Freelance writing can be feast or famine, and getting started can take time. The very nature of freelance work means that clients come and go. If you’re at a point where you need to find more work, it might be time to find some new sources to draw from.
Many freelancers have had great success finding great freelance writing gigs using freelance writing job boards. But succeeding through job boards works a little differently than succeeding on a platform like WriterAccess.
Whether you’re fairly new to freelance writing or you’re an experienced writer looking to find more work, this guide will help you understand how to effectively use freelance writing job boards.
First up, there are plenty of opportunities (and faux opportunities) around. The trick, of course, is finding the good ones. Let’s talk about what you should be looking for in a freelance writing job board. Afterward, I’ll share some observations about several reputable, well-known sources for freelance work.
What to Look for in a Freelance Writing Job Board
If you’re new to this industry, it might be tempting to just dive into the first jobs board you come across that offer freelancing opportunities. But I don’t recommend it. First, let’s take a few minutes to understand what to look for in a freelance writing job board.
The problem here is simple. The Internet is full of advertisements for “moneymaking opportunities” that are all flash and little to no substance (I’m looking at you, Amazon FBA YouTube ads!). And there’s practically an entire industry of folks peddling “make money from home” courses and products that are likely to cost you more than you’ll ever make.
That being the case, it can be tough for an inexperienced freelance writer or copywriter to cut through the noise and find legitimate opportunities amidst the worthless and even scammy ones. Even veteran writers can get surprised from time to time.
If you’re not sure about a particular opportunity you’ve come across, use the following guidelines when vetting job postings.
The Goal: Risk Minimization, Not Risk Elimination
First, it’s essential to understand that when you venture out as an independent contractor, there’s always a risk. It’s unpleasant to think about, but any job could go south, and just about any private client could potentially stiff you on payment. Your goal as a freelancer shouldn’t be to eliminate all risks because this is impossible.
Instead, think in terms of risk minimization. Be strategic, using the tips that follow to inform your “risk quotient.” Take the sure bets, and be cautious where caution is needed.
My own strategy of minimizing risk looks like this:
- First, it’s one of the reasons I love to write on WriterAccess. I know that, as long as I deliver what the customer asked for, I’ll get paid with near certainty so long as WriterAccess is in business. The platform has my back and will help to moderate reasonable disputes. I also don’t have to chase down nonpaying clients. I’m willing to have them take a cut in exchange for this level of security.
- When it comes to freelance jobs from private clients, I take a few different approaches. I view the risk to be quite low from people I know offline, whether personally or professionally. Similarly, sites where businesses are paying to list jobs and where the job listing itself is professionally written tend to be lower risk. Beyond that, I’m going to consider a job riskier and riskier the more points it fails below.
- Finally — and this is crucial — the riskier the job, the less I’m going to do before I see a paycheck. I might throw a couple of hundred words out there to a client I consider risky, but certainly not several thousand. I need to build up trust with a “risky” client before committing to that much writing work.
With the idea of risk minimization in mind, consider these criteria:
Is the Website Well Built?
Companies hosting high-quality job boards spend time and money to build a quality site. If you’re looking at a site that’s riddled with errors or obtrusive ads, it’s safe to conclude that something’s off. Move along.
Are the Leads Current?
A good job board will post multiple new opportunities a week, if not multiple a day. (This can vary based on whether the site is presenting individual orders or individual ongoing freelance gigs.) A quality site will include dated information with their posts, too. Consider: what good would it do to apply for a posting from last year? If a website isn’t upfront about when leads were posted, consider that a significant red flag.
Is Anyone Vetting the Posts?
Another critical question to ask is whether anyone is vetting the posts. This isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker: I know plenty of freelancers who have picked up real work on Craigslist, and no one’s vetting those. You just need to know when you’re going into an unvetted opportunity so that you can exercise the appropriate amount of caution.
To put this another way: a midsized company paying to list a job on ProBlogger has a relatively low-risk quotient. A random dude on Craigslist with no public reputation or visible company? That’s certainly a higher risk.
Are the Job Posts Original?
Some sites claim to offer you access to jobs, but all they are really doing is republishing results from other sources. You see the same phenomenon in the W2 job world: ZipRecruiter reposts job listings to hundreds of sites. I guess that helps the hiring corporations, but it drives applicants crazy with all the redirects and sometimes dead ends.
Some of the sites that don’t offer unique, original job posts are basically “zombie sites” that offer you no benefit at all. Others provide some value in that they pull in leads from multiple sites. But beware that you’re dealing with an extra layer (or several) of hassle. You click the link to the job only to end up on another aggregate site with another link. This can be a disorienting process that leaves you unsure of who exactly you’re dealing with. And that means more risk.
You also run a higher risk of finding listings that look current but are long dead in their original location. In my opinion, it’s better to surf those original locations directly.
Does the Job Itself Sound Legit?
This last question relates to each job post you read. In essence, apply the smell test. Is the client communicating professionally? Does their business (if provided) appear to be legitimate and established? Are they promising suspiciously high rates for suspiciously easy work? Are they asking for unusual contact or personal information?
We all want to find great clients and make more money, but don’t let a tempting “job offer” cause you to fall into a scam or trap. A little common sense here goes a long way.
Pro tip: ProBlogger, one of the sites we’ll review below, has produced some content on avoiding scams. Check it out for more details.
Beware of Pay to Play
Some job boards are free for writers to use. Other sources cost money. In general, be very cautious about “pay to play” job listings. Some of these are nothing more than the zombie aggregators described above, and there’s no good reason to pay money for them. They’re just pulling in leads that are already available for free.
I don’t recommend paying for access through any site unless a writer you trust has endorsed it (and isn’t getting a referral credit).
Not sure who to ask? If you’re in the WriterAccess talent pool, our associated private Facebook group is a great place to start.
