I have been an advocate of using job boards to find freelance blogging jobs for a long time now. However, I am aware that quite a few LWB readers are left frustrated by their experience. They either submit pitches and receive no replies or feel that they are confronted only by jobs that require experience they simply don’t have. So if you are a beginner freelance writer and feel that job boards offer you little, this post is for you. I am going to take you step by step through a process will hopefully result in you landing your first freelance writing client. Freelance writing jobs for beginners are not only available from job boards and in this post I want to demonstrate that to you.
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Becoming a Good Blogger
The very first step, with the greatest of respect, is to make sure that you are a good blogger. Please note that being a good writer and a good blogger do not necessarily go hand in hand. Although blogging is quite a straightforward writing style, it does take time and practice to learn and perfect. For instance, I was speaking to Alexis Grant the other day and she told me that even qualified journalists can often find it tough to move into blogging as they are so used to writing in a particular style. The best piece of advice I can give you for developing your proficiency as a blogger is to buy yourself a copy of the Yahoo! Style Guide. If you are truly interested in creating a sustainable business as a freelance blogger it will be the best few bucks you ever invest — it can teach you everything that you need to know about the art of online content writing. Beyond that I advise that you read top quality blogs and observe the way in which they structure their posts and start writing plenty of blog posts of your own to make use of all that you are learning.
As a writer you probably understand that no one is going to hire you without first seeing your work. There are two main things that prospective clients will typically look for from your samples:
- A demonstration of your blogging abilities
- Examples of your work being published on reputable blogs
Create Your Own Blog
The first thing you’ll need is a blog on which to publish your own content. This should be your first port of call — I landed my first freelance job off the back of this blog alone. Check out my Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Blogging if you’re not sure where to start. When it comes to subject matter, you can choose to write about a niche in which you would like to be paid to write about, or instead write about anything in particular that takes your fancy. Either approach is okay, although you will be more likely to land a client if you can demonstrate that you have experience in their particular niche.
Once your blog is up and running with a handful of posts, you should turn to guest posting opportunities to get your content published on other sites. You will want to turn to large authoritative blogs — i.e. the kind of sites that prospective clients will be impressed to see you published on. I know how intimidating it can feel to submit guest posts but trust me, you’ll think nothing of it after your first few applications. Rejection offers a great deal of value in teaching you how to better yourself as a blogger, and at the worst you can use rejected posts on your own blog. If you’d like to learn more about guest posting then download my guide.
Write Free of Charge
Finally, you might choose to write for a blog free of charge. This is technically guest posting but you might be able to broaden the scope of blogs you could do this for. As opposed to presenting yourself as a guest poster, ask if there are any unpaid staff blogging jobs available. If you feel uncomfortable about asking for money then this can be a great way to ease yourself into it — once you see that people value your work, you may feel more inclined to place value in it yourself. The beauty of this is that you can approach just about any blog out there without fear of rejection. After all, if they do reject you then it could be as much that they are simply not looking for a writer than they don’t like you in particular. Having said that, I would always advise that you seek feedback. One of the best reasons for taking an unpaid role is the relationship it can result in. The blogger you work with may find a paid role for you in the future, may know of paid roles elsewhere, or may simply be able to help you in some way shape or form. Never underestimate the power of the relationships you build.
Finding Paid Writing Opportunities
Alright — once you get to this stage you should have a few blog posts of your own, a nice selection of posts published elsewhere, and you may even have an unpaid staff blogging role. You now have no excuse not to go in search of your first paid job. Because we’re not going down the job boards route we are going to go direct to source instead. In a nutshell, go find what you want. There are blogs in just about every conceivable niche that pay writers — they may not be advertising, but they’re there. They may not even know that they want a paid writer, but you may be able to convince them. So go find them — they’re just a Google search away. You may even already know them. What you’re looking for is well-established blogs, ideally with more than one author already (but that’s not necessary), in whatever niche that interests you. Any such blog is a potential target. Here are some great ways to get started:
- Search for “[your niche] + blog” (I didn’t say it was going to be complicated!)
- Search for “top [your niche] blogs”
- Browse popular directories such as Technorati and Best of the Web
- Contact bloggers in your niche and ask them if they know anyone who is looking for a paid writer
In short — use your initiative. There are a number of ways in which you can find blogs and I’ve covered just a few here. I don’t want you to rely solely upon my advice because you will need to use your own nous to build your business.
Pitching Prospective Clients
You may be nervous about “cold emailing” but at this stage in your career you don’t really have a choice — people aren’t going to come to you. Remember this though — you have a valuable service to offer and you shouldn’t be apologetic about it. Worst case scenario you have established a fledgling relationship with another blogger in your niche, best case scenario you find a paid job. Why wouldn’t you want to invest time in this process? I don’t want to give you a firm template email that you should use for every single blog. All of your work to date would likely be for naught if you then just sent a template email — people will spot it from a mile off and will give it as much time as it deserves (none). If you want to be taken seriously you will need to demonstrate that you are familiar with their blog and know that you have something of value to offer. So here’s what I have to suggest instead. First of all, I have written about pitches before in this post, so check that out. And if you want to check that your pitch email is okay please feel free to email it to me and I’ll let you know what I think.
Building a Prospect Database
The last thing you’ll want to do is keep track of everyone that you have contacted and when. Remember what I said about relationships — you’ll want to remember all of the people you contact as you will never know how they might come in handy in the future. I recommend an Excel spreadsheet or something similar, with columns for all of the vital information. Make a note of when you have contacted people and be sure to keep in touch if you feel that there is value in doing so. Even if you don’t feel there is value keeping in touch with someone I would recommend sending them the occasional email — opportunities can come from the unlikeliest of sources, believe me.
What Are You Waiting For?
You’ve got everything you need to make a start above. Sure — there’s plenty more to learn and you’ll probably make a bunch of mistakes, but that’s what building a business is all about. You’ll never learn if you don’t open yourself up to failure! It won’t be easy to start with and it may take time to find a paying job but it will come. If you demonstrate your ability and keep submitting pitches it is nothing but a numbers game — you just need to come across that blog that’s right for you. And trust me, landing that first client is the most difficult. Once you have a paying client it will give you a great deal of confidence to push on and will also make other prospective clients treat you more seriously. If you are in search of a more advice then I would recommend you check out the other posts I have on freelancing here on the blog, or alternatively my comprehensive guide to freelance blogging. That contains literally everything I know that has got me to where I am now. If you have any comments or questions please feel free to submit them below!
Creative Commons image courtesy of jDevaun