Poll: Do you NEED a degree to be successful as a freelance writer?

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  1. profile image0
    Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years ago

    Hello everyone!

    I wanted to gauge the Community's opinion on this matter.  If you consider yourself to be successful as a freelance writer (or are hoping to become successful as a freelancer), then please feel free to share your thoughts on whether or not you believe that it is necessary to have some kind of formal degree to achieve success in the field.  Not necessarily Journalism or English Lit, but at least SOME kind of Bachelors! 

    To quantify "success" for the purposes of this thread, let's say that the word means "to make enough to support yourself and your family."

    The reason I ask is because I am debating the merits of whether or not I should divert the time necessary to finish up MY formal degree - now that I am focusing on (trying to find) success as a freelance writer! smile

    NOTE: Keep in mind that I am excluding informal education and professional improvement pursuits from this question, as I believe that it goes without saying that a professional must constantly hone his or her skills.  What I am asking for here are opinions and anecdotal accounts on whether or not it is essential to have (at least) a four-year traditional degree, before clients will take you seriously enough to trust you with projects.

    1. pjoee profile image52
      pjoeeposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      I have been freelance writing for a year now. And I do have the knack for copywriting and content writing also. But I never felt the need for a degree in writing. Though I have considered a certification program in copywriting, I strongly feel that a degree is not required. It depends on which niche a writer chooses. For some, innate writing abilities are sufficient. For others who aspire to become writers, a degree may give boost.

      1. profile image0
        Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        Thanks for responding pjoee.  How did you first break into copywriting?  Did it fall into your lap, or did you actively seek out clients from the get go?

        1. pjoee profile image52
          pjoeeposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          It came to me by chance. In the beginning, i barely knew there that there is a copywriting world. As time passed by, more projects started coming to me. That was when i realized i should take this further  smile I am not promoting myself yet. The clients are reaching me through references.

    2. Millionaire Tips profile image92
      Millionaire Tipsposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      I am not a successful freelance writer, so I'm not sure how much my advice is worth, but if I were in my shoes, I would consider the following factors:

      1.  How far away am I from my degree.  If it is just one or two courses, I would go ahead and get the degree for my own satisfaction, and the potential expanded money making potential.

      2.  Future plans.  If I was sure that writing was the only thing I would do the rest of my life, I probably wouldn't pursue finishing the engineering degree unless I wanted to write about engineering topics. 

      3.  Although if you wrote about engineering topics, you may be able to get a tax writeoff for taking classes - don't know for sure, ask a tax professional).

      4.  Money. Do you have the money to pay for the classes, etc. it would take to finish up your degree?  Is it worth the investment? I think that is what you are asking in this forum anyway, but it would depend on how many classes you have to take and how relevant your degree is in what you are planning to write.

      1. profile image0
        Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        That's an interesting suggestion about the tax write-off, Millionaire Tips - definitely something worth exploring.  I see that you are a graduate of the Apprentice Program, yet you said you are not a successful freelancer?  Do you feel that the program was beneficial to you in regards to achieving success at HP regarding earning power from your Hubs, or for your skills as an online content creator?

        1. Millionaire Tips profile image92
          Millionaire Tipsposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          I'm not one mainly because I haven't pursued it very much.  I have been on HubPages for two years. I also have a seasonal job.  In the first year, I tried to treat HubPages as a full time job and write as many hubs as possible to establish a decent size portfolio.  I did have writer's block, and the plunge caused by Panda ruined my motivation, and my quilting and genealogy kept tempting me).  In the second year, I am remodeling a house, so don't have as much time to write.

          The Apprenticeship program was very helpful in terms of knowledge.  Even though most of the information is in the Learning Center, the structure of the program kept me focused on making sure I learned all that stuff, and the writing requirements made sure I kept writing hubs. It took longer to write those hubs, but I think it was worth the effort to learn.  Putting the knowledge to use is harder for me than I thought, and my traffic isn't much more than it was before I joined the program.

          1. profile image0
            Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

            The Learning Center has been very helpful for me, and I have read that much of what went on during the Apprentice Program was covered in the LC.  But, you said "most" of what you learned as an Apprentice is covered in the free tutorials.  What do you think was an important part of the Apprenticeship curriculum that is not sufficiently covered in the LC?  SEO? Something else altogether?

    3. profile image0
      CroftRoanposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      For a freelance writer, it's not as important as if you were going to work an actual single company. It's like publishing in general. You don't need a degree, it just looks nice on your bio.
      I've been thinking about getting a writing degree to boost my credibility and to hone my skills a little. Although if you wanted a degree, I'd go with something that you would be able to use for your writing more than just the technical side. Get a criminal justice degree if your niche is crime drama, all manner of sciences for sci-fi, classics and mythology for fantasy. I'm being a bit broad but I always thought it was better to have a degree that focused the genre. It is very easy to learn how to write but it's much harder researching for stories.

      1. profile image0
        Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        You make some good points, CroftRoan.  I have a passion for mythology and classic literature, but my focus was actually more scientific in school.  Luckily, I enjoy sci-fi, too!  Which freelance areas would you say that you have had the most success breaking into, irrespective of any formal degrees?

    4. Jacqueline4390 profile image81
      Jacqueline4390posted 10 years agoin reply to this

      I think having a degree adds to your ability to be disciplined and this I believe is necessary for a writer. Anyone who is dedicated enough to work toward advanced education should be applauded because the older you get; the tougher it is. Plus, it gives you a lot of things to write about ... longer hours studying ... annoying professors :-)

      1. profile image0
        Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        We've all had annoying professors!  I agree that education is essential.  Since my break from college, I have pursued non-traditional courses via OCW and independent study.  In fact, I recently wrote a Hub about some of my experiences with edX (http://www.edx.org).

