What makes a successful freelance writing career?
No, forget all that bullshit you’ve read about writing great content, polishing your prose and using powerful words to attract attention.
Yes, it is important to perfect your craft, but come on.
Being good at something does not ensure that you’re going to be successful. Do you really think that publishing your latest post while sitting in a coffee shop is going to give you the work from home / the beach / [insert dream work location here] career you’ve always dreamt of?
There’s a ton of decent writers out there. Writing alone isn’t enough to bring opportunities to your door. You’re not Kevin Costner and this ain’t field of dreams. Creating great content is not a foolproof method of bringing clients to your door.
You’ve got to get out there and put yourself, your work and your ability in front of those in a position to hire you.
You’ve got to get your hustle on.
The difference between successful and unsuccessful freelance writers often isn’t in their ability to pen perfect prose. It’s in their ability to market themselves.
Successful freelancers are never satisfied with the opportunities they have. They’re constantly making new connections. They continue, even with a full client load, to reach out and network with new prospects.
They know the most valuable thing to a freelancer is having a pipeline full of opportunities. That full pipeline means that when one project ends, they’ve got another three potentials to take it’s place.
They’re not sat around waiting for the content they’ve slaved over to get noticed. They’re out there, sending pitch emails that highlight what they’ve done to people who would pay for the same kind of content.
They leave nothing to luck or chance. They make their own luck and secure their career through good old fashioned hard work and elbow grease.
And that’s exactly what you need to do.
But abolishing luck from your freelance career ain’t easy. You’ve got to promote the hell out of your content, find where potential clients hang out so you can properly approach them, and always be on top of your game.
So where’s a beginner writer (or established freelancer) supposed to go to find work?
Well, here. Below is a list of places where clients are literally crying out for good writers. The competition may be fierce, but they’re a great starting point for you to find a few opportunities and understand exactly what your ideal clients need.
Of course trawling through the job boards themselves is a tedious and laborious task. I speak to a lot of writers who want to find the better opportunities but simply don’t have the time to sift the wheat from the chaff. Fortunately, there’s an answer to that as well.
Sign up below for access to a regularly updated spreadsheet of publications and sites that have a standing agreement to pay writers for their work. Drop your email in the box that pops up and I’ll send you a link to the sheet so you can download your own copy.
For those who’d rather look through the sites on their own, here’s the list of places you can find great paying freelance writing jobs.
This book compiles a list of the contact details and submission guidelines for thousands of worldwide publications. It is, quite simply, a god send. The book is updated every year which means that towards the end of 2016 you’ll likely find a few inaccuracies.
However, if you purchase the special edition, you get a free key to use the online site which is continually updated and allows full filtering and search options so you can find the perfect contact person for your needs in seconds.
I.J. Schecter deserves a kiss for writing this book. The book is literally one long list of potential writing jobs for you to explore. Each entry lists what the job entails, what you need to do to become a viable candidate for the position and the job title of the best person to contact.
It’s a must have for freelance writers the world over and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
For a long time I recommended freelancers check out the various bidding sites. I’d read a couple of articles which outlining how to grow a six-figure, work at home business through places like Upwork and Freelancer (here’s one!)
However, I’ve never worked through these sites and never will.
Why? Because there are so many shitstorm stories of writers getting screwed by clients, and then the site itself (like this one here).
I’ve left the two biggest players and an up and comer on the list because, well, you’re an adult. I can’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t do.
I’d advise against offering your services through these sites, but if you really want to, then go right ahead. Just be aware that you are not who they make their money from and will always play second fiddle to the clients.
Formerly Elance-oDesk, Upwork is now the largest of the
freelance bidding marketplaces. You can advertise everything
from writing and design work to personal assistant services or data entry.
Of course you can also hire people to fill these same roles for you.
Freelancer is one of the longer, more established bidding sites that is still around and seems to be surviving in an industry that is slowly moving away from the bidding site practices.
The manner in which the service operates and the range of freelancers/work you can find is much the same as Upwork’s.
