3 Smart Ways to Find Freelance Writing Clients

3 Smart Ways to Find Freelance Writing Clients

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?

How to find freelance writing clients.

You will (probably) not get arrested for calling yourself a freelance writer.

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.

You don't need anything special to find freelance writing clients.

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:

  1. Upwork (and other marketplace sites)
  2. Online job boards
  3. Business directories

Now we’ll take a closer look at each of these methods.

 

Ready to get PAID for your writing?

Watch 5 Steps to YOUR Successful Freelance Writing Business!

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.

Use Upwork to find 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?

Search job boards to find freelance writing clients.

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:

You can use business directories to find freelance writing clients

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:

You can find freelance writing clients with business directories.

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

Search Hoovers to find freelance writing clients.

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.

Sign up for the workshop, and kick off your freelance writing career.

 

Ready to get PAID for your writing?

Watch 5 Steps to YOUR Successful Freelance Writing Business!

The Difference Between Bloggers and Freelance Writers

The Difference Between Bloggers and Freelance Writers

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You’ve been thinking about starting a side hustle, or you’re at home with your kids, and you’re looking for a way to make money. Online. From home.

You’re not interested in trying to sell makeup or juice or bags or essential oils to all your friends, because that would involve, like, interacting with people.

You’ve always liked writing, and you’ve seen that it’s totally possible to make money writing on the Internet. I mean, people are publishing these epic blog posts all the time about how much money they made in 3 hours because they did this one tiny thing.

Writing sounds good. So you figure you’ll be a freelance writer.

You start doing your research, and you quickly figure out that you need a website, which is basically the same as a blog, right? So… are you a blogger?

Hang on.

Is there actually a difference between freelance writing and blogging? Are they basically two different ways of saying the same thing? And if they are different things, then which one should you be?

As it turns out, bloggers and freelance writers do have quite a bit in common, but they’re not exactly the same. Let’s take a closer look.

What Bloggers and Freelance Writers Have in Common

Freelance writers and bloggers both write — and they both write with the goal of earning money. That money bit is super-important, because money is a good thing. With money, you can buy food and shelter and iPads and other things.

Blogging is a job, and freelance writing is a job, but they aren’t the kind of J-O-B where you go to an office and have a boss. Instead, they work as independent contractors. This is a fancy way of saying, “You’re on your own, baby!”

As in, you have to find your own work, find the place to do that work, and get the equipment you need to do that work.

You can learn how to be a freelance writer.

You can probably get by with a laptop, an internet connection, and a comfortable place to sit. (The seat is optional. I actually work on a treadmill desk. Really!)

Freelance writers and bloggers also have to handle all the administrative work that goes along with being in business — for example, paying taxes, sending invoices to clients, and then following up to be sure the client actually sends the check.

Broadly speaking, those are the major similarities between bloggers and freelance writers. Now let’s take a look at the differences between the two.

What Is A Blogger?

A blogger is someone who writes online, either for her own blog or for someone else’s. Typically, she writes about one specific topic, which could be absolutely anything: knitting, pet care, food, digital marketing, organizing, science — seriously, anything. Name a topic, no matter how specific, and you can find at least one blog about it.

Build a career as a blogger.

A blogger is an expert in her niche. Whatever it is that she writes about, she knows that topic as well as she knows which of her children will eat Honey Nut Cheerios and which will ONLY eat fish sticks that have been toasted at precisely 200 degrees for 4.8 minutes and then de-breaded, dipped in ketchup AND milk, and served on the Bob the Builder plate.

My point is, girlfriend knows her stuff.

How Do Bloggers Make Money?

How exactly does writing about knitting or pet car or whatever translate into dollars? For our purposes, let’s consider the blogger who has her own blog, rather than one who writes for someone else’s site. Generally speaking, bloggers create multiple revenue streams — which is a fancy way of saying they bring in money through different sources.

What might those various revenue streams include?

You can create multiple streams of revenue in your online business.

  1. Ads. When bloggers hone in on a specific niche, they can attract people who are extremely interested in the content they create. So they draw in traffic that really cares about, say, knitting, which means that companies that make products or offer services for knitters may be interested in advertising on the blog.
  2. Sponsored posts. Bloggers might also be asked to write about a specific product or service in a sponsored post. The blogger is paid to write about her experience with the product or service.
  3. Selling products and services. Many bloggers also sell their own related products and services — for example, our knitting blogger might offer some of her hand-knit products for sale. She might also offer patters for sale. Or, she might create a course on how to sell hand-knit items on Etsy.
  4. Affiliate sales. In addition to selling their own products and services, bloggers might also offer products and services created by other people, in exchange for a commission on each sale. Large sites such as Amazon pay a small commission on items purchased through a blogger’s links, and other bloggers might also have courses, products, and services they want to sell — again, in exchange for a commission.

 

Ready to get PAID for your writing?

Watch 5 Steps to YOUR Successful Freelance Writing Business!

What Is A Freelance Writer?

A freelance writer is someone who writes for others — companies or individuals — on a per-project basis, for money.

Learn how to be a freelance writer.

