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10 Ways to Land Your First Freelance Writing Job (and What to Do Next)

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Landing your first freelance writing job as a beginning freelancer is absolutely HUGE.

I remember how excited I was when I got my first freelance gig.

Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what the topic was.  All I know is that I was ecstatic that a website was actually paying me to write for them.

It didn’t matter that I was working for basically peanuts. (And p.s. if you’re a new freelance writer, don’t do that.)

As far as I was concerned, I was officially a paid freelance writer.

And that’s what you want to be too, right?

But maybe you’re struggling to break into freelancing or you don’t know how to find work.

I feel you. That was my struggle once upon a time too.

So, I’m going to do you a solid and give you some tips for finding your first freelance writing job.

And I don’t mean some writing-for-pennies gig either. I mean a for-real, great-paying gig to start your freelance career off with a bang.

And to help you keep those kinds of freelance writing jobs coming your way on a stay basis, I’m going to tell you what to do next once you land it.

Ready? Let’s go!

What Do You Need to Get Your First Freelance Writing Job?

first freelance writing jobOkay, so before we get to the finding jobs part, let’s talk about laying the foundations for your freelancing business or side hustle.

When I first started freelance writing, all I had were some basic writing skills, curiosity and determination.

And sure, those got me started but honestly, it would have been a lot easier if I’d taken the time to get some key tools in place first.

So, what do you need?

If I were to start my freelance writing career all over again, here’s what I’d make sure I had first:

  • A clearly identified, profitable niche
  • Samples in an online portfolio ready to show to prospective clients (ideally from a writer website or blog)
  • An established social media presence

Why those things? And why isn’t a degree in journalism or communications on the list?

Two reasons.

First, those three things are what I consider to be most essential for establishing yourself as a new freelance writer.

And second, a degree in journalism or communications or any other writing-related field isn’t a requirement to becoming a freelance writer. I sure don’t have one and it hasn’t hurt me a bit. 🙂

Do I Really Need a Niche?

No, but I always recommend having one to new freelancers.

Technically, you can get paid to write about anything. But there are two problems with that thinking.

For one thing, you might end up writing about things you don’t care about. I wrote a bunch of pieces about golf courses and golf rules as a beginning freelancer.

Did I get paid? Yep.

Did I enjoy the work? Not so much.

Having a niche means you get to focus on topics you’re passionate about and interested in. When you have that going for you, it’s a lot harder to run out of ideas.

The other reason to choose a niche is that it can up your earning potential if you’re able to gain expert status.

I highly doubt I’d be as successful with my writing as I am if I didn’t know the finance niche inside and out. Finance might not be your thing but there are other niches with excellent money-making potential that you might be interested in.

So, if you don’t have one yet, really think about how you could niche down with your writing and who could benefit from your know-how. That’ll come in handy as you work on getting that first freelance writing job.

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Creating Samples for Your Portfolio

There are several ways to come up writing samples for your portfolio as a beginner freelancer.

For example, you could:

  • Write an article and turn it into a PDF
  • Polish up an old college essay or report
  • Submit guest posts to a website in your niche
  • Offer your writing services for free to businesses, churches or other organizations locally

Those can all definitely put some samples in your portfolio. But in my opinion, there’s a better way to do it and that’s starting a blog.

Why a blog?

Blog posts are published links to your writing, not some PDF that nobody can read unless you share it with them.

Sure, you’re the one publishing your posts but having a blog can immediately raise your value in a client’s eyes, especially if your blog centers on your niche.

So if you’re trying to break into the finance niche, you might start a blog about budgeting or paying off debt. Or if you want to write about digital marketing you could base your blog around that.

Starting a blog is super-easy these days; I’ve got an easy-to-follow tutorial on how to do it that you can check out.

Don’t sweat the design details too much — you want to get your blog set up and start posting so you can start attracting clients. But there are two things I do recommend:

  • Setting up a self-hosted site through a hosting service. (My personal fave is Siteground — the customer service is great and the hosting plans are majorly affordable. 🙂 )
  • Making sure your blog content is relevant to your niche and shows off your best writing skills.

Once you get those two things nailed, you can work on adding 1-2 posts each week to build up your samples.

And consider reaching out to other bloggers in your niche to ask about guest posting. That just means writing a post for their blog under your name.

The upside? You’ll get a backlink for your site and another online venue where you can show off your writing skills.

What Social Media Channels Should I Be Active On?

