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8 Ways to Find Paid Online Writing Jobs
Here are eight tested and proven ways to find legit freelance writing jobs.
It’s so much fun to imagine what it will be like to be a freelance writer working from home. Slow mornings in comfy pants, thoughtful and engaging work, less stress, and a big fat paycheck… is it always like that in reality? Speaking from experience: absolutely not. But it happens a lot more often than it used to, now that I’m freelancing.
But, to get moving towards your WFH goal, you’ve gotta write! Landing that first gig is arguably the most intimidating aspect of starting this journey, but it’s an essential one.
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That’s why I’ve compiled this list of 8 ways to find the best freelance writing gigs for beginners (and beyond). I’ve landed long-term clients or one-off jobs from all of these channels, so I’ll be sharing my best tips for success.
Let’s find you some work!
General job boards like Indeed and LinkedIn, and freelancer-specific job boards like Problogger Jobs and the Peak Freelance job board feature some really great opportunities. Problogger in particular is a good source of jobs for beginner writers.
BUT competition is through the roof. I’ve heard from contacts who advertise on Problogger that they can get HUNDREDS of emails from one job posting.
You can find ways to make yourself stand out for these, but generally only after you already have some experience.
If you find a great opportunity on a job board, apply for it! The worst that can happen is that you don’t hear anything back. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t get any work from applying to jobs through these websites. The odds, unfortunately, are NOT in your favor.
My best advice? Fortune favors the fast for these job posts - be one of the first applicants, and you’re more likely to get eyes on you.
My experience: I have gotten one or two bites from applying on job boards, including one that turned into a fairly long term client. But even now, with a pretty beefy freelance resume, it’s hard for me to attract attention when these positions are so inundated with applications.
Most people dislike cold emailing (myself oh-so-included), but it has its place - especially if you’re a new freelancer.
Cold emailing means sending an unsolicited email offering your services to a company. “Unsolicited” makes it sound worse than it is, but don’t sweat it. No doubt you’ve gotten similar messages in your own inbox or on LinkedIn. In my opinion, cold emailing is important to do - even though it’s not fun - for two reasons:
It can land you work. The stars have to align for you to get work after sending an initial email to a company, but it does happen. Turning your cold emails into warm leads (companies that respond to you with potential interest), and then following up with them regularly, is the magic zone where you’re most likely to get work.
It helps you toughen up. Your emails will be ignored (a lot), you’ll be rejected (a lot), and you may even get a rude reply. This one hasn’t happened to me personally, but I know of maybe one or two freelancers who’ve had this happen. But getting this experience in rejection is important - it’s part and parcel of being a freelancer. I still have feelings of rejection when I don’t land a gig that I thought was a sure thing, but I no longer let it shake my confidence in my writing abilities.
In summary: SEND THE EMAIL!
My experience: Cold emailing landed me two clients early in my freelancing career, both of whom were BIG WINS for me at the time. They paid well (for a beginner), and gave me some vital experience.
On Upwork, brands will post project roles they need filled, and freelancers can apply. Upwork is a great way to cut your teeth in freelance writing and get those first few assignments, but there are a lot of low payers. Only you can decide what projects are worth your time, but - as a new writer - I’d recommend you shoot for at least $.10 per word.
Once you get a few projects under your belt, it’s easier to get invited to jobs. This is the only way I’m still connected to Upwork. If I get invited to an interesting project, I may apply if the price is right.
Fiverr is kind of the opposite of Upwork. Freelancers post services they provide, then companies or individuals can hire them as needed. I’ve never used Fiverr as a freelancer, but I have used it to hire out some things I needed done for my business, and I had a great experience.
There are tons of other sites like these two. One more that’s worth mentioning is Contently. It’s a bit more curated than Upwork, and I don’t know many people who have actually gotten work through the site. BUT they offer a free portfolio tool, which is great for new writers who don’t have a website. Here’s my portfolio (which hasn’t been updated in like 2+ years), if you want to see what they look like.
Overall, I think these sites (Upwork, in particular) are a great springboard for new writers - with the caveat that you will probably eventually outgrow them.
My experience: A lot of my early writing assignments came from Upwork. You can get really great gigs there, but the majority of it is low paying with high competition. I used it to get more experience, but now I prefer working directly with clients.
There are several freelance job newsletters available. The best of them require a paid subscription, but they’re very reasonably priced. I go through periods of subscribing and unsubscribing based on how booked I am (although I am resolving to be better about continuing to support these creators even when I don’t need their services), but I currently subscribe to two newsletters. Combined, they cost me about $10 per month.
