So you want to take the leap into freelance writing?
Hearty congratulations on making the decision!
Here’s how your life is going to transform:
- You’ll have the freedom to work from anywhere in the world (that can include sipping margaritas while soaking in the sun on a beach),
- You can say goodbye to the energy-draining commute,
- You’ll earn an income in proportion to the quality of your efforts.
While fancying the flexible freelance writing lifestyle is great, you need to overcome one obstacle – finding your first paying client.
If you’ve no clue where to find freelance writing jobs online, then you’re at the right place. Six years ago, I graduated from college and scored my first freelance writing gig at a content mill called iWriter. The writing gigs there paid peanuts and I wasted a month pursuing them. However, we’ll discuss beginner freelancing mistakes later in the article.
Right now, let’s look at a few ways to find writing jobs online for beginners without any experience…
Table of Contents
Ask For Referrals
1. Solicit Referrals From Your Network
The best place to start a freelance writing career for most writers is their existing professional network because they already trust you. Working at a marketing agency before going down the freelance route is the cherry on the top as you have relevant and valuable industry relationships already.
But even other professional experience could come in handy. You can enquire the marketing department at your company if they hire freelance content creators.
When I started out, I used my university’s alumni network and places where I had interned to find out freelance writing opportunities. I also informed my LinkedIn network after launching my website that I’m open for business.
Though this network generated some leads showing interest in my services, the pay they were offering didn’t make the cut for me.
Then I came to know about the importance of having social proof from people I’ve worked with and relevant writing experience when finding freelance jobs.
So I got in touch with my Udemy teachers to share any writing assignment they have for me. In exchange for providing them my services, I requested testimonials from them.
These later proved useful when prospecting clients. I also put it on my homepage when I launched my writing website.
See how your existing network is super useful?
2. Ask Your Previous Employers If They Are Open To Freelancers
Do you know how I scored my first freelancing client?
I enquired the technical startup that rejected my full-time content marketing role application for a freelancing role with them. Here’s the email I sent to their founder:
Investing a month fulfilling their application requirements and interacting with the founder over email probably worked in my favor.
What’s the takeaway for you if you don’t have rejected job applications like me? You can knock on the doors of a former employer you’re willing to work for.
Look out for people at the company that you were friends with and are aware of your work. Drop them an email asking them out for a coffee meeting and tell them you would love to work in a freelancing capacity again. It’s ideal if they are also in charge of freelance hiring decisions (or closely work with such decision-makers).
You can also intimate your personal network that you’re open to freelance writing gigs. They might refer you to their company or wherever they find relevant opportunities for you.
When I started my freelancing business I intimated friends in my college network about the same. And a couple of batchmates that were running their startups reached out to enquire about my services.
You see, your existing relationships already have inbuilt trust and are most likely to fetch your first freelancing client and start building your writing portfolio.
At the beginning of my freelancing career, I wrote on all kinds of subjects working on articles, email newsletters, website copy, and any served all kinds of content requirements. (It included writing on plastic surgery done by celebrities and weird subjects that I’m not proud of).
Depending on your interests and the stage of your career, you give a complete miss to taking gigs for the sake of having some experience.
If you’re committed to taking freelancing seriously, I recommend having a long-term vision for your writing samples. Build a body of work that you’re proud of even if it calls for rejecting a relatively well-paid $50 per article gig with a company from your network.
3. Ask For Referrals From Existing Clients
Alright this one’s for you if the wheels of your writing career have already started churning and you’ve a client or two.
Once you’ve a working relationship of a few months and they trust you, it’s okay to request them to refer you to their network. If they are happy with your services, they would rarely say a no. Indeed early on in my career, my clients proactively offered to refer me when they paused working with me.
My highest paying clients have come with such referrals from existing clients. Indeed I even scored a job interview at a reputable large firm — without even requesting it. The person who referred me had worked with me on a blog post before.
The amount of effort required in persuading a client coming from referrals is little because they already trust your expertise. You may or may not have the upper hand with negotiation around your pricing here, though. It depends on whether the professional referring you has shared your current rates with them or not.
It’s one of the most effective ways to book writing gigs, get guest post opportunities on reputable publications, and build relationships. But it’s time-consuming and filled with rejection — so most freelance writers don’t spend time learning how to craft a stellar pitch.
For better or worse, you’ll spend a lot of time cold pitching in your freelance writing career. I’ll share a few opportunities below with some info on what you can include.
Get In Touch With Content Marketing Agencies
While you’re cold pitching businesses, why not get in touch with content marketing agencies themselves? They are a better bet because they already have content clients on their roster in various niches and they could use help from freelance writers like you.
What’s more? Experienced agencies are much better at sales and negotiating rates than you are (especially at the beginning of your career). You get consistent work and can make a decent monthly income.
Here are a few top content marketing agencies that you can check out for relevant content related opportunities. They may offer full-time roles but might consider you on a freelance basis if you meet their client’s requirements.
Note that all of these agencies expect stellar writing skills as they are focused on delivering results for their clients. You might end up producing your best piece in their application process for persuading them to hire you (and even then you might get rejected!)
If you want a moderately challenging gig, then here are lists of other agencies that you can reach out to offer your content services.
