Government Contracts for Writers: 11 Red-Tape Cuts to Get Hired

Evan Jensen

Writers: Tips to Cut Red Tape and Get Government Contracts. thought about getting freelance work through government contracts?

You’re probably thinking something like:

  • There’s a lot of red tape to cut through
  • It’s too hard
  • It’s not my niche
  • I don’t know enough about government

Sound familiar?

FYI, those are just excuses. Maybe this will change your mind about pursuing this kind of freelance work.

Take the time to cut through the red tape, and you can find government contracts that pay writers $100 to $200 an hour.

Bill $5,000 to $25,000 in a month writing for one client? This is happening for writers hired to create content for government contracts at the federal, state, and local level.

Can you see past the red tape now?

Sure, finding clients and writing content for government contracts is a little different than writing for magazines and businesses.

But there’s lots of work. It pays well. And if you’re willing to cut through the red tape, some of it can be yours.

Check out these tips from a government-contracts freelancer to get started.

Meet government contracts freelancer Katie Trauth Taylor

Government Contracts: Katie Trauth Taylor

Katie Trauth Taylor

Katie Trauth Taylor is the founder of Untold Content, an agency that specializes in writing and editing for clients in government, scientific, and technical industries.

One of her first government contracts was a freelance gig writing content for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. It helped fund the rest of her doctoral program in technical writing at Purdue University. And instead of pursuing the path of tenured professor, Taylor decided to be a freelance writer.

Since then, she’s written content or managed the content-planning process for a long list of government contracts, including the VA Women’s Health Program Office, the Medication Reconciliation initiative, the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s global evaluation brief, and many other projects.

We caught up with her in a recent Freelance Writers Den podcast to learn more about government contracts for freelance writers.

Q1: How do you get government contracts?

A: OK, here’s the short answer. The way that most government opportunities happen for freelancers, is that you really have to have another larger organization that you’re working with.

Here’s an example:

My first contract was through the Purdue University Department of Pharmacy. They had an entity called the Center for Medication Safety Advancement. I was able to contract with that program office in order to work directly with Veteran Affairs.

Q2: What’s the earning potential for freelance writers?

A: Think about it this way. The government contracts out billions of dollars every year to businesses that provide services to support their operations. And this includes all kinds of freelance writing projects.

Q3: What type of projects do freelancers work on for the government?

A: In terms of the types of writing services government clients need, it can look just as varied as it does in any other industry. You might be building communication strategies, developing content plans or creating editorial calendars. You might be writing social media content, or white papers.

If you can translate complex information, research, or evidence-based data into content that’s engaging, accurate and inspiring action in some way, you’re a good fit for a lot of government-contract projects.

There’s also things like:

  • Annual reports
  • Articles
  • Evaluations
  • Technical documents
  • Thought-leadership pieces
  • Training materials

Q4: What’s the best way for freelancers to find government contract work?

A: If you’re a freelancer and you want to pursue government opportunities, I strongly recommend that you begin by seeking out businesses that already have government contracts, or are at least pursuing them.

They’ll be the contract holder, you’ll be the subcontractor, and you’ll have a lot less red tape to deal with. Plus, the government expects businesses to team up and utilize subcontractors to bring their work to fruition.

Q5: What’s a capability statement?

A: If you’re pursuing government-contract work, this is a request you’re probably going to get. Your capability statement is sort of like a well-designed resume.

It’s essentially a template-style document that describes your capabilities, differentiators, and why you’re positioned to do government work.

If you’re a freelancer, you can create one of these for yourself with this template:

Government Contracts: Capability Statement
Q6: What if you mainly write content for digital marketing and social media platforms?

A: Great. If you are someone who is really strong with digital marketing, content marketing, and social media marketing, there’s work like that for the government.

A lot of agencies are now noticing that it’s important to be communicating with the public and reaching the public about their efforts. And they’re calling for more support with their own social media strategies by hiring freelancers.

Q7: Where is the bulk of government contract work for writers?

A: It depends on who you ask. But I think a lot of freelance opportunities for government work do fall into the slightly more technical side of things. That’s things like report writing, technical writing, or writing something like standard operating procedures for an agency.

If you’re the kind of writer who is inclined to work on organizational content, sometimes called internal content, then there are a lot of opportunities for that as well.

Q8: How do you get local government work as a freelancer?

A: Get good at networking locally. Introduce yourself to people in government. Find out when your city government is meeting to discuss small business opportunities and contracting opportunities.