Technically, you could be on all of them but that could end up being a waste of time.

When you’re trying to get that first freelance writing job, you need to get yourself in front of prospective clients as often as possible. So the obvious answer is being present on the social media channels where the clients you want to work for hang out.

For me, that’s LinkedIn.

I’m approached by clients all the time through LinkedIn, so much so that I don’t actively look for freelance work anymore.

And eventually, that’s where you want to be. So you can help yourself along by setting up a killer LinkedIn profile.

The secret ingredients for that are:

  • Having a professional-looking headshot (My headshot is totally a selfie but if you want to spring for a pro photographer to take your picture, go for it.)
  • Including keywords in your headline, summary and work history that are relevant to your niche. (For example, my headline says “Expert Financial Journalist | Personal Finance | Small Business | Investing” because that’s my niche.)
  • Linking to your published writing samples or blog posts if that’s all you have right now.
  • Connecting with editors, content managers, marketers and other freelancers in your niche.
  • Growing your connection list to the 500+ mark.

Doing those things can increase your visibility (because that’s really what you need to be doing at this point) and it makes you look like a pro writer, even if you’re still a total newbie.

I’ll put in a word here for Twitter, too. It’s a good informal platform for connecting with editors and other freelancers in your niche.

10 Places to Look for Your First Freelance Writing Gig

Okay, you’ve got your blog, writing samples and social media profiles ready to go. Now it’s time to use them.

These 10 options aren’t the only ways to get your first freelance writing job. But, they’re the ones that can produce real results. (And #9 is my personal favorite!)

1. Facebook Groups

Facebook groups for freelancers are a great place to network and you can also find job opportunities here too.

There are two basic ways to find a freelance writing job in Facebook groups:

  • You can add a post (if it’s allowed by the group rules) letting other members know that you’re looking for work, what kind of writing you do and how to get in touch with you.
  • Someone will post a job opportunity or mention that they’re looking for writers and you can decide whether to reach out.

While I’ve never advertised my services in a Facebook freelancing group, I have gotten regular, ongoing gigs using the second route so I know it works.

If you’re going to drop a post telling people you’re looking for work, go about it the right way.

For example, I see a lot of posts like this:

“I write articles and blog posts, plagiarism-free. $25 for 1,000 words. Hit me up!”

It’s fine if you want to post something like that but there are several big problems with it.

First, if you know what you’re doing as a freelancer, you shouldn’t have to tell a potential client that you do plagiarism-free work. That should be a given.

Second, $25 for 1,000 is wayyyyyy low, even if you’re a brand-new freelancer. By posting something like that, you’re letting people who might want to hire you know they can get you super-cheap.

And third, I’m all for keeping it casual. But if you’re serious about freelancing as a business, you have to have some professionalism.

Besides that, this kind of post doesn’t tell a prospective client what value you offer or how you can help them. And that’s what you want to do every time.

Which Facebook Groups Are Best for Freelance Writers?

There are a ton of freelancing groups you can join to find your first freelance writing job. Here are some I recommend getting started with:

My best tip for joining Facebook groups for freelancers is to work on making connections first.

If someone asks a question, provide a thoughtful, helpful answer. Or ask a question yourself to get a conversation going.

Building these kinds of relationships in groups can make you stick in peoples’ memory. So, if a job opportunity comes up, they may bypass the group post and bring it straight to you.

2. Freelance Job Boards

Freelance job boards are a great place to find listings for freelance, remote and work-at-home jobs.

When I first started as a freelance writer, this was how I found a lot of my early gigs. My go-to boards for new freelancers are:

I used all of these regularly to find work and they’re all free. There are also paid job boards you can try, like FlexJobs and Virtual Vocations.

The upside of using a paid job board to find work is that you can find jobs that might not be listed on free job boards. And you can find higher-paying gigs on paid job boards as well.

If you’re trying to find your first freelance writing job, paid job boards can help. But you can definitely find work without them so you have to decide whether the investment makes sense for you.

Using Freelance Job Boards to Find Work

You can find quality jobs on freelance job boards but sometimes, you have to wade through a lot of junk that isn’t right for you. These tips can help you save time and find quality gigs:

  • Use keywords to filter search results so you’re only looking at job postings for your niche.
  • Check the pay rate (if included) against the target rate you want to earn.
  • Read the post through at least twice to make sure you understand what you need to do to apply.
  • Watch for red flags that could mean a post is scammy, like an odd-looking email address or poor grammar and spelling errors.
  • Don’t skip applying for a job if you’re not 100% qualified for it.