Where to Find Reliable Writing Job Boards
Now that you know what questions to ask, let’s move on to reviewing some of the most well-known resources out there. Below you’ll find some brief, unbiased comments on several prominent sources for freelance writing jobs.
All these sites can be fantastic leads to legitimate, well-paying work. That said, you still need to go in with your eyes open. Watch for the warning signs described above, and if your personal alarm bells are ringing, listen to them.
Also understand that some content writing gigs on these job boards aren’t worth taking, at least not at the quoted rates. Remember what an average writer salary looks like, and make sure you’re moving upwards toward or past that number. Don’t work long-term for next to nothing. You’ll burn out, trust me.
Now, on to the reviews!
ProBlogger is an established online community for … (can you guess?) … professional bloggers. There’s plenty of info on blogging, podcasting, and more. But what we’re really after is their very significant free job board. On the ProBlogger job board, companies pay to place ads, resulting in more engaged clients and less fraudulent content. It doesn’t cost you anything to view or apply for jobs through this platform.
The jobs range widely, and there are lots of them. You’ll find everything from long-term remote staff positions to one-off content orders. The site skews toward professional-level content and companies seeking ongoing working relationships. The pay range is wide, but that’s OK. Just don’t apply for the cheap stuff.
Verdict: Overall a pretty decent resource (but of course keep your eyes open).
FreelanceWriting.com is a decent resource for honing your craft, and they, too, have a jobs board. The thing is, it’s kind of a mess. Looking at this moment, in addition to some writing jobs, the front page includes job posts for automotive service techs, service writers, and even a truck scale operator? Some of these I can see the connection, but they’re nothing like remote writing jobs. This board is more of a “zombie aggregator.” Most of the job posts I see simply link out to Indeed. I don’t see much if any original/unique posts here.
Verdict: You can if you want, but I wouldn’t.
Blogging Pro’s job board is similar in many ways to ProBlogger’s. Companies pay to post ads, and users can apply for free. Here, too, the jobs are more professional in nature. Some but not all are remote. Some are freelance; some are part-time; some are full-time. Current listings include copyediting and technical writers in addition to content writers and bloggers.
Verdict: A great resource overall, though many listings aren’t designated as freelance.
All Freelance Writing (Formerly All Indie Writers)
All Freelance Writing is yet another service where companies can pay to post job ads. Users can browse and apply for free. This jobs board is transparent and easy to use, with both posting dates and rates clearly displayed. I especially like how they rate the pay as pro, semi-pro, or low.
Verdict: Paid postings with active editorial oversight make this a great site to use.
Freelance Writers Den
Freelance Writers Den is a little different. It’s a paid subscription service ($25 a month) that provides access to training, community, and an “exclusive job board.” (I can’t speak to the quality of those “exclusive” jobs, myself, but let’s just say I have my doubts.) It’s the brainchild of Carol Tice of Make a Living Writing blogging fame. Fair warning: sentiment against platforms like WriterAccess can be extremely negative over there.
Verdict: It’s a little too slick/aggressive marketing-wise for my taste, but your mileage may vary. Trying it out for a month won’t break the bank.
Cult of Copy (Facebook Group)
Cult of Copy is another source that some freelancers swear by. Pro: there are plenty of job posts. Con: It’s on Facebook. If you’ve ever been frustrated with Marketplace in terms of clear and precise communication, you know what I’m getting at. Plus, with 28,000 members, competition for jobs can get a little…intense.
Verdict: It wouldn’t hurt to look at jobs posted in this group, but I wouldn’t spend a lot of time here.
How to Look Good When Applying
The sources and advice thus far will help you know where to look and know what to watch out for. But that’s not the end of the process. You still have to apply for the jobs you find. And unlike WriterAccess Casting Calls (which often lead clients to view writer profiles), your applications on the open market must stand on their own.
You’re operating in a different orbit, one where successful strategies look a little different.
Here are some tips for standing out from the pack:
1. Don’t Hesitate
Often, potential clients who post on open job boards get inundated. If you see something you like, don’t hesitate. Get that application in ASAP. Being at the top of the stack is an excellent way to get noticed.
2. Sell It
Are you new? Unconfident? Afraid you’re not the world’s best writer? Your clients don’t need to know any of that. Please don’t tell them. Be confident and sell yourself as the solution to their problem.
Application instructions are going to vary. You’ve got to read them. Most clients will delete your app immediately if you couldn’t be bothered to do things their way.
You’re applying to write words good, aren’t you? That starts with the application. If it’s poor, boring, or error-filled, you’re toast.
5. Use Templates
How do you balance points 1 and 4? Simple. Use templates. Have a few industry-specific blurbs prewritten and select the one that seems most relevant. Customize it, of course, but don’t write cover letters from scratch every time.
6. Polish Your Samples
Most clients will want to see writing samples. Make sure you have permission to share something before doing so, and make sure your portfolio reflects your absolute best work.
Time to Get Started
You now have the tools you need to start applying for freelance writing jobs on job boards. Get your samples together, then start browsing — and applying.
P.S. If you’re looking to avoid the chaos of job boards but still want to find great writing opportunities, I recommended checking out WriterAccess. WriterAccess takes a lot of the work out of not only finding writing jobs and connecting with clients but also getting paid on time. Apply to become a freelancer with us.
Joseph H has been getting paid to work with words since 2011, both as a freelancer and as a full-time employee at a publishing house. Over 800 projects in on WriterAccess, Joseph specializes in content areas such as consumer technology, digital software and services, B2B technology, digital marketing (inbound marketing, SEO, content marketing), real estate, home maintenance and repair, education, and music (including content for musical instrument stores and music studios). In all these areas and more, Joseph creates SEO and content marketing friendly content with a warm, approachable tone.