A major drawback of working with agencies is that you might get ghostwriting gigs exclusively and zero recognition for your work. You’ll need to put dedicated efforts on the side for growing your body of work and building your personal brand.
Pitch Your Services To Businesses At PRWeb
Pitch Businesses In Your Niche
Jorden at Creative Revolt is obsessed with cold pitching. She built a business touching $5,000 per month in four months. She was able to achieve the feat by finding prospects through Limeleads (a high-quality B2B leads database that you can filter by industry) and cold emailing them.
In his cold pitching experiment, Nigerian writer Bamidele Onabulasi was able to land a $625 writing gig in a couple of hours. No wonder that cold pitching is the quickest way to land high-paying clients initially. Here’s the email pitch he used.
How To Find Businesses You Can Cold Pitch
There are an ample number of ways you could find prospective businesses. Here are the top five ways.
- Read startup updates at Techcrunch
- Check out the sponsors at industry conferences
Before we move to the next way of finding a freelance job, let’s look at:
3 Tips To Make Cold Emails Work For You…
As you might have noticed, Bamidele had built social proof and an impressive writing portfolio (he was already published at Forbes and Huffington Post!)
Which is why, as a beginner, without any writing samples, you will likely not have such a staggering success with cold pitching. However, when I reached out to Jawed Khan for help on cold pitching, he aptly said, “cold pitching is a numbers game.”
Even our star cold pitcher, Bamidele, sent 104 pitches in 5 days.
That said, let’s break down the 3 essentials of cold pitching.
- Stay consistent – If you’re unable to send 20 cold emails a day (like the beast Bamidele), then send 5. Can’t do 5 every day? Then stick with 3 emails a day. The numbers will soon add up, but don’t burn yourself out before you find success.
- Pitch the marketing manager (or the CEO if it’s a big company)
- Personalize your pitch – Outreach emails have a disturbingly low response rate (below 10% as per a study of 12 million emails). So you’d better research and invest time in crafting your pitch. Here’s one personalized cold pitch that I sent.
The effort of researching the recipient and respecting their time clearly stood out for the recipient.
Here’s Abass sharing his advice on cold pitching.
“From my perspective, landing jobs with cold email are much like pitching editors. Write to Their Interests – In both the subject line & the body of the email, make sure you’re talking about what you could do for them. Who you are is secondary. Do Your Homework – Emailing the appropriate executive, with customizations that show you did a bit of research on the company or them, specifically goes a long way to separate you from the pack of potential candidates for the job you want. Have a specific Call-To-Action – In the case of emailing to get a job, what you really want is an interview, so ask for it, and share a calendar scheduling link to make it easy for them.”
Note that such personalized pitches can start taking 15 minutes or even more per email. So you need to strike a balance between numbers and personalization.
Reverse Engineer Clients Of Freelancers In Your Niche
In the above pointers, I’ve mentioned the importance of building relationships multiple times. So this tactic could be sneaky.
On almost every freelancer’s website, you’ll find a few testimonials by their past and current clients. And for the ones in your niche, these are goldmines for your business. You can directly get in touch with them to intimate them about your services. But that could burn the bridges between you and the freelancer.
So you can try a couple of ways to make it work for both of you.
1. Find Competing Businesses To The One Your Target Freelance Writer Works With
2. Find Similar Writers And Agencies To This Writer In Your Niche
Pitch Job Boards
Job boards indicate a company demands writing talent in a freelance or other capacity. They are prime opportunities to score gigs. But here are a couple of things to know about job boards:
- They might contain many low-quality listings: Typically these professionals see writing “content” as a means to an end: getting SEO traffic. They don’t respect writing as a creative skill and pay peanuts — you’ll spot these things from the tone of their job ad.
- High-quality job ads can get extremely competitive: It’s not uncommon for an employer to get hundreds of applications. So your portfolio should have samples relevant to the industry of the job posting and your cover letter should be persuasive.
With that said, here are a few popular job boards you can get started with. I’ve built my freelance writing career out of the first one.
The most straightforward way to start making some quick income is by applying for jobs. After I was done with burning the midnight oil for low-paying gigs at iWriter, I was regularly hanging out at the Problogger job board. At the time of writing the article, here are a few jobs posted on it.
As you can see, there are jobs in a number of niches including local marketing, digital marketing, SaaS, superheroes, and even vaping. Here are the top pros and cons of applying through job boards.
Pros Of Job Boards:
- The job ads are posted by companies that understand content marketing – It means there are chances that companies are willing to pay writers for high-quality content.
- You can quickly validate your writing skills and niche by pitching your services – If more companies start showing interest in your services, then it means you’re on the right path. Else, you might need to rethink your niche and positioning.
- Occasionally, job postings even specify the kind of rates they are willing to pay so you can estimate your monthly income. For example, the job posting by Authority Hacker below clearly states that they are willing to pay 7c to 15c per word. And that it’s a long-term goal.
Earlier, the same job post stated that they want the writer to deliver at least one high-quality blog post per week. Which means you can expect to write four articles a month.
