Finding Your Start As a Freelance Writer

Writing has always been something that has come naturally to me. I have been a grammar snob for as long as I can remember, and I rarely found myself losing points on school papers outside of bibliographies and in-text citations. I was also a bit of a keyboard warrior in my adolescent years to my own chagrin, but even that helped me improve my writing.

Weirdly enough, despite my proclivity for the written word, I never really saw myself as a professional freelance writer. The only time I had been paid to write was when my sister needed a decent grade on her college essay when I was 16 years old. It was not until I was a junior in college that somebody put in a good word for me at a local company that happened to be looking for writers.

In the few years since I have been progressively learning more and more about the life of a freelance writer, and while sometimes stressful, it can be uniquely rewarding. It is certainly not for everyone, but if you have a passion for writing and like thinking outside the box, it could be a perfect fit.

While most will not be lucky enough to have their first writing gig drop into their lap, there are many simple ways to get out there and start making money with your writing even with no professional experience whatsoever. But where do you even start?

Where Can I Find Work as a Beginner Freelance Writer?

There are virtually countless outlets and websites where you can start your search for freelance writing jobs. Sounds great, right? Well, yes, having many options is great, but if you do not know how to narrow down your search, it can feel a bit overwhelming. Not every type of work is ideal for everyone, and the only real way to know what works is the tried and true process of trial and error.

To give you a bit of a head start, let’s run through some common resources for a freelance writer.

Content Mills

Woman at desk working on laptopAlthough not a flattering title, content mills are a common resource for freelance writers in need of work. These sites allow clients to post jobs to the content mill, so potential freelancers can look over the assignment and decide whether it is worth their time. Content mills are usually filled to the brim with potential work, so it is a great place to start learning to develop your professional writing skills.

Unfortunately, the payment offered by content mill sites is typically inconsistent and lower than the averages the sites advertise. Some sites will claim freelancers will average 8 cents per word, but it is more often the case that they will get paid anywhere from 1 cent to 4 cents per word.

Do not let this discourage you, though. Your writing is likely worth more than 1 cent per word, but you also can’t expect to make $500 on a 1000 word project out of the gate. Sites like Textbroker and Writers Access will still have work that is worth your time even if you are a beginner, so it does not hurt to give them a shot and practice for when you start getting those higher-paying jobs.

Freelance Marketplaces

If I were to recommend anything for a beginner freelance writer, it would be researching freelance marketplaces. These sites have extensive lists of jobs that are perfect for writers of any skill level. They also allow you to develop other valuable skills like pitching ideas and how you market yourself.

Sites like Upwork and Freelancer work similarly to content mills, allowing writers to search through assignments posted by various clients. The central difference is that the writer not only gets to set their rate, but they also have to make a valid proposal for how they would execute the project.

Although this can seem intimidating at first, it is a lot simpler than it seems. You just need to set up your profile to emphasize what advantages you bring to the table. Most people start their bios and pitches describing themselves, but in all honesty, clients really do not want to hear your backstory. They want to know if you are capable of doing the work and are worth the money.

Think of it as if you are pitching a movie to a Hollywood studio. Of course, you would tell the executives your name, but you would not continue to tell them where you grew up or where you went to school. You would immediately begin pitching your idea, and the same goes for convincing clients to choose you as a writer. Once you get a feel for pitching yourself and your ideas, you will become a job-landing machine, and you will start to see the money flow in.

However, marketing yourself does not have to stop there.

Leaving the Content Mill: The Art of Self Promotion

There are numerous blogs, boards, and lesser-known websites where you can find clients. The only difference is that they are not official marketplaces, and you have to do a bit more of the legwork to attract clients. If you have put some time into freelance marketplaces and want to expand, it may be time to build your portfolio.

The best way to create an accessible and attractive portfolio for customers is to build your own website. This will allow clients to view the content you have created without needing to sift through several emails. Thankfully, sites like Squarespace and WordPress make building a website easy for anyone, offering countless options for designs and themes to make yourself stand out from the rest.

Once you have a solid portfolio, you can start searching for jobs on sites like Problogger, Indeed, and even Craigslist, but you will still need to put in a significant amount of effort to bring in clients. You will need to utilize all your available tools to land new clients and jobs. Social media is particularly useful for attracting new clients, and if you already have a knack for creating eye-catching posts, you will have a leg up on the competition.

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in freelance. You will go through an endless cycle where you sometimes have too much work and other times none at all. Even if most of your work comes from self-promotion, maintaining access to content mills or freelance marketplaces is good practice for when you hit a dry spell. You are never going to have the same guaranteed work hours of a 9 to 5 job, so keeping multiple channels open is necessary for ensuring a consistent stream of income.

But don’t just take my word for it. You will not know what freelance writing is like until you start doing it! Go ahead and check out some of the resources linked on this page or search for yourself. You should not have any issue finding some other articles and sites to help you get started. Now you can begin your journey as a freelance writer!

By Published On: May 7, 2021Categories: Career Growth

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