How to Tell if You’re Qualified for Freelance Writing Jobs

I recently forwarded a job listing to one of my mentees. She has a background interviewing celebrities, and it was a media/communications job at a movie studio. I thought that might be a great segue for her as she was looking for something new… She replied to me that she didn’t think she was qualified for the job, so she didn’t apply.

Woah! That really took me aback, because I’ve never let lack of official qualifications stop me from getting writing assignments.

As a freelance writer who happens to lack a college degree, I routinely apply for jobs that require a B.A. In fact, hardly any job listing I’ve applied for in my career didn’t list some requirement I didn’t have.

I believe that lists of qualifications for writing jobs are highly fungible. The company is basically guessing at what sort of background the person they need would have, what they would have done before and what education level they would have reached. Probably most of the people who could do it well would have a 4-year degree. But then there’s me. I’m an exception. I let my clips explain to them that I’m the best candidate.

Let me reiterate my longtime philosophy of freelance writing — clients, from magazines to major corporations, don’t really care whether you learned how to write well at an Ivy League university or under a freeway overpass. Do you have strong clips that fit their niche? Then apply. And in my experience, you will get hired!

I actually would never have ended up with a well-paying writing career if it weren’t for my habit of applying randomly for any job I thought I could do, while disregarding listed requirements. My first full-time writing job I’m quite certain required a B.A. at least. It was business writing, which I’d never done. But I thought it sounded intriguing and like I could do the work, and my husband’s job was ending and I needed a full-time gig. I’d been reporting on community activists for an alternative paper, and this was for a Park Avenue business trade publication.

They interviewed me, and then I was among 20 people they asked to do a trial assignment. They told me later I was the only one who wrote something they found publishable. From there I got another full-time gig that I’m sure required a B.A., and then on to my past four great years of freelancing. I’ve written for a global insurance consultancy and a major national business-information provider. I’ve applied for and gotten many gigs in recent years, all the while ignoring ‘requirements’ and sending my clips.

Here’s the litmus test to tell whether you’re qualified for a freelance writing job: Do you think you could do it?

Then send your clips over and let them show what you can do.