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How to Become a Freelance Speechwriter

Do you have a knack for speeches? Do people talk about your wedding toasts for years afterward?

Do you love to write? Can you adapt to different personalities and voices in your writing? 

If so, then you might want to consider becoming a freelance speechwriter. Not only is it a fun and interesting career path, but it can pay very well and offers a lot of flexibility

Getting started as a freelancer might seem daunting, but don’t let that stop you!

If you’re confident, persistent, and organized, you’ll have no trouble making it in speech writing. Here’s how to get started:

What Education Do You Need to Become a Speech Writer? 

Although you don’t need any formal education to become a speechwriter, it does help. A degree in literature, creative writing, public relations, communications, or marketing can all help prepare you for the life of a speechwriter. 

Courses in literature can teach you how to write persuasively and will give you an overview of classic books.

Writing skills are a must, of course. Studying subjects like PR, communications, and marketing can give you insights on psychology and communication techniques required for speech writing.

Even political science classes can be helpful, as many of the biggest speeches are those written for politicians. 

Regardless of your degree, it’s important to study some of the greatest speeches of all time to learn more about what makes some speeches more powerful than others.

A degree can help you, but you also have to be willing to get curious and dive deep into the craft. 

Prepare for the Ups and Downs of the Occupation 

Many speechwriters today focus on political speech writing. Formal speeches are expected in the field of politics but are uncommon otherwise.

Freelance speech writing can give you a break from the rigid 9-5 lifestyle, but it’s not necessarily a carefree career path. 

Freelance speechwriters, particularly political speechwriters, have to be prepared to turn around polished drafts under extremely tight deadlines.

The job can be very creative, but also highly demanding. You have to be prepared to work under pressure and realize that the speeches you write could affect the political opinions of people when they are delivered. 

Additionally, speechwriters have to learn the little verbal quirks of the people they’re writing for. Everyone has signature phrases and speech patterns, and speechwriters have to be able to adapt quickly to these patterns.

Some speechwriters find themselves disillusioned when they learn that they aren’t going to be writing the next “I Have a Dream” speech, but more run-of-the-mill, everyday addresses to the public. 

You have to be prepared for these pros and cons, ups and downs if you want to be a freelance speechwriter. You also have to have thick skin and be prepared for criticism. 

Take Time to Master Your Craft 

Becoming a freelance speechwriter takes practice—lots of practice. The craft is quite different from other types of writing and it might take a while for you to get used to it.

That’s why you need to take the time to master the craft of speech writing even before you land your first speech writing job. 

It might seem silly to write speeches that will never be delivered, but it’s important to hone your skills and to build up a portfolio of samples you can send to clients.

Try writing a speech and reading it on video so you can play it back and look for weaknesses. Ask friends and family if they need any speeches written so you can practice even more. 

Freelance Writer Tip: Don’t Forget to Save for Taxes 

Once you land a few freelance jobs, it’s important to remember that no taxes are withheld on contract work. You are responsible for setting aside money and paying your quarterly taxes on time.

As a freelancer, you are a business owner and you can’t rely on an employer to take care of your social security, Medicare, and income tax payments for you.

Freelancers owe self-employment tax to cover these contributions. 

If you go into freelancing knowing your tax burden, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress. Don’t undersell yourself and charge too little.

Your clients won’t be paying for your benefits and expenses, so it’s expected that your rates will be a bit higher. Be confident in yourself and charge what you’re worth! 

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