        My question is more about having a degree, rather than having knowledge.  Even though I feel comfortable enough to say that I have "unspoken" degrees in this or that area, I wonder if employers would not be overly impressed without my having paid for a "formal" degree.

        1. Jacqueline4390 profile image81
          Jacqueline4390posted 10 years agoin reply to this

          So, are you saying that you can have a degree without having knowledge? Hmmm. It's an interesting concept because how can you have a degree without acquiring some kind of knowledge? But if you are speaking about just having a degree and freelance writing (which I now think you are) then when it comes to hiring a freelancer, would you hire a high school graduate with experience writing or a college graduate with experience writing. Now that really simplifies things in my mind. :-)

          1. profile image0
            Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

            No, no — the opposite, actually: You can have knowledge without a degree.  My QUESTION was whether potential clients generally are more impressed with degrees rather than knowledge.  Sorry for the misunderstanding.

            1. Jacqueline4390 profile image81
              Jacqueline4390posted 10 years agoin reply to this


    5. Mary McShane profile image79
      Mary McShaneposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Quite a discussion going on here!

      Re: the original question about degrees.  My opinion is, you don't need a degree to write if you happen to be a good writer. Being a good writer comes with practice, it can't be taught to you, and no degree in the world will make publishers want your writing if the content is not what they are looking for, or if it is not grammatically and punctually correct. 

      Marketing yourself to the right market is paramount to getting published, secondary only to the content being what the market is looking for.  A degree is something you have at home in your desk;  it doesn't get waved around with your writing to validate it. Nor does it validate it.

      One editor told me a few years ago "Publishers like to 'know' someone has a degree (and they can usually tell on the first read through) because that is someone their editors probably won't need to spend much time with because they will grasp the concepts of the contract publishing world faster than a non-degreed writer." 

      I don't know how true that is. I think they just want to work with intelligent people and having a degree kind of niches them into that group, I guess.

      If the work doesn't speak for itself, no matter who the writer is, the work will not be recognized.  Regarding writers today,  I find that so many writers pay little or no attention to proofreading as is evident from the work I receive to proofread and edit from several sites like fiverr.com and freelancer where I make a few dollars per job.  I am amazed at the work that I am given to proofread.-- basic errors that would be caught if they had just read it through before handing it over.

      I feel that proofreading your work before submission so that it is absolutely perfect can speak louder than any degree ever would. If you can't do that, utilize a proofreading service. But get it perfect.  If an editor runs into 3 or more errors before they get to your second page, your work goes into the round bin. Degree or no degree.

      Interesting discussion.

      1. profile image0
        Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        Hi Mary McShane - thanks for your input.  What has been your experience with sites like freelancer and fiverr.com? Is that similar to Amazon's Mechanical Turk? Do you feel as though you are given adequate compensation for the effort that you must put into the projects you are given?  Also, can your completed projects be used to pad your portfolio (i.e.: I edited such and such from this or that company, etc.)?

        1. Mary McShane profile image79
          Mary McShaneposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          I'll take the last question first.  I can use the completed projects as a whole only by referencing the website, not the individual for whom I did the work unless given permission, which has not happened to date. I have more experience with freelancer than with fiverr and I have nothing but praise for the site and for whom I worked. I also work for HARO and have been compensated on several projects although most of the projects coming through in the last few months of this year are for free and all you get is a thank you very much.  fiverr.com is $5 per job, add ons are $5 to as much as $30 each.

          In other words, if you do a job of proofreading and editing a 2,000 word project, and the author wants another installment given to you on the same project, he would add a "gig" for $5 (on my end). Others who have been working for fiverr for quite a while have each gig with higher bars at $10 to $30 - these are gigs that would be say for example "will proofread and edit your second 5000 words for $10" instead of "will proofread and edit your second 2000 for $5), giving a little break in price to repeat business but only if they add it at the beginning.

          Usually these are clients who have used the same proofreader before and know they want to give them bigger projects; they will give them the first and quickly add the 2nd and 3rd gig at the same time to get the whole work done. An author can get a 10,000 word project (novella or long short story) proofread and edited for as little as $20. 

          Is the compensation on fiverr.com worth it?  Not really. It is just pin money. lol. As I'm not familiar with Amazon's Mechanical Turk, I can't answer the 2nd question.

          My portfolio is primarily textbook and medical periodicals up until 24 years ago when I started publishing in several genres: young adult, mystery, romance, historical fiction, and biographies.  At the moment, I write short story fiction, novellas, and flash fiction. I publish ebooks at Smashwords, Xlibris, lulu, and am now starting with Booktango.  I like lulu and Smashwords the best, but feel if I don't explore the others, I might be missing out on something. 

          I prefer to publish ebooks since that is the wave of the future. It is kind of funny because my opinion is there is nothing like holding a real ink and paper book in my hand. So I always order 5 copies of my work in printed form, just to keep on my shelf.  Although Mary McShane is my real name, I prefer to publish under pseudonyms for personal reasons.

  2. WiccanSage profile image92
    WiccanSageposted 10 years ago

    I've been freelance writing for over 10 years now; mine is the secondary income in the house and I don't quite work full time, but if I didn't have my husband and kids I could live off it comfortably-- especially if I increased my hours to 40-50 per week. I don't make my living from ad revenue generated sites (I started to do hubs for fun to write about something I like)-- I started out writing for magazines, now I mostly ghostwrite for private clients.

