So you want to get paid to write for a living. It can be tough to find work whether you’re a new or established writer. Here’s how and where to find freelance writing jobs when you’re just starting out.
Even for established, professional writers, finding work can be a challenge. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you work hard, searching for jobs constantly, and it finally pays off. But mostly, it’s a strong combination of both. But for new writers, the challenge is even harder. You have to find work without experience, but how are you supposed to build experience without work?
Nearly every new writer struggles with figuring out how and where to find freelance writing jobs, and many of them give up the search too soon. The truth is, you have to look for opportunities, and that often means thinking outside the box. Here’s how to get started.
Talk to everyone — you never know who you’ll meet
When I (Kristin here) first set out to freelance, I quietly searched job boards, hoping someone would be willing to hire a writer with no experience. I knew where to find freelance writing jobs, but I wasn’t sure how to land them. And didn’t say anything to my friends or family about my plans – my reasoning was: I don’t like telling people I’m doing something…I like telling them I’ve done it. And while that notion has its merits, it’s also based on pride, and pride will get in your way every time.
Early in my freelancing career, I learned the importance of putting yourself out there and telling absolutely everyone about your endeavor, from friends and family to trusted colleagues.
My first few gigs were referrals from friends who knew I was trying to break into the freelance writing market. My friend scored a copywriting gig for me at a furniture gallery he worked at. Another friend introduced me to an editor who hired me to write reviews for an art magazine. These were my very first clients and they wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t put myself out there and say, “This is what I’m doing. I’m a freelance writer.”
If you know someone who’s already doing what you want to do, even better. The friend who connected me with the editor was already an established freelance writer. Not only was he crucial for networking, he also gave me valuable, free career advice.
Build your own platform.
When I started writing for one of my first clients, an art magazine, I used my blog as a writing portfolio because I had zero professional experience. It was enough for the editor to see that I could handle writing for her magazine. It’s important to have a dedicated space for your writing clips – it serves as your writing resumé. You need that platform to show your work, especially when you’re new to the game, and a blog is perfect for that. You’re working for free, but at least you’re doing it for yourself.
There’s an added benefit to blogging. It allows you to write regularly and practice writing as a skill. Eventually, you’ll get better. And if you produce quality content, larger sites will start to take notice and you may become something of an expert in your industry, which can lead to professional gigs (or, in some cases, a book deal!) The point is, you can – and should – create your own platform. This way, not only do you have a portfolio to show to clients, clients have a way of finding you.
You can create your own blog using WordPress and a hosting service like Bluehost or Godaddy, which are relatively inexpensive options (note: Bluehost is an affiliate). Or you can use a free platform like Blogger, Tumblr, or Medium. While anyone can start a blog on Medium, they also pay writers (and pay them well) for editorial content. It’s a hybrid publication and blogging platform, and sometimes your blog posts will get featured on the editorial side. Beyond blogging, your platform can extend to social media, too.
If you’re going to work for free, be strategic.
Many professional writers will tell you: Writing for free is a bad idea. When you’re just starting out, though, you may feel like you don’t have much of a choice. After all, how else are you going to build a portfolio? Some writers say writing for free is a terrible idea, but others argue that all writers write for free at some point.
That said, if you choose to write for free, you at least have to be strategic and discerning about it. Keep the following rules in mind.
Beware working for “exposure.” It can backfire.
Large, profitable companies or businesses will often hire people for “exposure.” Not everyone will agree with what we’re about to say, and we know some talented, well-respected writers who have written for Exposure Bucks, but ultimately, that exposure is not as desirable as it sounds.
If a content company is not willing to pay its content creators, it’s a good sign that they don’t value that type of work. Their reputation will plummet accordingly, greatly reducing the benefit of exposure. This has happened with some popular websites and publications that might be popping into your head right now.
On the other hand, if you’re a brand new writer in desperate need of writing clips, getting experience at a bigger publication might not be a bad idea. In that case, you’re not writing for exposure, but to build your portfolio.
Guest post on other blogs.
We rarely suggest writing for free, but guest posting on popular blogs or websites can be a surprisingly effective way for a writer to get their name out there. If you reach out to someone for a guest post, make sure to have a few specific pitches ready for them, along with a due date. For example, you might try something like this:
“Hi Lisa, I’m a big fan of yourawesomeblog.com. I’m also a new writer looking for experience, and I’d love the opportunity to write a guest post for you. I have a few topics I think would be a great fit for the site. I’ve included them below, and if you like any of them, I can have a completed draft to you by 4/21. Would any of these work for you?”
