Have you been thinking about becoming a full-time freelance writer or do you want to write as a side gig? This is an update on my progress toward becoming a full-time freelance writer and blogger.
This article gives you tips on:
- How to find well-paying freelance writing gigs
- Where to post your work if you don’t have a writer’s website or blog yet
- Portfolio sites where you can display your writing
Courses I used to start my transition to a freelance career
- The workflow of freelancing
- Getting paid for your work
- My means goals and end goals – Why I am doing all of this anyway
I started pitching to job boards recently and found a couple of steady weekly writing gigs and a few one-off writing gigs. The most recent gig was from a content marketing company in Tel Aviv. I am happy to say they paid promptly through PayPal for a sample article for a client.
Did I feel ready to start pitching for jobs on job boards?
Hell to the no! I didn’t really feel like I knew what I was doing. Where my blog posts and the interviews I had done with local holistic health providers good enough? Would I be able to keep deadlines and deliver high-quality work?
There was only one way to find out.
I have been blogging on my own wellness blog, Mind-Body Clarity for a little over a year. Then I started this creative freelancing blog, Mindful Joyful, to write about freelancing, side gigs, and marketing creativity. So I have some experience writing.
I just decided to dive in… after procrastinating for over a year, that is.
I was able to whip together a writing portfolio site from those samples and some writing I had posted to medium and voila! I am now a professional freelance writer specializing in wellness though at this point, I am pitching for anything remotely doable.
How to gather samples of your writing for freelance gigs
It’s excellent if you have a blog or a writer’s freelancing portfolio site when you start freelancing. But you don’t even need your own site to get started. I want to encourage you to get out there and start pitching, once you have five or six strong writing samples. Just post them to Medium or one of the other free platforms where writers can self-publish, and voila! You now have a professional-looking portfolio of published posts.
Places to post your samples if you don’t have a site yet
- Medium, free! or $5 per month to access premium content, possible to make money
- Elephant Journal, free! or $3 per month to access premium content, possible to make money
- BuzzFeed, free!
- HubPages, free
- Write.as, free for the first 25 posts
- svbtle.com, $6 dollars per month with a one-week free trial
- www.soup.io, free!
- steemit.com, free! possible to make money with your writing too
- Nutmegaspirin short health posts
Take a look at the free platforms and see if one or more of them really speaks to you or fits your writing style best.
The reason to start before you’re ready is that you will get a feel for what topics and niches are in high demand. Once I started looking at the job boards every day, I had a much better idea of what types of articles to write.
You might even get a gig right away. Then you will find out what you really enjoy doing and what you hate writing about.
That was what happened to me the first week I started applying for writing gigs using legitimate job boards. (Don’t settle for content mills like Upwork, because they will only wear you down.) I wrote pitches for 4 or 5 companies per day for a week. Some of them required a 100 or 200-word essay with the application. Some of them required a resume. I had experienced as a blogger so labeled myself as “freelance writer” at Mind-Body Copy as my current job, and that seemed to work.
The following week I was surprised to get my first reply. I wrote product reviews for the same company for a couple of months and then got two more paying gigs. It felt great to start making enough money freelancing to cut back my hours at my day job.
Changing focus from affiliate blogging to freelance writing
After a year of working on my own wellness blog, I decided to turn my focus to getting started with freelance writing.
After only one week of pitching, I picked up an ongoing gig doing product reviews for a company that has two large, successful niche affiliate blogs.
The pay is around $240-to 300 per article depending upon the length, not all that impressive, but not bad for my first freelance writing gig.
It was surprisingly easy to get my first well-paying freelance writing gig!
It wasn’t hard to get a steady decent-paying freelance writing gig because I had a fair number of decent samples and I spent time crafting each pitch making them short and to the point.
I didn’t have any guest posts or samples of paid writing with bylines yet, but the samples I had from my own blog and Medium were enough to get hired. I found the first freelance job on the Pro Blogger job board recommended by Elna Cain and Jordan Roper, and it was only my first week of pitching.