    I have a degree in English Lit, which for me was quite an accomplishment because I dropped out of high school at age 15. Going back to school did more for me than just give me a degree, I personally needed it to be challenged, to gain confidence, to get outside of the box I grew up in. I don't know if I could have gotten started in a freelance writing career without the experience.

    Some people are able to grow more in school, while others grow more outside of school-- school just slows them down. Some people are go-getters, and intrinsically motivated to learn and grow. I think if you're an outstanding writer, the editors, clients and readers are just not going to care about whether you have a degree or not-- as long as you're not trying to write in areas that generally require some kind of education (for example, no matter how brilliant you are, without a medical degree you're not going to have much clout as a medical writer).

    1. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Quite an accomplishment, indeed!  I think it's wonderful how you were able to go back to school and earn an English Literature degree like that, WiccanSage.  Do you have a preference for any specific time periods within the genre, or are your interests more general?

      Re - Your freelance work: Did you just start querying editors to get magazine contracts? Also, how did you break into ghostwriting?

      1. WiccanSage profile image92
        WiccanSageposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        Thanks; I just grew up in a bad neighborhood so I avoided school. And my family wasn't big on education; as soon as you were old enough to work, you went to work.

        Medieval lit. was my area of concentration, but I have in recent years developed a love of Victorian lit.

        I did start by querying and sending things out on spec; I think it took almost a year before my first acceptance letter. I kept that up and acceptances began coming in steadily. I sort of fell into ghost writing by applying to different ads online. It worked out well; while I love writing, I'm not big on marketing or keeping up with social media, I don't like being interviewed or public speaking. All that is such a huge part of making it as a writer, and I don't like attention, lol.  I like ghostwriting because I can just do what I like-- write, get the check, and then I just slip off into the shadows to go do something else.

        1. profile image0
          Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          Ah, Victorian Literature!  Dickens, Eliot, the Brontë sisters — We owe so much to the great authors of that era.  I learned to write by pouring over the classics.  In fact, one of the more difficult adjustments that I have had to make for writing online content, has been in truncating my epic Homeresque sentences for audiences with shorter attention spans!  Until I started writing online, I felt as though I had not worked hard enough unless I frequently employed compound sentences that spanned the length of a paragraph.

          Re your ghostwriting: What types of ads did you have the most success responding to?  For example, did you search general sites like Craigslist, or print publications and other more specific writing sites?

  3. Shanna11 profile image76
    Shanna11posted 10 years ago

    I've done a few projects for some clients and they seemed fine with the fact that I was still getting my degree, and in an unrelated field to boot! All they really cared about was seeing my body of work and my portfolio and once they saw that I was vaguely capable enough for their project, they hired me.

    1. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Thanks for responding Shanna11.  What did you have to present as a body of work & portfolio when you were first starting out?  For example: While I have written some old research papers for school, my only "official" work to this point has been posted on HP.  I am wondering if I should explore some additional avenues for publishing before I start sending queries?

      1. Shanna11 profile image76
        Shanna11posted 10 years agoin reply to this

        I put together a portfolio that is a combination of research papers, creative writing samples, and articles from Hubpages. Basically, it's just examples of my work from a variety of areas. Granted, none of my freelancing has been anything huge or important, but you've got to start somewhere.

        1. profile image0
          Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          Yes, you definitely do need to start somewhere!  What were the kinds of clients who were most receptive to your queries in the beginning, based on your portfolio of unpublished papers, creative writing, and Hubs?

      2. WiccanSage profile image92
        WiccanSageposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        I just wanted to point out, I would avoid mentioning HP or anything they consider 'content mills' to editors of established publications as they tend to have a very snobbish attitude towards it. Basically the only people who don't flinch at it are other ad-rev content organizations, or private clients looking for help with their workshops/newsletters.

        You'd be better off writing essays/articles/short stories similar to what you want to write, and putting it into the portfolio as samples. Or, send things out on spec if the editor accepts unsolicited submissions-- study a magazine or website or newspaper and find something in their niche that's from a fresh angle, and work on it to the best of your ability then send it in. They're usually less interested in your background or if you've been published before, and more interested in whether or not they like your article. If they do, they're going to buy it. I've even had editors decide the article wasn't right for their upcoming issues, but they would send it to a friend at another publication because they liked it so much.

        If they publish it, then you have a clip and that can go into your portfolio.

        1. profile image0
          Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          That makes a lot of sense, WiccanSage.  I have actually seen publications that accept unsolicited submissions in my Writer's Market book.  Do you think that it would be better to try and get an "in" with a few of those by sending in pre-written work, before sending queries to pubs and citing HP for an online portfolio?

  4. relache profile image72
    relacheposted 10 years ago

    There are writers on this site who have multiple degrees and never met any definition of success, just as there are people who jumped in blind with no prior skill set (or degrees) and caught the knack.  What the community thinks is irrelevant in either case.

    1. Will Apse profile image89
      Will Apseposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      I have to admire your complete contempt for the community, lol.

      Sorry, I'm not attacking you relache, you did ruin my shirt though. I am not reading your comments while drinking coffee in future.

      1. relache profile image72
        relacheposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        It's true 'though...

