Before beginning your freelancing journey, you might think you need a special education to land a gig. The truth is, all you really need is the ability to write well and the research skills to fill your articles with helpful information. [Read more…]
There are several ways to find freelance writing gigs. Answering ads posted on job boards is one method, and you probably want to try more than one approach in your search for gigs. Another way to find work (and one that may lead to a steady gig in some cases) is to approach websites that freelance writers for contributions for guest posts.
It’s time to put down the cape. It’s also time be honest. Is that ‘to do’ list really doable?
There are still only 24 hours in a day and the majority of our problems with time management involve unrealistic expectations. When you have a daily 20 or 30+ list of items that must be accomplished, you are setting yourself up for failure. The same goes for a list of three time consuming items.
There are three quick ways to tell if your list of action items is too long:
1. Carry over. If you are still finishing Monday’s list on Friday, you’ve got a problem.
2. If you never feel finished, you might have a problem.
3. If you are always in catch-up, grumpy mode, you might have a problem.
So now that the problem has been identified, how do you fix it?
What are you four main goals? You can go micro: four main goals for work, four main goals for family, etc. or you can go macro: four main life goals. Let’s look at Busy Bea’s goals:
Spend more time with family, land more feature articles, work-out more, have more free time.
Before Bea can get the “mores” she wants, she has to check off the items on her list that do not align with her goals. Reducing her email time gives her more time to put into her queries.
See? Not so bad!
Revisit your goals frequently.
When the list gets long, that’s when you have to stop and check your to-do items against your goals. I still have 20+ item days. Still. As recent as last week. That’s why Monday I had a conversation with myself, pulled out my goals list and started crossing things of my to-do’s that didn’t help me reach my goals.
Time management is tough. Each day we struggle to stay focused and to prioritize, but being realistic, setting goals and following them helps. So take off the cape – no need to be Superwriter anywhere but in your prose.
How do you manage your list?
Looking for work is a necessary evil for freelance writers. For people who work for employers, part of the reason finding a job is something to celebrate (along with a regular pay check and hopefully a good benefit package) is that they don’t have to keep looking for work.
For freelancers, it’s a different story. We have the freedom to work for ourselves (which definitely has its advantages), but we must perform a juggling act in our professional lives. Not only do we need to be able to keep up with our current assignments and produce high quality work, but we must also be constantly on the lookout for the next gig.
We can use a variety of methods to hunt for work. Putting up a web site, writing a blog to feature our expertise to a specific niche market and keeping in contact with people in your circle of professional acquaintances can all be effective strategies. Cold calling and passing out business cards are also good ways to find work.
If you have ever gotten to the point where you feel bogged down by this activity, you’re not alone. It’s easy to get into the mind set that looking for work is a chore. No one looks forward to doing chores, do they? These activities are things we have to do but that don’t really appear on the “want to do” radar at all.
Unless you can find a way to turn looking for freelance writing gigs into something that you can get excited about, it’s going to remain a chore and something that you will get bogged down in. It’s also very difficult to present yourself in the best way you can if you are not feeling enthused about communicating with a potential client.
In a situation where your freelance writing job search isn’t getting you the results you are hoping for, consider whether you are just going through the motions when you are looking for work. You would rather work with people who are enthusiastic about what they do and excited about a new opportunity than a person who is just not feeling it.
You have the power to kick start your freelance writing job search by adding some enthusiasm any time you choose to do so. Turn the process from a “have to” to a “get to”, as in “Today I get to talk to someone about how I can help their business.”
The best thing about this approach is that it isn’t dependent on outside circumstances. You can choose to look at talking to people about what you do and how you can help them as an adventure or a chore. Which one will you choose today?
An e-mail to potential business contacts looks best when written in business style. What about the closing? Sincerely seems “too” traditional to me. What’s an appropriate way to end an email gig inquiry?
If I’m sending an e-mail to someone I’ve never corresponded with before, I like to use “Sincerely” to close the message. I’ve seen people use “Regards” or “Warmest regards” as well.
When I used to work for lawyers (and that was several years ago), “Yours very truly” was used to end a letter. This seems a bit too “Old School” for e-mail, which tends to be a bit more casual way to communicate than sending a letter on paper.
