It might be hard to believe, but right now is a very good time for freelance writers. In 2000, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated there were 41,410 employed writers in the USA. That number rose to 135,246 in 2006, an increase of more than 300%. Where is all this demand for writers coming from?
It appears to be spurred by the internet. At the time of this post, jobs listed on oDesk for blog and article writing are nearly double the number listed for the next largest category of writing jobs. While many bemoan the death of dead-tree newspapers, in truth the internet has been a great boon for writers. Every serious business now needs a webpage, and with the growth of social media, many are beginning to embrace blogging as well. This means not just a one-time posting of the company’s mission statement, but frequent updates, press releases, and blog posts written in an engaging, inviting style. The webpage that isn’t updated frequently isn’t visited. As businesses learn to leverage social media for their marketing, the demand for writers will only grow. This may explain why over the past year, the number of jobs posted on oDesk for writers has increased over 500%.
There are currently 390 open writing jobs and 762 new jobs posted each month. There are 19,723 freelance writers on oDesk today.
The growth in jobs, however, is only part of the story. A good blog post catches peoples’ attention and gets passed on. Social media networks like Twitter and Digg can carry a story far beyond the original audience. Google searches can also keep an old story alive long after it was written. To achieve those sorts of results, however, a story has to be interesting and include factual information and hard data. This means research, so it’s not a bit surprising to see that the growth in hours worked has kept pace with the growth in jobs. A year ago, we saw 1,081 hours per week on oDesk. Today, that number is 5,590 hours.
What does the future hold? The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted a 10% growth in writing jobs between 2006 and 2016. Judging by what’s happening at oDesk, this is an extremely conservative estimate. As companies seek new ways to make use of the social networks becoming a larger part of our daily lives, the demand for good writers will grow. In spite of YouTube, the internet is still primarily a textual medium. So long as that is the case, the outlook for writers who can capture the attention of their audience and aren’t afraid of a little research should be good.