        There was once a guy named Misha on this site.  He made a LOT of money here.  He didn't even write any of his own content, he paid other people to do it, and then engaged in a veritable blitz of marketing for them.  It's worth noting how he marketed his stuff would get him banned these days, but he got in, made a lot of traffic and money while the getting was good, and moved on when the game changed.

        Whether he had degrees was immaterial, as was what anyone else thought or felt about it.  He came up with a plan and executed it very well, and he didn't care if you liked how he did it or not.

        1. Mark Ewbie profile image82
          Mark Ewbieposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          And that is called business and nous - neither of which can be learnt through any number of degrees.

          1. WiccanSage profile image92
            WiccanSageposted 10 years agoin reply to this

            A lot of new writers underestimate how important it is to learn the business end of writing, including marketing if you're going to be freelancing or self-publishing your work.

    2. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      That's an interesting perspective, relache.  Thanks for responding,

  5. DonnaCSmith profile image83
    DonnaCSmithposted 10 years ago

    I have lived off my writing, but now I'd say it is about half to two thirds. I have a part time day job, too. I do not have a writing degree and no editor has ever asked if  I did. I do have an AAS degree in equine tech and I began writing primarily about horses. I write about various things besides horses now.

    My 1st published books were historical fiction for young readers, then three horse books targeted to adults. I freelance too.

    1. mgt28 profile image60
      mgt28posted 10 years agoin reply to this

      I have degree in engineering which does not help me in writing, mainly a drawback! I still find it difficult to write but I am hopeful of success here in writing. My advice: finish off your degree and do not lose your focus on writing.

      1. profile image0
        Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        A fellow scientist, eh? I was going for my degree in Physics before "life happened."  I would like to finish my degree someday, but I have been debating whether to tackle that now or focus on my career first.  Thanks for your thoughts, mgt28.

        P.S. If you are interested in finding editing help for your Hubs, a few of us have been volunteering through this thread: http://hubpages.com/forum/topic/117953

    2. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Sounds like you've been able to find quite a bit of success in your niche, DonnaCSmith!  Do you feel that your equestrian background was essential to that success in the beginning? (i.e.: Do you think you would have been able to achieve the same amount of success in the same amount of time, had you chosen a completely different topic to research and write about in the beginning?)

      1. DonnaCSmith profile image83
        DonnaCSmithposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        Well, my first paid writing was not horse related, but the equine degree and my 30 yrs experience certainly had everything to do with my credibility as an equine journalist for many years. I think finding your niche, and having an education in your field, and being able to network with others in the field,  are more important than an English degree. You learn what you need to know to write - the mechanics of writing -  by the time you're out of high school.

        I developed good research skills writing the historical fiction and horse books and articles so now I feel I can research and write about much more than horses. It is all a learning process, and I know a degree speeds that up. It all depends on how determined someone is, whether they'll make it as a writer.

  6. Beth Eaglescliffe profile image96
    Beth Eaglescliffeposted 10 years ago

    Completing a four year degree isn't just about honing your writing skills. More importantly it's about being able to question "facts" and carry out academically rigorous research. These are skills which will come in useful whether you intend to make a career as a fiction or non-fiction author.
    Although good writers do not need a formal academic education to be successful, many "great" writers are often gifted researchers or authors in academia too.

    1. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Thanks for responding Beth Eaglescliffe (Beautiful surname, by the way.  Are you Native American?)  If you had to recommend one book on how to conduct research for writing, what would it be?

      1. Beth Eaglescliffe profile image96
        Beth Eaglescliffeposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        Hi Earl, I love the idea that I may have Native American blood. The truth is more prosaic; Beth Eaglescliffe is just a pen-name I use. Like the writer J. K. Rowling, I keep separate identities for each writing genre.

        To echo what some of the other contributors have said in this thread:-
        - Complete your degree if possible. In a competitive job market it will do you no harm and it will show that you are able to commit to completing something. 
        - Read everything and anything. The best way to learn how to write is to learn from others (see book recommendation below).
        - Practice, practice, practice and grow a thick skin. The only way to become a better writer is to write and learn to handle rejection. Even successful writers are rejected many times before their work passes muster.
        - Freelance writing is a business. To succeed you need to be able to write well AND to market yourself. Network like crazy and find out where the gaps in the market are. Give yourself a USP (unique selling point) and don’t be afraid to boast of your success (when it happens).

        You asked me to name a book that would help someone wanting to become a better writer. It is “Reading Like a Writer” by Francine Prose

  7. DzyMsLizzy profile image85
    DzyMsLizzyposted 10 years ago

    I did not start young enough in life--i.e., right out of high school--with my college education.  Therefore, by the time I convinced myself that I should go, if only to prove something to myself, the requirements had changed, and I could not master the math.  (No one could offer a logical explanation of why a writer would need algebra--yet they claim it teaches you to think logically!)   So, I have only an AA in Liberal Arts; I'll never have a 4-year degree.

    I have never written as a freelancer--I inquired about being a stringer for a travel magazine, because my dream (then) was to travel about the country, writing about the places I visited, but no dice.  I don't have a charismatic "able-to-sell-myself" personality, so I don't think I'd do well freelancing.  I like HP, because I can write about whatever I want, and get some pocket change out of the deal.

    That said, I can write and do research with the best of them!  I didn't need college to teach me how to look thinks up; I've been doing it all my life.  I grew up as a reader (dad refused to have a TV);  I knew how to use the library from an early age.  In college, (late 1980's) I researched, wrote the script for, produced, hosted and edited a video documentary about an old local railroad that was defunct before my time.  No, I did not get paid--it was my term project in California history class.  But the production got rave reviews from the history teacher and the Pacifica Historical Society maintains a copy to this day.