If you browse the blog of the company, you’ll find that they often post long-form content that crosses 2000 words. Hence, at 7 cents per word (their lowest offered rate), one article can get you 140$. If you write four articles every month for them, it comes out to $560 per month. Not too shabby, eh?
My freelance writing career took flight with my first decently paying ghostwriting client only through Problogger (think upwards of $3000 per month retainer).
However, I had already had about five awesome articles in my portfolio then and I had not gotten decent responses for Problogger job ads for about six months. Which brings me to our next section.
Cons Of Job Boards:
- The decently paying jobs on job boards would still require and hire experienced writers – It’s a catch-22, I know. But ideally, you’ll need a few published articles to make job boards work well for you.
- You’re still competing against an ample number of job applicants – While you’re not bidding for jobs (think Elance and Upwork)
Joshua, the Head of Content at Ahrefs conducted a test for hiring freelance writing to see where he receives most applications. He found that the Problogger job post landed 22 applications.
- Most job postings fall under a few commercial niches – Think industries like make money online, blogging, SaaS, digital marketing and finance.
Note that you’ll mostly find blog post job ads, at about 5 cents/word or less here (with the occasional 10 cents a word or higher gigs). Most companies and entrepreneurs that post jobs here don’t have huge marketing budgets. So you can make $50 to $100 per article, which is still not too bad for beginners.
Freelancers are advised to stay away from marketplaces as they tend to have LOTS of competition and majorly consisting of low-paying clients.
A survey of top 400 freelancers on this marketplace, Upwork, found that the median rate of writers is $30 per hour. For a beginner freelancer, this kind of pay might make sense.
The major challenge on the platform though are:
- finding relevant beginner-level projects that pay decently,
- persuading prospective clients to hire you among hundreds of potential applicants.
Writer Danny Margulies made six figures on the platform in his second year as a freelancer. He lays down the top jobs that beginners can pursue here to get experience and build credibility on their profile.
Further to tackle competition, you need to write a stand out proposal for projects. While you’ll get better at writing these proposals with time, Danny has found the following eight Upwork proposal mistakes that you should avoid.
I recommend you to sign up for his Upwork hacks series on his website to learn a few quick wins that will help you earn more on the freelancing platform!
Besides Problogger and Upwork, here are some other job boards that you can explore for more freelance writing job leads.
Although this is a fairly new content marketing jobs board, I’m bullish about it because it’s founded by writer and marketer, Jimmy Daly. You won’t find any freelance and few entry-level opportunities here. The jobs themselves are scraped from third-party websites.
But Daly gives a personal touch to his listings by conducting an interview of the employers, querying about the job requirements, day-to-day responsibilities, pay, and the like.
BAFB calls it the $50+ jobs board indicating the minimum value of jobs posted on their platform. Founded by successful freelance blogger, Sophie Lizard, it’s essentially a curated list of job postings from platforms such as Problogger, Reddit, Craigslist, and Indeed.
I like this job board because only the relevant information about the project is included with a proposed rate. You can browse it quickly, find high-paying opportunities, and send your application.
While many jobs are scrapped here from bigger job boards, the writing opportunities on this board pay at least $15 per hour. Most of them are remote, though some are in office at physical locations in the US (most times).
You can sort the job lostsings by the types of work including contract, freelance, full time, internship, part time, and temporary.
Most jobs revolve around content writing and blogging, though you can find a few copywriting gigs as well.
The go to place to find remote jobs, Flexjobs is also a great platform to find lucrative work-from-home writing opportunities. A recent search for “freelance writer” resulted in 558 job search results for me. You can refine your search through filters such as “remote work level” including an option for 100% remote work and “job type” which has a freelance category.
For accessing relevant info about a job you’ll need to buy a Flexjobs subscription priced at $14.95 per month. You can also try it for a week at $6.95.
The company specializes in sending hand-picked freelance jobs directly to your inbox. They promise to send you just the top 1% of the jobs available daily, but they are a paid subscription service. Their pricing is $19 per month, but you can get a 30-day trial at $2 per month.
A great part about the company is they are committed to help your freelance business and include course lessons from six-figure freelancers.
Run by a veteran and successful freelance writer, Carol Tice, Freelance Writers Den is a paid monthly membership at $25 per month. It comes with over 300 hours of training, an active writing support forum, and a job board that the proclaims “junk-free.”
While the jobs are heavily screened, the company themselves admit they are scrapped from bigger job portals such FlexJobs, LinkedIn Jobs, Journalism Jobs, and others. The jobs on their board have a lower threshold of $30 per hour or $50 per post.
Pitching themselves as the number one site for writing professionals, Contena is another paid membership you can try. They not only curate jobs but have educational material to get your freelancing career to speed.
You’ll need to fill a 5-minute application to get accepted on their platform. And their membership is only payable annually at $497 — not the kind of things beginner freelance writers would hope for.
Get An Internship
Especially if you want to start freelance writing and content creation as a second career, you shouldn’t be afraid to work as an intern.
You can explore even more freelance writing job boards and find more low-hanging opportunities,
Pitch Websites And Blogs That Pay Writers
What could be better than finding evergreen opportunities for earning money from your money? In this section, I want to introduce you to lists of websites that pay writers.
