The first $100 I made freelancing was before I even knew what freelancing was. I was working at Rice University in Houston as a media relations
When you think of building a career as a freelance writer, you probably feel like you have a pretty solid handle on what sort of work that job entails.
Well, you’ll be writing, obviously. And, that could take you a few different places—from drafting copy for website pages to writing articles for glossy print publications to authoring blog posts to boost a company’s content marketing strategy.
However, writing jobs don’t just end with those more traditional assignments. In fact, there are plenty more out-of-the-box sorts of jobs and projects that would appeal to those creative freelance writers who are looking to try something new and different.
Need proof? Check out these five different types of unique freelance writing jobs that you might not have thought of previously, and prepare to expand your portfolio, your client base, and your skillset. Bye bye, blog posts.
1. Speechwriting for Silicon Valley Tycoons
As we all know, speechwriting has been big business in the political realm for ages.
But, take a minute to picture the great Steve Jobs touting Apple’s latest release or any other tech giant giving an inspiring Ted Talk to a crowd of wide-eyed admirers, and you’ll quickly realize that speechwriting has extended far past the political stage and into the tech industry as well.
More often than not, these tech gurus don’t come up with those moving words totally on their own. And, here’s where freelance speechwriters come into play.
As writer Leslie Nguyen-Oku says of the expanding profession in her piece written for Ozy, “Instead of poetically singing the praises of politicians, these wordsmiths are tasked with delivering messages that are slightly different: articulating the Valley’s wonky mission statements to the layperson, putting out public relations fires when marquee products go haywire (here’s looking at you, Samsung) and, of course, avoiding Melania Trump moments.”
So, if you’ve previously heard the term “speechwriting” and thought only of political jargon and stuffy three-piece suits, it’s time to think again. This could be your next great opportunity.
How to Land the Gig:
These major influencers don’t just want to hire speechwriters—they want to hire excellent speechwriters. The best way to do that is through research.
Speechwriting can be quite different from any project you’ve tackled previously. So, you need to listen to, read, and analyze as many speeches as humanly possible. When you feel like you have your feet under you, search your favorite job boards for keywords like “freelance speechwriter” and apply for the opportunities that interest you most.
2. Conversational Writing for Artificial Intelligence
You’re visiting a new website when suddenly a chat box opens up in the lower righthand corner with a friendly note asking if you need any help.
Yes, those messages are automated. But, who do you think writes those lines to start with? That’s right—professional writers.
Believe it or not, more and more companies are actually hiring poets and playwrights to draft those automated responses, in an effort to give those charming chatbots a little more emotion and humanity.
In a piece written by Olivia Goldhill for Quartz, Jonathan Foster—who manages the editorial team that voices Cortana, Microsoft’s friendly chatbot—says this, “The nuance of what a writer can do sometimes looks a lot easier than it actually is. Conversation seems simple because we do it every day but when you have to write it in a logical way that doesn’t feel broken, it takes a new kind of expertise that’s just burgeoning.”
Because of that, Quartz reports that Foster’s team consists of everything from playwrights and poets to novelists and an author of children’s books.
And, Microsoft isn’t alone. Apple is one of many other tech companies who has put out a call for writers to give their artificial intelligence more of a personal touch. Needless to say, it’s a unique skill—and, if you have it, you’re bound for a less-than-traditional writing career.
How to Land the Gig:
Be forewarned, these jobs are typically few and far between. If you’re up for cold-calling, get in touch with a few of your favorite tech companies who utilize chatbots to see if they’re hiring. Otherwise, keep your eyes peeled on your favorite tech publications (or set a Google alert!) to be in the know when these sorts of gigs become available.
3. Write Real Estate Descriptions for Dream Home
This quaint craftsman set back in the trees of a charming neighborhood is the perfect family home.
Do you ever wonder who writes those property descriptions that immediately have you picturing moving in? Well, in most cases, it isn’t realtors—it’s professional writers.
There are a seemingly endless assortment of properties available to buy or rent, and they all need detailed and appealing descriptions written to get potential tenants and buyers through the door.
This business is so lucrative, in fact, that many writers make their livings solely in this niche—writing both property descriptions and schmoozy biographies for realtors. As reported in a piece for the New York Times written by Eric Konigsberg, Valerie Haboush is a New Jersey writer who focuses almost exclusively on real estate writing. And, she does well with it too—earning anywhere from $150 to $250 per job, with which she can typically complete one per hour.
Not a bad way to make a living, right?
How to Land the Gig:
Any writer who specializes in real estate will assert that it requires a special skillset—one you’ll want to refine before pitching yourself to any prospective clients.
Begin to forge relationships with real estate agents in your area to find out more about the business. And, as writer Elizabeth Elstien says in her blog post, it’s also a good idea to join ActiveRain—a real estate social networking site—to get familiar with the industry.
When you’re feeling confident, search your favorite job boards for “real estate writer” titles, and submit your stuff!
4. Obituary Writer for Famous (and Nonfamous) People
While it may not be the cheeriest niche out there, there are plenty of professional writers who make a name for themselves writing polished obituaries for both famous and nonfamous people.
An article written by Joshua Scott Albert for Ratter interviewed several different professional obituary writers, all who earn their livings off of writing obituaries for other people—even if they’re not dead yet.
“I wrote Elizabeth Taylor’s obit 12 years before it was finally needed,” says Elaine Woo, one of the writers quoted in the piece. And, although writing about death on a daily basis might seem like it’d be a dreadful job, most writers maintain that it’s oddly uplifting.
How to Land the Gig:
Breaking into the obituary writing business is similar to building up a reputation in any other freelance writing niche. You’ll need to do your research, refine your skills, and then begin marketing that particular service.
But, when it comes to networking in this unique industry, you can turn to the Society of Professional Obituary Writers—which will provide opportunities to learn new skills, find new resources, and attend conferences.
5. Write Narratives for Video Games
Video games go way beyond impressive graphics. In most cases, the most popular video games are tied together with moving narratives—including heroes, villains, and plot twists.
And, while inspiration for these storylines can come from everywhere, there’s always someone who swoops in, polishes it up, and ties it into a narrative that users can follow when playing the game: Writers.
“People are doing genuinely cool stuff with games as a storytelling medium right now,” says Tom Bissell, the writer behind games like Gears of War: Judgment, in an interview with the New Yorker authored by Maria Bustillos, “Games, more and more, are not just about shooting and fighting, and for that reason I’m optimistic and heartened about where the medium is heading, because I think game designers are getting more interested in making games that explore what it means to be alive.”
How to Land the Gig:
Like many specialized fields, this can be a tough one to break into—and opportunities are often few and far between. While you should definitely implement the usual tactics of networking and pitching, you also need to do what you can to beef up your portfolio with relevant work.
Don’t have any existing video game work to showcase? As Johan Keyter explains in this blog post, write your own narratives for existing games. You may skip out on a paycheck, but it’s an effective way to begin building an impressive portfolio.
Final Thoughts on Freelance Writing
Freelance writing is a career that has been around for decades. And, much like the media landscape, it will continue to shift and change as technologies evolve and new opportunities arise.
So, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a career as a freelance writer means only churning out website copy or traditional articles. As these five unique gigs demonstrate, there’s plenty more out there beyond that.