Freelance Writing Jobs for Beginners: Where to Start

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on February 12, 2013 in Freelance Writing Jobs
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I'm a big fan of what I like to call "query-free freelancing." That means I don't generally pursue freelance writing jobs. I do things that attract clients to me instead.

For example, I run blogs that keep me fresh in prospects' minds and I make sure my business site is well-optimized for search engines so I'm one of the first writers prospects find when they search for writers. While the query-free freelancing approach works very well for most types of freelance writing, and it can work fairly quickly if you work hard at it up front, I know it doesn't suit everyone.

That can be especially true when it comes to freelance writing jobs for absolute beginners where a writer needs work coming in immediately. So today let's explore some things you can do as a new freelance writer to line up your first few clients quickly, even before you take the time to build your writer platform.

Set up a Simple Portfolio

No matter how new you are to writing for clients, those clients will likely want to see samples of your work before hiring you. And you can set up a simple portfolio even if you have no client work under your belt yet. For example, you might write:

  • your own website copy;
  • a few posts for your own business blog;
  • a brochure to market your freelance writing services;
  • a news release to announce your new business launch;
  • a white paper or report on an industry issue that would appeal to clients;
  • a sample feature like those you might submit to magazines.

Create the kinds of writing samples you think clients will want to see, and feature some or all of them on your website. You can replace them with client samples as you accumulate some.

Tap Your Personal Network

Even if you haven't had a chance to build a wide professional network yet, you do have a personal network. Reach out to the following types of people to see if they or anyone they know might be in need of your services:

  • family members
  • friends
  • co-workers (if you still have a traditional job and your freelance work isn't a conflict of interest)
  • teachers / professors
  • neighbors
  • local business owners and managers you've gotten to know

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You might be surprised how wide your personal network really is. Even if those you know don't need to hire you right now, chances are very good that at least someone in your network will be able to give you your first referral.

Create a Client "Wish List"

What kinds of clients do you want to work for? List some of the features that would describe your perfect client -- small business vs larger corporate client, end clients vs middlemen clients like marketing firms (which can bring you several clients at once), and other things along those lines.

Then do some digging and find companies who satisfy all, or at least most, of the items in your wish list. Come up with a list of writing services each company might be interested in. You can usually get some ideas by looking at their website. For example:

  • Do they run a blog that should be updated more frequently?
  • Was their last white paper released years ago?
  • What kinds of topics does your ideal magazine or newsletter cover on a regular basis (or what's coming up in their editorial calendar)?

Once you know what you want to pitch to specific companies or publications, put together your query or pitch letter (or cold call script). Then pitch them. Sure, you'll get some "no thanks" responses. But you could also build client relationships early on with exactly the kind client you hope to work for.

By taking these kinds of proactive steps, you can land your first freelance writing gigs in no time. And you don't have to rely on things like content mills which provide low value portfolio pieces and pay very little. Similarly, you can skip jobs on most ad boards and bidding sites, which are often equally low in pay (if not worse).

Just get creative and professional about your early portfolio options, tap the network and resources you might not even realize you have, and get out there and introduce yourself to the people you'd love to work to with. It really is that easy to bypass the unnecessary "paying your dues" phase and get into the professional markets you want to be in. Don't make the mistake of thinking the only freelance writing jobs for beginners are lousy ones or the publicly advertised ones.

What other tips would you offer new freelance writers trying to quickly land their first professional writing gig? How did you land your first job with your ideal target client? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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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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7 Comments

  1. Amandah February 13, 2013 Reply

    Hi Jenn,

    I wouldn’t tell family and friends because they may try to sabotage your freelance writing dreams. They could fill your head with ‘fear based’ thoughts; your freelance writing dream will be over in less than 2.5 seconds. Only tell people who understand the entrepreneurial spirit.

    As you mentioned, it’s a good idea to think locally first, then nationally and internationally.

    I landed my first writing client by answering a career ad posted on CareerBuilder. The travel company was looking for a blogger and marketing person. In October 2007, I submitted my resume for both jobs along with a travel article I wrote about my solo trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. One of the owners contacted me, and I was tested for both positions. The owners felt I was better suited for the blogging position, I agreed and the rest is history. :)

    If you want to become a freelance writer, you will. Make sure you’re comfortable with running your own business. Some people may want to moonlight as a freelance writer to see if the career is for them.

    Good luck!
    Amandah recently posted…A Simple Plan to Avoiding Cancer of CommunicationMy Profile

    • Jennifer Mattern February 13, 2013 Reply

      Amandah, that’s a great point about family and friends. You have to know who’s going to be supportive and who isn’t. That said, you might be surprised. The only person who gave me any grief was my mother, and I know it was because she cared and just wanted me to do something where I’d be stable. It was actually odd because her own father was an entrepreneur, so you’d think she would have “gotten it.” Other family members were pretty supportive or they just didn’t think of it as being all that strange. It never hurts to ask them to spread the word. Whether they think you’ll succeed or not, most will at least want you to. :)

      Moonlighting is another good idea, especially for those who aren’t quite ready to give up a day job. Freelancing is not for everyone. Many, if not most, will fail within their first few years. That’s just the reality of the situation. It’s not one of those “anyone can do it” things. It’s hard work. And it is a business. You have to be prepared for that (or be ready to learn quickly) if you want to make a serious go of it. If dipping a toe in while you have another job is what it takes to let you see what freelancing is really like, that’s far better than trying to jump in full-time without a clue. Learn as much as you can not only about freelancing, but business and marketing in general, and you’ll be way ahead of much of the competition.

  2. Sarah Park February 15, 2013 Reply

    When I started freelance writing, I did not also get support from my partner. We both worked in a BPO company and he said I was just wasting my time after work instead of getting some rest. But I did pursue on what I want and later on I resigned from work and really did some writing. He supported me with my decision this time.
    Sarah Park recently posted…How to Choose a Roth IRAMy Profile

  3. Maruf Abdullah March 3, 2013 Reply

    There are many types of Freelancing jobs or tasks but freelance article writing is the most tremendous profession among all. I love & respect this profession very much. Because it is self-employed profession and have opportunity to share own opinions or reviews. Freelance writers are qualified, too. They can improve your website fulfilled, improve your blog pleased and write push releases, every of which can boost your business.

    At last thanks for publishing such a great post. Best of Luck!
    Maruf Abdullah recently posted…How to Fix Windows 7 Blue Screen Error?My Profile

  4. Maruf Abdullah March 19, 2013 Reply

    As a Freelancer I respect Article Writing Jobs. I am a WordPress Expert but gladly support Article Writers.

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