Writers’ Markets Lists By AFA
Here’s a list by All Freelance Writing you can browse by their categories as visible below:
The blurb about each opportunity here generally contains their requirements for submitting your stories, their payment details, and a link to their writing guidelines page.
Many decent-paying opportunities (about 10 cents per word) are available here. For publications paying less, consider them as a chance to build your writing portfolio.
Even if you don’t like engaging in grapevine, I’m sure you’ll appreciate some anonymous help from fellow writers about the rates paid by publications they have worked with. This crowdsourced list is searchable by publication title and has been going strong since 2012.
The best part is there are detailed experiences of writers that have worked for the publication. For example, look at the Huffington Post reports by three writers. They include:
- the money they were paid,
- the year they pursued the writing gig in,
- the kind of story they worked on,
- how they scored the gig (cold pitching or pre-existing relationship),
- and even an account of their experience with the editor.
Most publications here are high-profile, so you’ll need to have your writing skills together to approach them. Meanwhile, it’s nice to know about reputable publications that accept freelance writing pitches and what they pay, right?
If you’re exclusively looking for high-paying writing gigs, then refer to this list of over seventy publications that pay $1 per word. Each opportunity contains details of the publication, the contact info of the editor, submission details (if they are available), and the pay you can expect.
You can try searching the page using the shortcut “Control + F” and keying in topics you’re interested in writing. But you might have to manually browse the list to find relevant magazines and writing opportunities. When the pay could be as high as $1500, I don’t think you’ll mind doing that, would you?
This complication consists of publications which will mostly pay you a small to decent range of money for writing. There are websites in the technology, art, writing, sports, parenting, religion, education, and a few other niches. So you’ll find one or two interesting opportunities here.
These three websites are the poster boys of educating freelance writers how to make a living from writing — so it’s only fair they pay writers!
BAFB runs a Pitchfest in March and September for writers, where they pay $150 to one guest post submission. MALW pay $75 to $150 for an article, depending on its agreed-upon length.
All the three publications are centered around helping freelance writers grow their business and address their other challenges. I’m sure you can come up with relevant ideas for each of these publications.
Invest In Branding And Marketing Your Website
When you’re starting out, relying on a portfolio website to share your writing samples with your prospects is fine. But if you want to book high-paying clients, then your brand should match the quality standards they are seeking.
You need to set up a professional-looking website for your freelance writing business, position yourself as a professional who delivers results for clients, and start promoting your services. I’ll show you the specific aspects in this section.
Build Your Website
While you’re likely in search of your writing first client right now, you need a sustainable way of bringing prospective clients to your doorsteps. Relying on search engines to deliver targeted traffic of businesses looking for writers to your website could prove a useful strategy.
So how do you get started?
Note that it might take up to six months to see a significant amount of traffic to your site through SEO, however, the traffic is sustainable. With that said, let me simplify the process for you in three steps.
Build a professional website including your hire me page
Start with setting up your freelance writing website. It should include
Start A Blog
As a writer, your blog is the easiest place to build a writing portfolio you’re proud of. You can self-publish articles here, showing off your writing skills. John Espirian, for example, calls himself a “relentlessly helpful technical copywriter” and ranks for various technical tutorials:
Indeed, an editor I worked with preferred reading such articles from new writers. They are unpolished pieces that tend to reflect the real writing capabilities of a writer — compared with those at a reputable third-party publication which are vetted by a professional editor.
The subjects you write on your blog are crucial. They will make an impression on your website visitors. If you want to score a freelance writing gig, then write on subjects that will interest your prospective clients.
Answering their questions in your blog posts might lead your website to pop up in search engines when your prospects are performing these searches.
Write Case Studies Showing Results From Your Past Clients
Once it’s been a few months of working on a writing project with your client, take stock of the business results of your efforts. Build a case study of how you turned out their blog or other marketing channels through your freelance writing.
This could prove super helpful to book more freelance writing jobs. Because such case studies demonstrate you take ownership and care about results for clients you work with.
Look at the case studies Shreya Dalela shares on her website. When she mentions she’s booked the first 1000 customers for a B2C Ecommerce brand and a 1000% increase in organic traffic — a prospective client will get hooked.
Guest Blog For Free For Authoritative Websites
Prospective clients prefer writers with a body of work that proves their credibility. However for beginner freelancers, writing samples are scarce. Most writers consider it as a catch 22 situation. If no one lets you write articles for them, then how will you build a portfolio?
Luckily for writers, esteemed publications have a hungry audience that appreciates great writing. If you put in the effort to write a high-quality and well researched piece tailor-made for the audience of a specific publication, you have a decent shot to get published on them.
It’s called guest blogging and it’s free advertising for writers as you can demonstrate your writing skills. You get to use logos of reputable websites (that scream social proof!) on your website. For instance, Aaron Orendorff built his entire writing career by getting published at 40+ reputable publications in one and a half years.
So how can you get started with guest posting at authoritative publications?
It starts with finding reputable publications in your niche and understanding their audience by reading the articles on their site. Here’s a template that Aaron created for a pitch-perfect guest post.
I recommend you read the entire guest posting guide that Aaron wrote for Copyhacker. He shares his honest story of how you can start with zero connections and zero credibility.