Freelance writers do a lot of different things, depending on their interest and abilities. Some freelance writers write blog posts — for their own blogs, and for other blogs. Some freelance writers specialize in blog posts for businesses.

Some writers focus on articles for print and online magazines, and others write technical manuals and software user guides.

You can find writers in almost any area you can imagine: corporate marketing materials, ebooks, white papers, press releases, and so on.

How Do Freelance Writers Make Money?

The primary difference between freelance writers and bloggers is apparent in how they make money. Like bloggers, freelance writers can have multiple streams of income, but typically, those “streams” come in the form of different clients.

For example, in the past year, I’ve written an ebook for an Australian Agile consultant, technical white papers for a US managed services provider, blog posts for a tech startup, and a software user guide for an app developer. Each client contracted with me for a specific project, and each project was its own, independent income stream. (By the way, I got a lot of these projects by pitching clients on Upwork, which is a super-easy way to get started.)

You can work with multiple clients as a freelance writer.

Which Path Is Right For You?

The best part about building your own business is that you get to make all the decisions. You get to decide if you want to be a freelance writer, a blogger, or both!

But how do you know which path is right for you?

Well, you need to think about how you want to spend your time. Do you want to work with clients, writing the things that they specifically need (those press releases, ebooks, articles, and so on) about the topics they are interested in? If the idea of writing a lot of different kinds of material and learning a lot about different topics appeals to you, then freelance writing could be an excellent choice.

If you know that the ONLY thing you want to write about is knitting, on the other hand, then blogging is probably the route you want to take. If you want to be the one who decides exactly what you’re writing and when you’re writing it, then you’re more suited for blogging than you are for freelance writing.

I Want It All!

Look, the tagline at Successful Freelance Mom is “Because we can have it all.” So if you want to be a blogger AND a freelance writer, I am totally in favor of that decision. Remember, it’s YOUR business, and you get to do WHATEVER YOU WANT.

If you’re doing this in order to make money, however, it’s important to have a clear plan, and to be strategic with your choices.

Plan your strategy to get started as a freelance writer

For example, let’s say that you’re interested in writing for health coaches. It might make sense for you to blog about the issues health coaches face when building a business, getting clients, and so on. And you might offer some related products — templates that health coaches could purchase and personalize, for example.

Or, if you’re interested in writing for tech startups, you could blog about effective workflows, evaluating user experience in app development, and other topics that would be highly relevant to tech startups.

You probably wouldn’t want to blog about localization of apps if your market is new health coaches who work with pregnant women.

For close to 15 years, I worked exclusively as a freelance writer doing the kind of work I mentioned above — ebooks, white papers, user guides, and other materials for businesses, mostly in technical fields. During that time, I had a personal blog that was completely disconnected from my business. I wrote about my kids, particularly about the experience of rearing my special needs son.

You can be a blogger and a freelance writer

My blog and my business were not even remotely related; I never thought of my blog as anything other than an online journal, and it was never designed to make any money. If you want that kind of blog, that’s totally okay — mine was an important part of my life and my mental health for many years.

If you don’t know my story, you might not know that in 2013, I had to shut down my business when my son was diagnosed with leukemia. When I started working again in late 2016, I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to do, and I decided to start working with moms who wanted to get started in freelance writing but didn’t know how.

(That sentence makes it sound like there was a very organized thought process. The reality was a lot of crying on my kitchen floor, but hey! Details!)

Successful Freelance Mom is about supporting moms who are just learning about freelance writing. The content here is designed to support you as you learn about the different types of writing you can do — and get paid for. I don’t use ads on my site, and so far I don’t sell other people’s products for commissions. I do offer my own course. You can build a model just like this.

 

Ready to get PAID for your writing?

Watch 5 Steps to YOUR Successful Freelance Writing Business!

Why Epic Blog Posts Are Overrated

Why Epic Blog Posts Are Overrated

Everywhere you look, there’s another epic blog post about something.

100 Blog Topic Ideas

47 Feminine Stock Photo Sites

59 Things to Do to Grow Your Business

36 Ways to Promote Your Blog Posts

Stop writing epic blog posts and write actionable content instead.

Epic lists of mom bloggers to follow. Epic lists of Pinterest group boards to join and Facebook groups where you need to be present and YouTubers you must be watching and Twitter feeds you have to consume.

Epic guides to growing your email list and upping your Instagram game and creating more content.

Epic is the new black.

I'm not buying it.

Let's take a look at why epic is… not so epic.

No One Reads Epic Blog Posts

Lots of people share epic blog posts, but how many people really read them?

Most of the time, the comments on these epic posts say things like, “OMG! This is AMAZING! I’m going to bookmark it so I can read it later!” or “Awesome post. I’m going to try some of these someday.”

I have never, ever read a comment on one of these posts that says, “I implemented all 59 strategies over the course of 8 months and here are my detailed results.”

Do you know WHY there are no comments like that? Because no one reads epic posts all the way through. No one implements all the advice.

Who has time to do all that stuff? Do YOU have time to read 59 strategies and implement them all? I’m betting you don’t. I KNOW I don’t. I’ve got client work to do, blog posts to write, videos to shoot, and more. I do NOT have time to read 59 strategies, and I definitely do not have time to implement them all.

