Freelance writing can be a highly satisfying and rewarding way to earn money, either as a part time or full time career. Some of the qualities you need for success in freelance writing are good writing skills, marketable ideas, and an ability to meet obligations and deadlines.

There are a range of different categories of freelance writing that you could choose to work with, including:


  • Adults and children’s books.
  • Short stories for magazines.
  • Electronic media - publishing on the web, or in eBooks.
  • Radio plays.


  • Newspapers.
  • Technical (specialist) books.
  • Magazines.
  • Government publications.
  • Trade journals.
  • General interest and specialist publications/magazines.

Copy writing 

  • Advertisements.
  • Press releases.

Script writing

  • Television.
  • Movies.
  • Stage plays.
  • Videos - corporate, promotional, or other.
  • Radio.

Speech Writing

  • Events.
  • Seminars.

Web writing

  • E-zines.
  • Website content.
  • Advertising copy.

The following steps are a broad guide to getting started as a freelance writer:

  1. Identify the areas of writing that interest you.
  2. Research the marketplace to get a feel for what other successful writers are doing. Visit bookshops, and buy newspapers and magazines to see what is currently being published. Get a feel for what publishers want and look for gaps in the market.
  3. Develop your writing skills. Start off small and hone your skills by contributing to newsletters published by your school, work or social club. You could enter short story competitions or even try writing short articles for local newspapers or hobby or trade magazines. Don’t be disappointed if your articles are rejected. At this stage, the aim is to practise your writing and to get a feel for what is acceptable in the marketplace. 
  4. Develop a personal reference library. Collect examples of other writers’ work in the areas that interest you. Books, newspaper articles and magazines are not only a useful information resource; they also help you to develop an awareness of how other successful writers write.
  5. Develop your selling skills. Build up contacts with publishers and organisations in your chosen area of writing.

If you want to be successful as a freelance writer, you need to be able to not only write well, but to be prepared to write what is in demand.

You need to develop and maintain an understanding of the writing marketplace. You need to know who will buy your work, as well as the conditions under which they will buy your work.

Unless you have a very clear idea of what you want to write, it is a good idea to do some market research before you start writing.  The easiest way to do this is to visit your local bookshop or newsagent to see what successful writers are working on. Have a look at the range of books, magazines and newspapers available to get an idea about the level at which writers have pitched their writing. 

When looking at books, also look at their publishers, so that you get an idea of where to send your final manuscript. There are many different publishers, with some specialising in specific fields. For example, some publishers specialise in fiction, others non-fiction.

Make note of the publishers that are relevant to the area of writing that is of interest to you. If you are looking at non-fiction or children’s books, do not be intimidated by the gloss and the colourful pictures. Unless you are planning to illustrate your own book, the publishers will organise the artwork after they have accepted the manuscript. At this stage, you are just trying to get an idea about the different categories and writing styles that exist. If the salesperson is not too busy, they may be willing to chat to you about their books; if so; you could ask about current bestsellers and find out which books have remained popular over the years.

Book reviews are an excellent way of finding out about what critics think of current book releases. Major newspapers regularly publish reviews, as do specialist literary magazines/newsletters (available by subscription, or possibly available at your local library). You will also find book review websites on the internet.

Writers’ Festivals/Book Signings/Visiting Writers

Other opportunities for researching the marketplace are writers’ festivals, book signings and writers’ talks at bookshops. Writers’ festivals are held annually in some of the major cities. The public are welcome to attend, and you can listen to their talks, which may give you an insight into their writing and their success.

On a local scale, authors often attend book signings at bookshops to promote their latest publications. Some bookshops and libraries also host talks by visiting authors. At these smaller scale events, you may even get a chance to ask questions of the author or talk to them face to face.

Find out which books have made it to the finalist lists for book awards in recent years. These lists are published in the literary section of major newspapers each year. Have a look at some of these books, looking at both the writing styles used and the genres that are popular.

What is involved in developing yourself as a freelance writer?

“I find people fail at freelance writing most commonly because they either lack the ability to focus clearly, or because they are set on writing what they want to write, rather than what publishers want to publish.” John Mason, Principal, ACS Distance Education

There are many current information sources available on the internet for finding information on associations and writing. Some associations exist on a national level and others operate on a local scale. A search through hard copy directories will also work if you do not have access to the internet, e.g. Yellow Pages, White Pages.

Examples of writing associations and groups that can be found within Australia include: The Australia Council, Australian Association of Writing Programs, Australian Booksellers Association, Australian Copyright Council, Australian Journalists Association, Australian Press Council, Australian Society of Authors, Australian Storytelling Guild and the Australian Writer’s Guild.