Are you wondering what kind of efforts this guest posting thingy will take?
Six-figure freelance writer and content strategist, Jacob McMillen, wrote 20 articles in a week and sent them to 20 different publications. He got published on three websites and even got paid $120 for one of these pieces by the end of the week.
If you like, then spread out this effort across a month, but that’s the kind of hustle you can expect.
Work On Your SEO
I lied to you. The pages of a new website — including your blog posts, service page, or any other ones — generally don’t rank on their own. As a writer, you know your way with words.
But there’s another important ingredient to get your website in Google’s good books: backlinks. Other websites need to link to yours to indicate their vote of trust for you.
Now to get these votes there are various ways, but the easiest way for you as a writer is by guest posting on third-party websites. It builds your portfolio, improves your reputation as a writer, and keeps pushing your website’s authority upwards in the eyes of Google.
How cool is that?
If you’re going down the self-employed route, know that relationships are key. They will help you find lucrative gigs, grow your writing career, and makes you feel connected.
Like normal life, some relationships will be more transactional while few might develop into full-blown friendships. Don’t forget to have some of the second kind, else you’ll feel lonely.
Let’s get started by discussing a few tactics to build’em in a way so that you also find freelance writing gigs.
Add Value To Niche Communities On Slack, Facebook, And Twitter
The best marketing technique to demonstrate your writing expertise and build relationships is by adding value to your prospective clients. If you don’t fancy going to a physical meetup, then join online communities relevant to content.
These conversations can happen inside Facebook Groups, Twitter Chats, Subreddits, Slack Workspaces, and the like.
Here are a few Twitter chats you can get started with:
You can join groups like the ones below to get a headstart.
Content Marketing Lounge
Search for top business and content related communities.
Warm Pitch Influencers
I have already told you how to cold pitch your writing services to prospective businesses that might be interested in content marketing. However, the prospective practice of reaching out to businesses and individuals is too good to use only once. Here’s another classic way that involves relationship building:
You can find influencers in your writing niche and begin a relationship with them through social media as well as email. Down the road, you can pitch them your writing services. Even if these influencers don’t need your expertise, they might refer you to companies in their professional network that are looking for writers.
See the long-term benefits of building relationships for your writing business?
Wait for a second, though.
Why will an influential person connect with a beginner writer?
That’s where warm pitching comes into the picture.
Before you conduct an outreach, become a recognizable person for these influencers. You can do that by adding value to their business. It could involve:
- sharing their articles on social media,
- reading their article and sending them a thank you email with a specific takeaway that you loved from their writing,
- mentioning them in your guest posts and later reaching out to them informing them about the same.
Let me share an example. My expertise is writing long-form content in the SaaS and marketing niches. So I identified a thought leader in the marketing industry (whose work I genuinely liked) and mentioned them in my guest post for Jeff Bullas (a reputable industry website). The influencer took notice of this mention and shared the article on Twitter. Later I reached out to them pitching my writing services. Here’s the email I sent them:
I’m Chintan, a content marketer and copywriter. My expertise is writing long-form content for SaaS businesses.
Recently, I had mentioned you in my article at Jeff Bullas – [Article Link].
I’m also a staff writer at Foundr, and recently got published at SEMRush. Here are a few of my articles to give you an idea of my writing style:
In the past, I have worked with the likes of Neil Patel and David Henzel. If you need help with your content marketing projects, I would love to come on board.
Keep up the great work!
The influencer was “expecting” an email from me because he had noticed that I mentioned him in my guest post and was happy about it.
We got on a call to discuss the possible ways I could help him. I ended up ghostwriting a couple of pieces for him and even connecting me with a couple of other SaaS businesses that were interested in my content creation services.
I love the warm pitching and guest posting combo as it can lend you thousands of dollars in freelancing income. No doubt though it’s a tad advanced tactic. You can give a try to warm pitching influencers and businesses simply by sharing articles of companies on social media.
Build Relationships With Fellow Freelancers
Freelancing is pretty cool as you get to work from home and at your time of convenience.
The not so happy part?
It can turn into a lonely affair.
You’ll only communicate using Slack, email, and video calls with your clients. Also as freelancing is a solitary professional pursuit, you’ll have no friends at work.
You find out and become friends with like-minded freelancers!
Here are a few ways fellow freelancers will prove useful for you:
- vent out your frustrations of dealing with difficult clients,
- exchange pleasantries and bad jokes about your freelancing lifestyle,
- get help in client pitches and dealing with business problems,
- score high-quality leads and referrals for your freelance writing business!
Here’s a conversation from a 116-member freelance writer’s community that I’m a part of. A freelancer expressed objections on payment terms presented to him by a prospective business and a group member shared a specific script that might swing things in his direction.
Wait a second, though.
Aren’t these freelancers your competition? Why will a fellow writer share the leads they generated with you and help you make money?
Well you see, freelancers aren’t evil creatures that want to walk over another freelancer’s business. Not the ones I know, anyway.
Last year itself, I connected more than three businesses that enquired about my content services with a freelancer friend. The reasons I shared the leads of these businesses was that they didn’t seem a fit for me and I already had a lot of client work.
So how can you as a beginner build relationships with freelancers?
