Finding rewarding entry level jobs that pay well is a pipe dream in almost every field. The truth is, when you’re a newbie, you often have to put up with terrible jobs for a while and that goes double for freelance writers.
Entry level writing jobs are, by and large, a slog. A lot of freelancers burn out due to the type of work they can get when they’re new to the field. However, if you can put up with that rocky patch at the start and play your cards right, you can come out ready to find much more rewarding work.
In this article, we’ll talk about the idea of ‘starting off slow’ as a freelance writer. Then I’ll walk you through some tips to find great entry-level gigs that will make the full transition easier in the long run. Let’s get to it!
What ‘Starting Off Slow’ Means as a Freelancer
Finding enough work to support yourself is tough when you’re new to freelancing. Chances are you don’t have a shiny portfolio to show off and very few contacts. A lot of reputable clients won’t want to take a chance on you.
For me, it took a lot of time freelancing until I was comfortable doing it full time. At the start, I had to take any job that came my way and some of the greatest hits included writing about slot machines and Viagra – definitely entry level stuff.
The problem was not only was I getting seriously underpaid, but I wasn’t focusing on any work that could help me move forward. I didn’t know how to negotiate with clients, how much I should charge, or what types of jobs to avoid.
Starting off slow as a freelancer can be a smart move. For all the advice you can find online, including here, there are a lot of work situations you won’t know how to handle until they’re in front of you. However, you also want to make sure you’re hunting for the right types of jobs to help you grow as a freelancer.
3 Tips for Finding Great Entry Level Writing Jobs
‘Entry level’ doesn’t necessarily translate to writing low quality articles. It just means you need to be realistic about what type of work you can get when you don’t have any experience or pieces to show off. Let’s start by talking about content mills.
1. Avoid Content Mills
Content mills are websites that get flooded with low-paying writing gigs. Desperate writers jump on any work they can get, clients get low-quality articles, and the only one that comes out winning is the mill itself.
For a while, content mill work was the only thing I could get. That means I worked churning out terrible articles for very little money. It didn’t help me learn anything about freelancing or help build my portfolio, so it was a waste of time.
As someone new to freelancing, the places where you’ll look for good jobs are the same ones more experienced folks use. That means writing job board, Slack communities, Facebook groups, and more.
For any of those places, you want to focus on the jobs that don’t ask for any experience and then dazzle them with your pitch. My recommendation is to pitch at least one new client every single day. If you get someone on the hook, offer to write paid samples and be willing to be flexible with your rates.
2. Start Focusing on a Writing Niche
If you can write about anything clients want, then all the more power for you. However, if you want to be well-paid as a freelance writer, you need to specialize.
I’ve met freelance writers that focus on medical articles, others that deal with web development (like me!), food, and more. Specializing in a single topic means you can build up a reputation, market yourself as an expert, and charge accordingly.
As a new writer, it can be tempting to try and land any job you can get. However, now’s the perfect time for you to start figuring out what your niche is going to be and focusing on projects within that field.
Narrowing down your job options may seem counterproductive and if you’re desperate for money, then it might not be an option. However, unless your niche is something very obscure, chances are there are plenty of writing jobs within the field.
Landing more specialized work can be even more difficult if you don’t have anything to show off your writing skills. One thing you can do is self-publish a few articles on your portfolio that target the niche you want to focus on. It’s not as impressive as getting guest posting credits on a big website, but it can do the trick for a lot of entry level gigs.
3. Focus on Projects You Can Use on Your Portfolio
I’m a big fan of ghostwriting, but when you’re starting off as a freelancer, you need all the writing credits you can get. When a client Googles your name, they should find at least a few articles that show you have been published somewhere (even if it’s your own blog).
Ghostwriting jobs tend to pay well, but it’s hard to show them off to future clients. Basically, when you’re starting off, you need to ask yourself “Could I show this in my portfolio?” for any job you’re considering. If the answer is no, then you want to keep looking.
Pretty much any piece you’ve worked on that you think is great can make a good addition to your portfolio. However, I recommend you focus on the following types of projects:
- Articles that focus on your niche
- Pieces that deal with interesting and fun topics
- List-based articles, which are almost always a hit
- Posts that show you have a good handle on Search Engine Optimization
Most potential clients won’t read through several articles on your portfolio, so you want to be picky and showcase a few standout pieces. After a few entry level projects, you should have enough experience to start hunting for more serious work and start increasing your rates.
If you’re okay with the idea of diving in slowly into the freelancer life, you have a huge advantage. You can be picky about the jobs you choose and take your time to build up a portfolio with entry level writing gigs. By the time you’re ready to take a crack at being a full-time freelance writer, you’ll have the experience to back up your desired rates.
There’s a ton of competition for low-hanging writing gigs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find great opportunities if you keep some simple tips in mind:
- Avoid content mills
- Start focusing on a writing niche
- Prioritize projects you can use in your portfolio
Do you have any questions about how to find entry level writing jobs? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!
Image credit: Pixabay.