That last one is really important.

If you’re waiting for a job posting to show up that you’re 100% qualified for as a new freelancer, you’re probably going to be waiting a long time for your first freelance writing job.

I regularly applied for jobs that I was underqualified for in the beginning. Sometimes I never heard a peep but sometimes I got the gig because I had strong samples to back up my application.

If you’ve got some solid writing clips and basic knowledge of your niche, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

The worst that can happen is they say no or you never hear from them. But if you don’t take a chance, you could miss out on an opportunity to start getting paid for your writing.

3. Regular Job Boards

When I say regular job boards, I just mean sites like Indeed or ZipRecruiter.

This kind of job board will have freelance and remote work jobs mixed in with the regular 9 to 5 gigs. The same rules for searching freelance job boards apply to regular job boards, especially using keywords.

So, for example, when I would search Indeed for jobs I’d type in “freelance personal finance writer” or “remote personal finance writer”.  That way, I could filter out the in-house financial writing jobs that I wasn’t interested in.

One thing you might notice with regular job boards is that you may have to upload a resume to apply for a job.

If you don’t have a writer resume, don’t panic. It’s easy to make one and it doesn’t have to be complicated. (As an example, here’s my really basic resume.)

To make a writer resume when you’re new to freelancing, just remember to include the most important things:

  • Your name, email address and blog or website URL if you have one
  • A brief summary of your writing expertise or niche
  • A brief listing of your writing experience or publication credits

The catch-22, of course, is that you might have zero professional writing experience. Doesn’t matter; use what you have.

If all you’ve done writing-wise is blogging, then put it on your resume. Or if you’ve only ever written your church newsletter, slap it on there too.

What’s really going to help you be successful as a new freelance writer is having great samples and an established social presence. Those things can trump a resume any day.

And as you get new gigs, you can use them to build out your resume if you really feel like you need one.

4. Friends and Family

I’m going to assume that you’re not a hermit and you have friends and family who can help you get your freelance writing business off the ground.

(And if you are a hermit, that’s totally cool too. As an introvert, I find human interaction exhausting sometimes.)

So if you’re trying to land that first gig, tell your friends and family what you’re doing. Let them know you’re looking for work and ask them to spread the word.

That’s how I first started working from home as a virtual assistant.

I mentioned to my mother-in-law at the time that I wanted to find a way to make money from home. She knew a woman who ran a VA biz. She called her up, told her that I had a background in writing and even drove me to her house for an impromptu interview.

If she hadn’t been willing to do that, I might not be a freelancer now.

So if you have a friend or family member who’s supportive of your freelancing, ask them to put in a good word for you when an opportunity comes up. That could be all you need to get your business going.

5. Freelancing Marketplaces

Freelancing marketplaces are another way to find paid writing work. Here’s how they work generally:

  • You create an account on a marketplace
  • Brands and businesses list a job posting
  • You apply for the job through the marketplace
  • If you get hired, you complete the assignment and get paid through the marketplace

It’s simple enough but here’s the most important thing to know about freelance marketplaces: they aren’t all the same.

Upwork, for example, may be one you’ve heard about. You browse job listings, submit a proposal and if your proposal is accepted, you’re hired for a gig.

I used Upwork as a new freelancer but I generally don’t recommend it to people who are starting out now.

Why? The biggest reason is pay.

While it’s possible to find decent-paying clients through the platform, there are a lot of penny-pinchers in the mix too. These are clients who want you to deliver five-star work on a one-star budget.

And I don’t know about you but I just don’t have time to get nickeled and dimed for my efforts. So if you’re going to use Upwork to find work, my best tip is to not make it the only way you look for work.

For instance, try joining some higher-quality freelance marketplaces too.

Contently, for example, has been great for me. It’s where about 40% of my freelance income comes from.

I’ve also had success with nDash, recently landing a gig writing short blog posts at $0.50 per word. And Toptal is another good one to try.

All of these sites are free to use, although some of them have a more rigorous approval process than others. But if you can get approved to join and get hooked up with a gig, these platforms can put some serious cash in your pocket.

first freelance writing job

6. Twitter and LinkedIn

I already mentioned LinkedIn and Twitter for building your social presence as a new freelancer. But you can also leverage them to find freelancing writing jobs as a beginner.

The biggest thing to work on is expanding your network. The more connections you have, the more opportunities there are to find work.

But you can’t just sit back and wait for jobs to come you, at least not right away. Some of the things you can do to find work include:

  • Posting and sharing things that are useful to your audience.
  • Building connections with other freelancers, editors and businesses in your niche you want to write for.
  • Letting the people in your network know what you do as a freelancer.
  • Getting involved in relevant conversations that could lead to work.

An easy way to do that on Twitter is to check hashtags. You’d be amazed by how many times people look for a writer by including #writerneeded in their posts.

You can also follow job boards on Twitter. Check out these handles for leads:

With LinkedIn, you can look for work with LinkedIn Jobs.

Again, it’s all about having a killer profile set up and using keywords related to your niche in your job search. You can also reach out to editors or brands through the platform to ask if they’re looking for a freelancer.

This is essentially a kind of cold pitching. But you can turn it into a warm pitch by interacting with the people or brands you want to target before offering your services.

For example, if you spend any time on LinkedIn you’ll see those notifications that let you know one of your connection’s having a birthday or they started a new job or got promoted. Taking a quick minute to offer congratulations or birthday wishes or whatever it is puts you on that person’s radar.

From there, you can ease into a warm pitch by mentioning that you’re looking for some new clients to help.

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7. Local Networking Events

The internet has much it super easy to find freelance writing jobs online but don’t count out an in-person job search.

For example, your local chamber of commerce might host an annual small business expo in your hometown once or twice a year. That could be a perfect chance to get your name out there as a writer.

If you’re planning to look for work in-person at a local networking event or meet-up, practice your elevator pitch before you go.

Your elevator pitch explains who you are and what you do as a freelance writer.

So depending on your niche, your elevator pitch might sound something like: “I create articles and blog posts for personal finance websites and major banking brands.”

It doesn’t have to be long; in fact, the more concise you can make it the better. Once you nail it down, practice it until it rolls off your tongue without sounding salesy or cheesy.

And you’re planning to spend a lot of time at local networking events, consider getting some business cards printed up to advertise your services.

8. AngelList

AngelList is a job board/social network that’s focused on startups of all kinds. Startups come here to list openings for remote and in-house jobs.

So why would you want to use it to find your first freelance writing job?

Well, for one thing, startups don’t always have people in-house who can wear all the hats when it comes to marketing. They might have a digital marketing manager who runs their ad campaigns but not someone who can write posts for their blog.

That’s where you could fill a gap. Startups come in so many varieties that unless you have a super narrow niche, the chances of finding a company that could benefit from your services are pretty good.

And startups usually have a budget in place to pay for content. In fact, they may have a certain amount of money they have to spend on marketing to satisfy their investors.

All of those things can work in your favor for finding that first freelancing gig.

You’ll have to create an account to search for jobs through AngelList but it’s free and only takes a minute. From there, you can rely on those handy-dandy niche keywords to start looking for jobs.

One thing to know about writing for startups, though. Not all of them are built to last.

A few years back, I accepted a ghostwriting position with a very promising fintech startup. Things were good for a while, then I moved on to other projects.

This company seemed (to me anyway) to have staying power. Then last year, they quite unexpectedly folded.

Now, don’t let that scare you off from approaching startups for writing jobs. But do know that these kinds of gigs can change, sometimes very quickly.

9. Cold Pitching

I mentioned cold pitching a minute ago but let’s talk about it a little more.

Cold pitching means you reach out to an editor, business, content manager — whoever you want to write for — and offer them your writing services.

It’s called cold pitching because it assumes that you don’t have a direct connection or relationship to that person.

Sounds scary, right? But cold pitching was one of the best ways I found to get freelance writing jobs as a newbie.

There’s a right and a wrong way to go about cold pitching. The right way involves:

  • Making sure you’re aiming your pitch at the right person.
  • Pointing out a connection, if you have one. (For example, letting them know that a writer friend you have in common referred you. It’s all about building that network from day one.)
  • Crafting your pitch to highlight the need you can fill for that person or business.
  • Being polite but professional.
  • Following up on your pitches consistently.

There are two basic kinds of pitches you can send.

One is an introductory pitch. You write this one to introduce yourself as a writer and hopefully lay the groundwork for an ongoing conversation about your services.

The other is a pitch-pitch. In this kind of pitch, you’re including 1 to 3 ideas for articles or blog posts you’d like to write that you think would be useful or helpful the audience of the person or website you’re pitching.

Inside the Freelance Writer’s Toolkit, you’ll find templates for both kinds of pitches so if you haven’t grabbed yours yet, you may want to check those out.

How Do You Find People to Pitch?

The great thing about cold pitching is that it’s up to you to decide who to pitch.

For example, you could pitch people in your network through LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram — whatever channels you’re on.

You can also pitch websites, blogs and businesses directly.

Say you write in the parenting niche and you come across a website that also has a blog page. But, the blog hasn’t been updated in a while.

You could send a cold pitch asking if they’d be interested in reviving their blog and if they need a freelance writer to help.

The key is keeping the focus on a potential client’s needs.

Don’t send a pitch that’s all about you. Make it all about them — their struggles, their problems, their needs. Then let them know how you can help.

10. Your Blog

You might have started a blog to build up your portfolio and gain some street cred as a writer. But it could be a path to your first freelance writing job.

How? It’s simple. You set up a “Hire Me” page to advertise your services.

Then if an editor or business checks out your blog, they can click over to your “Hire Me” page to get in touch with you.

My best tip for creating a solid services page for your blog is to check out what other established writers in your niche are doing.

Don’t copy them word for word — you’ll need to make it your own. But look at how their pages are structured, what they’re highlighting, the kind of language they use to draw potential clients in.

And most importantly, make sure you include the best way for clients to get in touch with you. It does you no good to have the perfect page set up if prospects can’t track you down.

You’ve Gotten Your First Freelance Writing Job — Now What?

Okay, you landed your first paid freelancing gig! It’s a great feeling, right?

But now you’ve got to dig in and get to work.

And I want to give you a few rules of thumb to follow to make sure you absolutely nail your first freelance writing job so you can get lots more of them going forward.

Here goes:

  • Make sure you understand exactly what you’re supposed to be writing. If you don’t understand something, ASK.
  • Check the requirements for word count, sourcing, formatting and linking. If your client’s asking for 800 words, don’t give them 2,000. Avoid fancy fonts and stick with Times New Roman or Arial.
  • Find out how the assignment needs to be delivered. Some clients prefer Word files but others like Google Docs.
  • Double-check the deadline and mark it on your calendar. Deliver early if you can but always, ALWAYS get your story in on time.
  • Research your topic and make an outline before you start writing. This can help you stay organized and save time when you’re ready to write.
  • Write your first draft then take a break. Review your draft for tone, style and content to make sure it fits what the client is looking for.
  • Revise your draft and proof it for spelling and grammar errors. Run it through a grammar checker like Grammarly to polish it up before sending it to your client.

At this point, your client may come back to you with edits. Once you’ve made those (or if no edits are needed), then you should be able to invoice the client and get paid.

Happy dance time!

Celebrate getting your first paid freelance writing job — it’s a huge win. Then, get to work finding your next gig!

Have You Found Your First Freelancing Job Yet?

I’ve given you my best tips for finding your first client as a new freelancer. Now it’s your turn!

If you haven’t gotten your first freelance writing job yet, what do you think is holding you back?

And if you have been able to start your freelancing career, what did you do to make it happen?

Head to the comments and tell me about it, then pin and share this post if it helped you!

And of course, be sure to grab my Freelance Writer’s Toolkit. It’s full of free goodies to help you launch and grow your freelance writing business!

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Hi there, I'm Rebecca, homeschooling single mom of two. I built a six-figure freelance writing business from home and now I teach people like you how to start side hustles, build profitable businesses online, manage money and be more productive! Follow me on Pinterest and Twitter and don't forget to check out the Resource Library--it's packed with tons of free tools to help you manage your money, business and life!

Comments

  1. Excellent tips! As a new freelance writer still trying to land my first gig there are some great extra things I can try here, thank you!

    • Freelancing is a great way to make money from home and once you get that first freelance writing job, it gets so much easier to get the next one and the next one. With the exception of in-person networking, which is kind of hard to do in the town I live in (it’s super-small) and starting a blog, I did all of the things on this list to get jobs as a new freelancer and they all worked. Good luck to you!

  2. LOVE how detailed this is – a lot of blogs encourage others to just write as a side hustle, but I never really understood how to get into it. Your blog post is really helpful in that matter!!

    • That’s great to hear! Freelance writing is something you can definitely do as a side hustle but it can easily become a full-time business. I did it with no real plan at all so I want to help other new freelancers avoid the mistakes I made. 🙂

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