6 Future-Focused Skills Freelance Creatives Can’t Afford to Ignore

By Erica Eller February 17th, 2022

Ilise Benun, author of seven books for creative professionals, has a good trick for helping clients uncover new writing niches: “Just add the word ‘tech’ and you’ll find an emerging market.”

She illustrated with an example of one client who wanted to work in a very particular field. “She said to me, ‘I want to work with horses.’ So I said, ‘horse tech.’ She then found a whole market that is indeed about horse tech.”

“I think it goes without saying, but it’s all about technology at this point,” Benun added.

Industries and trends like user experience (UX) design, shortform video, and augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) are radically transforming not only the world we live in, but also the types of writing jobs in demand. Since many emerging tech platforms require strong communications and content strategies as a backbone, they’re likely to provide a wealth of opportunities for freelance writers and creatives.

Below are a few up-and-coming fields you may want to keep an eye on.

1. UX copywriting

Writing for tech generally falls into two camps: explaining or selling tech products and services, or embedding communication and storytelling within tech experiences.

User experience (UX) writing covers a bit of both—and it’s often quite lucrative. A recent salary survey of roughly 750 UX writers by the bootcamp program UX Writing Hub found the median salary for this job title is around $110,000 in the U.S.

So, what do UX writers do? They help users navigate, understand, and interact with tech—including websites, apps, and other digital platforms. These creatives not only develop microcopy for websites and apps, but they often create the “personality” of a digital interface. They may conduct “voice of customer” (VoC) research and work closely with product developers, as well as with graphic and web designers.

For writers with strong project management skills and a penchant for short, snappy, and compelling copy, this may be a great field to enter.

2. Video scriptwriting

While the end result doesn’t look like words on a page, writing is still an essential part of strong video content. And the need for skills like scriptwriting is on the rise: More than 99 percent of marketers in a recent HubSpot survey said they planned to continue using the medium in 2022, and two-thirds said they’d maintain or increase their spend.

Video script text is usually formatted alongside columns for audio and visual elements or with storyboards.

There are plenty of opportunities to write scripts for training videos, instructional videos, and corporate branding videos—not to mention the growing field of content strategy for shortform video channels like Reels or TikTok.

3. Immersive tech writing and design

Beyond websites, apps, and video, we could soon be interfacing with a digital twin of the physical world and economy. Now that Facebook has rebranded itself as Meta, it has all hands on deck to create the metaverse. And it’s not the only company banking on a virtual future.

If the metaverse becomes as hot as anticipated, it will require creatives to develop a keen awareness of the way people interact in VR/AR spaces. Gaming writers and designers will likely feel at home here, and familiarity with crafting open-ended, choose-your-own-adventure-style narratives may come in handy.

4. Working and collaborating with AI

Experts expect the global AI market to grow from around $58 billion in 2021 to $309 billion in 2026. For freelance writers, this is both welcome and worrying, as many AI-powered writing tools have already emerged.

Natural Language Processing (NLP) enables AI to auto-complete search queries in Google or offer automated replies to emails and texts. But it gets more extensive than autocorrect: is a full-scale content creation service that uses GPT-3, a deep learning language model, to write human-esque, AI-generated marketing copy.

There are a lot of opinions about this particular tech trend. (Another contributor to The Freelance Creative shared hers in an article earlier this year.) UX writer Anja Wedberg suggested that the rise of AI tools isn’t a reason for human writers to have an existential crisis. “The future won’t be written just by robots or just by humans, but by both,” she wrote. “The best way forward must be a collaboration, not a competition.” Writers may start to incorporate AI-powered tools into their ideation or headline-generation processes, for example.

Benun, for her part, called AI a potential threat. Yet she believes writers will still need to guide its creative use. “Positioning some consulting services along with writing… is the way writers are going to survive the rise of AI,” she opined.

5. Creating for the “creator economy”

The rise of Patreon, podcasts, and other “creator economy” platforms exemplify how individual creators are becoming an entrepreneurial force. Fifty million people considered themselves creators as of November 2021, and that number is only growing.

Danielle Hughes is one example of a creative professional capitalizing on this trend. A copywriting coach who supports influencers in shaping their online presence, Hughes coined the phrase “Genuine Personality Brand.” She helps people cultivate this concept online, ensuring their personalities shine across different channels.

Benun noted that Hughes has “created her own ecosystem… by positioning herself as the authority on an idea that she essentially came up with.”

With the rise of paid subscription newsletters, writers are becoming successful creator economy entrepreneurs themselves, too. There’s even a boom of ex-newsroom-staffers-turned-Substackers like Emily Atkin, a climate change reporter who launched her six-figure newsletter Heated in 2019.

6. Honing emotional intelligence

Creative professionals also need to embrace emotional intelligence (EQ) skills such as empathy, listening, and teamwork.

EQ is especially important for freelancers in times of rapid change (as in, like right now). Personalization, VoC research, and inclusive language all play an important role in today’s—and likely tomorrow’s—marketing sphere. Being thoughtful about creative choices and diligent about fact-checking is one way to avoid any potential faux pas

Case in point: 79 percent of today’s consumers show a preference for products and services that demonstrate environmental and social responsibility. Yet, “greenwashing”—aspirational or misleading environmental advertisements—has prompted the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to update its definitions of terms like “net zero.” Freelancers in this field should monitor further updates to avoid spreading misinformation.

Bringing EQ into client relationships matters, too. “It’s kind of cheesy to say… but people will choose to work with you because you care,” Benun said.future proof freelancer, emerging technologies, AI

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