As a freelancer, you can stretch out in your own workspace. Wear pajamas on the job. (Just say “NO” to video chats!) Catch a mid-morning cycling class. Snack at your desk (I mean, in bed. Who am I trying to kid?) Razzle your cat, scratch your dog’s belly, or chat with your parrot while you research.
As a freelance writer, you get to be your own boss, set your own schedule, take on the projects you choose, laugh at your own jokes, and rustle up jobs out in the wild west of workplaces.
As far as rugged individualists go, freelance writers are some of the best.
However, when you spend your days (or nights) writing alone in sock-feet – instead of wearing grown-up shoes and taking on consistent projects assigned by a full-time boss – you’ll face one major challenge: finding and sustaining enough consistent work to pay the bills and keep yourself comfortably styled in this season’s designer sweatpants.
That’s not to say that it can’t be done. Plenty of writers are out there, enjoying varying degrees of success (which can be judged by the quality of their luxury loungewear).
Believe it or not, you can experience the 1,000 thread-count sheets and other wonders of a successful freelance career, too! You simply need to know where to find and how to land the absolute best freelance writing jobs that actually pay real American dollars.
Easy-peasy, right? Let’s get to it.
Where Should You Look for Freelance Writing Jobs?
There are a number of different places that you can find freelance writing jobs. The more varied and plentiful your sources, the more likely you will be to build a sustainable pipeline of leads and freelance writing gigs.
Whether you’re just starting to gather clientele in pursuit of a career in freelancing or you’ve been at it for a while, you should always put feelers out within your network of friends and colleagues. You might want to mention your services to your dentist, mechanic, fitness instructor, local farmer’s market, the barista at your favorite coffee shop – anyone who will listen really.
You never know who might be in need of or know someone who needs your outstanding outsourced writing services. Print up a few professional-looking business cards with your contact information and keep them with you to leave with anyone who’s interested. You never know when you’ll meet a new potential lead – at a party, in the grocery store, out on a jog – leads are everywhere!
Job Board Listings
Next, hop on the old ‘net and check out a digital job board or two. Online job boards are a quick and easy way to cut through the chatter of an unbiased Google search and immediately narrow your results to relevant, available listings.
However, you should use caution when looking at writing gigs on freelance job boards. Not every job board is created equal. Some job boards require you to pay a fee to see copywriting gigs while others may have no vetting process for their job postings, which means you may run into some sketchy job ads for businesses that aren’t quite legit.
Need help navigating freelance job boards? Check out our guide to using freelance writing job boards.
You can also harness the power of social media to help you find work. Have a new glamor shot taken, and be sure your online presence looks up-to-date and polished. Start by searching postings on LinkedIn’s job board. Then create yourself a business page on Facebook and share it within your groups. Chirp up a storm of clever tweets on Twitter and get in the habit of posting artsy, writerly photos on Instagram. You can spend time diving into TickTock for fun or if you think you can reach an interested corporate audience.
The bottom line is that social media channels can be a great place to find potential clients with new opportunities to use your writing skills to make money.
While you’re busy networking and searching the job boards for freelance writing work, don’t forget that there are loads of companies hiring freelancers out there who might already be looking for a writer like you!
Make yourself available on as many (reputable) websites for freelance writers as you can. You can list yourself for hire by creating profiles on sites like WriterAccess (a listing exclusively for writers) or Upwork and Fiverr (listings for all kinds of gig workers). Heck, while you’re at it, you might as well list yourself on Craigslist, too.
When creating a profile, use an upbeat, professional tone. Include your experience and your availability, and be sure to mention anything that sets you apart from other freelancers like your education, certificates, publications, time working in various industries, or even travel experiences.
What Should You Do When You Find a Freelance Writing Opportunity You Like?
So, you’ve found a writing opportunity (or several) that interests you, now what?
Here are the next steps you should take to snag the writing gig of your dreams and grow your freelance writing business:
1. Look Digitally Hireable
If you’re not properly prepared to apply for a freelance job when you see one you like, you could miss out on the opportunity. Either before you begin your search or while you’re looking, set to work on making yourself presentable to potential clients.
First, you should draft a basic cover letter that will express your interest in a generic job and also provide a brief summary of your qualifications. It’s okay if you have yet to find an opportunity when you start writing your cover letter. You’ll be able to tweak this form letter to make it more specific to each job opportunity that presents itself.
Next, update your resume and get to work on a portfolio. You can include writing samples and excerpts from your published work or write fresh samples in the industries, styles, and formats that you find most interesting professionally. It’s also smart to include a few references as well. If you are a new freelance writer and don’t have any references available to speak to your freelance writing abilities, list someone from a previous job who can speak to your reliability, competence, professionalism, and writing skills.
If you’re feeling really motivated, build yourself a website. For a writer, your website can be a fairly basic CV format that includes your resume and writing portfolio. List the types of projects you’ve worked on and the kinds of projects you’re available to take on. You can also use your skills and SEO smarts to start your own blog to promote your writing career as a thought leader in the industry.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Leave Your Comfort Zone
Okay, if you don’t already speak Spanish, then you probably shouldn’t take on a translation job, but it’s okay to push yourself a little.
If you’re only looking for work within a very specific industry or asset type, then you might be missing out on major opportunities to jumpstart your freelance career. When it comes to leaving your comfort zone, you can ease yourself into the deep end slowly by venturing out one project at a time.
