Leaving Work Behind

Freelance Writing Jobs for Beginners (Without Using Job Boards)

Written by Tom Ewer on December 21, 2012. 44 Comments

WritingI 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.

There are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission. It will cost you nothing extra. I only ever endorse products that I have personally used and tested extensively. Thank you!

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. Yahoo! Style GuideThe 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.

Getting Samples

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:

  1. A demonstration of your blogging abilities
  2. 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.

Guest Blog

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:

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

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44 Responses to “Freelance Writing Jobs for Beginners (Without Using Job Boards)”

  1. Liz
    December 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Great ideas. I’m reading the Yahoo! Style Guide right now. It’s an excellent reference, for sure.

    Plus also, thanks for the new word: nous. In a few months I should start picking up the accent, too. :D

    I’d like to add that content mills may not get you far in the long run, but I think they can help beginners learn how to write for clients. For example, Textbroker’s pay is extremely low, but it can be a great learning tool when you’re nervous about your inexperience.

    • Tom Ewer
      December 24, 2012 at 11:27 am

      Hey Liz,

      I like to teach Americans new words — a lot of people have learnt the phrase “one-off” recently ;-)

      I think you’ve pointed out just about the only reason to perhaps dabble with content mills, but I would still advise against it to be honest. There’s a lot to be said for jumping in at what you perceive to be the deep end…

      Cheers,

      Tom

  2. Jacko
    December 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Great post Tom nailed it.

    Talk about a great way to start off the year.

    Thanks for sharing this awesome advice.

    The best way to make money online or anywhere else is to EARN it.

    i always recommend free lance writing for people starting out so they understand this is WORK it isn’t play play time.

    The biggest problem everyone usually has is HOW to get started and WHAT to do.

    This post answers that, thanks man.

  3. Fred
    December 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    I am on the final stages of prepping my website – I have actually posted a few articles to get the ball rolling. Your advice has been of great value since I started this freelance writing journey. Getting clients is without a doubt a challenging task that discourages many would-be writers. These tips will help me greatly as I journey towards freedom and working for myself.

    About sticking to a single niche, I would like to believe ‘website content’ is quite a lucrative niche (if it is a niche to begin with). I feel that I can handle website content creation while supplementing the same with blogging, SEO writing, press release writing and travel writing. What are your thoughts on my approach? Do I need to stick to one or I can juggle all five and win at the end of the day?

    As a polite request, would you mind giving my website a once-over? Maybe you can point me in the right direction where I might be going wrong.

    Thanks again for these tips man. I am glad I discovered LWB. :)

    Cheers!

    • Tom Ewer
      December 24, 2012 at 11:38 am

      Hi Fred,

      I’m not sure about your mix — the likes of blogging and SEO writing are arguably mutually compatible but travel writing is a bit of a curve ball. Generally speaking you want to keep your focus pretty tight so that people aren’t left guessing as to what you will be covering (i.e. what value they can get from reading your content).

      Blog looks good! Logo is nice and simple (could do with being a bit bigger), design is clean and easy to navigate. Good stuff!

      Cheers,

      Tom

      • Freddie
        July 25, 2013 at 9:59 am

        Hello Tom. I took your advice and I must say I feel confident with the approach you suggested here. I trimmed down my topic area and now I focus on web content, SEO and blogging – the three things you need to create effective website content that ranks really well on Google. Thanks man.

  4. John Banks
    December 21, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Hi Tom,

    Nice informative post – I am always looking for ideas to boost the income from my online experiences. I never really thought about this, until a couple of guest posts I done went well recently so then I thought why not??

    Thank for the info you have shared in this post. This should help me get some pointers on where to start……

    I am trying to add to my online income in 2013 and freelance writing could be a nice little addition. My book is due for release in a couple of months so I will keep these tips in mind.

    Best Regards, enjoy the festivities.

    John

  5. Iain Robson
    December 22, 2012 at 11:17 am

    nice work Tom.

