Do you struggle to find work? Do you wonder why other freelance writers always seem busy and you do not? Are you going about finding work the right way?
If you’re struggling to find work, you’re not alone. For many freelance writers, finding work is one of the biggest problems they face. In this post I’ll explore eight methods that freelance writers use to look for work. I’ll share my thoughts about how effective each method is.
This post is part of my series, What Is the Worst Problem Freelance Writers Face? Join us as we explore the other common freelance writing problems over the next few months.
Disclaimer: This post is based on my own thoughts and opinions. Your experiences and opinions may differ. The post also includes a link to an eBook I co-wrote with Carol Tice. If you buy the book I earn a small fee.
Method 1: Job Ads
Advertisements are the first place that most people look for work. Both online and print publications publish job listings.
The good news is that if a company advertises that they need a freelance writer, there is often an actual job opening. Be careful, though. Once in a while scammers post advertisements to collect personal information. Be cautious about jobs that list an unknown employer.
The bad news is that job ads receive a high number of applicants. The easier the job ad is to find, the more likely it is that other writers found it too. Competition can be fierce. You could be competing with hundreds of other writers for the same job.
Job ads in small or specialized publications, such as a trade journals may be your best bet. Not as many writers will look here. If you have specialized skills, applying to an ad in a trade journal may help you find a writing position that’s a better fit for you.
Method 2: Bidding Sites
What is a bidding site, you may wonder? A bidding site is set up so that potential clients can post the work to be done. Freelancers are then invited to submit proposals (“bids”) on the work.
The good news about bidding sites is that the payment is often collected in advance and held by the site until the project is delivered. This saves you from the worries of collecting payment, but the client must accept your work before you can be paid.
Remember that bidding sites are set up to benefit the company hiring the freelance writer. It enables them to get a job done for less money. This may result in writers working well below a living wage. Plus, the bids can take a long time to put together and there is no guarantee that you will be awarded the work. Also, the bidding site may charge a percentage of your fee.
I tend to avoid bidding sites since I can’t afford to be the lowest bidder. Some writers have reported success with them though.
If you do decide to apply for work on a bidding site, emphasize your high quality rather than how low your prices can go.
Method 3. Profile Sites
What is a profile site and how does it differ from a bidding site? I’ve written about profile sites before in my post Help Clients Find You with Writer Profile Sites (Revisited).
A profile site allows you to create a professional profile that potential clients can view. The emphasis with a profile site is on the freelance writer. That makes it easy to highlight your unique abilities. LinkedIn is an example of a profile site.
The difference between a profile site and a bidding site is that a profile site lists professionals for a client to choose between. A bidding site lists projects for a freelancer to bid upon.
I like profile sites. I regularly receive some inquiries from my LinkedIn profile. I’ve received a few nibbles from other profile sites as well.
The good news for writers is that it usually takes less than an hour to set up a profile site. Once you’ve set it up you may need to revisit it to keep it up to date, but it’s fairly low maintenance.
The bad news is that you will be just one profile among many. Clients may, or may not, find you. The stronger your profile, the more likely it is that you will be selected for work. Some profile sites hold the client’s fee until the work is complete and charge a percentage of job. Others are a listing of professionals for clients to sort through.
Method 4. Agencies
An agency functions as a middle man between you and the end client. They hire freelance professionals when their in-house staff cannot complete their work.
Agencies can be a great way for a freelance writer to get work. If you’re selected by one, they are likely to use you over and over. Most agencies have worked with writers before and know the information you need to get the job done. Also, they will handle interacting with the client including invoicing and collections.
A drawback to working with an agency is that you often don’t deal with the end client directly. Instead, you must rely on your contact at the agency to find answers to questions. Sometimes the jobs may come with a shorter time frame since they pass through the agency first. For example, if a client wants an article in a week the agency may take several days to process it. That leaves the writer less time to work on the project.
Pay from an agency is another important consideration. Remember that the agency must make a profit on each project. Usually, the pay rate from an agency is what a low to mid-range writer could earn on their own. It’s a living wage, but not at the top of the rate scale.
Freelancing for an agency can be a great way to start your freelance writing career. It’s also an option if you don’t want to market your writing business much. I’ve worked for agencies from time to time as have many other writers I know.
Method 5. Networking
Who you know can help you find work.
Some of my best job leads come from networking. With networking, you learn about jobs from the employer or someone who knows the employer. The jobs are often a better fit for your abilities and your contact may recommend you to the employer.
