Making up your mind: done.
Learning the ropes: done.
Building an online presence: done.
I was ready to rock! Yeah, but… How?
I realised that pursuing a new career and starting a new career is not exactly the same thing. Think about it: a functioning oven, a soft dough, and tasty toppings don’t make pizza. Well, they do actually. But you must bring them together and make sure they join forces to achieve a common goal – make you sated and happy.
So I rolled up my sleeves to get my pizza done. Here is what I did to land my first copywriting gig.
N.B. In this post, I will only discuss how to find freelance work. What if you are seeking a corporate career or an employee position instead? You may then look for vacancies in advertising agencies, marketing departments, and corporate communications departments (note that big companies are more likely to have dedicated communications teams).
It may sound silly, but launching a simple research on Google can open up a new world before your eyes. Just typing “how to find freelance writing jobs” led me to websites, blogs and articles full of valuable information.
Yes, some tricks get repeated after a while. But when you have a rough idea of what the possibilities out there are, just pick the ones that suit you most and get started.
Don’t forget the location factor. Most of the information I found was from North America and referred to doing business over there. That’s may not be an issue as a big chunk of freelance writing is remote. But keep in mind that some gigs may be more difficult to access depending on where you are.
Get family and friends involved
Word of mouth is the foundation of any business. Let everybody around you know that you are going freelance. Ask your loved ones to spread the word to their friends, colleagues, and casual acquaintances.
If one of your friends needs some kind of (copy)writing work, help them out. You will achieve three goals at once:
- Do a good deed;
- Get your hands dirty and practice your skills;
- Collect those initial testimonials that are so precious to build your portfolio.
It may feel weird at times, and it will. People usually do not like mixing personal life with professional matters. That may be particularly true if your folks have always seen you in a different light, e.g., best friend, uncle, daughter. Moreover, if you are not a hyper self-confident person, you might also fear their judgment. Especially because it’s their judgment.
Just brush that nonsense off and get your job done. Be professional as you would be with any other client. And then ask them to spam your services around (!).
Networking is an art and definitely the hardest for me to practice. However, you must push yourself out of your comfort zone and connect with others.
These are people you know, but who are outside your inner circle – former colleagues, ex-bosses, college fellows, you name it. Needless to say, do not chase them just to ask for their support.
You can reach out and politely inform them about your career change. Alternatively, you can mention your new freelance activity when the occasion presents itself during a broader discussion.
There are more people than you think who have a freelance business among your acquaintances. Once you spot who they are, get in touch with them. You can ask for advice or pick their brain about a specific subject. (That can be extremely useful for rate- or admin-related matters.)
Don’t be ashamed or afraid of asking questions. As I often say, people are kind and willing to help. Always thank them afterwards and be ready to reciprocate.
Bloggers & Followers
If you have a blog, go scout other bloggers and connect with them. Like or leave a comment under their posts. Follow the thread and interact with other readers. The comment section is a good – and often underrated – place to network. You connect with like-minded people; you discover plenty of previously unheard of stuff and learn something new.
Likewise, engage with your own audience. Share your personal experience about going freelance. Tell your story and provide some advice for those who might want to try this as well. Reply to your readers’ comments and foster the discussion below your blog posts. You will build a community, and that will help you to network even more.
Leverage your social media
Use your social media channels for advertising that you are available for freelance work. That’s why you build an online presence, isn’t it?
To make it easier on you, platforms such as LinkedIn provide additional tools to promote your job search. Again, “spotlighting yourself” may put you in an uncomfortable position, but it’s worth it.
That means writing for other websites, blogs, online magazines and newspapers. If you know other bloggers or ended up reading a blog you would like to contribute to, reach out to them.
Writing on someone’s else site will provide you with published pieces to include in your portfolio. Moreover, your work will be seen – and hopefully appreciated – by a larger number of readers. If you are lucky enough, some of them may turn into potential clients.
Guest posting is usually for free, especially if it’s done “on a friendly basis.” However, you can also get paid for it. Many sites pay for guest posts, but the ones I am most fond of are the following two:
These are well-known and reliable platforms – Medium features even Barack Obama. That means their selection criteria are stricter: you might need to have a portfolio to be offered a spot, but it’s worth trying.
Scan freelance marketplaces, job boards, and directories
A noteworthy premise is due: some of these platforms are crap. Period.
You compete against hundreds of other freelancers – and more often than not, you lose out. Moreover, you fight for crumbs, as you bid for projects whose rates are just as ridiculous. On top of that, you pay 20% off to the platform. Not to mention the amount of work that is required: exploitative. Last but not least, you often get rudely criticised by your clients.
So why are you mentioning it if your writing is not valued at all, your work is incredibly underpaid, and you get all in all frustrated? Because you’ve got to start somewhere.
These platforms help you connect with clients. They also provide you with work you can cut your teeth on. And then never say never: you may find honest and fair clients to build a long-term partnership with. That was indeed my case. I did a one-shot project for one client who then became a regular client of mine.
But let’s stop grumbling about the unfairness of capitalism and go back to business! Here are the freelancing websites I use the most:
Job boards collect job ads posted by businesses, and list them in a single place. Unlike freelance marketplaces, there isn’t any bidding. You “apply” for the freelance jobs that appeal to you.
Some job boards are free, but being mostly US-centric, they might not be the best solution for freelancers all over the world:
Wherever you are in the world, don’t forget LinkedIn job board! It’s increasingly used and might connect you with businesses close to you.
When it comes to paid job boards, I went for Contena. Not only they group freelance (copy)writing gigs in one place, but also offer plenty of training material and valuable coaching to make you succeed in your job research. Their membership plans are a bit pricey, but you can see it as an initial investment in your future business. And if you are not happy with the result, you can always cancel your subscription.
Directories may be considered as digital resume boards. You can create your online freelance resume and post it on sites such as Indeed or Glassdoor (not to mention the ever-present LinkedIn). You can also link your digital resume when you pitch for a job in other contexts.
Many directories have a proprietary job board too. By selecting your work preferences, you will be notified every time a new opening meets your requirements.
There are definitely many other ways to find freelance (copy)writing work, but I haven’t yet tried them out. The ones I mentioned suits me and sometimes worked out well.
But once you have spread the word, logged in nearly all existing platforms, and networked like a crazy, new questions arise: how do you draft a successful pitch? Which rates do you charge? How do you get paid?