Freelance writing jobs are some of the most readily available when it comes to work at home. As a beginner, however, they can be a little difficult to find nonetheless secure without an existing online portfolio.
Today we have several successful freelance writer stopping by to share how they got their start.
Place an Ad
The ad I placed in the paper was costly but the best way I could think of for reaching local people who might need a ghostwriter. I placed it in the business section for a number of reasons, including but not limited to the fact that people reading the business section were more likely to be able to afford me. The ad emphasized ghostwriting but also mentioned other types of writing and also editing. Because the ad was expensive, I ran it only three or four times over the course of a couple of years. Once I discovered CraigsList—which is free—I stopped advertising in the paper and started relying heavily on CraigsList. I also am signed up with a service called Thumbtack and have gotten any number of clients through them. They are not free but are quite reasonably priced. ~ Cynthia MacGregor
Make the Pitch
I was a little blessed because I stumbled across some great advice very early on. I was already working in media full time, so I knew something about getting clients etc. and how to shake the money tree for low hanging fruit. I knew that sites like Demand Studios, Guru.com, ODesk, or Elance etc. basically set writers up for failure. So, instead of trying to lower my bid beyond what someone in the Philippines would be willing to work for…just to get a gig…I went after companies and various publications directly. I found out the right person to talk to at each venue, and I pitched them my services based on the needs I knew they had. And, I knew they had those needs because I took the time to research the companies and publications I approached.
You may not be an overnight, immediate success (although I guess for some people that could happen) but when you do land a client, it’s usually a good client willing to pay you what you know you’re worth. It beats fighting over pennies any day. ~ Will Blesch, Breakthrough Business Branding
Be a Help
I got my start in freelance writing by getting educated, being helpful and relationship building. I took an online course on SEO copywriting and sent some edits that I caught to the author of the course. She appreciated the help and thought of me when she needed a new blog editor. She hired me as a contract writer and editor, and my freelance career began. If you’re helpful, opportunities will come your way. If you take a course to further your education, the creator of that course wants you to succeed, so they’ll send along freelance writing opportunities if you ask. That’s part of relationship building, which is key to building a freelance writing business. I’ve gotten other clients by guest posting on popular content marketing company blogs. The connections you make at those companies, if they don’t offer writing services or if they can’t take on more clients, will send along clients if you ask them to. ~ Tracy Mallette, Founder, Content Newsroom
Become a Certified Content Marketer
Copyblogger offers a Certified Content Marketer course on a very limited basis. Those signed up for their free membership get a heads up when the course becomes available.
Julia from Chocolate and Caviar found this greatly increased her prospects, “When I first started out writing professionally, I started with people I knew in my immediate circle. But my first remote writing gig (with a complete stranger) came through Elance. As did a few of the following ones. Later on I became certified through CopyBlogger.com and I have been contacted by people who browse through the list of certified writers. I also keep an eye out on certain others writing websites for good opportunities.
I successfully obtained my first client through Elance. Despite a Bachelor of Journalism, a Master of Science in Mass Communications, and six years industry experience, I struggled to launch my career as a freelance writer. I applied to 10 different gigs on Elance before an employer showed any interest. Even then, I still had to complete an editing test to demonstrate my skills. Also, I proposed an hourly rate much less than what I preferred, but after proving my worth and skills, I successfully negotiated a substantial raise. After securing my first client, subsequent freelance job offers flooded my inbox. ~ Nisa Schmitz
Words to the Wise About Bidding Sites
Michelle Nickolaisen had this to say about bidding sites, “As far as article brokering sites, they can be useful…but mostly in building up steady income rather than a portfolio. When I did my first go at freelance writing, I used article brokering sites to build up an income – I write so fast that the very low pay wasn’t as bad for me as it is for a lot of people. However, I got burned out on writing because of the high volume that I had to keep up with to make even a few hundred dollars a month… and because all of the articles were ghostwritten, I wasn’t even building up a portfolio that I could leverage to get better paying gigs.
“So if new freelancers want to use article brokering sites (or “content mills” as they’re known in the biz), I’d say that’s fine, with two caveats:
- Always be using it with an eye on creating other sources of freelancing gigs so that you won’t have to rely on it
- Try to go with sites that at least credit the writer (rather than the articles being ghostwritten) so that you can use them to build up a portfolio I have a whole post of tips here on ways to get clients when you’re starting out with an empty funnel – they’re mostly intended for people who have been freelancing a while, but I think some of the resources (especially the job boards) could be useful for your readers: http://www.bombchelle.com/2014/empty-funnel-get-clients-stat/ I’d recommend new freelancers start by writing articles on their site or on Medium in addition to writing other places where they’ll get a byline, and have at least 50% of their workload be the kind of article they want to keep writing in the future. (So, if you want to write about business, don’t take gigs about health just because they pay.)”