    I know--it seems none of that answered your basic question--but, in a way, it did.  You see, a lot of it depends upon you.  How good are you at presenting and promoting yourself?  How badly do you want it?  How much time are you willing to devote?  None of that has anything to do with an official piece of paper.  If it's writing and researching skills you lack, then yes, college may help.  If those things are already 'good to go,' then it shouldn't matter much.

    Best wishes!

    1. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      That's an interesting story, DzyMsLizzy.  Thanks for your input!  Even though it was unpaid work, it is impressive that you were able to contribute to the Pacifica Historical Society.  I imagine that a project like that would also look good in a portfolio.

  8. eliza60 profile image59
    eliza60posted 10 years ago

    While it is always good to have a degree I don't think it would make a difference if you truly are a good writer. I am 60 years old and have been keep diaries since I was 10. I am now taking those diaries and turning them into a biography for future generations. I also love to write short stories for my grand children. Having said that,  I will be taking a writing class at my local college because I am truly the comma splice queen. My desire is to write novel and publish it. I don't know that I want to write, as you say, for a client. My true love is writing both stories and poetry. However, if someone likes the way I write and would like to have me do something for them I won't turn it down.

  9. eliza60 profile image59
    eliza60posted 10 years ago

    I am self taught as far as writing goes. I have every book on writing and grammar I could find. Raising four children was not conducive to going to college. The sad thing for me is that my father did not think I needed an education past the 10th grade. That was the era. But when all my children were in school I went back and got my High School Diploma, not a GED. Since then I have worked very hard to become a good writer and have written many short stories (I have not published them yet) and I am writing a book for a forum I belong as well. Research and questioning facts in the computer age is a lot easier than it was in my day and I use it every time I write. Getting that education is very good and smart, but if you have neither the time nor the means to go to school learning on your own is not that difficult. A writing class and a writing club is what I am doing now and I have plenty of people giving me that oh so needed and important constructive criticism.

    1. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Thanks for responding, eliza60. Kudos on going back to school to get your diploma.  I remember a radio advertisement that I heard once upon a time, where a little girl asked her father why the sky was blue.  "To match the color of your pretty eyes," came the prompt reply.  Then the little girl said something like: "Actually, Dad, radiation from the sun is broken down into separate wavelengths by the moisture in our atmosphere, and the wavelength corresponding to the color we see as 'blue' achieves the most optimal diffusion." smile

      That ad stuck with me.  The prominence of sexism in education, throughout our history, is a real eye opener.  Luckily, things have begun to improve somewhat.  Still farther to go, though, wouldn't you say?

  10. Fatiha profile image69
    Fatihaposted 10 years ago

    I started my freelance writing work when I was in school. So I guess you do not need any degree, just passion for writing.

    1. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      "Do what you love," as the saying goes! wink

  11. Suzanne Day profile image94
    Suzanne Dayposted 10 years ago

    I am a blogger and social media manager in my day job. I also write freelance poetry, write on Hubpages and a few other places. I studied writing at a trade school in Australia and got a certificate (not quite a degree standard). I enjoyed learning more about writing and some of the things taught helped me a lot.

    But the things which helped the most were practicing writing and discovering what you are good at.

    For example, I am good at writing funny poetry, "how to" style hubs and advertising copy for companies (making them sound more interesting than they really are). So my advice is to finish your course to help get day jobs, and to practice writing more!

    1. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      That's interesting, Suzanne Day.  I have been reading about Social Media Management, but I am embarrassed to say that I don't really understand what all that entails.  How much time would you say that you invest per week?  Is the money good? Do you enjoy it? How did you come by the assignment (i.e.: Did you apply, or was the position offered to you after relevant parties saw your writing)?

      Also, I have often wondered if marketing my poetry would be an avenue worth exploring.  I have til now just written for me, as I figured that it would not be worth the time invested in attempting to sell it.  Have your experiences in marketing your poetry been mostly positive?  If so, do you have any tips for those who are considering submitting their poetry commercially?

  12. Marie Flint profile image74
    Marie Flintposted 10 years ago

    Wicca Sage, I sound a bit like you. I was never attracted to the limelight, either.

    Earl, keep in mind that I only achieved a 78% B.A. in English. I have a few credits to my name as far as articles and short stories (and, of course, Hub Pages). I never published a book, but I haven't excluded the possibility. In short, I've never made "a living" by freelance writing. I will however, offer my opinion and experience for what it's worth.

    1. You have to LOVE to write.
    2. You have to have a decent command  of the English language, including a few mechanics.
    3. You have to be disciplined and persistent.

    Marketing as a freelance writer, which is really important, is generally not taught in college. You have to do as Wicca Sage did--send out queries, scout a focused market, and keep at it. Keep your rejection slips that prove your efforts just in case you are ever questioned by the IRS. Perhaps you'll get lucky and a publisher will like your work. That doesn't mean you're necessarily have a best seller, however.

    If you're just going to focus online, I recommend you finish the degree, a bachelor's at least, because there might be times when the money gets tight and you'll want to be employed for awhile to have a steady income. Most editing jobs online will require that you at least be enrolled in an accredited course relating to the field of writing. Of course, there is the whole business of self publishing. E-books are vogue.

    Technical writing and non-fiction pay better than literary and fiction. Only you know what you want to do.

