No, you don’t need a graduate degree or other certification to be a successful freelance writer. That’s the answer I give to new and would be writers who wonder if they need a college degree of some sort or some sort of certification to become published writers. And getting published often is the key to your financial success as a freelance writer.
Very few publications require a degree
There are literally thousands of publishers of magazines, books, blogs and other kinds of writing that rely on freelance writers that do not require a degree to publish your work. Not only that, of those that say they do, many will waive that requirement if you can convince them you’re an expert and can write well. For those that insist there’s probably no way around it and you might as well just move on.
Why might a publisher say they want a writer with a degree?
There are several reasons a publisher might say they want a writer with a degree, including:
- They think such a requirement will result in better submissions. ‘Better’ is of course in the eye of the beholder. A publisher/publication that deals in a truly technical topic might reason that a degree in that subject would mean the writer understands and can write accurately about the topic, and they might be right, at least most of the time. On the other hand a truly knowledgeable person whose come by the knowledge on their own may be better at explaining it, particularly to outsiders.
- Requiring a degree might be a way of lowering the number of submissions they have to deal with.
- It’s possible they think a writer who has a degree garners more respect from readers, and in some rare cases that might be true.
What a publisher really wants
What every publisher really wants is excellent writing that will interest their specific audience. That’s why as a writer it only makes sense for you to understand not only what the publisher says they want from the blog post, article, book, etc. but who their real audience is. If you’re lucky the publisher will make it clear, but more often than not you’ll have to do some research.
The best ways are to look closely at something or several somethings they’ve recently published. Most publishers serve a fairly obvious niche, or several. If they sell ads, look carefully at the ads as real clues to the publisher’s market. Asking for a media kit and studying can also give you an understanding of their market. For book publishers, their book catalog, often available online serves the same function.
Don’t let getting a degree delay your writing career
Plenty of good writers have degrees. Getting or not getting a college degree or special certification isn’t really the issue. The real point is you don’t have to wait to ‘finish’ your schooling to begin to write professionally. The secret is to write and market whatever your age or education.
Write well and often,