While networking can be a good source of job leads for freelance writers, it’s a long-term solution. That’s because it’s based on relationships and relationships take time to build. If you need a job quickly, you are better off relying on one of the other methods of job hunting.
I can’t talk about networking without mentioning that it’s often done wrong. Here are some of the biggest mistakes I see:
- Making a single connection with someone. For example, you friend them on social media or leave a comment on a blog post. Then you immediately ask them for work. A single connection is not enough to expect someone to recommend you for work. It can take years to build a strong relationship and the relationship should be about more than just you needing work.
- Asking your competitors for work. I see this a lot. Instead of querying publications who do hire writers, a freelance writer emails other writers and begs them to hire him or her. While sometimes writers do hire other writers, it’s rare and usually reserved for someone the writer knows well. (See point 1.)
- Being rude when asking the wrong people for work. It always amazes me how rude people can get when asking a stranger to hire them. I realize that the people doing this are feeling desperate, but rudeness never pays off.
- Asking a near stranger to do work for you for free. This is often done in the guise of asking for advice. For example, a freelance writer contacts another writer and asks them to review their website, look at their resume, or even provide guest posts or coaching services…all without pay. If you want your contacts to respect you, respect their time. If what you’re asking for takes more than a few minutes, pay for it.
- Being one-sided. Networking should always be a two-way street. If you want others to help you in your job search, be prepared to help them. This is part of basic relationship building, but it applies to networking too.
Networking can be quite rewarding in and of itself, even if it doesn’t lead to work. I enjoy the relationships I’ve developed with other writers through networking. I think you will too.
Method 6. Referrals
Like networking leads, referral leads come from people who know you. In this case, it’s your past clients providing the leads.
Leads that come from referrals tend to be high quality. Companies like it when someone they know and trust recommends a service provider.
How do you get referrals? Two ways:
- Provide top-notch service. Your existing clients won’t recommend you to others unless you’ve done an exceptional job for them. Look for ways to make your work more valuable to the client.
- Ask for them. Even if you do a good job, your client might not think of referring you to others who can use your business on their own. If you’re on good terms with a client, ask them if they know anyone else who needs a writer.
Method 7. Your Writer Platform
Having an online presence is an important way to generate leads. This is done through a website or blog.
Whatever you choose as your online presence, it’s important that it be high quality. Remember that it represents your writing business. Also, if your writer platform is a blog, remember to update it often.
The domain name of your online presence should be easy to remember. It’s also helpful if it’s related to writing or to your business name. Some writers use their personal name as a domain name, but if you have a common name that might not work.
Here are typical mistakes that writers make with their online writer platforms:
- Expecting that it will generate leads on its own. Having a writer platform can be helpful. It can spotlight your work and provide a place for you to describe your services. Putting a site up doesn’t mean it will draw clients to your writing business. Share the site through social media and with past and current clients.
- Allowing it to grow dated. Many writers start a website or blog for their business, but then forget about it. They don’t update it. They don’t add new content. They don’t fix broken links. And they don’t respond to comments on existing content. If you use an online platform as part of your marketing strategy, set aside time each month to keep it up to date.
- Using a cheap or unprofessional theme. Another common writing mistake is to use an unprofessional theme. If you need help designing your writing website, there are plenty of high quality themes available. If you need to, enlist the help of a web design professional. Oh, and don’t forget. Your site should be mobile-friendly too.
Method 8. Cold Calls
Calling businesses directly to inquire about work is a bold move. It can pay off if done properly. Or, it can be a gigantic waste of time.
Here are three steps to take to make your cold calling more effective:
- Do your homework. Learn a little about each company before you call. Don’t just randomly call all the companies from the phone directory. Make sure this is a company that could use your services before you call.
- Learn the name of the manager in the department most likely to use your services. This information is sometimes on LinkedIn or the company website. Ask for the manager by name.
- Have a packet of information about your services available to send out to those who ask. Make sure it is professionally presented. Follow through in a few weeks to ensure that your contact received the information.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to find freelance writing work. In fact, finding writing work will take a significant amount of your time as a freelance writer.
The best strategy is to use a combination of the methods listed above to attract clients.
If you’re just starting out as a freelance writer, you may want to invest in the eBook I co-wrote with Carol Tice, The Step-by-Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success.
What are your experiences in looking for freelance writing work? What works best for you?