    So, that's my two cents' worth. Wishing you all the best with your writing, Marie

    1. WiccanSage profile image92
      WiccanSageposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Very true. Especially about how there are things you simply cannot learn in college.

      College or no college, anyone interested in writing should do things like get a subscription to the Writer's Digest and/or Publisher's Weekly. Get a subscription to the Writer's Market Online. Raid books on writing-- not just how to make your writing stronger but on the business end of writing. Join a reputable organization, such as the Writers Guild Of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, International Women’s Writing Guild, Society of Children’s Book Writers And Illustrators, etc.-- whatever applies to you. Go to workshops and conferences.

      It's a business, it's important to keep learning and growing in that business, to keep up with the field, to make contacts, etc.-- to keep it growing.

    2. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      That sounds like some pretty sensible advice, Marie Flint.  Thanks for responding.  I do have a passion for writing — the satisfaction derived from a completed project has superseded that of any other of my professional pursuits to date.

  13. Writer Fox profile image33
    Writer Foxposted 10 years ago

    One famous freelance writer only finished grammar school, had a shotgun wedding at age 18, held some odd jobs for about ten years, sometimes poached game to feed his family and then embarked on a freelance writing career. His name was William Shakespeare.

    1. WriteAngled profile image75
      WriteAngledposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      On the other hand, I would guess the standard of education at a grammar school of that period was way higher than seen in secondary schools and perhaps also in universities today.

  14. WryLilt profile image89
    WryLiltposted 10 years ago

    I have a journalism degree. It really helped improve my writing. But I wouldn't say a degree is absolutely necessary.

    1. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Sure sounds cool, though: "Susannah Birch - Investigative Journalist. To be played by Julia Roberts in this summer's blockbuster, 'I Love Trouble 2: Trouble is my Middle Name.' "

      Do you have a favorite book from your college years that you would recommend for honing journalism skills?

  15. Writer Fox profile image33
    Writer Foxposted 10 years ago

    Yeah, he learned Latin.  Bet that was really useful.

    1. WriteAngled profile image75
      WriteAngledposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      It probably was with respect to extending his vocabulary and introducing him to the concept of literature.

      1. Writer Fox profile image33
        Writer Foxposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        I have a B.A. and an M.F.A.  Having degrees does not make you a successful writer.  They represent being a successful student.

        1. Jacqueline4390 profile image81
          Jacqueline4390posted 10 years agoin reply to this

          It really does have a great deal to do with what your major is in. I have a BBA, MPA and MS in Education and I have had to literally write myself into exhaustion.

    2. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Et tu, Writer Fox? wink

      Faber est suae quisque fortunae, or “Every man is the artisan of his own fortune.” --Appius Claudius Caecus

      (Learned that one today by watching a "White Collar" re-run, lol!)

    3. Marie Flint profile image74
      Marie Flintposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Latin, which I love but am poorly skilled, was the language of scholars up until the time when the universities became ubiquitous. You simply weren't erudite without knowledge of Latin. Latin is still used by the Vatican today, and the Vatican, with the Catholic Church, is a powerful influence today. Medical terms have their roots in Latin, and nearly all our English vocabulary can be traced back to the Latin. So, in spite of it being a "dead" language (Romansch is still spoken in some parts of Switerland), it certainly has its modern-day applications. Pax vobiscum!

  16. electronician profile image79
    electronicianposted 10 years ago

    I think life experience is more important for being a good writer. The learned skills that you require to be a good writer aren't anywhere up to degree level. There's no good putting high level English understanding into your writing, because unless your readers have the same level it won't be appreciated.I think that is why art is so much less popular then other media - because so many artists create things that you need a degree in art appreciation to actually like. I don't think writers should try to emulate that.

    A degree in something else would be useful if you want to write informative articles, but given that most people don't want to read degree level articles when they're surfing the web, life experience is probably better for that.

    1. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      That makes sense, electronician.  I recently read something from Simone's new site (http://gigaverse.com/guides/drake-baer/) from writer Drake Baer, that made a lot of sense to me:

      " [Baer] ... compares himself to a mother penguin who finds fish, chews it up into easy-to-swallow mush, and feeds it to her chicks. Just as penguins masticate food for their young, journalists make dense, hard-to-digest information palatable. The key to offering fresh, substantive writing, Drake explains, is to know where to find the fish."

      I imagine that many people who search the web are looking for easily digested (no pun intended) information, rather than an academic dissertation!

  17. WriteAngled profile image75
    WriteAngledposted 10 years ago

    I think the main point of degree-level studies is that, in some cases at least, this will guarantee a minimum level of literacy and a minimum capacity for logical presentation of concepts. Yes, I am sure there are people with an innate capacity for both. I also know that both skills are lacking in many graduates today due to the constant dumbing down of educational qualifications so as not to upset those of lesser ability.

    1. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Yes, I have met a few college "graduates" who made me question the value of a four-year degree, and the costs associated.  To put it bluntly: I wondered if these individuals had not majored in "Keg Appreciation."

  18. Will Apse profile image89
    Will Apseposted 10 years ago

    Back in my day, you needed a brain the size of a refrigerator to get a degree. Or a rich family willing to pay expensive fees.

    Nowadays, even poor people you can get a degree out of a cornflakes packet.

    Just thought that I would mention that.

    1. Jacqueline4390 profile image81
      Jacqueline4390posted 10 years agoin reply to this

      That is so funny. How did you know I did that? Hahahahaha!