I came across a epic list of 32 blogs that mompreneurs need to read. Moms. Who have businesses. THIRTY-TWO BLOGS.

Dude, I don’t even talk to 32 people in real life over the course of a WEEK. I’m definitely not reading 32 blogs. That’s just nuts.

How about an epic list of 50 places to promote your blog posts? That’s already intimidating — fifty places. And then when some of the “places” on the list are things like “Influencer Outreach” — meaning, you're going to write individual emails and send them out to maybe 20 people — well then, your list just got even more epic longer.

Look, I'm not saying that promoting blog posts is effortless. I put a LOT of time into promoting the posts I write. But I don't want a list of 50 “places” to go. I want a list of the five most effective things you can do to promote blog your blog posts.

Ready to get PAID for your writing?

Watch 5 Steps to YOUR Successful Freelance Writing Business!

Epic Blog Posts Usually Cut a Lot of Corners

Writing epic posts isn’t easy. It takes a fair amount of time to research those 47 ways or those 938 sites or whatever they are. It takes time to write up each entry in the epic list.

It’s not surprising that some of the entries aren’t exactly… epic.

Part of the problem is that “epic” doesn't really mean anything. It's like “natural” on a food label. Or as the lovely James Chartrand at Mens With Pens puts it, “Epic is a subjective word. What’s epic to you isn’t epic to me.”

Just the other day, I saw a list of 29 ways to promote and grow a small email list. Hey! I have a small email list, so this sounded like a great post for me to read. Five of the items on the list were to figure out why you wanted to have an email list, choose an email service provider, get a domain-based email address, write up emails, and get Google Analytics set up.

 

GUESS WHAT? Not a single one of those things is something that will help me promote and grow my small email list. 

 

If I’m reading a post about how to promote and grow a small email list, I HAVE a small email list. So I already know why I want it, and I have an email service provider and an email address.

I agree that you need to figure out the WHY of your list, but COME ON. With the title used for this blog post, the writer is clearly trying to rope in small list owners, and we are looking for ACTIONABLE ITEMS. Things we can DO.

“Figure out your WHY” is absolutely important, but when I'm looking for how to grow and promote my small list, that's NOT what I'm looking for. That was like 12 steps earlier in the process. BEFORE I started paying for my email service provider.

Also, writing emails and setting up Google Analytics will NOT promote or grow my list.

So basically, this should have been a list of 24 things to do, but I guess 24 wasn’t an epic enough number.

I would read an epic blog post about 24.

But it was a great show.

(I'm being pretty generous here, because the other 24 items on the list were NOT epic.)

If you’re trying to figure out how to get more users to sign up for your service, you might think that an epic list of 74 referral programs is a good post to read.

Then again, If you’re just starting a business, you likely don’t have the financial power to give away money the way PayPal did. AirBnB used Craigslist to market themselves for free and get a whole bunch of users. Awesome.

And yes, Dropbox put themselves on the map by giving away free storage. But that was a decade ago and these examples have been played out.

Including them on a list in 2017 is lame.

Yep, those strategies were truly groundbreaking when they happened. They aren’t anymore. You can’t copy them and get the same results.

The ones I hate the most, though? The Epic List of 935 Places to Pitch Your Guest Post, The Epic List of 163 Pinterest Group Boards You Have to Join, and The 723 Things You Need to Do RIGHT NOW to Get More Traffic!

 

I hate these posts so, so much.

 

The content is completely outdated and irrelevant. How do I know? Because I'm the person who actually clicks in to each one of those group boards and reads the sentence that says, “This board is no longer accepting new contributors.” I have to click in to 163 boards, and 162 of them aren't accepting contributors. I am the person who goes to each blog and gets greeted with the message that they are no longer accepting guest posts. Over 800 times.

Please stop calling every blog post an epic blog post.

 

Despite the fact that the information is outdated and irrelevant, these posts still get thousands of shares. Literally. THOUSANDS. And I promise you that the vast majority of the people who are sharing are not even reading what they are sharing. They just share, because, hey, 8,364 people have already shared this post, so it must be epic!

There is no way an actual human can do all 723 things to promote traffic. And these posts don't provide context most of the time, so you're swinging in the dark, just trying whatever, and trying it for just a brief moment in time before you move on to the next thing, which is never going to give you results.

I much prefer a short and sweet post like this one from Lindsay Hazel, which offers ONE tip for getting more REAL engagement on your posts. ONE thing that you can TOTALLY do.

I also like this list of 10 places to promote blog posts from Rachel Lindteigen. The post is short and to the point and doesn't waste your time with long-drawn out explanations — it's a list. Ten places. Pick the ones that work for you, and promote. No need to let your eyes glaze over as you reach item 254 on the list and realize you've lost your place again.

Epic Blog Posts Are Not Written For You

Do you know who loves epic blog posts? Google. Seriously. Search engines LOVE those posts, with all their links and all the shares and the tweets and the pins and the backlinks.