Unfortunately, you don’t always know who is going to end up reading your e-mail when you press “Send.” Many of my clients happen to be younger than me and they seem to be a bit more casual in their e-mail writing style. I think you can start off a bit more formally, just as you would when choosing a salutation for your e-mail to a client, and then change to a bit more casual closing once you have established a relationship with that person.
I like to use “Warmly” to sign off on my e-mails to people I have been in contact with before. I even use it with friends – I sometimes get a little distracted when I’m online and I can picture myself signing off an e-mail by typing, “Love” and then realizing after I pressed Send that it’s going to a client. (While I do hold everyone I work with in high regard, it’s probably not appropriate to express it in that way.)
Which closing phrases have you seen, and do you have a personal preference?
It’s not too early to start thinking about Christmas. I saw Christmas decorations out in the stores right next to the Halloween items a couple of weeks ago. (Some things are just wrong.)
Now, I prefer to get one holiday out of the way before I start thinking about the next one, but apparently retailers don’t think that way. From the number of Christmas flyers that have magically appeared in the mailbox recently and the amount of times I’ve been hearing, “Mom, can I have…..” recently, the holiday season seems to be gearing up now.
At the risk of adding one more thing to your already jam-packed schedule over the next few weeks, you should make a point of pulling out your client list and reaching out to them at this time of year. “You can send holiday greeting cards or ecards for Christmas if you wish.. A personal e-mail is also appropriate.
Your message doesn’t have to be a lengthy one, but you do want to thank the client for their business over the past year and invite them to contact you with their future writing needs. If you haven’t heard from some of the people you are contacting for awhile, this is an opportunity to get your name in front of them again. Your regular clients will also appreciate your reaching out to them in this way.
Your success as a freelance writer will depend, at least in part, on the relationships you establish with your clients. If you demonstrate that you value the people you work with, they will respond in kind by offering you more and better assignments and referring you to other potential clients.
Sharing good wishes is a simple thing that you can do to finish this year on a positive note and set the stage for a prosperous New Year.
Do you reach out to clients during the Holiday Season? Do you send traditional cards or communicate by e-mail?
I’m on various freelance websites such as elance.com odesk.com and ifreelance.com. I’m getting some work but the work I’m getting takes me forever to complete and it’s not very well paid. I know there are ways to make more money freelance writing, can you point me in the write direction?
You have many options available if you want to make more money as a freelance writer. There is some great information posted here on Freelance Writing Jobs, including the job leads we post on weekdays, that can help you move toward better-paying gigs.
Along with answering job ads, you can start approaching prospective clients directly. Before you do, take some time to learn something about the client’s business and how your skills could help the client improve his or her business or solve an issue they are having with it.
Avoid contacting someone and asking, “Do you need a writer?” This approach makes it very easy for your prospect to say, “No.” Be specific. If you are going to ask a question, ask if the client could use help from someone who can provide [X] service for them that will provide [Y] benefits for them.
Online message boards are a good place to find prospective clients as well. You can look for ones specifically for writers, as well as ones for the particular market you are trying to target.
Cold calling local businesses is another way that you can move into higher-paying work. You may find yourself making several calls before you get someone who wants to learn more about what you have to offer, but you may find someone who has just recognized that they need a writer and who hasn’t started look for one yet. If you present yourself well, the client may never place an ad, and you don’t have to compete against hundreds of other applicants for the gig.
What advice would you like to add about moving on to higher-paying freelance writing gigs? Do you have a question of your own that you would like to see answered in an upcoming column? Share it in the comments section below.
When I was thinking about how to approach this post, I started thinking about tips for how to package yourself so that a prospective client will want to hire you. I thought the better of it,and this is why I came to that conclusion:
The client may not say so, but he or she is in full WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) mode when hiring a freelance writer. If the client wasn’t looking to have a problem solved or to get some benefit from your writing work, they wouldn’t be looking to hire a writer.
Don’t try to analyze what the client wants to hear and use that as a way to frame the way you respond to the ad. Instead, focus on the what the client needs and what skills and abilities you bring to the table to help them meet those needs.