      1. Will Apse profile image89
        Will Apseposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        Grandpa knows everything. Never ask him what he thinks.

        1. Jacqueline4390 profile image81
          Jacqueline4390posted 10 years agoin reply to this

          Well ... when you get to be a grandpa, I guess you know quite a bit. :-)
          I've always loved talking to grandpas. I learned a lot as a child, wish I'd written some of that down.

    2. Solaras profile image95
      Solarasposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      A $60,000.00 a year corn flake package...

      1. Will Apse profile image89
        Will Apseposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        You pay that for a degree in 'Facebook Studies' or 'Advanced Bathroom Chores'?

    3. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Cornflakes in the UK must be much more sophisticated than what we have in the States! wink

      1. HollieT profile image82
        HollieTposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        Humour him, ultimately Will is suggesting that he has the brain the size of a refrigerator. Appreciation for his large brain has not been forthcoming, we are all very, very bad!

  19. sunilkunnoth2012 profile image65
    sunilkunnoth2012posted 10 years ago

    I don't think a degree is required to become a good writer. History says some of the most famous writers in the world had not even had  some formal education too.  It is our mind and hard work that determine things. The one who wins is the one who thinks he can! Best of luck my dear. Anyhow I must advise you to finish your graduation or other qualification papers as it will improve your confidence level.

    1. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Hey Sunil! Thanks for responding!

  20. SAM ELDER profile image57
    SAM ELDERposted 10 years ago

    Medical terms have roots not only from Latin but also from Greek. Please do not underestimate the influence of Greek language, it is not fair giving all credit to Latin (when it comes to medicine), especially when a big part of Ancient Greek medical terminology was translated into Latin, simply because Greek language is extremely difficult... I'm not Greek by origin but seeing Greece being practically robbed on daily basis (Stolen Parthenon Sculpture, name ... Macedonia. etc) I had to mention also Greek language among with Latin when it comes to medical terminology.

    1. WriteAngled profile image75
      WriteAngledposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      I had to learn Latin at school for several years and loathed it. I really regret we were not given the chance to learn Ancient Greek instead. For a start, I prefer the sounds used in Greek to those used in Latin, and secondly, I have always longed to be able to read Greek drama in the original.

      Another couple of issues, though, have only been touched upon indirectly in this discussion, namely the type of degree and the type of writing.

      Setting aside creative writing and writing on shared revenue sites, neither of which will pay the bills for most people, a writer needs to understand the subject about which he is writing. As someone mentioned above, very specialised technical writing can pay well. For such work, someone with a degree and preferably also higher degree in a given subject would definitely be preferred by a  client over someone without.

      I earn my living not as a writer but as a specialist translator. The main reason I am never short of work is that clients appreciate the fact I understand not just the languages but also the subject in which I translate. I have seen horrendous errors made by obviously competent linguists with no subject knowledge. The same principle applies to writing. A quick trawl through some of the "medical" articles on this and other sites will show you the disasters that can happen when people write on topics about which they have no knowledge or understanding.

      It is unfortunate though that many scientific/technical/medical graduates are emerging these days with a very poor command of the written language. This is at due at least in part to the vast use of multiple-choice exams by lazy teaching staff, who cannot be bothered to wade through essays.

      When I did my degree in cellular pathology, I had to produce an essay every week. This was marked not just on the quality of the knowledge it displayed, but also on grammatical correctness and literary style. After three years of that, plus the subsequent writing of a PhD thesis, medical/scientific writing became second nature to me.

    2. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      You know, it is sometimes easy to forget that much of Roman civilization was not innovative.  They came, they saw, they conquered - they assimilated.  We owe much to the ancient Greeks, it is true!

  21. earner profile image82
    earnerposted 10 years ago

    A degree is not required, I've not got a degree, I left school aged 16.

    But - you do need a degree to keep at the back of your drawers because employers like to see a degree and so by not having one in your drawer to pull out when needed you'll regret it often for the rest of your life.

    So get your formal degree now as a priority over online writing etc.  Online writing is something you can do/pick up at any time..... getting a degree is not so easy, you're in a position right now to just put on that final spurt so do it.

    1. Mary McShane profile image79
      Mary McShaneposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      I am so new to HP that where to post in these forums is still a challenge. lol  After reading through all the replies, I answered above by clicking "reply" to the original question. It was 3AM so I went to bed. When I got up, my email said there were five notifications in replies to this forum question and silly me, I thought they were replies to what I had written. lol I find I have replied in the wrong place.

      So much for how a degree can make you look intelligent or silly!

      It doesn't matter to publishers if you have a degree - it will not help or hinder for them to hire you.  I find that no matter if your IQ is 120 (average intelligence), if you graduated at the top of your class, or if you graduated with five degrees, a degree will get you nowhere if you don't know how to use it. 

      On the other side of the token, much can be said for life experience.  Some of our greatest writers wrote from the heart using their life experiences and made their mark in literature. Now, not everyone has rich life experiences to fall back on as subject matter, and that little old degree doesn't come with a magic box full of little pieces of paper with ideas written on them that you can pull out to start your next book, but at the same time, it MAY act to get your foot in many a door.  My mother was famous for prefacing her answers to our  dilemmas with "To be on the safe side."   

      If you can "afford" to get the education which awards a degree in your chosen field, do it. But if you think it will make a difference in moving your writing career along - even onto the road to fame - "to be on the safe side" just go do it.  Some 20 or 30 years down the line, that degree just might save your butt when times change and it becomes a necessity for a project or change of career.

