Should freelance writers get a certification?
Will having a certification help you to get more jobs or higher pay?
There’s no question that in some industries a certification is a definite advantage.
In accounting, for example, being a Certified Public Accountant often means earning more money. In the IT fields, having a certification can also help with your career. And there are plenty of IT certifications to choose from.
If two similar candidates apply for the same position, a certification could provide the competitive edge needed to get the job.
Does it work the same way for freelance writers?
I wanted to find out, so I identified 11 certifications for writers. I also contacted two certified writers to find out whether certification helped them.
11 Writing Certifications
As the Internet has grown, so has the demand for writers. Along with the increased demand for writers has come increased competition. The online marketplace has made it possible for nearly anyone to offer writing services.
Traditionally, the barriers to entering the freelance writing field have been low. Most experienced writing professionals do not have a certification. Some do not even have a college degree.
Some organizations do offer writing certifications. I’ve seen writing and marketing certificates offered at some community colleges. There are also certifications offered by professional organizations.
Here are 11 writing-related certifications offered by professional organizations.
- AMA Professional Certified Marketer (PCM®) from the American Marketing Association. This certification requires a bachelor’s degree and four years experience or a master’s degree and two years of experience. The application fee is $75. The exam fee is $650 fee for nonmembers, AMA members receive a discount.
- AWAI Certifications. AWAI offers a variety of certification and training programs. Programs include the Info-Marketers Training and Certification and the AWAI Web Copy Specialist certification. Prices range from several hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars.
- CMI Online Training and Certification offered by the Content Marketing Institute. This certification requires an annual subscription to online training. You must complete certain courses. The cost of the subscription is $995.
- CopyBlogger Certified Content Marketer. This program is offered periodically by the content specialists from CopyBlogger Media.
- Marketing Certifications from HubSpot. Hubspot offers a variety of marketing certifications. Some certifications are only open to HubSpot customers or partners. Two certifications are open to everyone. The open certifications are the Inbound Certification (free) and the HubSpot Design Certification.
- MediaBistro Certificates. MediaBistro offers nine different certificates. Each certificate requires specific courses. The number of required courses ranges from five to 12 (most certificates require six courses). The cost for a certificate ranges from $1650 to $3200.
- Medical Writing Certification Commission offered by the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). This certification requires both a degree and work experience. There is also $150 application fee, which is discounted for members. The exam costs $375.
- National Institute for Social Media (NISM) offers certification. This certification requires an associate degree (or 64 hours of college credit) or two years of social media experience. The exam fee is $295.
- NRWA Certification Program. This program is only for members of The National Resume Writers Association. It requires continuing education classes. Candidates must submit a resume sample. (It costs $75 to submit the sample). The examination fee is $250.
- SEO Copywriting Certification offered by SuccessWorks. This certification requires that you take online classes. It takes three months to complete the program, but students have lifetime access to the lessons and updates. The cost is $769 (includes the classes).
- Udemy Content Marketing Certification. This certification only costs $99. It requires you to listen to 23 lectures totaling 17 hours.
Note: There are no affiliate links in this post. I have reviewed AWAI and CopyBlogger products in the past. I am also an affiliate for some CopyBlogger and AWAI products. My relationship with these companies has not influenced this post. If you’d like to read my review of an AWAI product, click here. Here is my review of the CopyBlogger blog.
Note: The costs of the certifications listed above may change over time.
What’s Being Certified Like?
I recently connected with two writers to find out what it’s like to be certified.
Steve became certified as an AWAI Web Copy Specialist in February of 2015.
Steve has five to six years of copywriting experience and focuses on business to business copywriting. In fact, he considers himself an industrial copywriter.
Has his certification helped Steve? He thinks so.
“I think it [the certification] helps me charge higher rates and find more clients. It has also helped me become a better marketer.”
“I learned more about the writing process and how to market my services as a writer.”
Steve encourages writers to promote their non-writing related credentials as well. Steve holds some industrial certifications. He’s found that including them on his LinkedIn profile has led to writing jobs.
“Non-writing certifications can help establish your credibility in a field and give you the edge you need to get the work.”
Janice has received a certification from Copyblogger and also has an SEO copywriting certification.
Janice has three years of copywriting and content writing experience. She specializes in writing blog posts, articles, emails, and optimized web content for the travel and tourism industry.
Has her certification help Janice find work? She says it has.
Since getting her certifications, she has gotten “about 80% of my inquiries for work through one of those channels.”
Why get certified? Here are Janice’s reasons for getting certified:
“I didn’t have a background in marketing, copywriting or journalism, even though writing has been my passion since grade school. I’ve been an educator for the past two decades, and I thought that certification would lend some credibility to my freelance writing business. I also wanted to position myself as a marketing expert and consultant to potential clients.”
While certification may not be for everyone, it seems to have worked out for these two writers.
What to Look For
If you’re thinking about a writing certification, make your choice carefully. Not all certification programs are the same.
Certification programs can be quite expensive. Many also take a significant amount of time to complete. So, it’s important to choose your certification program with care.
Exactly what should you look for in a writing certification program? Here are some things to consider:
- Experienced teachers. Look for programs offered by those with real-life experience in the field.
- Time to complete. If you are going to pay for a certification program, find out how much time you will need to spend.
- Ease of getting certified. If a certification is too easy to get, having it may not impress potential clients.
- Pass/fail rate. A certification program with a high fail rate may require you to take (and pay for) the exam more than once.
- Reputation. Does the certification come from a reputable authority?
Are you a writer with a certification? If so, I’d love to hear from you.
Which certification do you have? Was certification worth it for you? Share your thoughts in the comments.