I am an advocate for writing — anywhere and any way you can. Not only is taking pen to paper (or tickling those laptop ivories) good for our health (it’s true!), but it is an infinitely important skill that helps the world communicate.
Whether your writing amounts to to-do lists on the back of napkins or old receipts, cathartic entries in personal journals, poems or stories you write in bursts of inspiration, or by-deadline assignments you take on in your professional career, all writing is valuable.
But if your writing is a way to pay the bills, introduce additional income, or build a portfolio, you’re joining an ever-growing population of professional wordsmiths who are using their craft to tell the world’s stories. And luckily for you, writing is an extremley flexible activity, meaning, you can do it in an office — or on your couch — making it a great freelance option.
By next year, half of the workforce will be freelance — whether that’s full-time or freelance in some capacity. Freelance writing is a great way to support your income while building a portfolio and doing what you love in an untethered, works-for-you way.
Pretty much as soon as I got married, I knew that for me, staying at home with my kids was what I wanted to do. I know that’s not right for every woman. But I did still want to keep a foot in the professional world because of how important a career and writing are to me. And after having kids, I quickly realized that I needed that outlet, not only for financial support, but for my emotional, physical, and mental well-being. Continuing to write in a freelance capacity after having my kids has helped fulfill me in additional and significant ways.
So for me, transitioning from an office job after college to my own at-home freelance writing biz was ideal for my situation. It was a natural way to keep doing what I loved, both in the professional world and as a parent. I’ve been able to take on more jobs or scale back as my situation demands. But it did — and does still continue — to take work. It requires time, dedication, and discipline. It demands that I keep my finger on the pulse of popular media content and trends, continually work to improve my craft, and personally manage a complex and unique network of clients, deadlines, and responsibilities. But it works for me.
Now, let me be clear. I’m in no way an expert. But I have been in the freelance writing biz for a number of years and have picked up a few helpful here-and-there tips. I want to help other writers expand their freelance experience, build well-rounded portfolios, and feel the joy of having their writing published. So if you’re looking for more ways to get your voice out there with high-quality writing jobs, I’ve created this handy (and hopefully helpful) little guide. Here are eight ways that I’ve successfully scored more freelance writing jobs. And while these are actual ways I’ve gotten clients and writing jobs, know that you need to find which strategies work best for you. Hopefully, these tips will springboard you into a prolific and rewarding freelance writing biz.
- Make a Pitch. In freelance writing, you have to do a lot of your own marketing and job-hunting legwork. Sure, it’s hard, but it it also part of what makes freelance writing so great. Seeking out your own clients and stories means that you can decide what publications you’d like to write for and the kinds of stories you’d like to write.
So take stock of your interests. What field or niche interests you? What are your specific writing strengths? What industry might your voice best suit? Do you have particular training, expertise, or experience that could benefit a particular field or media source? Or, if you have a great idea, what media outlet or publication might it work best for?
- I think through these questions often as I seek to expand my repertoire and create a writing career that’s fulfilling for me. I’ve gotten writing jobs both by first seeking out a publication I want to write for (usually the ones I gush over on social media) and asking about available writing opportunites, but also by approaching a relevant media outlet with an idea I already have formed. In both instances, I do my research beforehand. It’s important to be clear on the type and nature of stories that that particular publication wants and the requirements they have for submissions. (Don’t take yourself out of the running for publishing by unprofessionally disregarding their rules!) Read a bunch of the company’s published material and get a feel for the voice, tone, and length of articles. Also, make sure your topic hasn’t already been covered by the media outlet you’re pitching to.
(And remember the previous questions we explored? You can reference the answers to these questions in your pitch! Find the needs or gaps in the publication, outlet, or business you’re pitching to, and propose how you’ll fill them with your writing. Your skills are valuable — remember that!)
One of my favorite stories I’ve written grew out of an idea I just happened upon while browsing Kickstarter (I know, random). I found a subject I wanted to write about, contacted the individuals, did an interview, wrote a story, then pitched the finished story to a magazine I thought had similar content. It was a lot of work, (and risky!) but it paid off. That publication not only published the story, but they also picked me up as a hired freelancer. Through the effort and quality work I demonstrated, they continued to let me run with story ideas — assignments that they gave me, as well as the freedom to pursue ideas that interested me.
Another publication I’ve written for published my work after I contacted them about potential writing opportunities. I had to follow up more than once, but because I knew I had experience related to the type of content they published, I felt confident enough in my abilities to request writing opportunities. I then pitched them a few ideas, and we settled on one together.
So, long story short, keep brainstorming and keep reading. Keep a notebook and jot down possible story ideas or paste in examples of writing you like. (I am constantly brewing with story ideas. To my utter exhaustion, my story ideas typically come when I’m trying to go to sleep at night, so I have to keep a pad by my bed to put my mind to rest.) Make a list of publications you’d like to write for, and what unique writing skills and experience you have. Then start reaching out! Do your research and prep work, obviously, but don’t be afraid to contact media outlets about ideas you think are viable and intersting, or to ask for writing opportunities. I’ve found that more often than not, people appreciate good writing and ideas and are willing to work with you. Taking initiative by reaching out for opportunities can largely deepen your pool of clients and expand your portfolio, (and give you some one-in-a-lifetime experiences) so don’t be shy; go ahead and shoot your shot!
