Ever thought about getting freelance work through government contracts?
You’re probably thinking something like:
- There’s a lot of red tape to cut through
- It’s too hard
- It’s not my niche
- I don’t know enough about government
FYI, those are just excuses. Maybe this will change your mind about pursuing this kind of freelance work.
Take the time to cut through the red tape, and you can find government contracts that pay writers $100 to $200 an hour.
Bill $5,000 to $25,000 in a month writing for one client? This is happening for writers hired to create content for government contracts at the federal, state, and local level.
Can you see past the red tape now?
Sure, finding clients and writing content for government contracts is a little different than writing for magazines and businesses.
But there’s lots of work. It pays well. And if you’re willing to cut through the red tape, some of it can be yours.
Check out these tips from a government-contracts freelancer to get started.
Meet government contracts freelancer Katie Trauth Taylor
Katie Trauth Taylor is the founder of Untold Content, an agency that specializes in writing and editing for clients in government, scientific, and technical industries.
One of her first government contracts was a freelance gig writing content for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. It helped fund the rest of her doctoral program in technical writing at Purdue University. And instead of pursuing the path of tenured professor, Taylor decided to be a freelance writer.
Since then, she’s written content or managed the content-planning process for a long list of government contracts, including the VA Women’s Health Program Office, the Medication Reconciliation initiative, the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s global evaluation brief, and many other projects.
We caught up with her in a recent Freelance Writers Den podcast to learn more about government contracts for freelance writers.
Q1: How do you get government contracts?
A: OK, here’s the short answer. The way that most government opportunities happen for freelancers, is that you really have to have another larger organization that you’re working with.
Here’s an example:
My first contract was through the Purdue University Department of Pharmacy. They had an entity called the Center for Medication Safety Advancement. I was able to contract with that program office in order to work directly with Veteran Affairs.
Q2: What’s the earning potential for freelance writers?
A: Think about it this way. The government contracts out billions of dollars every year to businesses that provide services to support their operations. And this includes all kinds of freelance writing projects.
Q3: What type of projects do freelancers work on for the government?
A: In terms of the types of writing services government clients need, it can look just as varied as it does in any other industry. You might be building communication strategies, developing content plans or creating editorial calendars. You might be writing social media content, or white papers.
If you can translate complex information, research, or evidence-based data into content that’s engaging, accurate and inspiring action in some way, you’re a good fit for a lot of government-contract projects.
There’s also things like:
- Annual reports
- Technical documents
- Thought-leadership pieces
- Training materials
Q4: What’s the best way for freelancers to find government contract work?
A: If you’re a freelancer and you want to pursue government opportunities, I strongly recommend that you begin by seeking out businesses that already have government contracts, or are at least pursuing them.
They’ll be the contract holder, you’ll be the subcontractor, and you’ll have a lot less red tape to deal with. Plus, the government expects businesses to team up and utilize subcontractors to bring their work to fruition.
Q5: What’s a capability statement?
A: If you’re pursuing government-contract work, this is a request you’re probably going to get. Your capability statement is sort of like a well-designed resume.
It’s essentially a template-style document that describes your capabilities, differentiators, and why you’re positioned to do government work.
If you’re a freelancer, you can create one of these for yourself with this template:
A: Great. If you are someone who is really strong with digital marketing, content marketing, and social media marketing, there’s work like that for the government.
A lot of agencies are now noticing that it’s important to be communicating with the public and reaching the public about their efforts. And they’re calling for more support with their own social media strategies by hiring freelancers.
Q7: Where is the bulk of government contract work for writers?
A: It depends on who you ask. But I think a lot of freelance opportunities for government work do fall into the slightly more technical side of things. That’s things like report writing, technical writing, or writing something like standard operating procedures for an agency.
If you’re the kind of writer who is inclined to work on organizational content, sometimes called internal content, then there are a lot of opportunities for that as well.
Q8: How do you get local government work as a freelancer?
A: Get good at networking locally. Introduce yourself to people in government. Find out when your city government is meeting to discuss small business opportunities and contracting opportunities.
Get in on those meetings, be present, listen and learn. A lot of times, they haven’t even thought about the need for writing services. But once they meet you, they realize you can help them.
Q9. What if you don’t know a lot about government?
A: That’s an interesting question, especially at the city level. For example, at the city level a lot of opportunities for contracting seem to fall within construction and facilities management.
As a freelance writer, you might be thinking:
Hey, that has nothing to do with writing. They’re looking for people to lay bricks.”
But guess what? A lot of those projects have to submit written reports to show their impacts. And many construction projects need a communications plan to get community buy-in before they get started.
Get to know these people in government and construction. Let them know you’re a writer who can partner with them on projects and add value. It’s a great strategy to get more freelance work.
Q10: What’s it like being a government contract freelance writer?
A: You should expect a level of business formality that might be a little more intense than a typical corporate setting. For example, we work with clients in Silicon Valley that are very aggressive and very hardworking, but also very laid back in their tone and style.
It’s the exact polar opposite of some of the clients that we work with in Washington D.C. It’s all very intense. You know…Everything is due yesterday. The pressure is always on for them to perform well. They expect to execute perfectly every time.
Q11: What’s a typical rate for freelance government-contract work?
A: I’ve seen contracts between $100 an hour to $200 an hour. And we’ve seen those contracts committing to $5,000 a month, upwards of $25,000 a month. So it really depends. But it’s not uncommon to see work within that range.
Cut the red tape to get government-contract work
If you want to get well-paying freelance work with government contracts, cut through the red tape. Partner with businesses that already have contracts. Reach out to improve your network. And you’ll be on your way to cashing in on this lucrative niche.
Have you landed a government contract writing gig? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.
Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultra-marathon.