Networking skills are important here. If you can find a connection to the person you’re pitching, even better. Maybe you have a mutual friend. Maybe the blog linked to an article you’d previously written. Maybe you were quoted in the same article. Or maybe you’re just an avid reader. If there’s a connection, make sure to use it. And keep it short and simple: “We met at the Awesome Conference a couple of months ago.”
Work on your terms.
Instead of begrudgingly accepting a company’s crappy work-for-free gig, offer your service to a large influencer. This is what author and entrepreneur Charlie Hoehn did when he was starting out. He reached out to major influencers like Ramit Sethi and offered to complete a specific task for them for free. This helped him get his foot in the door and build an impressive portfolio.
It should go without saying, but no matter where you write, you should also focus on doing your best work. That’s important in learning not just how to find clients, but also how to keep them. You don’t want your first client to be your last. It’s crucial to ask your first few clients for feedback, too. In the beginning of your freelance career, this feedback is more lucrative than money.
Also, you’ll probably fail at some point. A client might hate your work. You might write some stuff that makes you cringe later. We don’t need to glorify failure, but it’s important to recognize that failure is part of the process, too. Use it to your advantage by learning from it and creating work that’s even better than before.
Find freelance writing jobs online.
Maybe you have no idea where to find freelance writing jobs in the first place, much less how to land them. Of course, there are plenty of websites and forums for freelance writing jobs. You can search media outlets or blogs that are currently hiring or looking for regular contributors. Here are a few:
- Study Hall: A Patreon-backed newsletter with weekly freelance, full-time, and part-time writing gigs.
- Contenta: This is a quality job board with a focus on helping writers work from anywhere.
- Freelancewriting.com: This site not only posts freelance writing jobs, it also provides tips and advice on making a living as a writer.
- FreelanceWritingGigs.com: This blog lists new freelance writing jobs daily. You’ll find decent options, trending more towards remote work and blogging.
- ProBlogger: The ProBlogger job board lists jobs in the blogging and freelance writing arena.
- We Work Remotely: mostly includes programming or tech jobs, however, there is a selection of marketing, technical writing, copywriting, and similar jobs for writers.
- LinkedIn Jobs: You should probably be on LinkedIn anyway, but an unprofessional LinkedIn profile is perhaps worse than no profile at all, so make sure your profile is professional and grammar-friendly.
- Remote OK is another tech-focused job board. As with We Work Remotely, most jobs are in the programming, coding, and general tech space, but the site also has a handy “non-tech” job search option for those of us who don’t know how to code.
- Mediabistro: Mediabistro is a journalism-focused job site with job listings at reputable companies like NBC, Vogue, or Rolling Stone Magazine. There are also remote, freelance opportunities available.
- Gotham Ghostwriters: Gotham Ghostwriters connects writers with companies and individuals looking to publish books. Since it’s ghostwriting, you probably won’t be credited, but you’ll be paid well and will gain valuable experience. Some examples of advertised rates: $20,000-$30,000 for a book about wine, $19,500 for a project about educating millennials, and a “top of the market” rate for a hedge fund manager’s ghostwriting project. That could very well be a $100,000 project.
Social media: There are several social media accounts that tweet out new writing jobs. For example:
- NYC Writing Jobs @tmj_nyc_writing
- Freelance Writing Jobs @FreelanceWJ
- Writers of Color @writersofcolor
Turn on Twitter alerts to get these jobs as soon as they are tweeted out. You can also search for writing jobs on Twitter or even Google. Search “hiring writers” on different platforms and see if any results pop up.
Master the art of the pitch.
Maybe you know someone who’s willing to connect you to an editor at a website or magazine. Maybe you just want to send out a cold pitch to an editor. If you’re lucky and have worked hard to establish a reputation as a solid writer, media outlets might even reach out to you requesting pitches.
Whatever the scenario, mastering the art of the pitch is crucial for almost any writer. You typically need to have a few ideas in your back pocket before you start writing for a new client. Pitching comes down to a few key steps:
- Step 1: Come up with a great idea (and headline)
- Step 2: Include all the necessary info, including research and potential interviews
- Step 3: Find the right editor to query
- Step 4: Introduce yourself and send your pitch
Pitching is a skill in and of itself, but it boils down to these steps.
Finding work as a new writer can sometimes feel impossible. The good news is, for most writers, overcoming the initial hurdle is the hardest part. Once you get that first gig, you feel like you’ve cracked the code. Finding work can be an ongoing challenge, but it gets easier from there.