Do I Need a Degree to Be a Freelance Writer?

I have to be honest with you. I think I scare a lot of new freelance writers. Not because I look funny or act evil or anything.

It’s because this year, I’ll be graduating with a degree in communications.

Do I Need a Degree to Be a Freelance Writer?

Doesn’t sound so scary, does it? Nope, not really.

I think I scare a lot of new freelance writers.

The thing that scares new writers is that they see I’m about to graduate with my bachelor’s, and they think they need a degree to get started, too.

Let’s make one thing clear right now: You don’t need a degree to be a freelance writer.

No Degree Required

Okay, so if you’re one of the new freelance writers I’ve scared, then we need to sit down and have a chat. So you know I’ll be a bachelor’s degree holder in just a few short weeks.

What you don’t know about me is that I started freelance writing long before I started on my bachelor’s.

Hopefully that makes it seem a little less scary!

I hadn’t even thought of going to school for writing when I started my freelance writing journey. I was a junior in high school. I had just turned 17 just six weeks before I got my first gig.

And guess what. It didn’t matter how young I was.

Although the writing landscape has changed a bit since then, the same principles hold very true.

It doesn’t matter your age or your degree level. What matters is your writing skills and ability to help clients meet their goals. 

Here’s What You Do Need

Okay, so we’ve established that you don’t need a fancy degree to get started as a freelance writer. Heck, you don’t even need a high school diploma. Here’s what you do need:

  • The ability to write well
  • A passion for writing
  • Organization skills
  • A willingness to learn
  • Confidence

Don’t have all of this? That’s okay. You can work on these skills over time. Honestly, I wasn’t a great writer when I started. I was a teenager, so you can guess what my organization skills looked like. And confidence? That’s just not something you see in a 17-year-old’s vocabulary.

But I really did care about writing, and I really wanted to learn how to improve. So as long as you have that, I have no doubt that you’ll succeed.

Once you dip a toe or two in the waters, what really helps you earn clients is evidence.

This is really the key to becoming a freelance writer. Yes, a degree can serve as evidence to your professional training, but it’s not the only way to develop evidence of your skills and work ethic.

There are two main ways to prove what you’re capable of as a freelance writer:

  1. Showcase clips from your portfolio
  2. Gather client testimonials

Not to discourage you from getting a degree, but if your portfolio and testimonials are impressive enough, they will hold more weight than a degree ever will in your writing business.

A degree doesn’t prove that you have experience working with real-world clients. It says nothing about your skills as a writer. Portfolio clips and testimonials do prove your writing experience and skills.


Is a Degree Helpful?

So you might be wondering why I’m still pursuing my bachelor’s if I believe a solid portfolio and client testimonials are better for your business.

It’s because I still see the value in my degree. I am learning a lot about marketing and various forms of writing, and it has helped me in my career.

But you don’t learn anything about freelancing by going to school.

You learn how to freelance by doing it.

College taught me about graphic design, psychology, technical writing, public relations, journalism, and public speaking. These are all skills I can use in my career, but there’s a lot I didn’t learn.

College didn’t teach me how to blog, and the majority of my social media knowledge came from doing it. College didn’t teach me how to find clients. It didn’t teach me about self-employment taxes or WordPress or negotiating my rates. It didn’t lead me to the mentors who have helped me grow my career.

Getting a bachelor’s degree has been a life-long goal of mine, and pursuing it has been amazing. I will always cherish my education, but you just don’t learn the same things in school as you do working in the field.

But if you do want to pursue a degree, then go for it! You’ll learn a lot. I promise.

Where to Find the Knowledge You Need to Get Started

If you’re not interested in getting a degree right now, that’s okay. You can learn a lot about writing and freelancing online, such as by browsing websites like Freelancer FAQs or joining forums like the Be a Freelance Blogger forums.

You will also get a lot of value out of investing in a freelance writing-specific course, such as Elna’s Write Your Way to Your First $1K course. This is the type of course that will teach you all about becoming a freelancer–the kind of stuff you won’t learn in college. She even covers topics like SEO and writing blog posts to help you become a better writer.

The information is out there, and you don’t need a fancy degree to get it. What you do need is a little perseverance. Freelance writing is tough at first, and you’re probably going to want to give up more times than you can count. But it doesn’t get any easier just because you went to college.

Whatever your education level, freelance writing is possible. Where are you at in your education, and how does that affect your writing career? Let me know in the comment section.

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I am glad I found this article. I have a high school diploma and studying for my associates. Freelance writing seems like a dream job to have, and I am an author myself. Writing has been my number one passion since I was 11. I hope to see Freelance Writing as a future career in my life.Reply to Rebecca
Such words of yours are really encouraging. I now have a desire to be a freelancer. May God bless you.Reply to Jeff
I recently got my cosmetology license, and I like doing hair some styles more than others. I’ve always wanted to write. Lately I’ve been looking at being a freelance writer or editor in the beauty industry. Between going to school, customer experience, working retail, and being around people of diverse backgrounds I think I have a lot to offer with my thoughts on hair care, ethnic hair care, product knowledge, how to use products, hair growth, all the way too salon experiences. How should I go about this.Reply to Autumn
Thank you Alicia for this message. I am a aspiring freelance writer with a high school diploma, vocational, college preparatory school and some college. Thank you for verifying a degree is not required to write. I started a Website on WordPress. I also wrote poetry for paid contests. Please send me advice on how to start as a beginner writer. Thank you.Reply to Natasha
If I have a degree in my blogging niche it might help me to write deeper in the article. Anyway thanks for a great article.Reply to Adeeb
Thanks, Elna. I have talked to young students about writing, and one thing I stress is that you don’t have to be a perfect speller or have perfect grammar to write well. That’s something you can always fix.Reply to Alicia
Great tips Alicia, You don’t have the be the best writer to be a successful freelance writers. Heck, I make tons of mistakes and grammar errors when I write (luckily I have an editor). But, the thing that separates freelance writers from successful ones, is the passion to keep learning. Whether it’s learning best practices or tools or dabble your feet in copywriting, taking that time to invest back in your business is key to making it sustainable over time. Thanks for the mention of my course too! My course participants have told me they are learning lots, not only about pitching and optimizing their writer website, but about wowing clients and all the behind the scenes you do as a writer.Reply to Elna
Thanks for your encouraging words I have a very strong passion to write stories and read books from I was a little girl and even now my passion gets so much stronger I got my government copyright for a story I wrote that I want to get publish I really need to know how and where can I start being a freelance writer knowing that I can only work on calls because I have to be home with the kids most of the time I know I was born to be a writer and I just can’t wait to put my heat and soul in it thanks for your inspirationReply to Dulcie