But when you read an epic blog post, do you really come away with something actionable that you can DO, something that will move YOU closer to your business goals? Do you finish the post and think, “YES! I can do these 97 things and everything will be okay!”

Or do you feel more like, “HOLY CRAP I AM NEVER GOING TO GET THIS BUSINESS OFF THE GROUND.”

WHY do you have to feel this way? It's absolutely true that building a business takes time and effort, but YOU CAN DO THIS. You just need a little help. You need some step-by-step instructions and some REAL advice.

Instead of Epic Blog Posts, Write For Real People

I don’t want to create content for search engines. I don’t want to create beautiful pins with no real content behind them. I don’t want anyone to read my posts and say, “Wait, WHAT?”

I want to write REAL content that gives you real, actionable information you can actually use.

Instead of 32 blogs to read, I’ll give you three strategies for writing consistently when you’re at home with your kids.

Would you rather have a list of 573 sites that will pay for your writing, or a list of 15 magazines you can query?

I won’t tell you 92 things you need to have in order to start your business, but I’ll show you a simple 5-step process to get more freelance writing work on Upwork.

In the spirit of actionable advice you can actually use, come check out my station on Anchor — I'm sharing quick, actionable audio tips for building your freelance business while you're at home with kids. I'd especially love it if you'd leave me a question that I can answer for you on the air!

 

 

Ready to get PAID for your writing?

Watch 5 Steps to YOUR Successful Freelance Writing Business!

How to Write a Query Letter

How to Write a Query Letter

For many people, the dream of being a writer includes the fantasy of writing articles for magazines.

If you’re really good at fantasizing, you might even imagine the part where you’re in the grocery store checkout line, and the lady in front of you is reading an article you wrote, and then she turns around and recognizes you because the magazine ran a headshot of you and — yeah.

Been there. Fantasized that.

Let’s figure out how to get you from where you are right now to the next best thing to that fantasy — depositing a big, fat check from the magazine into your bank account.

If you already know what a query letter is and you just want some quick advice on how to write one that gets you assignments, watch this 5-minute video. If you’d like a little more background and context, keep reading.

Do I Really Need a Query Letter?

You might be wondering, What exactly is a query letter, and why you need to write one. Can’t you just write an amazing article and send it off to a magazine?

Well, no.

Sending a query letter to a print magazine is a little bit different from pitching an idea or an article to a web site.

You can find thousands of online magazines, because basically anyone can start one. You don’t need a big budget or fancy offices, and most of the people who start online magazines don’t have those things.

They certainly can’t afford to pay $800 or $1000 or $2000 for an article.

learn how to write a query letter

The print magazines you see at the checkout line in the grocery store — Cosmo, Glamour, Parents — those magazines have bigger budgets, and they have a different way of doing things, a way that was established long before the casualness of the Internet.

(Yes. There was a whole world that existed before the Internet.)

Print magazines do not ever accept original articles that are written up and submitted by a new freelancer. They only work with query letters.

This is actually a good thing, because you don’t have to waste time writing an article you might not be able to sell. Instead of spending hours and hours researching and writing an article, you can put in the time to write a great query and send that. Then, if the article is assigned, you’ll know up front how much you’re being paid to write it.

(Need to figure out how to find the time to write anything? I've got you covered.)

Editors live and breathe their magazines. So they know exactly what their readers want — which means that they can tell you precisely what to focus on in your piece.

The editor might have a connection to a particular expert and want you to interview that person. She might have a book or a web site that needs to be referenced in the article. When she assigns you the article, she’ll give you these important details, which will make the article more appropriate for her readers.

Preparing to Write a Query Letter

If you’re not a big magazine reader, you might be tempted to lump, say, Redbook and Good Housekeeping together. You might think that those magazines are basically the same, and that an article could easily fit into either one.

When you start writing for magazines, however, you will quickly learn that each magazine has its own unique spin and flavor, and that while two or more magazines might cover the same TOPICS — like women, or health, or food, or whatever — they’re really, really different.

Each magazine looks for different slants. Each magazine has its own way of handling those topics, its own niche, if you will.

What will work for an article in one magazine won’t necessarily work for an article in another magazine.

always have a slant when you write a query letter

Editors get a LOT of query letters. If you want to stack the deck in your favor, the very first thing you need to do is to read the freaking magazine you’re pitching.

In fact, you should really read at least the last six issues, and more if you can swing it.

BONUS: Whenever you sit down with a magazine, you can look your spouse in the eye and honestly say, “Honey, I’m working.”

How to Read a Magazine to Write a Query Letter

When you sit down to read a magazine that you want to write for, you have to read it differently from the average consumer who reads for pleasure.

If you really want to do your homework properly, head over to the library, take out a stack of back issues, and start to read. You’ll also want to take notes.

When you read a magazine with an eye towards writing a query, the ads are just as important as the articles, so don’t skip them. In fact, every time you get to an ad, write down what it’s for and who the advertiser is. What story do the ads tell you about the magazine’s readers?

how do i write a query letter

For example, in a recent issue of Parents magazine, the Inside spread was for a Dodge minivan. The next ad was for low-end to mid-range photo printers. The next one was for Johnson & Johnson baby soap.