I didn’t know where to place Hubstaff Talent. It’s technically a job board, but as you’re listing your details on their board and applying through their site, I feel it’s a little more appropriate to let it live here.
Where Hubstaff Talent differs from others who host your information and provide the full find clients/freelancers/agencies in one place is that there are zero fees, which is an attractive incentive in itself and maybe enough for you to check them out.
Problogger seems to be the site that’s launched the career of many prominent online writers. There’s a lot of competition, but when I was first starting out I managed to land paying gigs without much trouble.
If you do go through Problogger just avoid the cheap bastards who offer $10 per piece. There’s the odd writing job that pays $100 or more, but generally speaking you’re looking in the $50-$100 range.
AIW has a great user interface. To the right of every listing they list a general price range for that job which makes it a lot easier and faster to ignore the crap writing jobs paying below $50.
I have a love-hate relationship with this board.
More often than not I see a ton of shit paying jobs of $10 and below. There’s also a lot of unpaid internships which to me feel more like they’re just after free content writers rather than taking you under their wing to teach you the trade.
However, you can find a few gems in there. I’ve seen jobs that go as high as $600 per article. you’ve just got to be careful and be sure you check the prices before applying.
Great site that updates daily with a selection of jobs advertised across the web. They also offer information on writing competitions, and publications looking for submissions.
The only thing you should be cautious of is the quality of jobs. They create an extensive list but some are of quite dubious quality.
The guys from FreelanceWriting.com also offer an awesome service in the form of the morning coffee newsletter. Every day they compile a list of advertised freelance writing jobs and shoot them directly into your inbox.
It’s definitely worth signing up for. (The sign up link is about half way down the page)
Craigslist seems to be the place where charlatans, cheap gits and flat out thieves go to advertise for writers. You can find some decent gigs on Craigslist, but it takes a while to sift through the chaff.
FWJ does a good job of compiling lists of writing jobs that they then separate into discipline (copywriting, blogging etc). It makes it a little easier to find potentially good gigs.
Be cautious though, last thing you want is to get scammed by a Craigslist cheapskate.
I like the Writer’s Weekly site because if a payment has been listed in an ad they’ll add it to the headline link. Means you can gloss over those jobs that offer the very dubious TBC payment.
The site also lists some good publications at the top of the page that are seeking submissions. These can be hit or miss, I’ve spotted magazines paying $10 for 2000 words and others paying $0.50 – $1 per word.
Despite the name, this site doesn’t cater exclusively to wannabe bloggers. The majority of the jobs are blogging gigs, but I’ve seen more than a few other writing jobs listed on the site. The site isn’t updated as often as some of the others but does have the odd gem pop up.
Dice specialises in technical writing jobs. It displays opportunities primarily in the tech industry and often needs writers for technical manuals, white papers etc.
It’s not a site for generalists but is great for those with in-depth technical knowledge of certain industries and/or equipment.
Media Bistro offers quite the selection of writing jobs as well as having some great resources and information for all kinds of writers. There’s a little something for everyone on the job boards with media, PR, digital and print publishing as well as social media jobs.
Similar in style to Media Bistro. Here you’ll find plenty of jobs for writers who cover areas such as marketing, business journalism and healthcare writing jobs. Many of the jobs here don’t have a specified pay range but I’ve seen companies such as CNN and TED advertise here. It’s a safe bet they’d pay more than a fair wage.
No prizes for guessing the types of jobs you’ll find here. The site is a great resource as well as job board, you’ll be able to find info on the industry as well as national print, TV and radio journalism writing jobs.
LinkedIn is an invaluable resource. Not only for finding work but also for networking and finding the contact details of the editors you’ll need to speak to.
Make the most of your profile, put aside some time every week to network with those in the industry you write about, get in touch with those who have viewed your profile and regularly check the job boards.
LinkedIn is favoured by professionals who want to do everything above board so you’re more likely to find better jobs here.