Get in on those meetings, be present, listen and learn. A lot of times, they haven’t even thought about the need for writing services. But once they meet you, they realize you can help them.

Q9. What if you don’t know a lot about government?

A: That’s an interesting question, especially at the city level. For example, at the city level a lot of opportunities for contracting seem to fall within construction and facilities management.

As a freelance writer, you might be thinking:

Hey, that has nothing to do with writing. They’re looking for people to lay bricks.”

But guess what? A lot of those projects have to submit written reports to show their impacts. And many construction projects need a communications plan to get community buy-in before they get started.

Get to know these people in government and construction. Let them know you’re a writer who can partner with them on projects and add value. It’s a great strategy to get more freelance work.

Q10: What’s it like being a government contract freelance writer?

A: You should expect a level of business formality that might be a little more intense than a typical corporate setting. For example, we work with clients in Silicon Valley that are very aggressive and very hardworking, but also very laid back in their tone and style.

It’s the exact polar opposite of some of the clients that we work with in Washington D.C. It’s all very intense. You know…Everything is due yesterday. The pressure is always on for them to perform well. They expect to execute perfectly every time.

Q11: What’s a typical rate for freelance government-contract work?

A: I’ve seen contracts between $100 an hour to $200 an hour. And we’ve seen those contracts committing to $5,000 a month, upwards of $25,000 a month. So it really depends. But it’s not uncommon to see work within that range.

Cut the red tape to get government-contract work

If you want to get well-paying freelance work with government contracts, cut through the red tape. Partner with businesses that already have contracts. Reach out to improve your network. And you’ll be on your way to cashing in on this lucrative niche.

Have you landed a government contract writing gig? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.

Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultra-marathon.

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  1. J.

    Hi Evan & Katie,

    “How to make a million dollars and not pay taxes: First, get a million dollars.”
    -Steve Martin

    Thank you as always for the ideas, but this article is a lot like the above quote.

    It would be great for some follow up on how to find Government SUBCONTRACTORS to work for. As the very first sentence lets us know we won’t actually be getting the content as advertised.

    “OK, here’s the short answer. The way that most government opportunities happen for freelancers, is that you really have to have another larger organization that you’re working with.”

    • Carol Tice

      J — first off, a note that I don’t usually allow anonymous posters here on the comments. Please return with your full name next time!

      If you read through the comments on this post, I’ve already offered a very specific answer — it’s fairly easy to find winning subcontractors, as their winning bid is a public record.

      You can also directly win government bids as a solo writer — I did it and wrote a $13,000 contract for my regional transit agency at one point. They were thrilled to have me, too, could hardly get anybody to bid on their proposal.

  2. Marianne Clay

    I live about two hours north of Washington, DC. Can you recommend any businesses I could connect with for freelance contract writing with the federal government?
    Thank you.

    • Carol Tice

      You’ll need to find your own leads, Marianne — but see my note to Zach on how to find winners of previous bids for your type of federal contractor work. That gives you your lead list!

      You could also search websites of digital agencies in D.C. and see if they claim government agencies as clients. Best of luck with it!

  3. Jennifer Reginald

    I had a great gig with my small hometown’s local government, redoing their website, which was a lot of content writing. Small towns that you’d guess don’t have the money might have grants they can use to pay you, especially if they’re doing rebranding (a pretty popular thing right now) and/or have a comprehensive plan, which usually requires a better website, better communications, etc. And, they often don’t have staff to promote their activities on social media, write press releases, etc. The key, of course, is checking if they have a budget. And, it helps if you have related experience.

    • Evan Jensen

      Hi Jennifer. That’s awesome. Another source to check out for government contract work is your local/state/regional tourism offices. Most produce tourism marketing materials, and some get grants and funding for campaigns that a copywriter will help develop.

  4. Zach Lazzari

    Do you have any strategies for finding these existing contract holders? Seems like the work hinges on finding partners. Is there a government database or search engine for contractors?

    • Carol Tice

      There is, Zach! All previously won contracts are public records, and you can find them online, so that gives you a list of digital marketing agencies and such who go after these contracts. FedBizOpps is a great place to research federal contracts, for instance. If you can’t find where winning bids are listed for your state/county/city/wherever, call the agency you’re targeting and ask where they post them.

    • Evan Jensen

      Another thought here. Some universities have extension programs, grant-funded programs, and business incubators that operate independently. So in my former life, I worked for a couple of grant-funded programs by the U.S. Department of Education at the University of Oklahoma as an admin asst. that paid out thousands of dollars to freelancers and consultants.

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