Parents is for moms and dads (DUH), who make a nice income — but are careful with their spending. They’re happy to spend money where it counts — on their kids’ safety, for example — but like to save a bit when they can. Parents isn’t advertising high-end luxury cars or super-high-end cameras or printers, but rather more budget-friendly versions.

Another example: an issue of Better Homes and Gardens had ads for Sure Fit Slipcovers, Riders Jeans, and The Home Depot with an ad for affordable Thomasville kitchen cabinetry — and the ad detailed financing options. Better Homes and Gardens is also playing to a budget-conscious audience.

The relationship between the advertising and editorial departments of most magazines is a lot tighter than many editors want to admit.

As you turn your practiced eye toward magazines that have entertained you for years, you will notice that in the same issue that just happens to have a small blurb featuring a hot new product is a gorgeous four-color spread advertising the very same product.

 

Ready to get PAID for your writing?

Watch 5 Steps to YOUR Successful Freelance Writing Business!

Your Query Letter Needs a Specific Slant

When you understand the magazine’s target audience, you can create a more specific slant for your query letter.

Better Homes and Gardens doesn’t want in-depth look at an extremely rare stone found only in one tiny part of Italy that you can buy for $157 a square foot for your grand foyer. But they might love something that explained how to create the very same look in your own entrance for under $1000.

When you write your query letter, you have to be as specific as possible. You don’t tell an editor that you want to write something about parenting twins. You have to come up with a specific slant about parenting twins that this particular magazine will want to cover.

Let’s say you’re thinking about yoga and pregnancy. Those are broad topics, and there’s nothing specific happening. You don’t pitch a TOPIC to a magazine. You have a very specific slant, and you pitch that to a magazine.

read the magazine before you write a query letter

Remember, magazines like Good Housekeeping and Redbook have been around for a long time — and they’ve already published a lot of articles on yoga and pregnancy. So they’re looking for something super specific that will appeal to their readers.

In fact, Good Housekeeping recently ran a piece called “How Yoga Helped me Love My Body,” Redbook ran with “11 Brilliant Sex Tips from Yoga Instructors.”

Those are two wildly different articles, and each one is very specifically targeted to a different set of readers.

Your query needs to be super specific and super targeted to the magazine you want to write for, so you really have to read the magazine and know it well before you send a query.

Query Letter Dos and Don’ts

infographic how to write a query letter

Don’t send your query letter to Dear Editor and don’t send it to a general email address.

There are plenty of ways to find out who the actual person is that you want to connect with — and to figure out that person’s email address.

Look at the magazine’s masthead, where all the editors are listed. Use Google, use Writer’s Market, use LinkedIn.

You can even call the magazine and say, “If I’m pitching a piece on [your topic], who do I want to send that to? Okay, and what’s her email address?”

Do send your query to a specific person at her specific email address.

Don’t use a subject line that will make the editor roll her eyes and delete your message.

You don’t want to sound like a PR rep pitching a product or a source for an article, and you don’t want to sound like you’re a reader sending fan mail.

So don’t send your email with a subject like Amazing new thing, or Query or Your Magazine or even a generic subject like Query for your magazine. BE SPECIFIC.

Do give your email a specific subject, such as Query: [your article title].

Don’t open your query letter by introducing yourself.

You have nanoseconds to catch the editor’s attention before she trashes your email. So don’t waste that time with something like, “Hi, I’m Abbi, and I’m a freelance writer” or “I LOVE YOUR MAGAZINE.”

Do open your query with a hook — with two or three sentences that could be the first few sentences of your article.

Don’t tell the editor you have no experience.

Writing for magazines takes skill, but it’s not rocket science. You can do this. There’s no reason for you to tell the editor why she shouldn’t hire you by saying things like, “I’ve never done this before,” or “I’m not really sure if…”

Do be confident, so that the editor can hire you with confidence.

How to Write a Query Letter

Now that you have a solid understanding of what a query letter is and why you need one, here’s a simple formula you can use to write winning queries again and again.

5 steps to a great query letter

Open with a hook.

Start your query with a paragraph that could double as the first paragraph of the article you’re pitching. Those sentences could be a compelling quote, a fascinating statistic, or an anecdote that immediately draws the reader into the story.

Think of the first paragraph of your query as a place to show the editor how great the article will be if she assigns it to you. You have three to five sentences where you must capture her attention — or she’ll toss your query into the trash.

If you’ve done a bit of research for this piece, use it. Quote an expert. If you’ve done an interview, include the BEST sound bite, the BEST quote you have.

Outline the article.

In the second paragraph, briefly outline the article. Keep it short — describe what you want to do in a few sentences, and include one or two proposed sources.

If you have proposed subheadings, you can use those.

Don’t say, “I’m going to interview some top sources, like university professors and renowned pediatricians, for this article.”

Be specific. Name the sources you want to speak to, or at least refer to a new book that’s just been published on the topic.

Propose a title.

Give your proposed article a title — that makes it easier for the editor to discuss it at an editorial meeting. “What about ‘Is My Baby a Bully?’” sounds like it’s already an article. “What about that proposed piece on toddlers and aggressive behavior?” sounds clunkier — not as close to being a finished piece.