    2. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      I see your point, earner.  I have wondered whether potential clients might not be overly impressed by "unofficial" expertise - i.e.: Without an expensive document (re: diploma) to back it up.  I am reminded of a scene from Good Will Hunting:


  22. Cardisa profile image90
    Cardisaposted 10 years ago

    I have been writing since I was a toddler. I got my first paycheck as a writer before I went to college. Then for years I did other stuff. I originally wanted a degree in writing and started a course but was told that writing would not make me money....stupidly I believed, so I changed my major to business. I acquired several other qualifications and it never once occurred to me to resume a writing course.

    I got frustrated a few years ago as my urge to write almost drove me crazy so I quit my job and started working from home.

    I am not as successful as I would like but I would like to think I am getting there. I still have things to learn. I don't think it's necessary to have a degree to be a successful writer. There are two things I believe you need. First you need the raw talent and then you need the knowledge to build on that talent. You don't have to have a degree to gain that knowledge.

    1. gmwilliams profile image84
      gmwilliamsposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Sadly, creative types such as writers and artists are discouraged to pursue their interests in order to obtain a "real, sensible" career.   Creative types have a long road in this technical, mathematical, and business oriented society where RESULTS matter.  There ARE other talents.  Cardisa, express yourself and use your TRUE voice.

      1. Cardisa profile image90
        Cardisaposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        I listened to myself way too late or I could have been a best selling author by now....lol tongue

    2. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Hi Cardisa - thanks for your input.  Which resource(s) (i.e.: book, website, etc.) would you say has been invaluable to you in your pursuits to hone your skills as a writer?

      1. Cardisa profile image90
        Cardisaposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        In terms of writing for clients I try to study my English language very well, especially knowing the difference between British and US English.

        Fiction has always been my first love and the more I read and write the better I become. Article writing is something I acquired naturally I would think, but high school and college played a huge role in that I got to write essays and reports. Writing articles is similar.

        I haven't used any websites as resources to improve my writing. I just practice and go at it.

        In terms of working as a freelancer I recommend Guru.com and Elance.

  23. brakel2 profile image74
    brakel2posted 10 years ago

    I have a degree but not in Journalism. However, I took seven journalism courses that were very helpful. My answer is no, as I know many good writers without degrees or writing courses. If you have creativity, many possibilities abound. Some writers never finished high school and are self taught. It does help to take a grammar course, but grammar books are out there to help you.

    1. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Hi brakel2 - thanks for responding! I see that you majored in Psychology and Sociology.  I have always been fascinated by those two inter-related social sciences.  Your profile says that you used to be a state employee.  Were you a social worker?

  24. Writer Fox profile image33
    Writer Foxposted 10 years ago

    If you want to see if people will hire you to write without a degree, why don't you just go sign up at one of the many, many freelancer sites and bid on some jobs?  If you want to go to college, then why don't you just go do that?  Or, you can do both at the same time. 

    I have found, however, that many people would rather talk about being a writer or read books about being a writer or interview writers about being a writer than just pick up a pencil and write. circulus vitiosus

    1. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      I'm multi-tasking — Very un-Nietzsche like of me, I agree. (re: Philology, re: re: "Circulus Vitiosus Deus,").

      Of course, a scholar of Nietzsche's time might have countered with:

      "Circulus vitiosus agere nesciunt, ruinae hominum" --Earl's Great Grandpappy (and proto-Google Translate)

  25. nArchuleta profile image75
    nArchuletaposted 10 years ago

    Getting a degree is only somewhat about what you learn in the classroom. It's about discipline, dedication and tenacity as well. Sometimes employers, or potential clients, prefer a candidate with a degree simply because they know this person can follow through to the end.

    What you learn in the classroom is exceedingly valuable, though. The curricula the professors teach is invaluable. These people are leaders in their fields for a reason: They have extensive knowledge in their field, sometimes the best knowledge. Likewise, a college education forces you to become familiar with topics and theories you might otherwise have missed. I may not have enjoyed viewing a cadaver in biology class at the time, but it is a unique experience for someone outside of the medical field!

    However, to speak to your practical question:  Do you need a degree to become successful as a freelance writer? That depends on you. Are you going to feel comfortable if, excuse the lack of modesty, you and I go against each other for the same client? I'm going to immediately highlight my degree in English Writing, my decade of experience being an English teacher and my extensive writing experience. I am not only able to write copy for a website. I can master content marketing, curated content, creative writing, technical writing, business writing, article writing and blog writing. I kid you not, I have a gig writing education articles on one site, business letters and press releases on another, highly researched comparisons on another and a fun blogging gig gossiping about good-looking athletes on yet another. Every single one of those requires a different skill set, especially related to voice. I've been an avid writer since I was eight, but I certainly did not have those skills before I went to university.

    Having said that, returning to the practical side of your question. If you're looking to make money at writing, and you're a talented writer, a college degree might not be necessary. However, if you think of writing as I do, as a craft to be mastered, either get thee back to college or get thee to the library. Mastery takes immense, never-ending work, and those of us with a degree have had the benefit of top-notch coaches.

    Last note: I never failed to get a job because of my degree.

    Either way, good luck! smile

    1. profile image0
      Earl Noah Bernsbyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      You make a strong case, nArchuleta!  In your response, you said that you were able to master several types of "voices" for different writing assignments.  Could you explain a little more about what you meant by that, or maybe share a link(s)/recommend a book(s) that give details about that aspect of writing?


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