Don’t try to be anyone other than yourself when you are communicating with a potential client. There are plenty of places where you can get advice about how to prepare your resume and write a cover letter, and I know I’ve talked about these topics here.
Yes, you should take the time to prepare these important documents, but your resume and your cover letter should be unique – just as you are. Use them as an opportunity to let the client get to know something about you.
While it may be tempting to follow someone else’s example of what worked for them when trying to find freelance writing jobs, resist the urge. Let the prospective client hear your voice through the materials you submit when you apply for a job. It’s the only one you need.
When you see an ad for a freelance writing job that seems like it would be a great fit for you, do you behave like you are an agent in your own version of Mission Impossible? It’s great that you have found an opportunity that you are interested in, but you shouldn’t treat the ad like something that is going to self-destruct in five seconds (or whatever it was).
I know your first instinct is to jump on this and apply within the first two minutes after you read the ad (if not sooner), but there are some things you need to do before you throw your hat into the ring. If you do them, you stand a much better chance of being hired.
1. Read the ad again.
You want to be sure that you have read it thoroughly and you understand exactly what the prospective client is looking for. Taking the time to read through the ad again will either confirm that this is a great gig or it will reveal something that will make you rethink the idea of applying for it altogether. The last thing you want is for the client to get in touch with you and you find out that you really aren’t a great fit or it doesn’t pay a rate that you are prepared to accept.
2. Make sure you understand the client’s instructions.
Answering an ad is a bit like a pre-employment test. The client will ask you for certain things and if you are unable to follow the instructions properly, your application will be tossed out. It won’t matter how talented you are or how well you would follow instructions once you are hired – ignore instructions in the ad at your professional peril.
3. Gather your materials.
Some clients want to see a resume and samples right away. Others would prefer to just focus on the samples. A third scenario you might run into is where the client wants to review a resume first and will ask for samples from the writers he or she is most interested in. Whatever the client has asked for, provide it. That means if the client wants to see a sample that is 300-400 words long, you don’t provide something that is twice that length.
4. Make sure you are sending your response to the right person.
Rather than retyping an e-mail address, copy and paste it instead. You want to be sure that your resume and samples are going to be seen by the person who placed the ad.
5. Read your cover letter again.
It’s easy to make a typo or a grammatical error when you are responding to an ad. The last thing you want is to make a mistake like this when you are trying to impress a prospective client with your language skills. Take a few minutes to go over your cover letter carefully to make sure that you are presenting yourself in the best possible way.
Once you have completed these steps, go ahead and press “Send.”
Your first freelance writing job is the hardest one to get, in my opinion. Once you have one (or a few) gigs under your belt, you can use your past writing experience to propel yourself forward to the next opportunity. How do you approach the task of landing that first gig, then?
Start with what you know, and I don’t necessarily mean the fact that you have been writing for yourself for years. Working on your own projects is not the same thing as taking on client work. Both of them involve writing, but your own work is more of a free-range thing: you are not subject to the same restrictions that are in play when you are taking on work for someone else.
What I’m trying to get to here is that you should take some time to think about your past experiences, including paid work and volunteer work, your hobbies and general interests. All of them can point you in the direction of a niche that you can use to get freelance writing work.
Write down all the topics that come to mind, without editing them. (This can be a tough one; most of us have an internal editor that get in the way.) You should have a lengthy list of ideas when you are done.
Now you have something that you can use when you are apply for freelance writing jobs. I admit that at the beginning of my career, I used the shotgun approach to finding. I applied for anything and everything that I thought I was a good fit for, and it didn’t work out well at all.
When I changed my approach and started targeting gigs that related to my previous experience or a personal interest, it became much easier to get jobs. I wasn’t sending a prospective client a cover letter saying, ” I want to work for you,” I was saying, “I want to work for you because I have experience in or am interested in [X].” My guess is that adding more specific information made me a better candidate.
If you aren’t able to find an entry-level writing gig that reflects your prior work experience or your interests, you can still present yourself as someone the client would like to work with. Tell him or her that you are able to follow instructions to the letter and that you will give the project your best effort. In other words, work with what you have when you are looking for freelance writing jobs.
What approach did you use to land your first freelance writing job? Do you still use the same one or have you changed it over time?