Freelance Writing Forecast 2020 — 12 Experts’ Top Predictions


Expert Predictions for Freelance Writing in 2020. Makealivingwriting.comWill it be fair weather in freelance writing in 2020, or foul? Inquiring writers want to know. Which is why it’s time for my annual Freelance Writing Forecast.

(Wondering how we did with last year’s predictions? Check that out here.)

To find out the top trends that will impact how we pursue our craft next year, I reached out to stakeholders around our industry, including experts, coaches, freelancers, agency owners, and more. My rule is to not use the same experts year-to-year, so these are all new faces to the forecast.

I’m particularly proud that this year’s forecast includes two coaches I mentored — my Freelance Writers Den 2X Income Accelerator mastermind co-leader Angie Mansfield, and 2X grad Mandy Ellis, a high-earning freelancer who now coaches newbies for ASJA. So — get ready for some homegrown advice you won’t find anywhere else!

What do the experts see in store for us in 2020? Here are their predictions:

1. Yuwanda Black

Inkwell Editorial Publisher

Demand for freelance writing will continue to grow in 2020

Freelance Writing Predictions: Yuwanda Black

Yuwanda Black

Why? There’s three reasons:

1. More workers want the flexibility that comes with being an independent contractor.

2. It makes financial sense for companies that don’t have to pay for healthcare, vacation, or sick days.

3. And we’re living in an era of a global economy.

Want to make more money writing in 2020? Carve out a niche. You’ll earn more, not only because it makes it easier to land clients, but because it saves you time.

There’s never been a better time to be a freelance writer.

2. Bob Bly

Copywriter & author of 95-plus books on direct marketing

Digital content dominates, print slows

Freelance Writing Predictions: Bob Bly

Bob Bly

Web analytics will continue to enable clients to measure the results of the writer’s work with pinpoint accuracy, and those writers who can generate a large ROI for the client (e.g., SEO copywriters) will be in high demand and command top fees.

The market for freelance magazine articles as well as the number of magazines being published continues to shrink.

So there will be fewer markets for freelance writing. And publications that cut their print editions and publish digitally only will pay freelance writers lower rates than traditional paper magazines.

The book industry will have an increasingly greater number of writers who earn a pittance for the books they write, with a small elite of best-selling authors still earning the big bucks.

The mid-list writers will continue to see the number of publishers shrink along with advances, which are becoming increasingly minuscule for mid-list books.

3. Ruthie Bowles

Content marketing expert and founder of Defy the Status Quo

Content for video & media in high demand

Freelance Writing Predictions: Ruthie Bowles

Ruthie Bowles

One of the most exciting developments is the growing opportunity for dynamic writers to step into the video space.

We’re seeing a surge in purely animated these days (think Doodle or Toon videos) due to the lower production cost.

These videos need storyboards and scripts, which I think many freelance writers would excel at creating for clients.

Voice-over artists and motion graphics designers aren’t worth much without a strong creative mind that knows how to structure marketing material behind the project!

4. Andrea Collier

Multimedia journalist, book author and speaker

Business-savvy + writing skills needed to boost revenue

Freelance Writing Predictions: Andrea Collier

Andrea Collier

It is going to require freelancers to be much more nimble in 2020.

Work smarter. Work harder. Be more focused.

Ask yourself what you want and prioritize how to get there.

Also diversify your work out of your sweet spot–expand your brand with more ways to support your revenue streams.

And listen to your instincts. All freelance writing clients are not good clients. If it feels off, it usually is.

5. Mandy Ellis

Austin freelance writer and coach

Blog posts morph into journalist-style articles

11. Kim Rotter

Founder of An Army of Writers

Riches are in the niches in 2020

Freelance Writing Predictions: Kim Rotter

Kim Rotter

Because the percentage of workers who are independent contractors continues to grow, it’s more important than ever to stand out.

The most successful freelance writers in 2020 will be those with high-level expertise in a niche.

Even excellent writers who “write about anything” should consider narrowing their portfolios.