- Stay Connected. Social media is a great venue for funny memes, pop culture trends, and vacation pics. That’s true. But, it’s also a great networking and job-hunting tool. Join alumni groups from your alma mater on Facebook and stay connected with the social pages from schools, organizations, and groups you’ve been apart of. Often, the alumni page from my college journalism program is flooded with requests for writers — and I’ve secured some really great freelance assignments this way. Just make sure to request details from any job you apply for — you’ll want assurance that it fits well with your personal business model, aligning well with your schedule, pricing, and skills.
- Link In. It can be intimidating to brand yourself as a business and seek out your own clients. Loosen up — freelancing doesn’t have to be an official, suit-and-tie job hunt. At least where typical employment-seeking anxiety is concerned. Market yourself — and your writing chops — from the comfort of your couch. Read: online. As we mentioned, social media is a great tool for finding more freelance writing jobs. And when it comes to networking, you can’t neglect the professional powerhouse of social platforms: LinkedIn. A quality LinkedIn profile, updated regularly and outfitted with relevant details and examples of published writing can attract clients who need writers like you. I’ve been contacted on LinkedIn by companies in need of freelance writers, and after initial correspondence and live video interviews, been hired on for freelance writing services. Upload a high-quality headshot as a a part of your profile, and link to written work you’ve published. Be detailed about previous work experience and essential skills.
- Start Where You Are. You don’t have to drop everything and immediately venture into an exclusively-freelance writing career. You can start small and begin where you are. For now, take advantage of current internships or jobs you have currently or have already completed. Seek opportunities to create content for organizations or companies you already have connections to. All businesses and organizations need good writing — whether that’s on a website, company materials, email newsletters, site copy, or blog content — and likely, they’ll trust those responsibilities to someone they already know and trust. Once I proved my writing skills at a magazine internship I had, my editor hired me on as a freelancer, even when my internship ended and I moved out of state. At another job I had while in college, I worked hard in my writing responsibilities and formed a good relationship with my boss — when I graduated, she created a unique writing position for me the next year at the office, and allowed me to follow her to her new job as a freelance writer when she left. I have continued to work with her, four years after that first student writing job. Don’t worry about building this huge portfolio and client list right away. Just take a look around at the connections you’ve built, where you are, where you’ve been, and brainstorm how writing opportunities might already exist in those spaces.
- Follow, Double-Tap, and Like. Yep, I’m giving you a guilt-free excuse to scroll through your IG feed, troll FB, and log in to Twitter. (In moderation, of course.) To find new and exciting freelance writing opportunities, start to follow the social media accounts of publications, news organizations, and companies that you like. Get intimately acquainted with the type of content they produce and the voice, style, and tone they employ. What content do they lack? What content could benefit their publication? How could your voice and experience enrich their business? Be on the lookout for submission calls or content requests from these accounts. Or, better yet, be brave and DM them to ask! (Hint: small businesses, startups, and content-heavy sites are especially open to these requests — they need good writers!)
- Build Your Portfolio. When hunting down new freelance writing jobs, you need a polished collection of work to show potential clients that says, “Hey, I’ve got the chops. Look what I’ve written! Hire me!” Collect and link to your published writing in one place so that your work can be found and shared with potential clients. Be ready to supply writing samples to interested parties. I heartily advocate for having your own well-built website with a portfolio section, contact info, and a content-rich blog. But even if your portfolio simply consists of blog posts, a guest post on a friend’s blog, mock copy you’ve written to refresh a business’ webpage, or polished thoughts you’ve shared on your social media page, it’s an important start. Keep looking for ways to expand your work and build a portfolio of published work. The more well-rounded and stocked your portfolio is, the more likely people will trust you with their writing needs. As I’ve added published articles to my portfolio, it’s greatly helped me to secure more writing jobs. You are your brand — and your business — so continue honing your craft and ABW — Always Be Writing — in whatever way you can.
- Ask for Referrals. Funnily enough, your current and past writing jobs can be great resources for finding potential new gigs. After you have produced great work for a client, reach out and ask if they know of anyone else (or any other business) that might be in need of writing services. Likely, companies and businesses have connections that you don’t! If the answer is no, that’s okay. Thank them anyway and ask if the client can write a review of your work and writing services for you. You can utilize that review on your website or social media page to attract potential clients and create trust.
- Find a Mentor. This is true with any career, but finding a mentor to help and guide you in your professional pursuits is extremely beneficial. I’d even say critical. Mentors can teach you, train you, correct you, and at the very least, be in your corner to keep encouraging you when the going gets rough — as it can do in the freelancing world. It can sometimes be difficult to identify a mentor when you work with an ever-evolving and changing range of clients, but try and reach out to someone experienced in your field that knows you and can offer valuable advice and help unique to your situation. I found a mentor in a boss I had years ago. At a very early and critical point in my writing career, she taught me, encouraged me, and helped me make my work the best it could be — even when that meant patiently and tirelessly working with me through 15+ drafts of the same article. She is still someone I look up to and someone who advocates for me and my work, has been essential in helping me develop my skills, and been a key resource in getting me rewarding and meaningful freelance writing jobs. I know she believes in me, and that has made all the difference as I’ve worked to build a freelance writing career. Thank you, M!
Got questions about freelance writing or what services I offer? Let me help. Visit my Contact page or email hello [at] kaseebailey.com to chat.