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3 Ways to Find Those Elusive Unadvertised Freelance Writing Jobs

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on April 28, 2009 in Freelance Writing Jobs
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Writers ask me one question more than any other: "Where can I find high paying freelance writing jobs?" My response is usually along the lines of: "Most of the best gigs aren't advertised, so you don't really 'find' them; you have to help them find you!"

We talk about writer platforms. We talk about networking. We talk about marketing and PR. But still writers want a magic pill (or magic place in this case) that will solve their problems. Today I'd like to explore those unadvertised writing jobs, and three ways you can land those high paying gigs you won't find posted on your favorite job board.

Why High Paying Freelance Writing Jobs Are Often Unadvertised

As a writer, unadvertised jobs can be frustrating. Wouldn't it be great if they were all available on your favorite job boards or job search engines? Actually, there are some serious perks to keeping them private. For example, you don't face competition from the masses if they aren't aware of the jobs. But let's look at it from the client's perspective. Why don't they post an ad? It could be for several reasons, including:

  1. They don't want a huge number of queries coming in from an ad. They would rather solicit writers through their own search to find a good match.
  2. They prefer to ask for referrals from people they trust.
  3. They have no idea where they should advertise to find the type of writer(s) they're looking for.
  4. They don't even realize yet that they need to hire a writer (or editor).

The good news? While those things may stop gigs from being advertised, they don't stand in your way of getting them!

How to Get Unadvertised Freelance Writing Jobs

There are three primary things you can do to start landing unadvertised writing jobs, no matter where you are in your writing career:

  1. Attract them. - The gigs aren't out there for you to find, so it's vital that you are easy for prospective clients to find instead! Platforms. Networking. I'll say it until I'm blue in the face. Just do it. Get to know your colleagues. Get to know people in your target market, even if they're not your client directly. Start a blog. Start a podcast. Write a report. Write an e-book. Get interviewed. Be active in niche communities. Focus on SEO. Build that visibility and reputation in your specialty area in any way(s) you see fit. Make sure that when someone is looking to fill an unadvertised writing job and they're searching for prospects, they find you! Make sure that when a client or colleague is asked to refer someone for a project in your specialty area they think of, yes, you! You don't have to do everything, but do you have to do something.
  2. Hunt for them. - You may be surprised to know how many unadvertised writing jobs are actually "advertised" after all! Visit your favorite job board, and do a search for "freelance writers." You'll often find a few gigs, but far more that seem completely irrelevant. I've already given you this tip previously, but it's worth repeating: forget about the actual ads recruiting freelance writers, and instead look at jobs for full-time editors. Why? Those ads were returned for that search string for a reason--often because within the editor's job description in that ad, the company notes the editor will be responsible for hiring and supervising freelance writers. Interestingly, many of the companies I've found this way never advertise for writers themselves. They work through recruiting firms and referrals often, so the public never finds out they hire freelance writers at all (and these are a very diverse group of client types!). They've admitted they work with freelance writers, so go ahead and contact them! A little bit of digging can turn up a lot of unexpected results.
  3. Ask for them. - Sometimes getting an unadvertised freelance writing job is as simple as asking. Magazine writers do this all the time. They query publications even if they're not directly soliciting a specific type of piece at any given time. You don't have to use a formal query process though. Just ask your existing clients if they need something done. For example, if you wrote a holiday newsletter for them previously, you might offer to do the same for another holiday down the road. If someone hires you to write blog posts for their site, you may want to pitch additional content to be used for article marketing to build their expert status and bring in more readers to that blog, all with a consistent voice from you, their blogger. Notice a site filled with grammatical errors in an industry where it's probably costing them business? Mention it (tactfully), and you may have created a job for yourself that the client didn't even realize they needed! You can also always ask existing clients for referrals (oftentimes they know plenty of other prospective clients they could refer--they just don't think about it until asked).

In the end, it's often easier to make your writing jobs than it is to wait for them. If you aren't finding high paying freelance writing jobs, change your approach. Look harder, or stop looking altogether and work on helping them find you instead. The best approach in my opinion is building your own visibility. No matter how full your schedule is, it continues to work for you day in and day out, allowing you to be far more selective in the gigs you take on.


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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.


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9 Comments

  1. Hazel April 28, 2009 Reply

    Great post, Jenn – thanks for getting me to think about this.

  2. Ed April 28, 2009 Reply

    Jen – Yes, Finding freelance writing jobs is akin to finding an iceberg: 90 percent of them are hidden. Also, it cannot be stressed enough that editors are likely to follow this path when seeking a writer: first, in-house; secondly, through talking with other editors, and lastly through a very tight band of recruiters. With the current tight budgets, editors are not going to risk a public cattle-call that will bring thousands of wannabes. It all goes back to the maxim of it’s not what you know, but who you know.

  3. Clint April 28, 2009 Reply

    It’s so funny that you mention this, because I just cold pitched to a favorite website of mine that contained a flagrant grammatical error. It’s like we’re on the same page!

  4. Jennifer Mattern April 28, 2009 Reply

    Get outta my head Clint – there’s barely enough room for one of us in here. ;)

  5. robert ryan April 28, 2009 Reply

    Great post Jenn! I love the question “Where can I find high paying freelance writing jobs?” and your answer. My response is usually along the lines of: “Most of the best gigs aren’t advertised, so you don’t really ‘find’ them; you have to help them find you!” this is absolutely true. I did a few gigs on some site that just were pocket change on GAF and ifreelance.com mostly then I took a small job on www.vois.com the job was for $100 but since then I have gotten $9,000 worth of work and it doesnt look to end anytime soon. Who would have guessed. I have even hired another person i met on their site to help me keep up with this ongoing project. So its true and can happen to you if it could happen to me.

  6. Stephen Morgan April 28, 2009 Reply

    As usual, an excellent post.

    The most bizarre place I have found work is a side-job at an office supply store. Now, obviously you’ll get kicked out if your blatantly soliciting there, but almost every customer at office supply stores work for or own a small business. Just getting to know the customers always leads to me asking more about their business, which in turn leads to them in some way talking about a writing need. When they hear about our company, their eyes light up. Some of them are astonished that these kinds of services are even available.

    Do you have experience with Toastmasters? Or does anyone else? I remember Y.O. suggesting in a Digital Point thread to use them as a resource to network with small business owners. Do you have any feedback about them?

  7. Jennifer Mattern May 12, 2009 Reply

    I’ve found that the company name is usually listed when they’re hiring editors (normally looking for full-time local staff for those positions, so it makes sense). I definitely wouldn’t respond directly to the editor ad. Instead, I would look at the company’s / publication’s website and first see if they have info about writers there (they may mention writer’s guidelines even if they don’t publicly advertise job listings). If not, I would see if there are editors listed on the site to contact them directly. If still not available, I would give the company a quick call and just ask the receptionist for the name and contact information of their editor, webmaster, or whoever is responsible for the Web site content. If they don’t know, your best bet is to try to track down someone in the marketing department (they would likely be the ones controlling Web copy, and even if they don’t handle other content, they would know who does). Hope that helps!

  8. Veronica May 12, 2009 Reply

    This has been covered here before, but I think it’s something that is hard to pound into the ground. I do have a question, though. Maybe some others have had the same thought and it’ll also help them out.

    It’s about the part suggesting to look for ads for full-time editors. Say you find an advertisement for this. Just how would you suggest approaching them in your email? Ask to be referred to their editor?

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