What I like about these newsletters is that they compile and curate the most recent freelance writing jobs available, from calls for pitches from media outlets to brands looking for ongoing content work. They will typically do some investigating into the pay rate, too.
So, all the work of searching is already done. All you have to do is read the email when it arrives in your inbox, and apply for the ones you’re interested in.
However, for new freelancers, I wouldn’t recommend going the newsletter route as a way to land your first gig. Get some work under your belt first, then use your earnings to subscribe to one so you stay in the black.
The two newsletters I currently subscribe to (and highly recommend) are:
My experience: I’ve gotten several gigs and assignments from newsletters. One that sticks out is from a couple of years ago. I responded to a call for pitches I found in a newsletter, and landed a high paid feature for a productivity app’s blog.
Another unexpected source of jobs is social media!
Many freelance jobs or projects won’t be posted to traditional job boards. Instead, they’ll be shared on social media - particularly, I’ve found, on Twitter, LinkedIn, and private Facebook groups.
For my sanity, I’m no longer on any social media except LinkedIn. Leaving Facebook in particular had me feeling out of the loop for a while, and I later realized that it’s because I got so much value from the writing groups I was in. Tons of my paid work came from posts I found on social media.
So get in there! I’ve been out of the game for a while, so I can’t recommend any particular Facebook groups for writing jobs - but I know they’re still out there.
LinkedIn is also really helpful for finding work (and helping brands find you). Feel free to connect with me!
My experience: I found a lot of my work on social media, including a couple of really solid ongoing jobs. One of my personal favorites was a great long-term contract doing hands-on reviews of meal kits and meat delivery services.
Referrals are a fantastic way to build your business. There’s no better way to stand out to a hiring editor or project leader than to be mentioned, by name, by a past client or fellow writer.
Referrals will happen organically if you produce great work, build your network, and strive to be as easy to work with as possible.
My experience: Referrals have brought me some GREAT work. A referral from an editor I worked with on a one-off piece brought me a consistent client who I’ve been working with for over 2 years now, and I recently landed a new gig after being referred to it by a fellow freelance writer in my niche.
Former Clients/Warm Leads
When I need to rustle up some work, one of the first things I do is look through my records and find former clients that I’ve lost touch with. You can also do this for warm leads, which are people who expressed interest in hiring you for writing work in the past but who didn’t for whatever reason.
Personally, I need to do a better job keeping records of my warm leads. I’m sure I’ve missed out on some work by simply not following up with some of these people/companies.
My experience: Just a couple of months ago, I reached out to an editor I’d lost touch with. I didn’t hear back from her for a few weeks, but then she offered me a really fun Christmas project with great pay.
These are the clients who find you. They are wonderful!
It takes a while to build up to a point where clients are seeking you out specifically, but once you get that momentum going it builds up fast. I have reached a point in my career where most of my clients come to me, and it’s a really nice place to be.
Keep working hard, building your network, following up with your warm leads, and creating impressive content for your current clients, and you’ll get there too. In my case, it was painfully slow, and then all at once - now I look back and can’t believe some of the cool opportunities that have been brought to me.
My experience: My highest paying clients all sought me out. These are brands and companies that know the importance of well-written content and are willing to invest time and money on the right person or team for their brand.
Why You Should Use a Good Mix of These Methods
Why is it important to have all of these different methods in your back pocket?
Well, the freelance life can turn on a dime. For example, with all of the economic craziness this year, my highest paying month ever and my lowest paying month in two years were separated by just a handful of months.
I like to think of these job-finding methods as a faucet. When I have plenty of work, I can turn the faucet off - stop reading the newsletters, stop seeking out job postings, and back off from marketing myself quite as much.
In these times, I can still expect a trickle of work from direct contact and referrals, as well as my ongoing networking. So, I guess in this analogy, my faucet is a little bit leaky (but in a good way).
But when I notice a slow week or month on the horizon, I can turn the faucet on by checking out recent job postings, scouring those newsletter emails, sending out some cold emails, or getting in touch with past clients or warm leads.
There are 8 major ways to find freelance writing jobs and clients:
Job boards, like ProBlogger, Peak Freelance, Indeed, and LinkedIn
Cold emails, which involves emailing companies to offer your services
Freelancing websites, like Upwork, Fiverr, and Contently
Newsletters, such as Opportunities of the Week and Write at Home
Social media, especially LinkedIn and Facebook groups
Referrals from current or former clients, or fellow writers
Former clients and warm leads that you’ve fallen out of touch with
Direct contact from companies who want to work with you
Did I forget anything? Have you found writing clients any other ways that I need to know about? Let me know!
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