FlexJobs is a job site specialising in flexible jobs, so there’s a lot of work from home opportunities.
The benefit of flex jobs is that they do seem to weed out all the shitty “work from home – earn $7186 per week in [your area]!!!” jobs. There’s nothing I’ve seen that immediately comes across as a scam.
Which is also why it’s a job site that comes with a price tag. Its $15 per month, but that $15 goes to hiring people that screen jobs and ensure you’re not applying for anything that’s a complete scam.
Due to the price tag I recommend you think about the pros and cons before signing up. I also recommend you check out this review from Work At Home Adventures.
Indeed is again another job site that’s not entirely focused on freelance writing. I have, however, included quite a few writing jobs from reputable companies or that offer a decent fee.
To give an idea of the sort of jobs you can find I’ve created an Indeed job roll listing work at home writing jobs.
The Freelance Writer's Den is the stomping ground of Carol Tice of Makealivingwriting.com.
The Makealivingwriting site is pretty awesome itself. However, Carol's taken it one step further by providing those who sign up to the Den with a bunch of extra materials. If you decide to sign up (which I'd highly recommend), you'll also get access to:
- Job board
- Templates for key materials
- Discounts to events Carol runs
Look, all the above-listed job sites are a great place to find paying clients. But often, these clients aren’t looking for a one off piece. They need writers for weekly posts and regular updates.
And sure, that’s great for you. I mean it gives the potential for repeat income.
But it also means those clients are going to be more discerning in their choices. They’re going to want an experienced writer who’s got a track record of producing kick ass copy and compelling content.
So what’ a newbie writer to do? Job one is to publish a few pieces on your own site.
But you know no-one’s going to find those pieces without some hardcore promotion. Even then, the lack of an external editor and quality control process means, if we’re being honest, that they aren’t as valuable as something published on an existing blog or publication.
So that’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to get your name published in industry trusted blogs and publications. Do that, and you’ll not only have relevant back traffic to your site and articles, but you’ll also have some powerful marketing leverage when you reach you to clients in the future.
If you sign up through the below link I'll send you a list of 50+ websites and publications which will not only feature your work (if your ideas are great) but they'll also pay you for them! Win-win!
Oh yeah, and the best part is, at least in my experience, that blog and publication editors aren’t sticklers for “X years writing experience” like marketing managers. They care more about your ability and ideas making them a great place to find writing jobs for beginners!
Finding the jobs is only half the battle. You’ve then got to convince the client you’re the best writer for the job and negotiate the best deal.
These things will come with practice, but if you’re looking for a leg up over the competition check out the below.
How to Get Your Post Published
An article where I approached the editors of successful sites for comment on how to ensure that your pitch email not only gets noticed, but also gets the gig. You can check out the full article right here.
Invest in Yourself
The smart writer knows there’s always something new to learn; a new approach to try, a new strategy to employ.
If you’re serious about your freelance career you’re going to have to start investing in your own business education.
The easiest and most cost-effective way to do so, is to start reading the right kind of books.
A short while ago I challenged myself to read one book every week for a year. The challenge inevitably failed as one week wasn’t enough time for me to assimilate the information or properly implement the lessons. However, over time these lessons helped to increase my income by over 50%.
The income gains really highlighted how important continued education is for us freelancers. I’ve now scrapped the weekly deadline but continue to read, analyse and implement the lessons from well-established business, writing and freelance books. I’d recommend you do the same.
Sign Up for the Newsletter
Yeah, I know this seems a little self-serving and egotistical. But if you do decide to sign up to the HaW newsletter I can promise three things:
- You’ll be among the first to know of new articles and discoveries that could transform your freelance career
- You’ll get access to the 50+ paying publications spreadsheet
- You’ll get a free copy of the Freelance Beginner’s Business Kit containing contract, invoice and client comparison spreadsheets to help you better negotiate and scale your business.
If you don’t decide to sign up, then no harm done. We just can’t be friends ;). If it sounds like something you might be interested in, then simply click the big button below!