    You provided some information about how to get started, Many people feel overwhelmed by the thought of guest blogging. They feel they aren’t good enough or are unsure.

    Like you said, just bite the bullet and try it.

    Do you think that social accountability is a good way to get people fired up to guest blog?

    • Tom Ewer
      December 24, 2012 at 11:39 am

      What do you mean exactly Iain?

      • Iain Robson
        December 24, 2012 at 11:52 am

        Basically, I mean you say that you are going to do something on a social channel , and then you are socially accountable because you have told people that you are going to do something.

        In terms of this particular situation it would mean telling people on Facebook and twitter that you are going to do a guest blog. Therefore, you are now accountable for what you said you were going to do, so if you don’t do it many people are going to know.

        Instead of just you knowing that you didn’t do something, everyone will know.

        I hope that clarifies.

  6. alireza
    December 22, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    hello Tom, i’m alireza, I am a 27 year old guy from iran.

  7. Mario Favela
    December 28, 2012 at 5:07 am

    Great post Tom, very informative as always.

    I just read an interview you did with Alexis Grant that made me laugh:

    “If you’re willing to cross over to the “dark side”, there are an endless number of business blogs looking for a writer to take the weight off their shoulders (even if they don’t know it yet), and they will pay handsomely for the privilege.”

    Well, I suppose I am “dark side” blogger! ;)

    What are your thoughts on “pounding the pavement” and soliciting local blogging business face-to-face? Worth it or a waste of time?

    Thanks!

    Mario Favela

    • Tom Ewer
      December 28, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      Hey Mario,

      I’m still a believer in old fashioned marketing but I would start with email outreach. Send a personalised and well thought out email to local businesses explaining how you can benefit them and take it from there :)

      Cheers,

      Tom

  8. Pretraveller
    January 9, 2013 at 1:46 am

    Thanks for a thought provoking article.

    I have reached a stage where I am getting progressively growing traffic for my blog and would like to start earning an income from my blog in 2013. Freelancing could be a way to earn an income.

    I am currently rehosting my blog and once the new format has been fine tuned I intend to pursue guest blogging opportunities, so you article has reaffirmed that I am on a path both to grow my blog traffic and to identify income generation opportunities.

  9. Bon Crowder
    January 24, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    I’ve done the research and have both established blogs and sites that NEED a blog on my spreadsheet. I’m ready to start writing the pitches.

    And that’s where I stall.

    I think I left my big girl panties around here somewhere. I need to find them. Put them on. And write the first pitch!

    (and I’m likely to take you up on the offer of “send it to me to get some feedback” – I hate to do that to you, but I’m thinking that I really need to have some sort of format – not a FORM letter, but a format)

    Thanks again!

    • Tom Ewer
      January 24, 2013 at 11:38 pm

      Hey Bon,

      A little tip — just write the emails with the thought in your mind that you’re not going to send them. Just write them for practice. Don’t even put the email address in the “To:” field.

      Then, once you’re done and you think you’ve perfected it, quickly copy and paste the email address in a moment of madness and hit send.

      Try giving that a go!

      As for sending a pitch through to me, please do — it’s of benefit to me to see how people are submitting pitches! It helps me to shape my own advice in the future.

      Cheers,

      Tom

      • Samm Cotton
        September 4, 2013 at 8:15 pm

        Thank you Tom for giving that tip on writing and not sending a pitch.

        I’m going to use it right away for my spreadsheet of potential blogs to post for. Like a cold sales call or meeting a first-time date, it can make you nervous at first! But if you break the ice for yourself, it’s a lot easier.

        I think having a list of blogs that are appealing to write for, sitting before your eyes makes it a bit more manageable; you can see where you’ll be sending emails to and approximately how to write them a personalized pitch. I add another column to my spreadsheet indicating just how much confidence I have in writing for a blog – to help me sort out what it is I actually want to write today.

        Hope to keep reading some great posts on your site going forward.