This list may give you an idea of different words to use when searching for writing groups and associations via internet searches. Do an internet/directory search for writing associations and groups in your own country.

A wide range of prizes and awards are offered annually to authors via competitions. 

These can be based at a local, regional or national level. Some may relate to a particular type of writing, or type of writer (e.g. children’s books, new published work).  Information on such prizes and awards is published frequently in literary magazines, literary pages of newspapers, newsletters from groups such as the Society of Authors or the Horticultural Media Association.  Prize details and contact addresses will change from time to time, so before you write away, do some research and make sure the award is still current.

Some of the Australian prizes which have been given in the past include: Age Book of the Year, Age Short Story Competition (, Australian Film Awards – Scriptwriting, Australian/Vogel National Literary Award, Canberra Book of the Year Award, Canberra Times National Short Story Award, Fellowship of Australian Writers National Literary Award, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and the Western Australia Premier’s Literary Award.

Again, do a search for Literary Prizes and Awards that are offered in your own country.

Conceptualisation is the process of conceiving and developing an idea that you wish to write about. It is a highly personal experience. A few (lucky!) people are brimming with original ideas, others have a flash of inspiration, yet others take years of patient research before they come up with something they are happy to write about.

If you haven’t yet come up with any firm ideas, the best way to find inspiration is to immerse yourself in books, TV programs and magazines. Find out what is popular and what isn't, identify niches that haven’t yet been saturated, and most importantly, find out what interests you. It is also helpful to try out new life experiences, for example, taking a trek to the Andes, joining a sewing circle or coaching the under 12’s in soccer.

You might be surprised at how doing something new can stimulate fresh ideas and motivate you to start writing. Keep in mind though that your concept needs to be marketable. Unless you are writing solely for personal interest, you must come up with an idea that appeals to other readers and potential publishers.

How to develop your concept and plan your writing

The process of getting words on to paper is made easier by working to a regular routine. Aim to write a set number of words each day, and if the writing is going particularly well, continue to write regardless of whether you have written the 'required' number of words.

As a freelance writer, always keep in mind that you have to sell your work to a publisher. This means that to some extent you will need to tailor your writing to meet their needs. Publishers only publish work they can easily sell, and until you are an established writer, they call the shots!

Contacting Publishers

Unless you have a published work, the best way to approach a new publisher depends on the particular market you are writing for:


Money comes from both advertisements and sales of the magazine or paper. The publishers look for articles that improve circulation figures and/or advertising sales. 
Note: In general, there is more work for new authors in writing for periodicals than for books.

Magazine articles

When submitting an article to a magazine publisher, write a complete sample article and, if possible and appropriate, you may supply samples of high quality artwork (photos or sketches). Also submit a list of other proposed articles. This shows the publisher that you have more ideas so that even if they don’t publish your sample article, they might ask you to write an article on another topic.


Money comes from book sales only. Publishers specialise in different markets, so find out what areas they deal with before you send your manuscript. Some publishers aim at short term sales, others look at long term.

Fiction Books

Fiction writing is extremely competitive and it can be very difficult for first-time writers to break into the market. Be prepared for rejections, it happens to almost all new fiction writers. In most (but not all) cases, the submissions editor will want to see the entire manuscript before accepting a new author for publication.

Non-Fiction Books 

Publishers are always looking for new, good quality, specialist non-fiction books, so if you’re an expert on a particular topic and have a marketable idea, it may not be too difficult to get your work published.

Look for niche publishers, such as publishers who specialise in gardening, craft, travel or whatever your area of interest is. They may not pay as well as the larger publishers but are more likely to accept your manuscript. Write an outline and one or two chapters. If you can also provide good quality artwork (photos or sketches) include these with your submission.


Learn More

Learn more by studying with ACS - we offer a wide selection of Writing And Journalism courses, providing learning for students with different aims and objectives, including:

Freelance Writing

Advanced Freelance Writing (Applied Writing)

Dramatic Writing

Get in touch with our expert tutors for advice and guidance on choosing the right course for your chosen career path or area of study - use our FREE COURSE COUNSELLING SERVICE.
or call us on +44 (0)1384 442752
or email us at




 Click below on courses or books of interest.
Courses offered by ACS Distance Education include-

Recommended Reading

The following eBooks written by our principal (John Mason) and staff, are excellent supplementary reading for anyone studying bookkeeping. Click on a title for more information about contents as well as purchasing details through the school's on-line bookstore.


Need Help?

Take advantage of our personalised, expert course counselling service to ensure you're making the best course choices for your situation.