There are two ways. First let’s look at how to build one-on-one relationships.
Professional relationships are about exchanging value. If you read an article by a fellow writer, then visit their website and connect with them to thank them. You can also subscribe to their newsletter, share their work on social media, and the like.
Try to make it more personal and stand out among the slew of other messages that the freelancer might see every day. For example, a reader shared the takeaways from reading an article by Adam Enfroy on personal branding in a one-minute video.
While Garrett only had a handful of followers when he tweeted the article’s link, it immediately took Adam’s attention and he thanked him.
The second way to build relationships with lots of freelancers is seeking out communities where fellow writing professionals hang out. You’ll mostly find them on Slack, Facebook, and LinkedIn. However most of these communities might be invite-only and paid.
Here are free communities that you can get started with:
While you’re at finding relevant communities and building relationships, don’t forget to check out local freelancing groups at Meetup.com. If none exists, then consider creating a physical meetup community – it’s a great way to build a support network, meet like-minded writers, and develop your skills.
Put On Your Training Wheels Alongside Experienced Freelancers
Are there some experienced freelance writers in your niche you admire? Then enquire if they need help with research, editing, or even writing.
The plates of successful freelancers are generally full and they could use some help. If your timing is right, then you might find yourself the fastest way to grow as a freelance writer — with the help of a mentor.
Offer Free Advice At Local Business Events
In a recent conversation with a digital marketing agency founder, I had a revelation. The digital agency founder frequented marketing meetups in his city and offered free marketing advice on getting traffic to the startup folks there.
Many of these startup founders enquired about his services and ended up becoming his clients.
As a freelance writer, you can also consider sharing free writing/content related advice at business events. Conduct a search for meetups in your locality, attend the next event, and share free advice related to writing and how it can impact the bottom line of businesses.
For example, here are the groups I found at Meetup.com for the keyword “business” within 25 miles of New York, United States. You can also click on the calendar and get the schedule of the latest events that are about to happen in your locality.
Ensure that you know enough how to help businesses with content writing and content marketing. Also prepare a pitch on your services and prices, so that you can speak confidently with other business owners.
Feature Companies That Inspire You In Your Guest Posts
Most businesses love free exposure. The bigger the publication you mention them from, the better for their SEO and branding. But even niche publications showing their company in a good light would be appreciated by them.
So for the next article you write for a third-party publication or even your own website, consider mentioning the brands that inspire you as examples.
Don’t try to force a mention, else the editor will see through it. Ensure that the businesses you mention are relevant to the subject matter of the article and referred to in a context that makes sense.
Also, don’t consider this as a “give and take” strategy. You’re giving free press to companies whose work you genuinely admire — they would have found a mention in your article anyway. Whether they respond back with enquiring about freelance writing services or even sharing your article on social media is their discretion.
You’re just putting your name out there in front of people you like. Getting a chance to work with them could happen in the long-term. But it depends on their current business requirements, their budgets, and a bunch of other factors. Think of it as just getting your foot in the door for (possibly) getting considered for future work engagements with them.
Put effort to ensure you make a great impression on them, though. Get an email signature mentioning your content services and linking to your “hire me” page. Also, polish your social media profiles with your value proposition. And put your personal brand statement front-and-center on your website’s homepage.
Start A Interview-Style Podcast
This might be an overstretch if you’re looking for an immediate freelance writing job. You’ll need to put effort besides interviewing into promoting your podcast, sending interview requests to guests, audio editing, and other podcasting aspects.
But if you fancy talking with professionals in your industry and like speaking on the microphone, then podcasting a great avenue to build relationships at scale.
You might start building a following for your show and build your brand as an industry expert — all while adding value to your guests. If the guest shares the interview post from your website with their personal network, it could generate leads for your services.
I know numerous freelancers who also host a podcast. Ryan Robinson used to bring bloggers and marketers from various backgrounds on his show.
Get Creative With Adding Value Through Your Content Services
Once you’ve some momentum going in your freelance writing career, get adventurous and use your expertise to launch new content services. It might take a few months or even years to develop a deep understanding of the market and find such new ways to add value.
In most cases, your existing clients might directly request or indicate they need a helping hand with an aspect of their content marketing. It’s possible though to debut services based on your gut feeling and get feedback from your professional network — thereby validating demand for them.
Generating leads for these services will mostly be referrals from your existing professional network. But you can try guest posting around their benefits and subjects related to them — and offer your services in your author bio.
I’ll share a few examples of such unique content related services which probably your prospects and existing clients could also get help with. Here’s the first one:
Specialize In Specific Type Of Writing Services
Most successful freelance writers I know specialize in providing their specialized writing skill set to clients in a specific industry. If you’ve been floating yourself as the “freelance writer for hire” on your website, then it might be time for you to start honing in on a niche.
Let me share my (rough) specialization journey to illustrate how the path might unfold:
- I started out calling myself a freelance copywriter and my first writing website was named: elitecopywriter.com
- I realized writing blog posts was the most enjoyable for me and what clients hired me for. So I changed up my pitch to being a content marketer. I dropped the “freelancer” tag because it felt a bit casual.
