Poets, Use Your Skills to Nab Freelance Writing Jobs, Too

freelance writing jobs
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While it may seem like freelance writers are all graduates of journalism school who spent years working the beat at their local newspaper to earn their chops, that is only occasionally the case.

The articles you read in your favorite local and national publications come from all sorts of backgrounds, and only have one thing in common: Talent.

But it isn’t just the classically trained Brenda Starrs who can do this job. Poets can actually make great freelancers, and have the language skills to make their work shine.

Is freelance writing a good fit for you?

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you dive in:

  • Do you enjoy researching topics or ideas to enrich your poetry?
  • Do you have a decent grasp on grammar (regardless of whether you utilize it in poems)?
  • Do you find yourself writing about multiple topics in multiple ways?
  • Do you have hobbies or interests you want to write about but never make it into your poetry?


  • Are you organized, hardworking, and able to meet deadlines?
  • Are you discouraged that poetry contests seem like the only way to make an income from writing?
  • Are you looking for a career that utilizes your talent and provides flexibility to still write poetry?
  • Do you read magazines and feel you have something to contribute?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you are likely already headed toward freelance writing.

Becoming a freelance writer takes motivation, inspiration, and discipline.

You may be closer to this new career than you think.

How to get started as a freelance writer

Here are some tips to help yourself start thinking of yourself as a freelance writer and a poet:

1. Use your poet’s eye to come up with unique story angles

Poets pick up on small, interesting details that others overlook, and this attention can be used to your advantage as a freelancer.

Write down your story ideas, along with interesting details and poetic touches that come to you.

2. Research topics

Once you have an article idea, investigate that topic to develop so your idea can be well fleshed out for your future editor.

Research is also a great way to find out how a topic has been covered before, so you know your idea is fresh, and to see if there’s anything happening in the world that relates to your story idea. This is called pegging. If you can peg your idea to something relevant, then editors will have a better chance of fitting your article in.

3. Research publications

Pick up your favorite magazines, getting a copy of Writer’s Market, or checking out the opportunities listed on The Write Life to find out the name and email address of the correct editor. You may need to do some sleuthing and call the magazine to make sure you have the most up-to-date editor information.

4. Start writing to editors

You need to write a professional letter, called a pitch, to explain your idea and why a particular publication is the best place to publish your article — and why you are the best person to write it.

This is where your poetry skills will come in handy. Show your editor how great a writer you are, but don’t overdo it. Remember, sometimes the best poetry is simple and subtle.

5. Keep educating yourself!

There are a lot of resources available to help you learn about writing for magazines and newspapers, depending on what style of writing you wish to pursue.

Many of the places you already search for poetry opportunities also offer opportunities for freelance writers; some of those resources may be looking for writers themselves.

Remember, your poetic voice is what makes you unique. Don’t suppress your biggest asset as a writer. Embrace what makes your work stand out on the page, and have fun with your new career.

Are you a poet? What other skills have you leveraged in other areas of writing?

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Carolyne Whelan is a poet and freelance writer who received her BA and MFA in poetry. In addition to being awarded scholarships and grants including the Lucille Clifton Fellowship and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Scholarship, she has been published or has work forthcoming in a number ... .

Website | @Carolynesutra

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  1. I love it when I read a piece that reminds me of who I am essentially.

    Poetic and longform.

    Evangelizing what strikes my heart and the hearts of other readers.

    Thank you Carolyne.

    For years I posted to my blog “My Life with Trees” at deborahdrake.blogspot.com

    Haiku was my practice. And some prose.

    Now, as to being hardworking. Yes.
    Deadlines and structure. Not so strong.

    What do we do if we are in this camp?

    Appreciate this post a lot.

  2. Lily Bowman says:

    I have been writing poetry for five years now, but writing various pieces for years. I am at a very young age, but want to start getting my name and work out there early. I have written various things from essays to short stories to, of course, poems on all sorts of topics which certain events in my life have effected my writing knowledge and skill. If anyone would be interested in my work, please notify me.

  3. thanks a lot Jennifer. I too love to write using prose-verses and add a picture for further fun. 🙂

    Will have to read minutely and see if I can try your options.

  4. Hi Carolyne!

    This is a topic that is near and dear to me because I, too, am a poet who makes a living as a freelancer. I even wrote a blog post, “How Being a Poet Made Me a Better Copy Editor.” http://geyereditorial.com/2015/08/25/how-being-a-poet-made-me-a-better-copy-editor/

    So glad to see others with similar thoughts on the benefits of a poetic mindset.


  5. I hope to start making progress as a poet and freelance writer. Thanx for the article which i found very interesting and informing.

  6. Thank Carolyne for this great post! Very interesting

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