Freelance Writer: Online Diploma

Research online certificate programs in the fields of professional writing and journalism. Explore online courses, career opportunities and salary information for freelance writers.

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Essential Information

Online diploma programs in freelance writing are very rare; students may want to enroll in a professional writing or journalism writing certificate program instead. These academic programs are offered remotely at a number of mostly for-profit schools. Classes cover expository, technical, business and article writing techniques. Some online programs allow students to specialize in a specific type of writing, such as non-fiction or genre fiction. Online educational tools such as Blackboard may be used.

Online journalism writing certificate programs are provided through a number of schools, including non-profit universities and colleges. Some programs allow students to take classes entirely from home. Individuals may also choose to mix and match online courses with on-site options. Individuals may learn about media law, travel writing, reporting skills, food writing and copy editing.

Certificate in Freelance Writing

Online diploma programs in freelance and professional writing are scarce; however, students can find online certificate programs that teach the basic skills they'll need to prepare for careers in writing. Students discover how to express themselves coherently and clearly, in a style that engages their readers. Certificate programs also encourage students to get in the habit of writing so they can routinely produce professional-quality work for magazines and other print or Web-based publications.

Program Information and Requirements

Some freelance writing certificate programs have specific assignments with established due dates, while others allow students to work at their own pace. It can take as little time as a semester or as much time as two years to complete one of these programs. In some programs, students watch pre-recorded lessons, turn in quizzes, complete assignments and take tests entirely online. In others, lessons arrive in the mail and participants complete them as they have time. These programs usually offer online support. Online educational tools such as Blackboard may be used.

Students must have high-speed Internet access and a word processing program. For some programs, they'll need a copy of Writer's Market, a guide to various print and Web publications.

List of Common Courses

Online courses help aspiring writers acquire the skills they need to start a freelance writing business. Lessons cover various genres and the steps to getting published.

Basic Article Writing

This introductory class allows participants to study writing as a craft, explore different genres and learn to edit their work. It also examines writing styles used in news articles.

Living as a Freelancer

In this course, students explore the publishing industry and learn how to determine the difference between staff-written and freelance articles in a publication. They also study ways to keep track of ideas and recognize which ones could be publishable.

Novel Writing

This course helps participants develop a story idea into a novel. They learn how to set the scene, create an intriguing problem for the protagonist to solve, and tie up plot holes. They also might be required to submit a portion of the novel for critique from their professor and classmates.

Freelance Writing

Participants complete several types of writing assignments, such as travel articles, comedy pieces, news reports, personal interviews, book reviews, editorials and feature articles to get a feel for the distinct style of each piece. They study strategies for writing and work toward getting their articles published.

The Business of Writing

Students generate and develop article ideas, research potential markets and send query letters. This course introduces methods for tracking sent articles and saving financial records and receipts.


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Certificate in Journalism

Online certificate programs in journalism train students to work in the newspaper industry. Students gain the skills needed for writing and editing journalistic pieces, interviewing sources and using quotes.

Program Information and Requirements

Schools offering certificate programs in journalism allow students to take classes on-campus, online or through a combination of the two. Using online educational tools, such as Blackboard, students can access assignments, quizzes, videos and discussion boards.

To operate online programs effectively, students might need to download plug-ins, such as Java, Windows Media Player, Flash Player and Adobe Reader. High-speed Internet access and a word processor are also necessary.

List of Common Courses

Journalism courses introduce students to the various types of newspaper articles, including features, reviews, travel articles and news. Additionally, students learn how to identify news sources and how to determine whether or not a story meets criteria for coverage.

Writing and Reporting for Newspapers

This class prepares students to use a journalistic writing style and to edit their own work. From covering a beat to conducting investigations, participants learn to use experts, quotes, reports and statistics to present accurate and relevant information.

Sports Journalism

Participants acquire an understanding of different sports and learn ways to identify key players, conduct interviews and write feature stories, sports news and game preview pieces. Students might write a variety of sports stories, edit them and submit them to publishers.

Travel Writing

Students explore ways to turn their travel experiences into publishable articles. By capturing the atmosphere, talking to locals and conducting research, they can learn to write factual and interesting travel articles.

Gathering News

This course introduces methods for using interviews, polls, press releases and official documents to understand the pulse of the community and develop ideas that are relevant to locals.

Magazine Writing

Students develop article ideas, write publishable copy and contact magazine editors with query letters introducing their ideas. They learn how magazine articles differ from newspaper articles in terms of style, voice and technique.


Career Information

Although many employers seek writers who have a bachelor's degree, it's not absolutely necessary to have one. Curiosity, perseverance and publishable ideas are essential to succeeding as a freelance writer. These professionals don't usually have a specific employer; instead, they write and submit individual articles to magazines, newspapers and other publications. There is no regular salary since freelancers are usually paid by the piece, but according to PayScale.com, freelance writers in the 10th-90th percentile earned total pay between $20,356 and $103,944 as of October 2016.

College graduates might find work as journalists, and with some experience, they might become editors. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that most employers prefer that reporters have a minimum of a bachelor's degree (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that, as of May 2015, reporters and correspondents made a median salary of $36,360. The BLS projected that between 2014 and 2024, jobs for reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts could decrease by as much as 9 percent, as a result of diminishing ad revenues at radio, television and newspaper companies. However, the BLS also noted that freelancing could provide opportunities for those entering the journalism field.

Continuing Education Information

Students interested in pursuing freelance writing positions can also find a number of related diploma, certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree options at 2-year or 4-year colleges. These include: Diploma in Desktop Publishing and Design, Certificate in Creative Writing,, Associate of Applied Science in Journalism and Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. Online bachelor's and master's degree programs are also available in creative writing, providing additional instruction in writing fiction, and creative non-fiction pieces.

Online certificate programs in professional writing or journalism teach basic writing skills that can help students find work as professional freelance writers. Journalism courses can prepare students to work in fields such as the news, sports or travel writing.

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