        New subscriber here = )

        Cheers,

        Samm Cotton

  10. Stuart
    February 19, 2013 at 1:36 am

    Hi Tom

    Another good post, you’re certainly building up a credible resource here.

    One thing did make me chuckle in this post:

    “The last thing you’ll want to do is keep track of everyone that you have contacted and when.”

    I’m pretty sure this is the opposite of what you meant!! (no one else appears to have noticed though – probably being British with a well-developed sense of sarcasm helped me to spot it!)

    Cheers – Stuart

  11. Sumon
    April 15, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    i dont understand how to start this.

  12. Charity Kountz (@CharityKountz)
    June 25, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Tom – I have to say, I have been visually devouring your content and Youtube videos – they are TREMENDOUSLY helpful and insightful. Helped me to realize I’m doing a lot of things right (and just need to keep doing them), need to have patience (regardless of our financial situation), and gave me ideas for some additional approaches I haven’t tried. Kudos to you for being an invaluable resource to the freelance community!

  13. Kevin
    July 7, 2013 at 5:48 am

    Hi Tom,

    just discovered your website. Thanks for providing such an excellent source of honest information.

    I’ve been an online publisher and marketer for a while and I’m now looking to offer my content writing ability to other publishers and businesses as a new service.

    Interesting to read your views on the job boards. I joined a couple but having seen the bargain basement mentality that prevails on them, aren’t they just a race to the bottom?

    Are clients who seek to have writing done for $5 or $10 likely to suddenly be willing pay more later on? I have my doubts. I think those sort of clients are probably best avoided or else left for people in low cost countries to pick up.

    Isn’t the best way to find quality long term clients to market yourself online directly? ie with your own website, building up your seo, plus participating in forums, and approach blogs and marketers directly that you like the look of? Also try attending meetups of marketers in your area.

    I think that way you probably have less competition.

    I’ve put together a new website recently to promote my content writing, it’s at http://www.ContentWritingPartner.com I’d be interested in what you think of this.

    Thanks for the Problogger tip and your YTube video about this, which is a real help!

    • Tom Ewer
      July 7, 2013 at 6:20 am

      Hi Kevin,

      I think that job boards offer opportunities if you are patient and selective. I found my first two clients from job boards and didn’t look back!

      Cheers,

      Tom

  14. Patti
    August 17, 2013 at 5:13 am

    Hi Tom,
    I have read a few of your posts, taken lots of notes, watched the job search video, and I am on my way to looking for writing jobs. I have tried to target specific places I would prefer, but as you said a few times I might have to give up the desired rate (or place in this case) on a short term basis.
    I have a blog, have been very inconsistent until I quit my job two months ago (so glad I did) and I am now back on track. I would like to start a new blog for my new career in painting too. Coming up with the desired subject to get paid for would be an interesting feat at this point too. But I am up to the challenge and really need an income at this point.
    Thanks for sharing your expertise and insights for lots of ideas to get started and what to watch out for which has been my biggest obstacle. It is appreciated.
    Patti

  15. Slavek
    May 11, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Hi Tom.
    Thanks for the ideas and direction in your post. I have my first story, a book written. I gave her, but not in English. My problem is just good knowledge of English. therefore I am looking for native english writers to work on the correct English translation of the book. The text is translated, but it must be grammatically and stylistically creative way to edit. It’s fiction with lots of facts. It is the use of discovery, which was kept secret for decades and still about him almost nobody knows i do it when one government has invested more than $ 200 million. This offer is an opportunity for the novice author. I would like offer it who wants to work with me a flat co-author of the English version of the book. In the original I wrote the book myself. Maybe you can help me or pass my message to any candidates. Correspondence by email.
    bkocarek@gmail.com
    Thank you.

  16. Todd
    May 22, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    Thanks! That is some good reference material. I’d like to add one site that I’ve used successfully to land some blog writing jobs. Freelanced.com has some pretty neat portfolio and social networking features.

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