Online Freelance Writer Certificate | Penn Foster Career School

Online Freelance Writer Course

Why Penn Foster Career School?

  • Regionally & Nationally Accredited
  • Self-Paced
  • Supportive
  • Low monthly payments

Program Overview

Develop your writing abilities with Penn Foster Career School’s Freelance Writer Career Diploma Program. Learn how to write marketable material and take the first steps toward working in the freelance writing field. With Penn Foster Career School, you train at home and at a pace that's right for you, and you can complete this program in as little as three months!

You’ll learn about the business of writing, how to reference resources and materials, the techniques and structural differences between fiction and nonfiction, the process for submitting manuscripts, what is involved in working with agents and editors, and how to use the Writer’s Market.

Curriculum Details

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal

The program goal for Penn Foster’s Freelance Writer program is to prepare amateur writers to refine their writing style so they can professionally market their work to publishers.

Program Outcomes

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Identify the stages in freelance writing and publication, including choosing a market, writing an engaging work, and submitting to prospective publishers/publications.
  • Recognize appropriate research techniques for identifying and analyzing the best markets for your writing and to gain information when writing.
  • Comprehend how research can develop and inform writing, and how research sources are appropriately cited.
  • Critique and revise your own writing according to rules of grammar and style in order to create a professional end product.
  • Demonstrate understanding of laws governing writing including copyright and trademark and maintaining careful records of business transactions, contracts, and expenses.
  • Identify your qualifications for a specialized market based on your professional and life experience.

Unit 1

Starting Your Program

Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program.


  • Understand how to use your Student Portal.
  • Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers.
  • Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.
The Freelance Life

This study unit provides everything you’ll need to know about the publishing industry.


  • Identify staff-written and freelance articles.
  • Market your freelance product.
  • Submit a professional manuscript.
  • Work with agents and editors.

Unit 2

The Writing Habit, Part 1

Make writing an everyday habit.


  • Gather ideas from other articles.
  • Understand the difference between objective and subjective writing.
  • Learn the essential elements of all objective articles.
  • Discover how to recognize the most marketable types of fiction.
  • Start a notebook or journal you’ll use to keep all of your writing projects.
The Writing Habit, Part 2

Review basic grammar elements.


  • Learn how to distinguish connotation from denotation.
  • Increase your vocabulary to use language effectively.
  • Critique and revise your own writing.
  • Write a short feature article.
Additional Unit Materials

Supplement: Winning with Words

Unit 3

The Business of Writing

Find out how to generate ideas for articles.


  • Get the basics about specialized markets and how to research markets for your articles.
  • Write a query letter.
  • Learn about copyright laws.
  • Set up a home office.
  • Keep accurate records of correspondence with editors and publishers, and tax receipts.
Reference Sources for Writers

Learn how to use reference materials and resources.


  • Recognize the available specialized periodical indices.
  • Use professional directories to locate expert sources.
  • Understand how to contact recognized experts for information and interviews.
  • Search the Internet, library, the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature, and other resources.
Additional Unit Materials

Supplement: Parts of Speech

Unit 4

Reading for Writers

Identify writing techniques and structural differences in fiction and nonfiction.


  • Trace the genesis of a piece of writing from initial concept to completed work.
  • Learn to critique work—your own and other’s—for structure, focus, and market.
Additional Unit Materials


  • Pocketful of Prose, Volume II
  • Telling Stories/Taking Risks

Supplement: Word Usage

Unit 5

Using the Writers Market

Learn to find information quickly using the Writer’s Market.


  • Understand the terms used in the guide.
  • Request writer’s guidelines from publications and identify suitable markets using the guide.
  • Judge the marketability of your work.
Additional Unit Materials

Textbook: Writer's Market
Supplement: Sentence Skills

Unit 6

Becoming a Professional

Learn to assemble a writer’s résumé and conduct a successful interview.


  • Find out how to get commissions and assignments from editors.
  • Discover how to present your manuscript to an editor in a professional manner.
  • Learn how to supply photographs to accompany articles.
  • Find out how to guard against accusations of libel by maintaining high ethical and professional standards.
Becoming a Specialist

Discover how to analyze your life and educational experiences and learn the requirements of the writing trade, technical publications, and house magazines.


