The decision to start freelance writing feels like it has to be momentous, you know?
Like, in your head, you think, Am I allowed to call myself a freelance writer? I didn’t major in English. I’ve never written professionally. Is this even legal?
You can agonize over this decision for weeks, wondering if you’ve earned the right to label yourself a writer.
Then, you finally decide that, yes, you ARE in fact a writer, and you face this whole new problem: How to find writing jobs that will pay you money.
Little secret for you: everyone has to start somewhere.
At some point, every single freelance writer has to get that first writing job.
Sure, some people go freelance after they’ve worked for a few years. Maybe they wrote articles for a magazine as a staff member or worked in the marketing department of a company. But at some point, they started at those jobs, and it felt just as intimidating.
Every writer has to write a first piece at some point. For some, that beginning is so far in the past they’ve forgotten the details. For others, the starting point is literally just a few steps behind them.
Everyone starts somewhere — and it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Here’s a list of things you don’t need to do to start freelance writing.
- Build a website.
- Update your resume.
- Go to networking meetings.
- Get a degree in English.
- Get a degree in anything.
- Graduate high school.
Here is the only thing you need to do to start freelance writing:
- Clients who will pay you
That’s it. Seriously. There’s no big initiation process, no forms to fill out, no need to spend weeks planning.
So… where do you find these clients?
Well, let’s take a look at three smart ways to find freelance writing clients:
- Upwork (and other marketplace sites)
- Online job boards
- Business directories
Now we’ll take a closer look at each of these methods.
An Upwork Profile Lets Freelance Writing Clients Find You
Yeah, I’ve mentioned Upwork before. That’s because it works. It’s an incredible way to start freelance writing online quickly. You can read a lot more about how to write an amazing Upwork profile, how to build your Upwork portfolio, and making sure that you’re doing the right things to attract high paying freelance writing clients.
When you build your Upwork profile, you make it possible for potential clients to see what you have to offer. They can then invite you to apply to specific jobs that match your skills, which saves you lots of marketing time.
Upwork has some membership plans, but you don’t need any of them. You can use the free, basic Upwork membership and get plenty of freelance writing jobs that pay well.
A lot of writers will tell you that Upwork only offers low-paying jobs. That’s simply untrue. I’ve been hired at my full hourly rate of $125/hour many times on Upwork — and there are plenty more well-paid freelance writers who use Upwork all the time.
Upwork does charge a fee — BUT they only charge you a percentage of what you earn from clients you would NOT have met otherwise. And you can adjust your rates to ensure that you are making the money you want to make.
This post won’t go too deeply into using Upwork — because all those linked posts above will tell you everything you need to know. Just remember that you do need to know what to look out for at Upwork and other marketplace sites, and make sure that your profile is all about your clients and what they need — and NOT about you.
Find Freelance Writing Clients Through Online Job Boards
If you want to improve your chances of finding relevant freelance writing jobs that pay well, take a look at some of the popular freelance writing job boards.
Almost everyone loves the ProBlogger job board, and with good reason: you’ll find a handful of high quality freelance blogging jobs here. Companies pay $70 to advertise on ProBlogger for a month. You pay nothing to look at those listings.
Companies that pay to list jobs are typically more serious about paying writers decent rates. You won’t find hundreds of listings offering you the chance to work for exposure. Add ProBlogger to your list of sites to check regularly — you won’t always find freelance writing clients who need a writer with your specific expertise, but when you do, you can apply.
If you can get past the design, Writer’s Weekly provides an in-depth look at a handful of markets each week, and compiles a weekly roundup of current job postings from around the internet. These are jobs you can find in other places, but why not let the Writer’s Week staff put them all in one place for you to quickly skim?
Another popular job board is MediaBistro. Refine your search to quickly skim through the freelance writing jobs posted here, and apply to any that interest you. You won’t find dozens of new posts daily, but you will find interesting jobs with decent pay rates.
Many freelance writers ask about joining paid job boards. These boards are rarely worth the money you spend on them. They are a GREAT source of affiliate income for the writers who promote them and offer you “special discounts” on signing up via their affiliate links. If you’re paying for access to a job board, you need to get some sort of AMAZING benefit. Otherwise, you’re basically paying someone to use Google for you. NOT a great strategy.
There is ONE paid job board that I SOMETIMES recommend to specific freelance writers who are looking for work in specific niches. I DON’T write public posts about it in order to earn affiliate income — I get paid for freelance writing and for teaching moms how to get started in freelance writing. I’m not interested in earning money by recommending products and services that won’t help you make a real living from freelance writing.
Use Business Directories to Find Freelance Writing Clients
Business directories are awesome. Seriously awesome. With these sites, you can type in your niche or the type of business you want to write for and get a list of businesses in that field. You can find local business directories, directories for specific industries, directories that specialize in businesses of different sizes, and so on.
For example, head over to http://www.manta.com/business and you’ll see this:
Enter your niche, and then choose “don’t use a location” to maximize your results. When you type in your niche, manta will start to make suggestions. When I typed in “relationships,” Manta came back with some options for me:
I chose “relationship counseling center” and got hundreds of results. If you wanted to target counseling centers, you could spend some time checking out the various entries. If you chose 20 to look at each day, and set a goal of sending out pitches to 3-5 of those 20 each day, you’d likely win some work within two weeks.
Another business directory is hoovers.com
If you search the “counseling” industry at Hoovers, you’ll be prompted to choose from a list that includes weight reduction services, social assistance, and mental health professionals. You can then run searches for those terms on Hoovers or head back over to Manta to find specific businesses to pitch.
These services have free tiers, and you should be able to get all the information you need without paying for a membership.
You can get super-specific with your business directory searches, which is really awesome, because you can hone in on exactly the kind of client you want to work with. Choose directories that specialize in small businesses, Fortune 5000 companies, publicly traded companies, local businesses, and so on. Pick the business directory you prefer to work with, and use that one to identify clients you want to pitch.
Once You Find Freelance Writing Clients, What's the Next Step?
Now that you've put in the time to find freelance writing clients, how do you get them to hire you? Well, it starts with creating a smart pitch that you can send them. And recently, I held a free workshop on how to get that pitch written and ready to send out.
You can catch a replay of the live workshop!
This is a totally free, hands-on workshop where you'll work on your pitch, following the exact steps described. You'll learn:
- Exactly how to write a pitch letter that you can start sending out to clients IMMEDIATELY so that you can get work.
- How to identify YOUR ideal client, and where to go to FIND that client, so that you know exactly WHERE to send your pitch.
- What you need to know about following up, and how to avoid the mistakes that could cost you LOTS of money.
- How much you should charge for your work, and how to talk confidently about money with clients.
When you sign up for the workshop, you'll get access to a TWO workbooks. You'll get to see plenty of real examples, and you'll discover exactly how to put all the pieces together.