How to Write for Mobile Apps

mobile apps 500

mobile appsNewspapers and magazines alike are cutting back on freelance budgets, but the world of mobile apps is growing at a steady rate: Nearly one in every four American adults uses mobile apps, and there are more than 300,000 apps to choose from in the Apple Store alone.

There are plenty of freelance writing opportunities available in this new mobile market, but it takes a different skillset than traditional journalists and technical writers might be used to. Forget about long narrative works: “Mobile users are coming for really fast, succinct information,” says Regina McCombs, an instructor of social media and mobile journalism at the Poynter Institute. “You’re designing for a small screen that’s probably moving. You have to be super-focused and help people find the information they want quickly.”

A background in newspapers or magazines may not be much help in the mobile arena—but being a heavy Twitter user will. “If you’ve grasped writing in 140 characters, that’s going to help in mobile,” says McCombs. Having a good sense of what content might “go viral” helps, too: “Mobile is really social, so you have to write things that people will want to share.”

So what types of opportunities are available for writers willing to venture into these new waters? Here are a few:

  • Writing for travel apps – Some app publishers are commissioning freelancers to create content about sightseeing spots in their hometowns. Sutro Media, for instance, enlists writers to create mobile content that averages around 150 words per page, with between 200 and 300 pages of content for each app. Sutro Media’s payment basis is entirely royalty-based, however: The writer will earn 30 percent of gross sales, which could amount to anywhere from $100 to $1,000 a month. You’ll need to focus on marketing the app on your own to bring in enough revenue to make the project worth your while.
  • Writing marketing copy for an e-commerce site – Because mobile devices have such small screens, many companies will be interested in condensing their web copy for mobile apps, and may rely on freelance copywriters to help them adjust their messaging. Reach out to some of the larger businesses within your local area, particularly ones that already have or are working to develop custom mobile apps. For this type of work, you should be paid on a per-project, per-word, or hourly rate, in line with traditional copywriting rates.
  • Writing or editing for interactive apps – Apps are designed to engage mobile readers, so many apps include interactive elements such as reader polls or discussions. An app developer might commission a freelance writer to write questions or publicly respond to readers’ questions, or to curate and summarize content from other sources. To find these opportunities, seek out well-funded app developers and send a synopsis of your mobile experience so that they’ll keep you in mind for future projects. This type of work is generally billed on an hourly or project rate.

As with any type of writing, spotlighting your relevant skills, networking, and gaining word-of-mouth referrals are some of the best marketing strategies for getting work writing for mobile apps. If you can master short, sharable copy that makes an impact, the mobile world will be wide open to you.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono /