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Figuring out how to get freelance writing jobs when you’re a brand-new freelancer can be tough.
Because a lot of times, there’s just so much you don’t know, like…
- Where to find freelance gigs that pay real money
- How to apply for jobs on job boards or send out a cold pitch
- What kind of clips or samples you need to get hired
It can be overwhelming, especially if you’re starting out with no or very little experience freelancing.
When I first started freelancing I didn’t know anything about formatting a blog post or how to cite sources. I had no clue what a cold pitch was or where to look for work.
Did it matter that I’d never been paid to write a thing before?
Nope. I just knew it was something I wanted to try.
So I took the leap and more than five years later, I’m making a full-time income with my writing.
Bottom line, if your experience with freelancing is nonexistent, don’t worry. Not having any experience doesn’t have to keep you from being successful as a freelancer writer.
I’ve got some tips to help land your first paid freelance writing jobs even if you’re completely new.
Start With What You Do Have
Experience can definitely help you land paid freelance writing gigs but it’s not the only thing that matters.
There are other qualities that go into making a successful freelancer. For me, that means:
- Knowing how to manage your time
- Being creative and knowing how craft a great story idea
- Having good communication skills
- Feeling confident about what you can do as a freelancer
- A willingness and ability to go above and beyond client expectations
Out of all those, the most important quality for new freelancers might be confidence.
Believing that you can do it can trump experience for how to get freelance writing jobs any day of the week.
And that’s important, because here’s the truth:
As a new freelancer, the jobs won’t come to you. You’ll have to go get them.
And you’ll need to be confident when you do it.
While some clients will absolutely take a pass on new freelancers, others may be willing to give you a shot if you’re giving off a solid “I’ve got this” vibe.
So, Rule #1 for how to get freelance writing jobs with zero experience: Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
Your Network Is Also an Asset
When I was in my 20s and looking for “real” jobs, one thing I always heard is that it isn’t what you know, but who that can get you hired.
And honestly, that’s so true.
The last job I had before I became a freelancing SAHM (as a sales rep for a cell phone company, of all things) I got because I struck up an acquaintance with someone who worked for the company.
I let them know I was interested in a job and even though I’d never worked in sales before, they hired me anyway, based on the recommendation of the women I’d made a connection with. And once I got in, I made sure to reward their trust in me by crushing my quotas every month.
So what does my networking story have to do with how to get freelance writing jobs as a beginner?
Just this: who you know matters.
Because someone in your network could be the key to getting your first paid freelance writing gig.
It could be one of your old bosses or coworkers. It may be someone from your church or from a mom group you’re part of.
Or it may be someone you meet in a Facebook group for freelancers or a freelance writer whose blog you follow.
The key is knowing how to use your network to connect with freelance writing opportunities. Which comes back to not being afraid to put yourself out there.
Use Your Network to Find Freelance Writing Jobs as a Newbie
I get that networking can be scary–as a super introvert, it was for me when I was starting out. But you can see some great results just by building up your network.
Here are three ways to do it:
- Tell people you’re a freelance writer. Let your friends, family, former coworkers–whoever’s part of your network–know that you’re diving into freelancing.
- Get active in Facebook groups for freelancers. Ask questions, take part in discussions and if the group allows it, mention that you’re looking for work.
- Leverage LinkedIn. Scout out editors, content managers and other freelance writers in your niche. Send them a quick note explaining that you’re a new freelancer and ask to connect.
Don’t worry if your network seems tiny either. When I first started freelancing I had a grand total of 16 LinkedIn connections, mostly friends or family members.
What matters most is not the quantity but the quality of the people in your network.
You want your network to include people who can either hire you for to write for them or refer you to someone who can.
Whether your network is big or microscopic, work on identifying who those people are and cultivating relationships with them.
How to Get Freelance Writing Jobs as a Total Beginner
Okay, now that you’ve laid a foundation with your network and you’ve given yourself a pep talk let’s look at what else you can do to land freelance jobs when you’re starting out.
1. Create Freelance Writing Experience With a Killer Portfolio
I can count on one hand the number of times a client has asked to see a resume listing out all the publications I’ve written for or where I went to school.
That doesn’t mean having one isn’t important; but the clients in my niche typically base my experience on my portfolio and writing samples.
So what do you do if you’re a new freelancer with zero professional writing experience? Simple. You get experience by creating a portfolio to show off your writing skills.
There are several ways you can do this. An easy one is to type up an article or blog post in Word or Google docs and save it as a PDF.
But that doesn’t always say “professional writer” to clients. What works better is having a collection of links to online writing samples.
There are three options I like for creating an online portfolio and gaining writing experience:
Start a Blog
As a new freelancer, you might be wondering if you need a writer website.
A lot of professional freelancers will tell you yes, that it’s a great way to attract clients. Me? Not so much.
I’ve had a couple of writer websites over the years but I never kept up with them. What I recommend in place of a writer website for new freelancers is starting a blog and here’s why:
- It’s a way to practice and develop your writing skills
- You can develop your personal freelance brand with your writing
- There’s more room to let your personality shine through
- You can start building up your expertise within your niche
- You can add a ‘Hire Me’ page to catch the eye of prospective clients
If you’re planning to start a blog to hone your writing skills, here are a few pointers:
- Pick the right hosting service. My personal preference is for Siteground, they’re absolutely great and not super expensive. But ultimately, go with a hosting service that offers the pricing, features and customer service experience you’re looking for.
- Get a self-hosted site. WordPress.org and WordPress.com may sound like the same thing but they’re not. If you want a professional-looking blog hosted by Siteground or another company, it’s WordPress.org all the way.
- Post your best content. The great thing about blogging is you can write about anything you want. If you’re using a blog to launch a freelancing career, you can absolutely write about your hobbies or your kids but be sure to write some samples that are relevant to your niche. If you want to break into the digital marketing niche, for example, a post packed with SEO tips is more likely to get a client’s attention than one about your family vacation.
- Don’t waste time on small things. If you’re starting a blog so you can build a freelance portfolio, make the writing your focus. Don’t get bogged down in spending hours designing your site or choosing the perfect domain. (Your name will do just fine.) Get the basics out of the way, like picking a theme or a logo, then get to work writing.
Publish on Medium
I’ve written about building a portfolio using Medium before but in case you missed it, here’s how it works:
Medium.com is a free-to-use platform that anyone can create an account and publish on. It’s basically a social channel but instead of writing shorter updates, you can post long-form content.
The best reason to use Medium when you’re trying figure out how to get freelance writing jobs is to build an audience. If you’ve also started a blog, you can use your Medium traffic to drive traffic to the blog.
But don’t assume you can just write anything and post it. Choose and refind your topics the way you would for your blog.
You want to write things that are insightful, interesting, unique–even if it’s a basic how-to article. Let your personality shine through and don’t be afraid to tell stories.
Publish on LinkedIn
I’ve also talked about publishing on LinkedIn to build a portfolio.
Writing for LinkedIn is a little different than writing for Medium because you might have a totally different audience.
If you’re creating posts to build up your experience and portfolio, stick with topics that are relevant to your niche. Another option is to write pieces that are directed at the people in your network or people you’re hoping to connect with.
So if you’re trying to break into writing for digital marketing brands, for example, you might knock out a short blog post on a new industry trend.
If you don’t know where to start with writing for LinkedIn, here’s a short guide that can help.
2. Refine Your Job Search
Knowing how to get freelance writing jobs when you’re brand-new is all about having a strategy.
I mean, you could just apply for any and every writing job you find. But for me, that’s just a good way to waste time.
So here’s what I think works better instead:
- Be selective about where you look for jobs
- Stick to applying for jobs in your niche
- Target your ideal client as often as possible
Where should you look for freelance writing jobs when you’re new?
There are lots of places to look for freelance writing jobs when you’re starting out. Job boards are great because there’s usually a lot of variety, but some are better than others.
If you’re a new freelancer, here are a few that I know from experience can turn up solid leads:
You might be wondering if freelancing platforms like Upwork are good for finding freelance jobs. With these sites, you create a profile and you can apply for jobs or clients can reach out to you to offer you work.
I used the site when I was just starting out. And it was fine at first but eventually the goals I had for my business grew beyond what Upwork clients could offer so I moved on.
If you’re considering Upwork, make sure you’ve got a great profile that stands out. I’ve heard the site has gotten super competitive for freelancers, so add your best clips and use keywords in your profile that reflect your niche.
And it should go without saying that it shouldn’t be the only way you look for freelancing jobs.
Focus on finding freelance writing jobs in your niche
Some freelancers are comfortable writing about anything but I’m all about having a niche or specialty.
When you write on the same topic or group of topics long enough, you eventually become an expert. And that, for me at least, is one of the keys to making a five- or six-figure income as a freelancer.
Finding freelance jobs when you have no experience is a lot easier when you’ve defined your niche. Instead of applying for every job you see, you can zero in on the ones that reflect what you’re knowledgable about or skilled in.
Does that mean you have to go super narrow with your job search and only apply for jobs you’re 100% qualified for?
Not at all. When I was starting out, I wasn’t a financial expert–not even close–but if I came across a gig that had anything to do with finance, I applied for it.
Sometimes my gamble worked and I’d get the job. Then I’d have another great finance clip to add to my portfolio, which could help me get the next job.
And sometimes it didn’t but that was okay. Because here’s another secret about how to get freelance writing jobs with no experience: it’s a total numbers game.
The more jobs you apply for, the better your odds of landing one. The key is knowing what niche you want to target and having a starter portfolio, even if it’s just your best blog posts, that shows off your writing skills.
If you have no clue what niche you want to work in, there’s a workbook included in my Freelance Writer’s Toolkit you’ll want to check out.
It walks you through the most important questions to ask to find your freelance niche so you can start finding those all-important freelance writing jobs. 🙂
Target your ideal client
Knowing who your ideal client is matters just as much as choosing a niche. Your ideal client represents the type of people you most want to help with your writing skills.
For example, my ideal client is any company or brand in the financial space that offers consumer-focused advice.
I occasionally write pieces that target financial professionals or other financial businesses.
But I’m most comfortable writing things that are designed to be read by everyday people who look to a specific brand for helpful, actionable financial advice, like how to make a budget.
Your ideal client will ultimately depend on your niche.
So if your niche is homesteading, for example, your ideal client might be magazines, websites and blogs that talk about urban farming, homesteading or simple living.
As you search job boards (and start pitching, which we’ll cover in just a minute), keep your ideal client in mind.
Look for postings that match not only what you want to write about but who you want to write for.
3. Get Comfortable With Cold Pitching
The thought of cold pitching made me break out in a cold sweat when I was just starting to freelance.
What is cold pitching?
It’s approaching companies, editors, websites and brands directly to ask them if they need your writing skills.
It’s intimidating, right? You’re basically saying, hi, I’m a writer and I’m new but here’s what I can do and would you maybe want to pay me for it?
The key to cold pitching successfully, especially as a new freelancer, is knowing what to say and being confident when you say it.
The perfect freelance pitch formula
I’ve included some cold pitch templates in the Freelance Writer’s Toolkit but basically, your pitch should look something like this:
My name’s [your name] and I’m a freelance writer specializing in [your niche topic]. I came across your blog and saw that you have a ton of great posts on [XYZ topic]! I wanted to reach out and see if you might be looking for a writer to help grow your content.
A little about me: I write about [XYZ topic] for [XYZ audience], with the goal of [solving relevant problem or pain point]. You can check out my blog [insert blog link] or my portfolio [insert portfolio link] to see some of what I’ve been covering lately.
If you’re interested, I’d love to pitch an idea or two around [XYZ topic] that I think your audience would love to read about. Looking forward to hearing from you!
There are some different variations you can use, depending on who you’re pitching.
If you’re replying to a specific job from a job board you’d probably want to drop links to blog posts or samples that are relevant to the topic, instead of just your blog homepage.
And if you have a personal or professional connection to the company you’re pitching, definitely mention it. Name-dropping never hurts, in my opinion.
Once you send off your pitch, move on to the next one. Don’t sit and wait to hear back–remember, it’s all a numbers game.
But after a couple of weeks have passed, definitely follow up on your original pitch. If you get no answer again, follow up in another two weeks. Then wait a few months and pitch that company again.
And in the meantime, you may pick up more writing experience and clips. When you’re ready to approach the company again, you can leverage those to present an even stronger pitch.
Persistence–and knowing how to sell your strengths as a freelance writer to brands–can and does pay off.
Get Ready to Be a Paid Freelance Writer!
Freelancing has been so, so good to me and my kids. It’s given me a solid business that I can be proud of, not to mention flexibility and financial security.
Landing your first freelancing gig is an amazing feeling and I hope that now you know how to get freelance writing jobs — even if you’re a total newbie.
Do you have a great tip to share about getting started as a freelancer or finding gigs? Hit the comments and tell me about it, then pin and share this post if it helped you!
And don’t leave without grabbing your Freelance Writer’s Toolkit. 🙂 It includes ebooks, workbooks and templates to help you start your freelancing career off with a bang!