In college, I double-majored in Literature and Communication Arts. I took many creative writing and journalism classes. By the time I graduated, I figured I was ready to take on the world with degree in hand.
But soon after I started freelancing, I realized there were so many things my professors never even mentioned, like pitching, managing social media, and understanding your cashflow. You know, only the most important parts of freelancing.
So that got me thinking: What if freelancing were something you could major in? What kind of courses would be part of the required curriculum?
Welcome to Freelancer U. Here are the five courses you have to take before you graduate.
Self-Care for Emotionally Unstable Writers
Course description: The term “self-care” came about years ago to help those with chronic illnesses make better daily decisions, like eating well and exercising regularly. More recently, self-care has come to mean promoting better mental health care for everyone, despite the stresses of everyday life.
This course covers effective ways for writers to cope with rejection (or worse, silence), deadlines, trolling, in addition to advice for managing interpersonal relationships with other unstable writers.
Sian Ferguson, a freelance writer, feels strongly about self-care. “I remember to write for myself sometimes,” she explained. “I occasionally submit work to small, nonprofit, non-paying publications to remind myself that it’s not just about the money, although I understand that many writers can’t afford to do that.” She also spends time with other writers, decorates her desk at home, and sets strict times to eat.
Over the next semester, you’ll learn a variety of methods similar to ensure your physical and mental well-being. That way, you can survive your jump into the freelance world.
Introduction to Pitching Stories That Editors Actually Respond To
Course description: For new freelancers, pitching is almost always the most intimidating part of the job. But that’s only because they don’t understand how to do it.
In this course, you’ll develop your own formula to create a pitch. You’ll learn how to contact editors you’ve never met, determine which writing samples to include, and figure out how to explain your idea in three sentences.
This course also answers important questions like: How do I find an editor’s email address? What should I include in a pitch? How many follow-ups is too many? What even is a pitch in the first place?
The final assignment will be pitching a real, honest-to-god editor. Acceptance is required to pass.
Accounting for the Self-Employed
Course description: Taxes are challenging regardless of your occupation, but being self-employed makes them much, much worse.
Being a creative is no excuse for not handling your finances properly. This course will teach you the important dates to remember, how to create an LLC, how to hire an accountant that actually does her job, and more.
Ana Gotter, a freelance writer, aims to tuck away 35 percent of her earnings for taxes every year. “Figuring out whether incorporating an LLC will benefit or hurt can make a world of a difference,” she said. “Learn about quarterly taxes too. I didn’t know this my first or second year and ended up having to pay a big chunk of late penalty fees.”
By the end of the academic year, you will be just as knowledgeable as Ann.
Ethics, Twitter, and You
Course description: Journalism has changed. Many J-school programs still focus on traditional news ethics, but here at Freelancer U, we know how important—and confusing—the digital content space can be.
This course will help you answer questions like: How do I credit this Facebook video in my story? How do I fact-check this viral meme? Is this Donald Trump tweet really news? What are Twitter bots, and should I buy them? Is this story plagiarism, or is it just aggregation?
For the final exam, you will be asked to read 10 Business Insider stories, 10 BuzzFeed stories, five tweets from The Fat Jewish, before determining the outlets used proper attribution. If not, you will be asked to properly modify the story or tweet. This course is pass/fail.
Online Networking 101
Course description: In-person networking is still important, but for freelancers, creating connections online has become critical. In this course, we’ll study LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, email, and online freelance communities.
You’ll learn the answers to important questions like: What’s the best way to connect with an editor over social media? Are unsolicited direct messages always a no-no? At what point does repeatedly retweeting your favorite writer turn from cute to creepy? What does it mean when an editor follows you?
Throughout the course, you will manage an experimental profile and create as many connections as possible. Think of it like that egg project high schools use to simulate caring for a baby, but for freelancers. If you are banned from any platform, you will automatically fail the class.
Electives and general education
Over the next four years, you’ll also have opportunities to attend elective courses. You can learn how to use software like Adobe Creative Suite and Google Business Suite. You can discover how to create your own blog using sites like WordPress, Wix, and more. Or you can even become a master at SEO, social media strategy, and email newsletter etiquette.
And don’t forget your general education requirements, like the Psychology of Writer–Editor Relationships, Physical Education for Working at Home, the Science of Clickbait, and the Politics of Digital Publishing.
By the time you graduate, we here at Freelancer U are confident you’ll enter the workforce as a well-rounded, street-savvy freelancer. Now, about that student debt…