Having the courage to expand your knowledge and writing skills will ultimately benefit you. When you’re brave enough to take on work that challenges you, you’ll enjoy having new clients and additional opportunities (not to mention learning a whole lot – watch out Trivial Pursuit game night friends!)
3. Learn to Set (and Sometimes Negotiate) Your Writing Rates
When setting your pay rate, try not to undercut yourself. It’s common for clients who aren’t writers or have not worked with many freelance writers to not understand the true value of the services we creative-types provide. It’s also common for new freelancers not to fully realize their own worth.
Be sure that you’re getting paid the amount you need to be paid and that is fair for the job. While not cheating yourself out of a fair wage, it’s also important that you don’t price yourself out of finding good clients, especially if you are a new freelancer who is still working on building a portfolio and roster of clients. As a new writer, the cost of gaining invaluable experience and qualifications is sometimes agreeing to a rate that’s a bit below your goal.
Rates for a freelance content writer will vary based on word count, technicalities, the deadline, research time, subject matter, and special requests like including photographs, links, and keywords. As a result, it’s best not to publish rates on your writer profile listing, but rather to quote prices based on project requests. You can charge a flat-rate project fee, per-word, per page, per hour, or some combination of these.
With a little research, you can find industry averages to see what other writers are charging to make sure you ask for a competitive fee based on your skillset, experience, and the job. Consider previous copywriting jobs that you’ve completed that were similar in nature when developing an estimate for your clients.
4. Figure Out If You Need a Contract
As a freelancer, you’re in charge of every aspect of your business, including making sure that you get paid. Although you won’t always need to have a freelance contract with every client pertaining to every project, there will be some instances when having one is essential.
When working through a platform that facilitates payment, such as WriterAcces, freelancers don’t have to worry about payment as long as they complete the required work as agreed. When working with private clients, however, it can be a good idea to have a contract in place that determines compensation and currency, specifies the governing laws, describes the nature of the work to be completed, and also indicates ownership of the content. A contract can also establish the means which your client should use to communicate with you.
Keep in mind that having a contract with a client still won’t guarantee that you get paid for your work and time or that your work won’t be published without you being fairly compensated.
Yes, a contract is a legal agreement. If a client breaches that contract, however, you’ll still need to decide whether it’s worth pursuing legal action to get paid. Unless a breach of the contract represents a major loss financial or otherwise, pursuing legal action to get compensation usually isn’t worth the headache (or the legal fees).
Contract or no contract, do your best to work with clients you like and trust. Be wary of online job listings that seem too good to be true because they usually are. (Look for red flags in job postings that might indicate the post or the business is a scam.)
5. Be Professional, Communicative, and Knock It Out of the Park
One successfully completed content writing job usually leads to more, either through referrals or repeat clients. When you land your first freelance writing assignment (Congratulations!), be ready to buckle down and make a positive first impression. Remember that the person hiring you as an outsourced copywriter feels just as nervous about choosing you as you feel about taking on the job.
Use your professional skills to put your client at ease by being communicative, up-front, and responsive from the start. Look over their order instructions and requirements and test any links or attachments they have included as soon as you receive them. If you have any trouble or questions, be sure to ask your client right away to maximize the time you have to work before your deadline approaches.
Next, really focus on getting your first assignment right. Do your research. Get to know your client’s brand, messaging, brand voice, audience, and goals. Write the piece and read it over. Try to complete the work early, so that you’ll be able to sleep on the project and review it before submitting the next day. To thank your client for the opportunity and also let them know you’re available for revisions (which is a natural part of the writing process and conveys your commitment to providing a high-quality service), send your client a note along with the completed work.
Most importantly, you should always be clear with your clients about your availability and scheduling to ensure you never miss a deadline. While emergencies do happen from time to time, missing a deadline is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a freelance writer, especially a newbie. It will let down your client’s expectations and throw off their publication schedule. Plus, missing your deadlines could affect your ability to get a positive reference and snag more ghostwriting work in the future.
Remember that the main reason why clients choose to hire freelance writers is to make their lives easier. If you’re easy to work with and provide content that requires minimal attention before publication, you’ll save them time and help them achieve their content marketing goals.
To be a successful freelancer, simply be professional, timely, and the talented writer that you already are!
Be Patient and Be Confident in Your Writing Abilities
Whether you choose to hit the pavement or the online job boards in search of freelance work, one piece of advice is more important to your writing career than any other: don’t lose faith in yourself.
Starting, growing, and maintaining a freelance writing career is not a task for the faint of heart. It takes courage to be self-reliant, patience to build a solid portfolio, and perseverance to get through the slow periods, missed opportunities, and rejections that will inevitably occur.
But take heart, dear writer.
Your already solid writing chops will improve with practice and your portfolio will expand. You will gain credentials, and your talent will soar. One day, you will feel frantic because you’ll have a schedule packed with work from a well-rounded group of clients. Sure, you’ll lose some of those clients eventually, but you will have confidence in the certainty (your ability) that you will replace the lost work with even better freelance jobs in the future!
Working as a freelance writer for a content marketplace like WriterAccess is a great way to get consistent work from serious clients. Whether WriterAccess becomes your main source of freelance work or just a platform where you can take on a few projects here and there during the slow times, it really is a great resource for writers that are looking for work.
When you’re ready to join us, apply here.
A full-time freelance writer and editor, Jennifer G. believes that understanding each client’s unique business, brand, voice, passions, and goals is the true challenge of content creation. With every new client and project, she loves diving in, getting acquainted, and developing long-lasting relationships. Jennifer is also the author of our weekly content marketing trends report that hits the blog each Friday.