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The Credentials You Need to Be a Freelance Writer

Carol Tice

Freelance writer credentials that matter most. Makealivingwriting.com

Note: Think you’re missing the credentials or qualifications to be a successful freelance writer? I wrote this post five years ago, and I still see a lot of writers struggle with this. The credentials that really matter have nothing to do with writing, and everything to do with mindset. Enjoy! -Carol.

If I’ve learned one thing mentoring freelance writers, it’s this: Writers are hung up on qualifications.

I wish I had a dime for every time a freelance writer told me:

“I’ve always wanted to pursue a career as a freelance writer, but given that I lack a journalism degree, I felt unqualified.”

To which I can only say: Hey. Me too. Both on the no-degree front (I’m a college dropout with a degree in nothing), and the feeling inadequate thing, too.

Except I just plunged in and started writing anyway.

Do you think lack of qualifications or credentials are holding your back from being a successful freelance writer?

Are you thinking about going back to school, taking another course, or talking yourself out of pitching higher-paying clients because you don’t have an impressive resume?

Everyone should be a life-long learner. But you don’t need a degree or credentials to learn how to become a freelance writer. Nor do you need any special qualifications to start landing beginner freelance writing jobs. Here’s what you really need to find freelance writing jobs:

Be a risk-taking freelance writer

When I decided to pursue a career as a writer, without the “proper” qualifications, it was a risk. But that willingness to go for it anyway and expose my writing to the world, despite not having traditional reporter credentials paid off in, among other things:

  • Appearing in the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal
  • Two staff-writing jobs that definitely required a bachelor’s degree
  • Winning a national business writing award for the first time in my newsweekly’s 25-year history
  • Writing for national magazines and Fortune 500 companies
  • Becoming a freelancer and cracking six figures in income

Desire is more powerful than a degree

Here’s the secret: Freelance writers never feel legit. We all feel like frauds.

The successful writers just do it anyway.

I was reminded of this during a very funny presentation at the World Domination Summit a couple years ago. Top blogger Darren Rowse of ProBlogger put up a slide explaining his qualifications for starting his blog:

Darren Rowse's credentials

My favorite one has to be where he couldn’t figure out how to even bold text! His point was he had absolutely no business starting a blog. But he wanted to blog, so he called himself a freelance writer and got started.

Freelance writer credentials that matter most

You see, writing isn’t a career where credentials matter. I wish more writers knew that.

Or not the traditional kind, anyway.

The credentials you need to be a successful freelance writer or blogger aren’t earned in a university. If you have the credentials I list below, you are on your way as a freelance writer and a lot of doors are going to open up to you.

Here are the three credentials you really need:


When you’re told a piece of news, do you find yourself asking questions about it? Wondering what will happen next? Why this thing has happened? And then, do you feel compelled to learn more?

This is an essential for any writer. You need to explore. To ask questions. To know. And to share what you find out with the world through the written word.

That natural curiosity will take you far. I’m always joking that I am the original cat that curiosity killed. And brought back. I drive my family nuts with my questions about everything.

That drive to learn and understand will give you a steady stream of interesting stuff to write about that nobody else has thought to explore.


Let’s face it — you can’t be a freelance writer unless you are willing to put it out there and face rejection. You have to be willing to hear “no” and not crumple up in a ball and cry yourself to sleep.

You have to keep pushing, even though there’s a ton of competition out there. You have to be brave and confident that you have something unique to offer the world in your prose.

You could be a brilliant writer sitting in your back bedroom typing alone. But without the courage to publish, you can’t build a career as a writer.


I recently heard from someone who wanted me to give them some coaching. He announced he had $1 million in the bank and wanted to start freelance writing for something fun to do.

I didn’t even respond, because I know this would-be writer is never going to do this for a living. Why? Because being a freelance writer (or a successful blogger) is hard.

Freelancing and building a blog both require hustle, and if you already have a fortune in the bank and have never felt the drive to write before now, you’re probably not going to bother.

One top blogger told me you’ll only become a successful blogger if you have no other way to feed your family. If you have any other option, you’ll take it. Because writing for a living is tough. You have to want it, bad.

You have to crave that recognition and urgently need the money your writing could bring you. Or you’ll write novels in a garret that are published after you die.

But if you have these three things — curiosity, courage, and hunger — you can write your way to wherever you want to go.

What credentials do you think freelance writers need? Let’s discuss on my Facebook page.

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