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How to Become a Freelance Grant Writer (Lucrative Career in 2023)


how to become a freelance grant writer

If you have great writing skills and care about helping out nonprofit organizations, becoming a freelance grant writer may be a good fit. However, it is not easy to start a freelance grant writing career.


If you want to become a grant writer, you first need to get a good education. If you plan to get started as a freelance grant writer immediately after graduating, it's a good idea to get some experience as an intern or as a volunteer during college. After you have some experience and have built up your grant writing skills, you'll be on the right path to becoming a grant writer.


Read on to learn more about becoming a freelance grant writing professional.


Table of Contents

  • Introduction

  • Education

  • Internships and volunteer experience

  • Internships

  • Volunteering

  • Things to keep in mind when interning or volunteering

  • Getting professional experience writing grants

  • Finding a job

  • After getting a job

  • Finding freelance grant writing work

  • Networking

  • Job boards

  • The daily routine of a freelance grant writer

  • Finding work

  • Searching for grant opportunities

  • Writing grant proposals

  • How freelance grant writers get paid

  • Final thoughts on becoming a freelance grant writer

Education


One of the absolute most important aspects of becoming a grant writer is a getting a good education. Almost all grant writing positions, whether they are freelance positions or in-house jobs, require a bachelor's degree.


You don't have to major in a specific field to become a grant writer. However, majoring in either English or nonprofit management (if your school has this major) could give you a leg up.


No matter what your major is, it's important that you get good grades. This will you get your foot in the door as a grant writer shortly after you graduate.


As with many competitive fields, its best to get some relevant experience during college so that you can get a job after college. The best way to do this during school is through internships and volunteer experience.


Internships and volunteer experience


Almost all professional grant writers start as interns or volunteers. This is because nearly all grant writing positions require experience. Whether you are still in school or graduated from college years ago, you will likely have to start grant writing for free. However, you may still be able to get compensation in the form of college credits.


Internships


Internships are undeniably the best way to get started as a freelance grant writer. This is because you will either get paid or get college credit. Most nonprofit internships offer college credit rather than an hourly wage, especially if your university has an arrangement with local nonprofits. Even this will save you a great deal of money, especially with rising college tuition costs.


Internships are generally more structured and require more work than volunteering. Most internships are also for a fixed period, such as one semester or one school year. It is also important to note than an internship looks better on your resume than volunteer experience.


Volunteering


If you cannot get a grant writing internship with a local nonprofit, you should start grant writing by volunteering with a local nonprofit. This may still help you complete your college degree if you are a student, as many universities now require students to accumulate a certain number of volunteer hours to be eligible to graduate.


Most volunteer positions offered by nonprofits are involve unskilled labor or general help around the office. It is not common for nonprofits to offer grant writing volunteer positions. However, this certainly does not mean that you cannot get volunteer grant writing experience.


If you are set on becoming a grant writer and you want to get volunteer experience, you should reach out to various local nonprofits. Write an email that explains your desire to become a grant writer, and offer your time for free. Nonprofits will usually take all the help they can get, so you will eventually find one who will allow you to volunteer as an assistant to their staff grant writer.


Things to keep in mind when interning or volunteering


Whether you begin to accumulate experience through interning or volunteering, it's important to be professional and to treat the experience like a job. This will help you make a positive impression on the other people working at the nonprofit.


In many cases, those who successfully complete an internship or a volunteer experience at a certain nonprofit will get a job offer from that organization when they graduate.


This will help you get the professional experience you will need to eventually have a career as a freelance grant writer. Even if you do not get a job offer from the organization where you interned or volunteered, the management at the nonprofit could serve as a valuable reference.


Getting professional experience writing grants


Finding a job


If you have a college degree and you have accumulated some unpaid hours as a grant writing intern or a volunteer grant writer, it's time to search for grant writing jobs. Unlike many positions in the nonprofit sector, there are actually quite a few grant writing jobs available.


This is because nearly every nonprofit needs to have a grant writer or even an entire team of grant writers. Grants are an even more important source of funding than donations for many nonprofit organizations.


However, the fact that there are quite a few grant writing jobs out there does not mean that such a position is easy to get. There are quite a few more people who want to be grant writers than there are grant writing jobs. You should be prepared to apply for quite a few positions before getting a job. It is also important to network, as this is undoubtedly one of the most effective ways to get any job.


