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What’s the Deal With Freelance Writers for TV?


A freelance writer for TV (aka freelancer) is a writer who is currently not on staff who is hired to write an individual episode or episodes of a television series. In the 60s, when a full season ran 39 episodes, freelancers dominated the market. In-house writing staffs were small, generally consisting of producer and story editor or two. Virtually all episodes were assigned to “outside”writers. Today, the opposite situation is true. A full season runs 22-24 episodes, staffs are large and freelance opportunities are few. Most of the scripts are written in-house by staff members. To guarantee that freelancers have opportunities to break in, the WGA requires that all episode series hire a mandated minimum of freelance writers each season. Here are the mandates set out by the WGA:

For an order of more than six episodes – Company must interview freelance writers for each story unassigned at the time of the program order. The company can reduce the number of required interviews by one of each freelance writer hired. So three stories are unassigned, three writers must be interviewed. However, if after the first interview, the writer is hired for a freelance assignment, only one more writer needs to be interviewed.

For an order of 13-21 episodes – A minimum of two freelance writers write two stories with option for teleplay.

For an order of 22 or more episodes – A minimum of three freelance writers to write three stories with option for teleplay, one of which must be exercised.

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