Also, I think independent writers and artists, through their industry groups, will successfully mobilize to change laws that incorrectly classify ride-share drivers and all freelancers as a single and equivalent class of worker.

12. Carol Tice

Freelance Writers Den founder and founder/writing-business coach of the Freelance Writers Den 2X Income Accelerator mastermind.

2020: The year of diversity

Freelance Writing Predictions: Carol Tice

Carol Tice

I’m calling 2020 the Year of Diversity. As a freelancer, your hedge against predicted #recession2020 or 21 is to have eggs in many baskets.

Warning: If you have only one client — or all your clients come through a platform like Upwork or one content mill or digital agency — realize that you’re worse off than if you had a day job!

You’re not getting the benefits of a full-timer, yet one platform or ‘boss’ could still end 100% of your income, tomorrow. Not good.

Now’s the time to get serious about marketing your business — effectively and regularly — to find your own direct clients. Stop undercharging, and start building an emergency fund. If you’re just barely scraping by, when a client or two suddenly drops or bans you, it’s disaster.

A diverse client base and a savings account are your best hedges against marketplace uncertainty.

If you also offer editing, have WordPress skills, can create infographics… that’s another way to be diverse and have more possible income streams. That gives you something unique to offer in your marketing.

My other prediction: contractor laws such as California’s AB5 won’t have a major impact on what most freelance writers do.

These laws restrict free speech and the media’s critical role in our society, which is flat wrong. The laws will be clarified, sued over, and appealed until they are revised and do what they were meant to do — target businesses such as Uber that exploit a 100% contractor workforce.

Plan for freelance writing success this year

If you want to move up and earn more this year, it’s not going to happen by accident. It’s not going to happen by taking a class, reading a book, or completing a course….without taking action. Now is always the best time to plan for success.

What’s your prediction for 2020? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.

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  1. Sayed

    What about the (probably upcoming) recession? Will it affect blog writing?

    • Carol Tice

      Of course it will. See my prediction at the bottom. In a recession, some companies will stop blogging. Some will start paying more and developing BETTER blog content. Some will start blogs. Some will start outsourcing the writing of their blog. Others will take it in house.

      Losers will do less marketing and fade away, and winners will do MORE marketing, to steal market share from those losers.

      The key is being in control of YOUR business and knowing how to market effectively to find your own clietns — NOT checking Upwork or a conntent mill for assignments, or looking at mass job ads. The bottom of the marketplace will become much more competitive, as laid-off people all decide to try to freelance. The winners in OUR space will have positioned themselves as able to write more sophisticated products than blog posts, in industries with strong demand.

      • Mary Ann

        Thanks for generosity in sharing all of this helpful information. Best wishes for great health and great joy in the new year!
        Mary Ann

      • Allen Taylor

        Carol, when the 2008 financial crisis hit, 50% of my blogging business was real estate agents and brokers. All but three ended their service within three months. That’s when I learned I should be looking for work other than blogging, and find more work outside of real estate.

        • Carol Tice

          EXACTLY — I had to replace every single one of my clients in 2009-10. Everything changes, people pull the plug, change strategy. If you aren’t consistently marketing your biz, how are you going to survive in today’s fast-changing marketplace?

          Things keep evolving — now, real estate is all 360-degree video tours… right?

  2. Allen Taylor

    When I see two or more experts in a niche say the same thing, that says a lot. There are some commonalities in some of these predictions. I’m taking the diversification thing seriously. Also, I think we could see new business models emerge for freelance writers. For instance, writers in different niches could enter co-ops to leverage each other’s talents for SEO, content marketing, and social networking.

    I also think we’re due for a payments revolution. Payment options for freelancers haven’t changed much in 15 years. I now receive payments through PayPal, WePay, Stripe and, of course, the traditional paper check. Then there’s Square and Venmo. Online banking is beginning to see a lift with one bank focusing on gig workers. I’ve even been paid in cryptocurrency. In the event of a recession, it could benefit the crypto market. As traditional businesses hold onto their dollars and euros, if they’ve been investing in bitcoin, they could begin to pay in bitcoin for services they deem essential to the growth of their businesses.