After getting a job


Once you have a grant writing job, you may find that you want to continue as a full-time employee rather than pursuing a career as a freelancer. Even if you do want to transition to freelance work, however, there are several reasons that you need to get some experience as a full-time grant writer first.


Nearly all freelance grant writing opportunities require at least three years of professional experience. These opportunities receive many applications from qualified professionals, so you really do need to meet the minimum stated qualifications to be considered. Some freelance grant writing positions, especially those that pay more, require five or more years of experience.


Also, you will need time to build up your grant writing skills. It takes experience to find the best grant opportunities and to write grant proposals that get accepted. Grant writing is a challenging and competitive field, so you must make sure that you have a solid skill set before striking out on your own.


Finding freelance grant writing work


As with any freelance position, finding work is one of the main duties of a grant writer who decides to go the freelance route. There are two main ways that grant writers can find grant writing jobs: networking and job boards.


If you have experience as a freelance writer in other sectors, you are likely already familiar with the process. You may spend more time networking or more time on job boards, but nearly all grant writers utilize both methods to find grant writing jobs.


Networking


Networking is an effective and efficient way to find freelance grant writing jobs. Most freelancers try to find work through networking before searching job boards. For grant writers, networking often consists of reaching out to organizations that they have worked with before to see if they need more freelance grant writing work done.


Keep in mind that nonprofit organizations, especially those in the same geographic area, often form a close-knit community. This means that any contacts you have developed with local nonprofits may know of grant writing work at other organizations, even if their organization does not need a grant writer at that time. It's certainly work asking your contacts if they know of any other organizations that need a grant writer.


Job boards


indeed job board

Job boards like Indeed are an important source of work for many grant writers. Many nonprofits will post their jobs on Indeed or on similar boards. It is important for every grant writer who looks for work on these boards to keep in mind that these job postings will likely receive dozens, if not hundreds, of applicants.


If you're planning on applying for grant writing work through such job boards, it's important to get your resume in tip-top shape. You may want to have a professional resume writer who specializes in the nonprofit sector to work on it.


You should also prepare a portfolio of your successful grant proposals, as most organizations will want to see samples of your work before considering you for a freelance grant writing position.


The daily routine of a freelance grant writer


sample grant proposal

Freelance grant writers spend much of their time working on grant proposals like the one pictured above. However, this is far from their only duty. Freelance grant writers have more freedom in how they structure their work day as compared to full-time grant writers. Nevertheless, most freelancers structure their days similarly.


Finding work


If a freelance grant writer does not have enough work, they will often spend a portion of their day searching for jobs on boards or networking to try and find work. Searching for and applying for jobs can be time-consuming. Freelancers must be disciplined or they will spend too much time looking for work and not enough time working.


Searching for grant opportunities


Searching for grant opportunities is one of the most important duty of any grant writer. Many grant opportunities are posted in online databases. Professional grant writers commonly search for government grants on grants.gov and for private sector grants on GrantForward or similar sites. These sites make it easy to search by the types of organizations eligible for the grant, the size of the grant, and more.


Writing grant proposals


Writing grant proposals is what most people imagine when they think about grant writers. This is the most important duty of any grant writer. This is because other employees can easily search for grant opportunities, but only professional grant writers can consistently write effective grant proposals.


A grant proposal generally includes information about the organization, why they deserve the grant, and they will use the grant. However, the format changes for each individual grant.


How freelance grant writers get paid


sample grant proposal

There is a common misconception that grant writers are paid a percentage of whatever grants that they write successful grant applications for. However, freelance grant writing professionals are usually paid by invoicing their clients for the billable hours that they worked. This is because multiple professional grant writing organizations prohibit member grant writers from working on commission.


There are some organizations (often disreputable organizations) that want grant writers to work on commission rather than paying them up front.


If you want to have a career as a professional grant writer, it's best to avoid these clients. As your progress in your grant writing career, you will see that there are many grant writing opportunities with clients that follow professional standards.


Final thoughts on becoming a freelance grant writer


Working as a grant writer can be a satisfying and lucrative career path. However, it is not easy to have a sustainable career as a grant writer (especially if you want to work as a freelancer).


If you want to have your own freelance grant writing business, you should get plenty of experience first and sharpen your skills before striking out to do grant writing on your own. This will help you join the ranks of successful grant writers.


Sources: Instrumentl | Forbes | Indeed | Grants.gov | GrantForward | Professionalgrantwriter.org

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