How do you come up with a title for your piece? Study the magazine. Look at the titles they feature.

Do they use numbers? Alliteration? Humor? Make your title sound like it fits in.

If you can’t come up with a potential title for what you want to write, then you probably sill need to refine your idea.

State your qualifications.

Here’s where you convince the editor that you’re the right person to write the article. Mention your special experience or expertise, and note any previous writing credits.

If your only previous writing credits are for your own blog, include one or two of your best posts — or create a sample.

Most importantly, tell the editor why you’re an awesome person to write this story. This is where you can say, I have five kids, and I have seen my kids on the giving and receiving ends of blows that left me wincing — and in one case even prompted an emergency room visit.

Or

I’ve been blogging daily about this topic for two years.

Or

I’ve worked as a writer for the last year.

Or

I’ve read everything written on this topic in the last 15 years.

Find the thing that makes YOU the person who should write this particular article — and use that.

Ask for the assignment.

Now it’s time to close the sale. Demonstrate your confidence and ask the editor to assign you the piece.

Flat out say, “I would love to write this piece for you. If you’re interested in showing your readers how they can [do whatever the article teaches], please contact me. I look forward to discussing this article with you.”

Now, let’s be clear: This isn’t the only way to write a query. But it’s a way that I know works — and it can work for you, too. It’s simple and straightforward, and you really can put together a query in under an hour if you work at it. Use this method and add magazine writing to your stable of freelance writing tricks.

Ready to get PAID for your writing?

Watch 5 Steps to YOUR Successful Freelance Writing Business!

Get More Jobs on Upwork (and Score Invitations to Work With Great Clients)

Get More Jobs on Upwork (and Score Invitations to Work With Great Clients)

Are you ready to get more jobs on Upwork without putting more hours into looking for work?

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty busy. For me, busy translates to a husband who is pretty consistently out of the country for work, five kids, including one with special needs and one with only one ear (and we don’t even consider that special needs in this house), a freelance writing career, teaching other moms how to get started in freelance writing, home and volunteer obligations, friends, AND a desire to read every book published on pretty much any topic.

I don’t have a lot of time to go out LOOKING for my freelance writing work. I much prefer a system where the work comes directly to me, which is one of the reasons I love Upwork so much.

When you use Upwork the right way, you can get a LOT of work that comes DIRECTLY to you, through invitations from high-paying clients who want you to work for them.

get invited to more jobs on Upwork

When you get invitations to jobs, you’re in a great position to control the conversation and drive it exactly where you want it to go.

control the conversation

So, how exactly do you get more jobs on Upwork — and how do you get invitations to work with awesome clients?

There are four basic steps you need to follow. Check out this video — or keep reading below.

 

Ready to get PAID for your writing?

Watch 5 Steps to YOUR Successful Freelance Writing Business!

Optimize Your Profile Title To Get More Jobs on Upwork

When you title your Upwork profile, remember that potential clients are using Upwork as a search engine. They have a problem, and they’re looking for a solution. They’re not looking for an Award-Winning Journalist or a Talented Graphic Designer — and those titles don’t really mean anything to potential clients anyway.

Your profile title can help you get more jobs on upwork

You want a title that pops with a client-focused benefit. Think about what your ideal client wants from you. In most cases, the client’s goal is to save time or make money, right? So think about how what you do helps your clients achieve those goals.

So, go for a title that will really connect with the people who need your help. Web Site Design That Drives Sales. Blog Posts That Get Social Media Shares — that’s the kind of title that speaks to what clients really need.

Focus Your Overview on What the Client Needs

Most freelancers start their overview with something like, “I’m a very talented [whatever] with a lot of experience.”

As my 8-year-old says, “Whoop-de-do-dah.”

Seriously, WHO CARES? No one. NO ONE cares that YOU think you’re talented.

I mean, I care, and I think you ARE very talented, but CLIENTS don’t care. They also don’t believe it — unless you give them a REASON to believe it.

focus on client needs in your overview

To do that, you have to prove yourself by speaking to the client’s needs. For example, if your client needs to make more sales, use your overview to restate that pain point and let the client know that you get it. For example:

Your current web site doesn’t make enough sales. You need a more intuitive design to make it easier for your customers to buy your products.

or

Your blog hasn’t been updated in four months — and the last post you published didn’t even get a single comment. You need regular, engaging content that your users are excited to share.

When you take the time to really get into what your potential clients NEED — rather than talking all about yourself — they’ll notice. And they’ll start inviting you to apply for great gigs.

Get More Jobs on Upwork With Great Samples in Your Portfolio

You might think that if you don’t have a lot of experience in your field, you can’t get good jobs on Upwork. But that’s not true — you just have to be strategic.

use samples to get more jobs on Upwork

Take a look at the work clients are posting in your field — at the jobs they’re currently looking for people to do. Then, create a sample or two that demonstrates your ability to do that work.

In other words, if you’re a designer and clients are looking for logos, why not show off the one you made for yourself? If you’re a writer, and clients are looking for blog posts, go ahead and write one — or part of one.