Best job boards for finding legitimate freelance writing jobs
These job boards list direct requests from companies of all different sizes. they are looking for content writers for blog posts, articles, and other web content and some other projects too. These are not content-mills like Upwork, where most of the employers are looking for bargain-basement prices. On legitimate job boards, many of the companies listed have large budgets for content marketing.
These days established companies value your writing skill. because they know advertising doesn’t work as well as fresh informative content. You still have to weed through the low-ball offers but it is much better than Upwork.
- All Freelance Writing
- Media Bistro
- Freelance Writing Jobs (Canadian but they accept American writers)
- Freelance Writing Gigs
- Freelance Writing
- Indeed sometimes has legitimate freelance writing gigs but mostly just full-time jobs
Online portfolio sites
Even if you don’t have your own portfolio site you still need a place to post live links to your published work. Eventually, you will want your own site. But you might want to test the waters first and figure out your writing niche, so you have a better idea of how you want your own website to look.
If you want to become a freelance writer or designer or offer any kind of freelance service, you will need to show off your skills somehow. You can easily build your own site by using hosted WordPress, Wix, Squarespace or hosted Weebly. or you can use one of the many free portfolio websites that have beautiful, logical layouts for posting links to your writing with an image.
- LinkedIn Pro: I pay for the pro version because of the linked in learning course library is extensive and it is a great place to network with other freelancers. Another reason I get the pro version is that I plan to start cold emailing companies soon using LinkedIn.
- NDash sometimes has good leads depending on your niche
- Clear Voice: a nice place to organize your work
- CloudPeeps I have not heard a peep out of CloudPeeps since I put up my links last month.
Trustworthy courses on freelance writing and starting an online business
- Elna Cain Profitable Creative: she has lots of actionable practical advice on freelancing on her site. I highly recommend her blog and courses.
- B-school and the Copy Cure: Marie Forleo is such an inspiration. Her site and courses are crammed full of paradigm-shifting ideas to shake you out of your comfort zone and get you moving. Tons of free information and video and ideas.
- Jordan Roper: I have her “Fuck Yeah Freelance Blog Writing Course”. Jordan Roper is a favorite of mine. Roper has a potty mouth and tons of practical information on how to escape your job and become financially freer through freelancing.
- Jon Morrow has been in the game for a long time and knows what he’s doing. I have taken his guest blogging course and also find his free information to be life-saving to new writers and bloggers.
- Ed Gandia is an excellent resource for B2B writers and copywriters. Check out his podcast and blog posts.
I’m nibbling away at these courses bit by bit using what I can as I go along, diving back in and going deeper as I find the time. There is no law that you have to complete a course from start to finish the first week you get it.
Courses can be expensive but I see courses as an investment that save you time in the long run. It is often said that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Since I don’t have access to lots of successful people, millionaires, and geniuses, I try to soak myself in the closest thing I can get right now, the books, and online course versions of those people and the Facebook groups that go with them.
Say NO to content mills
I know some people, in specific niches, have found great clients and learned a lot about how to freelance using the content mill. But I have not even put up profiles on those sites. I have heard many more negative things than positive things about Upwork and the many sites like it. Most people describe a race to the bottom just to compete for clients on those sites where people are willing to work for under $100 per job.
Instead, I focus on sending out a few pitches every week from legitimate job board listings for freelance writers. I have gotten lots of rejections, but I was expecting to pitch every day for months, tweaking my sample articles as I went along, before seeing any results.
At first, I was only applying for work in my narrow niche of holistic health and plant-based nutrition. But I took Elna Cain’s advice and started applying for anything and everything that looked even remotely feasible, just to start making some money and getting experience writing professionally.
How to apply to job board listings and land your first freelance gig
- Write 4 or 5 great samples and post them on Medium or your platform of choice, so you have clickable links.
