When you’re itching to make your first money as a freelance writer and dying to know how to get writing jobs, it can be tempting to dash out and start applying for every job you can get your hands on, and you’ll probably have some success doing that if you apply for enough of them. But you’ll do far better if you do some planning, preparation and thinking about what you want beforehand.
What to consider
Everyone is different and we all have our favourite topics that we like writing about. Before you start applying for jobs, think about what you prefer to write. The whole idea of working for yourself is that you can be the one to pick and choose, without having a boss deciding for you. Why spend your time writing finance blogs, for example, if it bores you to death?
What type of clients do you want to work with? Corporate giants, small businesses, start-ups, digital agencies?
Whatever your preference, narrowing down your favourite writing types, clients and topics allows you to target your marketing and find jobs that are much closer to what you want.
Put your best foot forward
Next, you need to take a look at your author website, your portfolio, and your presence on social media.
Try to look at your web presence with an outside perspective:
• If you were your potential client, would you be impressed by your website?
• Does your site attract the kind of clients you’re looking for?
• Is your site SEO optimised to rank in the search engines for your keywords?
• Is your blog up to date, well-written and consistent?
• Do you post great content regularly on social media?
• Is your portfolio professionally presented, up to date and reflective of you as a writer?
While you don’t have to have everything perfect, and you can and should market to clients with what you have right now, these are some of the things to work on and constantly improve over time to attract more targeted and higher paying clients.
What’s your bottom line?
You can find writing jobs that go up to thousands of pounds for one project. But you can also find jobs that pay less than one pence a word. You might find that your success comes down to two things: experience and confidence. While it pays to have a portfolio behind you to show a client what you’re capable of, being able to sell yourself confidently can go a long way to securing you higher paid jobs, even if you have less experience.
If you know your worth, don’t just settle for any old job at any price. Look for jobs that pay the rate you want and which align with your skills, knowledge and interests and aim for those. Having a specialist background in one subject or niche industry can actually help command better fees.
Remember, you need to eat and pay bills, and you deserve to earn enough to actually have a life too. Sometimes it can be a balancing act, and as a writer you’ll notice that there can be times when you have jobs piling up and others when the inbox is dry.
However, when you stand back and look at it from time to time, your copywriting career should be showing real progression; if you spend too much energy searching for lots of low-paid jobs, you’ll never make it big. So regularly review your salary goals and take steps to achieve them.
How to tell if clients can pay what you want before you pitch
On job boards and when writing for publications, you’ll quite often find that the projects advertised are fixed rate – either so much per project or so much per word, so it’s much easier to see if they pay the rate you’d like.
If you write for businesses, however, you need to have some idea that they have the budget to hire you before you spend hours crafting the perfect, targeted Letter of Introduction (LOI).
How do you know? Check out their annual revenue. If it’s in the millions, chances are they can afford to hire you. Where will you find that information? If they are a limited company, which with that sort of turnover they probably are, then you can search on Companies House, or try Company Check, which has a free version and paid plans starting at only £50 per year. Company Check will also tell you if they’ve had any CCJs and what their risk score is, so you have more of an idea if you’re going to get paid.
Look at their website, read their blog and see what sort of company they are. If it’s obvious they have a similar approach and tone to you, there’s a good possibility you’ll click and enjoy the working relationship.
Also, check how long your prospective company has been in business. If they’ve been around a while, there’s a great chance they understand the value of marketing and good writing and are likely to have opportunities for you.
Where to find jobs
1. Freelance job boards and marketplaces
There are plenty of freelance job boards and marketplaces out there, and here are some of the best:
When you apply for jobs on any of these sites, make sure you read the job listing carefully, and follow the instructions for how to apply.
You’d be amazed how many people don’t do this basic step, and you’ll put yourself ahead of the pack if you do!
While approaching businesses direct will likely get you higher rates as there’s no middle man, there are plenty of agencies that are likely to either work with freelancers or hire them to produce copy for their clients.
Try digital marketing agencies, website development companies, graphic designers, and printing companies.
The advantage of approaching agencies is that they already have the clients, and you don’t have to go and find them yourself.
Try networking with them on social media, commenting on their blog, and building up a relationship with them first, then you’re not sending a cold pitch, you’re sending a warm pitch from someone that they are familiar with.
You can use the same approach as with agencies by networking so you can send a warm pitch, or pick up the phone and have a chat if you’re comfortable doing that. The worst you’ll get is a ‘no thank you’, and you might find you get a great response.
A lot of companies are so busy that they don’t have time to advertise for a freelance writer, so if you pop up with your well-crafted writer’s website and your excellent experience in their field, you could be just what they were looking for.
Did you know LinkedIn has a jobs section? You don’t have to spend hours poring over it either. Just sign up for alerts for the type of jobs you are looking for, and they will email them to you.
And while you’re on there, why not do some networking from the comfort of your own home, and see who you can meet? You never know where it might lead
Main image credit: In 30 minutes guides