Ready to prepare for a great year of freelance writing? It’s time for my annual freelance forecast, with all-new predictions on the trends that smart writers will capitalize on in the coming year.
I feel pretty good about how my 2017 predictions worked out. But this year, I decided to take it up a level. I asked all the savvy observers of the freelance scene I know to weigh in with their predictions, too.
What new trends are growing? What will pay well and what will be a bust? Read on to learn what freelancers will we see more and less of in 2018.
1. More videos = more freelance writing work
Val Breit, Keep Calm & Write On
We will see more videos, especially embedded within blog content and on social media. These won’t be lengthy how-to videos, because attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. Instead, those catchy, short and to-the-point will get the most love.
Watch for this: Writing copy and editing images for brands. It’s another area of freelance writing where demand is rising. As ads continue to be more prevalent on search engines and social media platforms, the rates will rise for those who can help create ads that get attention. Plus:
Worry about: Paid traffic. More and more platforms, search engines, and social media are using advertisements. If you’re a blogger counting on organic search, you may need to budget for your own paid advertising to keep up.
Great news: As bloggers and online business owners get more into course creation, podcasting, and creating videos, more freelance writing gigs for content creation will be needed.
2. Markets give fact-checking a revival
Linda Formichelli, The Renegade Writer
A decade ago, every writing market that could afford it would have a fact checker on staff. They’d call sources to double-check facts and quotes, verify statistics, and more.
But over the last several years media outlets started becoming more interested in eyeballs than facts.
With the growing distrust in (especially online) media:
Watch for this: More content marketing gigs. Whatever kind of writing you’re doing now—journalism, copywriting, blogging—can be spun as “content marketing.” (This is not a trick, those really are forms of content marketing.) If you can learn about this niche, get good at it, and position yourself as an expert, clients will look up to you.
Worry about: Guest blogging losing its impact as a way to get clicks, sales, and comments. And working too much, you burn out.
Tip: If you read industry news, you’ll discover that brands are desperate for good content writers, independent bookstores are reviving, and print is not only back—it never really went away in the first place. If you’re not finding good-paying writing gigs, you’re not looking in the right places.
3. Email newsletters: A new income stream for writers
Jane Friedman, JaneFriedman.com
Look for an upsurge in paid-email newsletter models from freelancers who’ve made a name for themselves.
Watch for this: Read the tea leaves about the blogging platform, Medium. If you’re making money or a name for yourself on Medium, good for you. Milk it for all it’s worth while it’s still around, but be prepared to replace that revenue and platform with something else.
The platform has pivoted so many times, there’s nowhere left for it to pivot to, and who knows when the venture-capital money will run out.
4. Digital marketing critical for freelance writers
Ed Gandia, High Income Business Writing
Over the past few years, more writers have entered the freelance ranks. At the same time, it’s become easier for clients to find writers, which means that generally speaking, freelancing has become more competitive.
Every minute you have to spend looking for (or chasing after) new clients is one less minute you can now spend on billable work.
Here’s how to improve your marketing and sales efficiency:
Deploy a methodical client attraction strategy. One-off queries and LOIs are great, but those take a lot of time and energy. In order to offset this:
Build a lead magnet. At the heart of this strategy are one or two simple lead magnets: downloadable PDFs such as checklists, cheat sheets, worksheets or templates that would be relevant to the types of prospects you want to attract. Require a name and email address in order to download your lead magnet. And then follow up with each prospect to identify any current or potential future need.
Nurture your leads. Studies have shown that about 90 percent of prospects who inquire about our services are not ready to hire us today. Yet a large majority of them will hire a writer within the next 18 months.
Tip: A simple “staying in touch” strategy with these qualified not-yet-ready leads helps ensure you’re the first writer they think of when the timing is right. In many cases, that means the bulk of the “selling” is already done. The client is ready to go.
5. Demand for video script writing on the rise
Holly Hanna, The Work at Home Woman
If you’ve been writing for the web, then I’m sure you’ve heard the buzz about video! If you’re not producing video in 2018, you’re going to be left behind.
Even social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are jumping on the video bandwagon with Facebook Live and Instagram Stories. While this may seem like bad news for writers, it’s not.
Watch for this:
So if you want a hot writing opportunity for 2018 — keep your eyes open for video script writing gigs.
6. Clients want more sales-ready and snackable content
Casey Hibbard, Compelling Cases
What do clients want in 2018? Sales-ready and snackable content – two buzzwords that keep popping up.
That means giving clients a variety of content – in all sizes – that’s ready for all their needs, from social media to grab-and-go tools for sales reps. Here’s how:
Social – Team with a designer to create graphical social posts that drive traffic to new content such as white papers, case studies, blog posts, webinars and more.
