Work on your own terms: 5 great freelance careers

Work on your own terms: 5 great freelance careers was originally published on College Recruiter.

Businessman holding a chalkboard with the word Freelance on it

Businessman holding a chalkboard with the word Freelance on it. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

More Americans want to work from home, and more businesses are happy to oblige. A recent study conducted by Intuit found that by the year 2020, over 40 percent of the US workforce — that’s 60 million people — will be freelancers, contractors and temp workers. Whether your goal is to work from home, be your own boss or take a job that doesn’t require you to keep a rigid schedule, freelancing is an intriguing option.

Some careers are easier to go freelance than others. But when you find the sweet spot of freelance work, you may never want a typical nine-to-five again. Check out some top picks for freelance work and learn more about the training you can pursue to get you there.

Distance Education

You might think of online learning for your own schooling, but it’s time to consider it as a freelance career as well. Distance education programs are growing. A survey by the Instructional Technology Council found that distance education enrollments grew by 6.5 percent percent from fall 2011 to fall 2012. With more courses and more students enrolled, more instructors are needed. You’ll typically need a terminal degree like a Ph.D. or MFA to be a distance education teacher, but the pay syncs up with adjunct industry standards.


Though it might not be the first job you think of when considering non-salaried careers, accounting is actually a very common freelance pursuit. Accountants working as clerks, bookkeepers and property specialists might freelance around tax season or consult with firms or businesses. Clerks may come to the job with a high school diploma or associate degree, but fully licensed accountants typically need a bachelor’s degree plus CPA certification, or certification within their specific field. As long as death and taxes catch up with us all in the end, accountants will be a necessary career — and a viable freelancing pursuit.

Freelance Writing

Writing is a standard of freelancing careers. Journalists, business writers, tech writers, marketing and advertising copywriters, and grant writers can all be found working per-word or per-hour for local, national, and online papers, magazines, and companies. Career training to become a writer can be a nebulous proposition. You might consider going for a creative writing degree to hone your sentences, or go for a journalism degree to learn newspaper structure and ethics. Some specialized writers even come from other disciplines, earning history degrees or political science or technical degrees. A good rule of thumb is to pursue your interests first and then learn how freelance work can fit your knowledge.

Web/App Development

If you’ve got a technical mind and the desire to set your own hours, freelance development can be the perfect option. Web developers — not to be confused with Web designers or graphic designers — hone the backend of websites we use every day, and mobile app developers create the applications you’ll find on your smartphone and tablet. Some developers are self-taught, but earning some training in web development or app development can give you the basic knowledge from which you can innovate. Developers might hold four-year computer programming or computer science bachelor’s degrees, or pursue a two-year associate degree and hit the books on their own.


Looking for a way to pursue a subject that fascinates you, but doesn’t have a lot of practical application? Tutoring can be the best intersection of your academic passions and your need to pay the rent. Freelance tutors help students through their coursework in Sumerian history or robotics or geography, gaining from their tutor’s experience and interest in the subject. As a tutor, you might also pick up hours teaching to certain tests like the SAT or ACT. You can also find companies allowing you to tutor from home. It’s one way to immerse yourself in the subjects that interest you without committing to an academic career.

Make your own freelance future

Don’t see anything appealing above? The beauty of freelancing is how you can cater it to your own skills. Freelancers may work from home or come into an office a few times a week, they might transition a contract job into a full-time career, or they may be happy enough to work from home while raising kids or pursuing more education. Explore your freelance options to learn more about how flexible you can make a day at the office.

By: Mary Fineday

About the Author:

Mary Fineday writes about careers and education from Los Angeles, Calif. She contributes to several websites, including

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