- Then I gravitated towards writing long-form blog posts and started pitching myself as a long-form writing expert.
- I booked my first major long-form writing client in the SaaS niche. Most of my writing portfolio also started tilting towards SaaS companies. It was also the industry where there was a demand for my kind of research-heavy comprehensive content. So I offer long-form content services to SaaS companies now.
You might find yourself excelling at email copywriting for software and Ecommerce companies like Samar Owais:
Or writing conversion-focused copy and case studies for businesses like Joel Klettke:
While this specialization journey is organic, it also has a forcing function. If you start doubling down on a certain kind of service in a niche — that’s already been lucrative for your career — you can start positioning yourself as an expert there.
Update Content For Business Blogs
Content marketing has exploded in the last decade with lots of companies starting a blog. Most of the content they produced though is:
- Either lying in the deep corners of the internet without any kind of readership,
- Or become outdated as it’s been untouched for a couple of years now.
As a writer, you can breathe fresh life into old content by learning some SEO chops. Updating old content is now a part of content strategies for increasingly more business bloggers — because it delivers better results.
Your clients might also have a few articles on their blog that used to rank in search but became outdated and stopped ranking. But the good news is old pages on a website develop “link equity” — which is the measure of authority gained through backlinks built over time.
I’m sure there’s a lot of aging content in your industry as well.
Then offering a “content refresh” service to businesses in your niche could prove lucrative. Elise Dopson, a long-form SaaS content writer, has a dedicated “content refreshing freelancer” service page.
It helps if you’ve existing results to show how updating a piece of content helped you gain back rankings and recover lost traffic.
If you don’t know SEO (yet) and don’t have results to show from content refresh, you can still nudge your clients to update their old content. Show them the results of other businesses who have tried it. And tell them you would be happy to assist them with writing the content — you just directions from the perspective of SEO.
Offer Editorial Placements From Authoritative Websites
One of the most important aspects to the success of a business blog is the amount of organic traffic it drives — because it’s free, scalable, and converts nicely. And a key factor to rank in search is to have a sufficient number of backlinks — which search engines consider as votes — to your domain.
To measure the standing of a domain in the eyes of Google, metrics like Domain Rating (DR) by Ahrefs, come in handy.
As a freelance writer, you need to put effort into building your writing portfolio and getting bylines at reputable publications in your niche. It calls for guest posting and building relationships with editors at third-party websites.
Once you’ve a sufficient number of bylines, you can offer a “guest posting on steroids” service to businesses in your niche. All your clients will care about in such a service is getting a mention in your article, and you can get paid 200 USD or more for each one.
uSERP specializes in such brand mentions at scale for businesses — and their prices are well over double the above one.
Such links from your guest posts to your clients’ sites also need to be “dofollow”, else they won’t count as a “vote” — only a hint as per Google’s latest update. Guest posting guidelines of the publication you’re targeting generally mention if they allow dofollow links in the content.
You can also look at currently published posts and use this Chrome extension to find if the external links from their articles have been nofollowed.
I’m not a fan of offering such a guest posting service for two reasons:
- It commoditizes and disrespects the craft of writing: Your clients won’t care — and so won’t you — if your article is actually presenting a “unique” angle and adding value to the readers. You’re writing to simply tick the requirements of
- Paid for links are against Google’s guideline: Most publications have rules around not allowing links you get paid for either in their content.
An alternative to such a guest posting service could be getting on board with a company in the capacity of a part-time content head, or something similar. This also ensures you’re not violating any guidelines.
Launch Content Auditing Services
I recommend every freelance writer to start building complementary skills to writing — such as SEO and content strategy — which are more valuable for your clients. Because it isn’t all that difficult to learn to understand how your writing gets traffic and generates business for your clients. The lessons are rather interesting and could improve your writing skills.
If you understand how content marketing delivers business results, then you could consult companies tweaking their content strategies. Or audit their other marketing related campaigns.
Animalz, a content marketing agency that has worked with huge brands like Amazon and Google, debuted one such content auditing service in April 2020. In the email they launched it to their subscribers, they termed it as “on-demand consulting for your content team.”
As a freelancer, you’ve an advantage when offering such auditing services. You’re a one-man army, so your quote for such an audit need not start at $4950 like the guys at Fix My Churn — who help businesses in retaining their customers through their services.
You can also package such auditing services into project roadmaps. Essentially it involves hopping on a discovery call with them to learn their requirements, then deliver a plan showing them the way forward. They are free to not execute the strategy themselves or even discard it.
It gets your prospective client’s foot in the door and lets you deliver a small amount of value to their business.
Isn’t that a great way to learn about the needs of your leads and estimate the work they need you do? You’re even getting paid for it!
“Thirty Percent” Feedback Service
I got introduced to 30% feedback through an article by Jason Freedman, the founder of 42floors. It revolves around the idea of providing “early feedback” so that you can change the direction of a project altogether.
Freedman shares his account of how their investor, Seth Lieberman, would critique the product mockups when his project was 90% complete:
“…If I was ninety percent done, he would try to correct me on every little detail possible because otherwise a typo might make it into production.”