Intro summaries – Include summary text when you deliver content such as white papers and case studies. These teasers encourage readers to click for more.
Sales slides – Summarize content such as product benefits or customer stories on sales slides that are ready for reps to simply add to presentations.
Tip: Think about ways to shorten your clients’ to-do lists. You’ll be a more valuable asset and can sell higher-priced packages that include these various deliverables.
7. Storytelling skills are worth $$$
Jessica Lawlor, The Write Life
I absolutely think we’ll see more raw and honest writing in the coming year. Last year brought a lot of sensitive and difficult topics to the forefront.
We’ve made a lot of progress when it comes to sharing vulnerability, and I absolutely see this continuing into the year. This gives writers a chance to get a bit more personal, share experiences and stories in a new way, and get paid for it.
Watch for this: Better pay for blog posts. Where sites previously paid $50 or $75 a post, from my personal experience, I’m seeing situations where rates for the same type of post can be negotiated for much higher, in the $300-$400 range.
Instagram is changing the way we share words, photos and videos. It’s an awesome place for writers to delve deeper into their process, share the behind-the-scenes of their work and promote clips once they are published.
8. Content and SEO strategy pays
Heather Lloyd Martin, SEO Copywriting
Do you know SEO? If so, 2018 will be a very exciting year.
For instance, voice search represents about 20 percent of all search queries. And it’s growing. Imagine telling a prospect, “Did you hear the answer Alexa gave you? I wrote that copy.” How fun (and powerful) would that be?
(And yes, writing for voice search is something to watch. The strategy is different than old-school SEO writing.)
Watch for this: Writing gigs that pay you to write content for featured snippets/answer boxes. Answer boxes appear before the regular search results (search geeks call it “position zero”) and provide a short answer to the reader’s question.
Know SEO. Companies are looking for writers who can put all pieces of the SEO content puzzle together and act as a strategist. They need someone to keep up with the latest research, conduct keyphrase research, develop the editorial calendar, analyze the results, review the competitive intelligence — and yes, write the content.
Worry about: Competition for old-school SEO article writing driving down the rates for this type of freelance writing.
9. The need for writers to find a niche
Bamidele Onibalusi, Writers In Charge
In a recent report on the freelance economy, data shows the freelance workforce growth rate is three times higher than the overall U.S. workforce growth rate.
Worry about: An increased interest in freelance writing in 2018 and more writers willing to work for lower rates.
10. A melting pot of freelancers competing for work
Claudia Suzanne, ClaudiaSuzanne.com
Expect to see more “traditional hybrid” publishers circling back to editorial accountability and global distribution.
Watch for this: Writer fees to bifurcate even further–more people barely getting by, more people earning a lot, and fewer people in the middle.
So what else is new, right?
Worry about: The Religious Right vs. Evolutionary Left conflict producing an upsurge of titles on both sides.
And wouldn’t it be nice if that battle remained on the page and not in the streets?
Come on, writers. Let’s inform, not inflame. Persuade, not provoke.
11. Robots will not replace you
Carol Tice, Freelance Writers Den
If you’re up nights worried that robot automation is going to put you out of business, relax. OK, so auto-bots can rewrite press releases into brief articles. You didn’t want those cheesy article re-spinning gigs, anyway.
There’s no sophisticated, well-paid type of writing that robots are going to master anytime soon. We’re a long ways from where computers would be sophisticated enough to come up with fresh blog headlines, or write a white paper.
Tip: Think about packaging your writing services with strategy, consulting, or planning:
12. Tech industry is a game-changer
Christina Vanvuren, ChristinaVanvuren.com
It definitely seems like rates in the tech industry are rising. It’s a game-changing industry. And I think businesses in this niche are really starting to see the value of high-quality content.
Worry about: Taxes. Seriously, get a good bookkeeper or use a tool like Harpoon. Pay your quarterly taxes.
It sucks, but just do it, because the changes to tax law are only going to make the already complex even more confusing.
Just do the work and everything else will work itself out.
Parting thought: Can the excuses
Freelance writers continue to whine about stiff competition, low rates, and flakey clients. But the fact is, there’s never been a better time to write for a living. The rise of self-publishing, content marketing and other online writing opportunities created a vast new market for writers. Economically, U.S. unemployment is at a record low, the stock market at an all-time high.
That means business is booming, organizations have money, and marketing is humming along. Publications are being reborn online. It’s boom times.
By contrast, I built my writing business up during the major downturn of 2008-9, when $5 junk content was flooding the Internet. Things are getting better every year for freelancers. Go get your piece of it.