There has never been a better time to become a freelance writer. The opportunities for those with experience – and newbies too! – are greater than ever. Following are some statistics on this profession, and some emerging trends I see as the owner of an SEO writing company.

Freelance Writing Statistics

Salary: According to the U. S. Department of Labor, the median annual wage of writers and authors was $55,420 in 2010; or, $26.64 per hour. Contrast this with the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 as of this writing (2013) and you can see that writers earn significantly more.

Education: While full-time staff positions may require a college degree, usually in the arts (eg, English), all most freelancers have to prove is that they can write.

I’ve hired many freelancers with no college degree; they had killer writing samples and an understanding of search engine optimization (the kind of content my firm specializes in).

Other Skills: At a minimum, excellent computer, research and organizational skills are required to be successful as a freelance writer.

Employment Outlook: The demand for writers and authors is projected to grow 6 percent from 2010 to 2020 (again, according to the U.S. Dep’t of Labor), and there is expected to be strong competition for full-time, salaried writing jobs simply because so many are attracted to the profession.

Freelancing writing is competitive too, but you can earn significantly more as a freelancer because you can determine your niche, set your own rates, create your own service offerings and grow by outsourcing work to independent contractors.

2014 Trends in Freelance Writing

Freelance Writers: 6 Trends to Take Advantage of in 2014

Now that you have an overview of the writing profession as a whole, let’s turn our attention to some trends to look for in 2014.

1. Content Marketing Will Drive Demand for Freelance Writers

Practically every report you read about content marketing in some way touts how it’s growing by leaps and bounds. Companies are investing in it like never before. Proof?

Content Marketing Budgets

  • 54% of B2B marketers will increase their spend on content marketing over the next 12 months
  • 33% of B2B marketing budgets are now allocated to content marketing
  • Companies with fewer than 10 employees allocate 42% of their marketing budget to content marketing
  • Companies with over 1,000 employees allocate 24% of their marketing budget to content marketing

Many companies use freelance writers to meet the demand. Proof?

  • 1% of B2B marketers outsource all content creation and 43% use a combination of in-house and outsourced content creation
  • 65% of large companies outsource content creation and 44% overall outsource B2B content creation [Source: TopRank Marketing Blog, 100+ B2B Content Marketing Statistics for 2013]

2. The Demand for Qualified SEO Writers Will Grow

If you’re an online freelance writer, it’s becoming increasingly important to at least learn the fundamentals of search engine optimization (SEO). Why? Simply because it’s how web surfers find information online.

So clients are looking for writers who can not only produce well-written copy, but copy that can help their website / blog get returned in SERP results. This means knowing about things like how to do keyword research; what long-tail keywords are; writing themed content; the impact Google algorithm changes have on search results; how to write content that doesn’t run afoul of search engine guidelines; etc.

FYI, the demand for all types of SEO professionals is growing. Proof?

A 2012 study on the SEO industry by Conductor, a New York-based technology, showed a 112 percent year-over-year increase in demand for SEO professionals, with salaries almost as high as six-figures ($94,000).

So yeah, it’s a good time to be in the search marketing profession – especially as a content creator (ie, SEO writer).

3. The Demand for Social Media Writers Will Increase

Social media has created a need for writers who specialize in this medium. What exactly is a social media writer, and how does it differ from SEO writing? As discussed in the post, What Is Social Media Writing and How Does It Differ from SEO Copywriting?:

Social media (SM) writing can be defined as writing content with the specific intent of getting it widely distributed on social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (which, by the way, are the three largest social media outlets as of this writing). One word that I would say perfectly describes this type of content is “linkbait.”

At this point you may be thinking, how does social media writing differ from SEO writing? The following is how I’d describe the difference.

SEO content is technically content that is written for search engines (ie, content written to be found by search engines). It is keyword driven.

Social media content on the other hand is content written to be found – and distributed/shared by – users on social media. I’d go so far as to say it is “headline” driven because if the headline doesn’t appeal to potential readers, it’s unlikely that it’ll get clicked on, read and shared.

4. Rise in Need for Content Marketing Strategists

Content marketing has created a need for writers who understand how to put together full-blown content marketing strategies.

You see, once companies start to fully integrate content marketing into their overall marketing initiatives, there will be a need for it to become more fluid and regimented. Hence, the need for planners – writers who can plan content out days, weeks and months in advance, much like any other marketing initiative.

Learn more about how to devise –- and implement — a successful content marketing strategy.

5. Self-Publishing & The Cottage Industry It’s Spawned

If you take the entrepreneurial bull by the horns, self-publishing can add another lucrative stream to your income as a freelance writer in 2014.  There’s no slow-down in sight in this industry, which spells opportunity, opportunity, opportunity for motivated freelance writers. Proof?

New analysis from Bowker – which issues ISBNs for books published in the US – shows that writers are jumping into self-publishing at an unprecedented rate. The number of self-published books in America grew by 287% to 235,625 books between 2006 and 2011. [Source: The Guardian, Self-publishing sees massive growth].

Many freelance writers (including me!) have taken advantage of the platform provided by companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble to capitalize on their writing skill. Thanks to my self-publishing income, if my firm never landed another SEO writing client, I could make a full-time living just from my ebooks.

Would it be tight? Yes.

Could it be done? Yes.

Self-publishing has also spawned a cottage industry of needed professionals, eg, ghostwriters, ebook editors, ebook cover artists and ebook formatting specialists, to name a few.

6. More Work from Other Freelance Writers

The “freelance economy” has spawned a lot of successful writers – who are hiring other freelance writers to help them out.

Just in the past year, I’ve had at least half a dozen – or more – freelancers contact me asking how to go about hiring outsource help because they’re too busy and/or to tell me that they’ve quit their 9-to-5 job in order to freelance full-time because they’re so busy. One wrote:

“I just wanted to thank you for all of your advice over the past year and featuring so many of my questions on your blog. I am happy to say today is my first day working totally for myself!I just hired 10 new writers and had no idea what to do! I 1099 everyone right? Even if they make less than $600? …”

So, more and more freelance writers will be getting work not just from the usual sources (eg, companies they contact), but from OTHER freelance writers.

As you can see, the outlook for writers and authors – especially freelance writers and independent self-publishers/authors – has never been better. The opportunities are there – in many forms. So jump on in if you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and do the work it takes to build a successful freelance writing career.

Here’s wishing you much luck!