Vis a vis when he was only 30% through:
“But if I had told him I was only thirty percent done, he would gloss over the tiny mistakes, knowing that I would correct them later. He would engage in broader conversations about what the product should be.”
Based on this principle, you can offer a 30% feedback service for content folks seeking constructive feedback. It could involve suggesting changes to the outline and broad directions of their articles — so it stands out from competitors. You can provide feedback to improve the quality of their writing as well.
While fellow freelance writers will find this most useful, even content professionals at large organizations could use such help for polishing their writing.
To make this service even more valuable for your clients, learn how to write content that ranks in Google. It will enable you to share feedback that ensures your client articles drive search traffic.
Propose Publishing And Managing Blogs
In a conversation with one of my prospective clients from years ago, I remember negotiating on not uploading the articles if they pay me a little less than my quoted price. They allowed me to submit my articles in a Google document.
From there, their team members would upload it to their content management system and take care of on page SEO. It included compressing images, formatting the content to ensure nothing’s broken, writing alt image text, adding internal links using relevant anchor text, and the like.
You see, it takes effort to take an article from drafts to making it publish ready. Indeed using a plugin such as Elementor to format your content and make it visually appealing improves its readability.
It’s good for branding and great for your search rankings — so there’s value in such a publishing service for businesses starved of time. Once you find your way around WordPress or the CMS your clients are using, tell them you can also publish your articles.
You can indeed take this to the next step and offer a blog management service, where you’ll also share feedback with other writers. And publish their final drafts.
Include Video Addons To Your Articles
In competitive niches such as SaaS, articles are not just lengthy — now they also contain videos and audio. If you look at the first page of Google for keywords related to such industries, you might be seeing a push towards multimedia content.
As a writer, it’s an opportunity to add more value to your clients and give them a competitive advantage.
By creating a professional-quality video using the same script as your article. It provides a convenient consumption format to the reader, gets them to spend more time on your client’s website, and helps their search rankings. And hey, it also lets you clients start a YouTube channel — if they prefer it over hosting videos on a website like Wistia.
Here’s an example summary video content agency Codeless created to go with one of their articles:
Now for brands that are too picky, the production quality and other preferences might be difficult for you to accommodate. Here are the video features that Codeless promise to their content writing clients:
But the budget for such videos in a specific professional setting also shoots up pretty quickly. Here’s the quote Codeless gave me for a content project of five long-form content pieces along with five videos:
As a freelancer, you can use this to your advantage. Use a high-quality microphone, a screen recording tool, and video editing software to produce a professional-grade video that compliments your article. But film them in a casual setting without involving a huge team. If need be, hire video editors from marketplaces like Fiverr.
Bryan Collins from Become A Writer Today frequently creates YouTube videos to go with his articles. But they are often screengrabs with him sharing his thoughts related to the subject matter of the article. Here’s his video appended at the end of his article on writing apps:
Debut Content Promotion And Social Media Management
A lot of content is created and published every day. But most of it ends up receiving little to zero readership. Having a distribution strategy in place for your articles can ensure yours don’t end up with the same fate — businesses understand the importance and value promotion.
Depending on your niche, it might make sense for you to offer content promotion services as an add-on to freelance writing. You could then promote your articles in niche communities on Slack and Facebook, industry forums such as GrowthHackers, and even syndicate it to other websites which allow already published content.
I’ve personally tried rolling my content writing services with guest posting — so that what I write also has a decent opportunity to rank.
Once you’ve found the hang of what works in your industry to get visitors on your content, you can float yourself as a freelance community manager.
With a decent amount of audience and authority, you can offer content promotion services. Nichole Elizabeth DeMere offers such content distribution and promotion services to SaaS businesses who are already creating high-quality content. She calls herself “an extension” of content marketing teams for such companies.
Here are the credentials in terms of Nichole’s audience size to give you an idea of what kind of following is essential to offer such a service.
Content Marketing Analytics
Remember how I’ve emphasized learning how content marketing works and taking ownership of business results?
Using data is the number way to do the same.
It shows you how many visitors are landing on your articles, the action they are taking on your client’s website, and how often they end up buying.
The most common software most companies rely on for measuring the performance of their content marketing are Google Analytics and Webmaster tools. They are free, powerful, and not that difficult to find your way around it.
The important metrics you can track as a freelance writer for your clients are traffic, links, and keyword rankings. Conversions are not easily attributable to your writing efforts, so you might need to discuss a content ROI model that makes sense to your clients.
Nat Eliason once shared how their content agency regularly monitors the rankings of the keywords they have targeted in client articles.
Delivering a weekly or monthly performance report would require you to develop a fixed format. It could even be a simple email template where you change the values. But you can also use a more extensive presentation.
Promising such a report to your clients would tilt them towards you over other freelance writers. They would also be willing to pay you more as you’ve established yourself as a professional who’s focused on delivering results.
Final Thoughts On Finding Freelance Writing Jobs!
It’s better to walk off low-paying gigs to create space for better-paying gigs.
There’s no prize for working your ass off and getting paid $5 for an article. Other writers might be getting paid $100 for the same kind of work, so you may as well get paid MORE.
Personally, I worked for a content mill only for a month and rejected dozens of low-paying clients. So, you should know your worth and keep at it until you get the best!