- Apply to every entry-level job or topic that seems remotely doable.
- Follow the applications directions exactly
- Check for responses often and be on the spot when a reply comes in
- When you get a gig, be a self-starter and get the job finished on time or early.
For the first company that hired me, I worked as a ghostwriter. I followed the directions exactly the way they said to in the job listing, putting exactly the wording they wanted to see in the subject line of the email with exactly the number of words they wanted to see in the body of the email and the exact number of links to published articles on topics that were relevant.
I submitted the links along with a resume link and moved on to pitch to other companies listed on the job boards.
The company that hired me got back to me within a few days and were surprisingly friendly. They said they were “impressed with my qualifications” and asked me to do a trial assignment at the rate of 12 cents per word for an 800-word article with a one-week deadline. I knew this was moderately low pay but I was so excited about the possibility of making a good impression that I spent a lot of time on the article.
It took the editor three weeks to get back to me with my next assignment because they were testing out 80 other writers! Wow! They admitted they had been really overextended. I was so excited that I had made the cut. I had thought for sure I had not gotten the gig.
The workflow of freelance writing gigs
Every client does things differently, but the one thing they all seem to have in common is that they are busy and need self-starters who don’t badger them with endless questions. Be quick to learn the system, follow directions and make corrections quickly when prompted.
Often, you will never talk to the client by phone. This is especially true if you are working with a large, well-established company that has systems in place for working with freelance writers and designers. Email is getting to be the norm for corresponding with freelancers.
At most you may need to conduct an initial phone consultation to get an idea of what is needed for your client. If it is a small company or a single owner who has not set up a system, you may need to do a little hand-holding to get them into a workflow.
For my new gig, everything was done by email at first and then switched over to the Airtable platform to keep track of my assignments. I never even spoke with anyone on the phone. I was introduced to editors of the second large blog and took assignments for both blogs on Airtable.
I’m not sure how many writers they’ve kept on as regular contributors, but I was thrilled to be one of them. Since then they have given me one or two assignments per week and usually pay within a day or two of my submissions even before I have gone through the final editing process.
Don’t be a needy freelancer
When you freelance you must learn to be a self-starter. I try to respond to messages promptly and don’t bug the editors with questions I can answer for myself. They have a writer’s guide with a lot of FAO’s so I turn to that first. They were doing a major overhaul of one of the sites for the first few weeks I was writing for them, so I didn’t want to add to the workload by being needy.
On the other hand, if it is important for the article you are writing don’t be afraid to ask questions you cannot answer yourself.
Getting paid for Freelance writing assignments
A lot of times you are expected to invoice the client and they will pay within a few days. Or they may have a purchase order you need to fill out and they only pay once every 30 days.
With some freelance clients for writing, illustration and design, I have used QuickBooks Self-Employed to invoices and have received payments through, PayPal, Venmo and Stripe. This job requested that I invoice them through PayPal at first, but they have streamlined the process so that they produce the invoice and pay me through PayPal once I submit the first draft of the article.
Learning about affiliate marketing by writing for a successful blog
It’s important to just get going with pitching for writing jobs even if you don’t feel ready. I wish I’d had the guts to start pitching using freelance job boards a year ago. So don’t be a perfectionist like I was. Just get out there once you have a few strong, well-written samples.
The assignments are not earth-shattering, and I don’t even have a byline because the posts are ghostwritten, but I love the gigs I have had so far because I am learning so much. I get to research new products every week. I write one or two articles per week. Sometimes I update and older article with new information.
I am learning about structuring articles for affiliate marketing. The companies I have worked for so far have been niche affiliate blogs on health and fitness, which have been great because I am learning things I can apply to my own niche blogs.
Going freelance can happen gradually or you can do it overnight or anything in between. There are so many different ways to do this and so many free resources out there to help you. I hope this helps you visualize how you are going to get where you want to go.
Please share how your journey is going in the comments.