as a student that you might find helpful!
Now that we’ve established that a degree isn’t essential to starting a freelancing career, let’s take a look at some of the things that are essential.
Things You Do Need To Become A Freelance Writer
Some of the key traits and skills you’ll need to become a freelance writer include:
- Solid writing and editing skills (yes, you’ll need to be able to proofread your work!)
- Communication skills (for working with clients)
- A keen eye for detail
- Great research skills
- Strong marketing skills
- Motivation to make money on your own terms
- Determination and persistence
There are lots of other traits that will help, but if you tick most of these boxes then freelance writing could be the career for you! But how do you get started?
How To Become A Freelance Writer Without A Degree
Have A Passion For Writing
Writing works just like any skill. You need to continuously work on it to get better at it. And there are many things that you can do to improve it such as reading a wide variety of books and other materials (including books about freelance writing specifically), writing in a journal, and working on your grammar.
One of the best ways to improve your writing is to look at the work of successful people in your niche. Then you can follow the best examples!
You will need to improve your writing in order to become a successful freelance writer. Passion is great, but you need to be willing to improve or you won’t impress any clients!
Learn About Writing & Marketing
You should focus your attention on learning specific skills that benefit your end goal of becoming a freelance writer. This doesn’t necessarily mean going to college or university. There are plenty of resources available online to help. You can be a freelance writer without any experience, but you still have to put the work in!
Do some research on topics that are popular, consider styles of writing you might be good at, gain an understanding of blogging and search engine optimization (SEO), and try to find the best content creation strategy for you.
Marketing is another important aspect of freelancing, and you need to do all the work on this. Knowing how to write is important. But if you can’t convince your clients that you’re the best choice for them, they’ll just move on to the next freelancer. So spend some time learning how to sell yourself!
Create Your Own Experience
If you don’t have any experience yet, make some! You could start your own blog or write on a platform like Medium.com. These are great ways to put some pieces together that you can point potential clients to in the future.
Alternatively, ask your friends, family, and other members of your existing network if they know anyone that might need your writing services. You might do this at a reduced rate (or even for free) in order to get some practice and hopefully some samples you can soon show to real clients.
Build Your Portfolio
You can then use this experience (along with any other samples you have) to build your portfolio. This is essentially going to act like your digital CV, so only include your best writing samples here.
You can learn more about this in our guide to making a freelance writing portfolio.
Take Online Courses
The number of people willing to share their knowledge of freelancing and writing will surprise you! There are lots of online courses on sites like Udemy and Coursera, along with YouTube videos, blogs, and interviews to help you on your freelancing journey.
Some courses can be expensive, but many of them are quite affordable, fairly short, and you can take them at your own pace. The investment pays off because you’ll improve your skills and be able to charge more for them as a result. Plus, the people who create these online courses are usually successful in their niches. So, if you have any questions, you can seek answers from an experienced professional.
You Don’t Need A Degree To Succeed As A Freelance Writer!
So, you don’t need a degree to prove that you’re a great writer! There are plenty of other ways you can learn how to write well and become a successful freelancer at the same time.
You will need to have solid writing skills, along with a few other key traits like patience and a determination to succeed. But you don’t need any qualifications to go freelance. If you want more guidance on getting started, check out our beginner freelance writer’s checklist.