    • Carol Tice

      Agree — when freelancers ask me where to ‘set up’ their payments I say the answer is: Whatever the client wants, you do. And in 2020, the answers to that may be more varied than ever. I recently just paid for something with Zelle for the first time, and also used another platform I can’t even recall to pay someone in Paypal-prohibited Nigeria. There’s a multitude of unbanked people, new startups want to use new online payments… so we’ll need to be more flexible than ever in how we take payments. I’m not accepting any in Bitcoin just yet though… 😉

  3. Eustace Oparaocha

    Thanks for the aid. I believe every freelancee need to see this. We all should also be aware of the scammers out there . While some are ready to improve themselves through more writing, others just want quick money. They either run with your money or provide poor content. Thanks

    • Evan Jensen

      Good to see you already recognize not all freelance writing clients are good clients. This will help you go after better-paying, quality clients, and avoid the ones that are a time suck and don’t pay well.

    • Carol Tice

      We’ve got a whole post coming up on scams freelancers need to steer clear of, so stay tuned!

  4. Deb Belluomini

    As much as I have resisted niching in favor of the flexibility to write in a lot of different areas, the evidence is growing that narrowing focus and building depth of expertise (and value) in just a few specific areas is the way of the future. Good reading here.

    • Carol Tice

      Deb, my joke is that when I meet a generalist who’s earning six figures, I’ll start telling freelance writers to be one… except I NEVER DO. In a decade-plus of doing this, mentoring 14,000 writers in Freelance Writers Den. Just too hard to market your biz that way.

  5. Mike E Bailey

    I think the majority of these observations are at least helpful even if they don’t prove accurate. On the diversification topic, it’s possible to actually expand into other skills within your niche. For instance, as a former engineer and CAD professional, I can not only write about a lot of tech topics, I can also actually DO programming, computer graphics and design work in addition to writing.

    I’m also more than an automotive writer, I am an expert auto restoration specialist. The key here, I think, will be in not becoming overloaded. The reason I haven’t continued in these professions is because of the incredible demand, resulting in HUGE work weeks (not good for my health.)

    So even though you’re an expert WRITER on a topic, if you can also actually PERFORM in that space, there’s always an option to market that skill separately, either as a technician or a consultant.

    This is another way to recession-proof yourself in your current profession. Learn to write well, or learn other creative pursuits that pertain to your current field if you’re not writing full-time yet. This mix of services with topical niches will always stand indies in good stead, I believe.

    • Carol Tice

      Agree that continuing to improve your writing is what we ALL should be doing. I think I’m still doing it!

      However… being an automotive restorer and getting PAID to talk about it is tricky. Many markets will assume you don’t need writing pay, as your byline helps build your other type of biz. Have coached many writers through how to sell writing when they’re still actively working in the field they want to write about, but it’s tough.

      Offering both design AND writing is probably easier to turn into a good earning opportunity, though.

  6. Neil Moran

    I initially resisted creating a niche for my freelance writing but have since done so and it has paid off. For me, it’s simpler too. I only have one basic subject (horticulture and gardening) to think about. That’s right, I can’t walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. Seriously, though, this specialization has lead to a lot of nice projects and some pretty good pay. Of course, I have to keep marketing my biz because these gigs don’t go on forever.

    • Carol Tice

      I find those fairly tough niches to find good pay in, Neil — would love to hear where you’ve found good markets! Congrats on your success there.

      • Neil Moran

        I no longer write for garden pubs because of low pay and competition. My best pay has come from hort trade magazines and suppliers. I recently completed a product launch for a light meter and received competitive rates. Having said that, it’s tough getting these gigs. I also teach and do workshops on gardening and some landscaping in the summer.

        • Carol Tice

          Aha… got it. Yeah, what if you looked more broadly maybe at green energy or something? Sounds like time to expand your horizons. If you want help earning more, my coaching program is nearly done taking applications but there’s a couple days left…

          • Neil Moran

            Thanks, I’ll think about it.

  7. AmyJo Bazzle

    Thanks for the great article! I appreciate all the expert opinions.


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