Wait, what?

Yes, part of a post. See, you’re making a SAMPLE. You don’t want to spend hours on a project that no one is paying you to do, and you definitely don’t want to write up a post that a client could just take and use without paying you.

So put in the time and effort needed to create an excerpt, or a small part of a project, and use that as a sample in your Upwork portfolio. Having a sample will make your profile stand out, and when you create samples that align with what real clients are looking for, you make it really easy for them to hire you.

Create a Pitch Template and Get More Jobs on Upwork

You don’t have the time to write a personalized pitch from scratch every time you see an interesting job on Upwork or every time a client reaches out and invites you to apply to a job.

If you had to sit down and create a whole pitch from start to finish every single time, you’d probably stop looking for work pretty quickly.

Oh. Wait. Is that what you did?

create a pitch template to get more jobs on Upwork

Well, here’s what you need to do: you need to put together a pitch template that you can just tweak a little bit whenever you want to send it out. Once you have a template in place, you’ll find that it’s crazy easy to apply for jobs. You won’t risk having silly typos in your pitch — because you’ll take the time to make it PERFECT — once. And then, when it is perfect, you’ll use it again and again.

Yes, you’ll make those little tweaks each time so that your pitch truly IS perfect — but the BASICS will be there: Your experience, the skills you bring to the table, the links you want to share, and so on. All of that will be ready and waiting, and you’ll only have to add a sentence or two before you send it out.

I can't wait to hear about your success on Upwork!

 

Ready to get PAID for your writing?

Watch 5 Steps to YOUR Successful Freelance Writing Business!

How to Start Freelance Writing Online

How to Start Freelance Writing Online

I want to start freelance writing online, but I don’t know how!

How can I get my first freelance writing job?

I can’t figure out how to break into freelance writing.

I get emails like this all the time. I get them from students who are in my 5-day free email course on how to be a freelance writer. I get them from women in my Facebook group. And I even get them from people who know me (gasp!) in real life and know what I do for a living.

The first question I ask people is, What do you want to write? Some people have a hard time answering that question. They like the idea of being a freelance writer, but they’ve never really given it much thought beyond that.

You Can’t Start Freelance Writing Online Without a Niche

The very first thing you should do, if you want to make a start freelance writing online and make a real living, is to choose a niche.

A niche will help you make more money when you start freelance writing online.

Choose a niche so that you can set yourself apart.

Niche is just a fancy word for specialty — the thing you write about. When I first started out as a freelance writer, I wrote about EVERYTHING. That was fun — but it wasn’t very profitable.

It was only after I’d been in business for about 6 or 7 years (I may be something of a slow learner) that I figured out what I needed to do in order to get paid MORE and work LESS.

I needed to find my niche and specialize.

When you have a niche, you have one area where you want to focus, and you write about that ONE thing. Then, you get to learn all the details of that topic. You know the players. You know the products that work — and the ones that don’t.

You spend LESS TIME doing work because you already KNOW a lot of the information you need — and you know who to ask when you need to learn something new.

You get PAID MORE, because you’re an expert in that area.

When you choose your freelance writing niche, you want to pick something you will enjoy writing about, something that will make you really happy — and pay you well. You want to pick a topic you can hone in on so that you build up experience and contacts.

You can earn more money when you choose the right niche.

With a niche, you spend more time writing and less time researching.

That’s how you get to know the ins and outs of a topic, so that you can complete projects quickly and efficiently and earn more money.

 

Ready to get PAID for your writing?

Watch 5 Steps to YOUR Successful Freelance Writing Business!

Don’t Make Your Niche Too Narrow

Here’s where the confusion comes in: When you’re starting a blog or a business, you need to narrow your niche as much as possible so that you can attract the right people.

You’ve probably seen bloggers who say things like, “I blog about dogs and competitive skiing and cloth diapers,” and you’re like, Um… okay? How do those things fit together?

It’s hard to find people who are interested in all three of those things. Which means that there’s a very small audience who is interested in all of those areas.

That’s part of why the advice for bloggers, or for people starting a business, is to go as narrow as possible. To identify the exact person who needs that product or will read that blog.

So, for example, if you were starting a blog, you’d be better off going with a chihuahua focus, rather than a general “pets” or “dogs” focus, because when you hone in like that, you can create content that really resonates with chihuahua lovers. You’d choose vegan Indian cooking, rather than food, so that you could reach a very specific audience.

Don't try to start freelance writing online with a too-narrow niche.

And now I'm hungry for Indian food.

But when you’re trying to get hired to write articles, it’s going to be hard to find 250 chihuahua-focused businesses or vegan Indian sites to pitch yourself to. It’s not impossible, of course, but you’re definitely going to have your work cut out for you.

When you’re trying to start freelance writing online, you want to focus on the slightly broader topics of pets or food, and not narrow down all the way to chihuahuas or saag paneer — at first.

You could wind up writing articles on introducing your pet and your new baby and/or nine things to consider before you adopt a pet. You could build kid-friendly menu plans designed to showcase world cuisines and write about the difference between organic and regular fruits and vegetables.