  • Learn how and when to specialize in more than one type of freelance writing,
  • Present editors with credentials qualifying you as an expert in your area.
  • Discuss your specialty with editors to obtain publication opportunities.
  • Find out what it takes to maintain expertise in your specialty area.
Specialization Elective

Choose one:

  • Literary Fiction

    Get an introduction to fiction. Learn how to publish children’s literature and short stories. Get instructions on how to plan and write a novel.

  • Genre Fiction

    Learn about fiction genres. Get an overview of the mystery, science fiction and fantasy, romance, and horror genres.

  • Nonfiction

    Get an introduction to nonfiction. Learn all about the essay. Study aspects of feature writing, writing for the media, and writing for business.

Additional Unit Materials

Supplement: The Elements of Style

Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 7® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running OS X® or later, and an email account to participate in and complete your program.

We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
Microsoft, Windows, and Windows XP are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
Apple, Mac, and OS X are trademarks of Apple, Inc registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.

Sample Lesson

To view a Freelance Writer sample lesson, click here.

Freelance Writer Program Details

In the Penn Foster Career School Freelance Writer Program, you’ll cover topics such as:

This program also includes a Specialization Elective - choose Literary Fiction, Genre Fiction, or Nonfiction.

State Licensing Information

Licensing and/or certification requirements for jobs in this field are not the same in every state and may include educational, testing, and/or experiential requirements beyond those offered by your Penn Foster Program. You should contact the state professional licensing board or similar regulatory body in the state(s) where you plan to work to determine their requirements before enrolling in your Program. Please click here for contact information for state licensing/regulatory boards and certain industry licensing information.

Online Freelance Writer Certificate

Freelance writers work for many different companies writing news articles, short stories, advertising and marketing, blogs, technical manuals, and textbooks. Here are a few qualities that effective writers have in common:

  • Independent: You are self-motivated and work best on your own.
  • Innovative: Employers are most interested if you have fresh ideas and unique perspective.
  • Persistent: You work well despite obstacles or setbacks.
  • Creative: Writers often need to think outside of the box to create and sell their work.

Since graduating, I have sold six stories for an upcoming book. I have also had three books and over two dozen articles and short stories published.

- Terry A., Freelance Writer Graduate

I've wanted to become a published writer since I was 8 years old. Penn Foster offered me the opportunity to make my dream come true. I have to work full-time, and the freedom to study online or at home and take exams at my pace was perfect for my daily schedule. Receiving my diploma in the mail was one of the happiest days of my life. I've already enrolled again for more classes, this time in animal care, and I plan to keep going for several more years!

- Emily B., Freelance Writer Graduate

At the age of 80, I decided I needed to go back to school and advance my education by enrolling in an online Freelance Writing Career Diploma at Penn Foster. You may be wondering—why now? Why would someone with 80 years of real-world experience choose to go back to school? The truth is, I’m a lifelong learner. I always have and I always will be eager to learn. I don’t think age should stop me, or anyone, from pursuing an education. As the role of writers in our society continues to evolve, I want to evolve with it. With the help of a career diploma program, I was able to get my first novel published as an eBook, and I’m working on editing and publishing my second novel.

- Phyllis R., Freelance Writer Graduate

Penn Foster made me a "great" writer. Thank you, Penn Foster. I feel like I really earned my Career Diploma and it's one of those accomplishments that changes a person's life. I learned more than sentence formation, grammar rules, and vocabulary — I learned life skills, and good morals.

- Alexander M., Freelance Writer Graduate

Your program includes:

  • Customized payment plans with 0% interest
  • Books and learning aids included
  • Goal-setting and progress-tracking tools
  • Instructional support from our experienced faculty
  • Access 24/7 to Penn Foster’s online community, plus immediate membership in the Freelance Writer academic group
  • Your personalized online student homepage and learning portal
  • Additional resources such as our online library and career guidance from Career Cruising

Does Penn Foster Career School have any useful tips, hints, or tricks for students just beginning the Freelance Writer Career Diploma Program?

Develop a professional work area in your home where you can do all of your writing. Set aside at least a small amount of time each day to dedicate to your Freelance Writer Program. When you finish your program, you can use this time to advance your freelance writing career. Be professional in all correspondence that relates to your freelance writing career. The best thing you can do to begin your Freelance Writer Program is to read and write. Be sure to write something every day. Try writing a response to something you read or hear. Develop an idea that you have into a short story. You should also read something every day, whether it is a newspaper or magazine article, blog posting, or short story.

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