You could work with companies that market to pet owners — or, you know, people who eat food — and help them create content that will attract and engage those people. You’re not writing the same thing over and over, but you’re using your experience and expertise in a specific area to bring more value to clients.

Over time, you will probably narrow your focus. You might decide that you most enjoy working with pet food companies or national restaurant chains or something more specific. But you start freelance writing with a slightly broader topic in mind: pets or food, and you narrow down later.

If you’re trying to break into business writing, you probably need to try a couple of different kinds of projects at first. You might write press releases and marketing materials and user manuals and other content, but you ultimately decide that you want to focus on annual reports for pharmaceutical companies.

Try different things when you want to start freelance writing online.

Experiment a bit before you choose a niche.

This doesn’t happen overnight, but when you do build up experience in a specific area, you can charge premium prices and work very efficiently.

You Aren’t Stuck With Your Niche Forever

Sometimes, people have a hard time choosing a freelance writing niche because they worry they’ll be stuck writing about that one thing forever.

Guess what? When you’re a freelance writer, you’re the boss, and you get to make your own decisions! You can totally change your niche any time you want!

When I first started writing professionally, 8 million years ago, I had two little girls and I was pregnant with my third child. My niche at the time was pregnancy and parenting. I wrote SO MUCH about breastfeeding that I often felt like people were totally staring at my boobs every time I left the house.

I loved writing about what I was living — and I got PAID for it.

But over time, I got really tired of writing about what I was living. I mean, I was drenched in breast milk All. The. Time. I didn’t want to write about it, too!

I started reaching out to businesses that needed different kinds of writing. For a long time, I wrote a LOT of different kinds of things, as I’ve mentioned. But over time, I found that I really liked working with big companies to write interactive courses, long-form content (eBooks), and other corporate training materials.

I spent many years in that niche — and it’s a very profitable niche. (There’s a reason I teach a course called Writing for Money. I want to empower women to be able to use their passion to earn a great living.)

Today, my niche is helping entrepreneurs write courses. I chose this niche because I loved writing my own courses. I had so much fun writing them that I decided to turn writing courses into a business. I help other women entrepreneurs organize and write content for their courses, and I create the sales pages and email sequences that convince people to sign up. For me, this is so much fun that it doesn’t feel like work.

Need coaching so that you can start freelance writing online? Get in touch.

Choose a niche that lets you do what you love.

Your Path to Start Freelance Writing Online

Once you know what you want to write, it’s a lot easier to get started as a freelance writer. Think about it: when the goal is “be a freelance writer,” that’s too big to put on your to-do list. That’s not an actionable item.

But if you know that you want to write about pets or parenting or food or technology or whatever other niche you’ve decided on, it’s suddenly not quite so overwhelming. From there, you can start to think, I want to write articles about the challenges of parenting twins, or I want to write software user guides for mobile app developers or I want to write about planning healthy meals that your family will actually eat  — and you have direction.

Once you get that clarity, it’s so much easier to figure out what you need to do to get from where you are now — staring at your laptop — to where you want to be: depositing that check into your account!

You start by searching out places that need the kind of writing you want to do. That might be businesses, magazines, websites, app developers. If you’ve read that kind of writing, where did you read it? Who wrote it? Now you know where to start your search.

And if you’re thinking, Okay, great, but I don’t have any experience, please don’t worry. The first time I got hired as a writer, I had exactly two qualifications:

  1. I spoke English.
  2. I knew how to use a computer.

I’m pretty sure that you can do both of those things, so you’re good to go. (I actually have a whole post about getting started in freelance writing without any experience!)

How Upwork Can Help You Start Freelance Writing Online

If you’ve ever heard me speak about freelance writing, then you know I’m a HUGE fan of Upwork. If you do a little searching, you’ll also find plenty of writers who say that Upwork is terrible.

Here are some of the reasons why some writers hate Upwork.

  1. Upwork takes a percent of the money you earn from your freelance writing jobs.
  2. Some clients who use Upwork are looking for fast, cheap work at low prices.
  3. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could get scammed.

Here’s my take.

  1. Upwork gives me access to clients I wouldn’t otherwise meet. They take a percentage of money I wouldn’t have otherwise earned, so I still come out ahead.
  2. I don’t work with clients who aren’t willing to pay my rate. I charge $125/hour and I get paid that rate on Upwork.
  3. If you are smart and take the time to educate yourself, you will not get scammed on Upwork.
Upwork lets you earn money from the moment you start freelance writing online.

Yes, you can earn real money on Upwork.

What I love about Upwork is that it really can help new writers start freelance writing online without building a website or investing any money.

All you have to do is write your Upwork profile overview and upload some relevant portfolio samples, and you can start getting work almost immediately.

Upwork doesn’t cost any money to use — you only pay a percentage of money you earn from clients — so you will always come out ahead. And once you choose a niche and specialize, you can charge higher rates, pay lower fees, and earn a real living.

What's stopping you, mama? Give me one good reason NOT to get started on your Upwork profile today?

 

Ready to get PAID for your writing?

Watch 5 Steps to YOUR Successful Freelance Writing Business!