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"Make a Living Writing is the only blog I read religiously. It's always on top of the news and advice writers need RIGHT NOW to earn more from their writing." —Linda Formichelli, The Renegade Writer

How to Get Hired When You Apply for Online Freelance Writing Jobs

Freelance writer job ads onlineI can remember when it was tough to figure out how to get a freelance writing gig. You typed and physically mailed query letters to editors, mostly. Or went to a lot of Chamber of Commerce meetings, hoping to meet marketing managers.

Now, of course, if you have an Internet connection, job listings are hard to avoid. Online job ads are everywhere! But finding one that pays anything substantial — and getting hired — isn’t always easy.

I hear from tons of writers who’ve had job-hunting experiences like this Freelance Writers Den member recently did:

“What am I doing wrong? I’ve applied and applied for online writing jobs, but I don’t get any response, ever.”–Hannah

As it happens, there is an art to getting a response from an online writing job-ad poster. I know because when I started freelancing in 2005, I started reading those Craigslist ads, just like everybody else.

After a few years, I realized spending hours each week combing through mass job ads was not the best way to find good-paying clients. But along the way to that insight, I got my job-ad process down to an art form.

I started getting replies, and found several decent-paying clients via online job ads.

If you’d like to start getting positive responses to those applications you send in, here are my five tips:

1. Only respond to ads you are perfect for

You know all those ads that say “Write about whatever you want — pets, health, food, etc.”? All scams.

I have been at this for nearly a decade now, and have yet to hear of a living wage happening at a site like that. Because there is no business where they’d want to pay people to write about whatever that is making a profit. Successful businesses sell a specific thing…and they’re going to want you to write about that and only that.

Instead of applying to anything and everything, or to websites where there is no apparent business model, think about your life experience and work experience. What do you know something about? Only apply to those gigs.

For instance, I was once a legal secretary, so one of the categories I trolled for was legal writing. That paid off in about $10,000 worth of blogging for lawyers through one company I found off Craiglist. They were thrilled to get me and I’m sure my experience made me stand out.

2. Realize this is a writing audition

Before you apply, research the prospect’s website. If it’s a blind ad, know that most of those are scams, and you should probably move on. Good, legitimate companies want you to be able to check them out before you apply, because it saves them time wading through inappropriate applicants.

If you can, take a look around and note the writing style this company uses. Then, use that style in your cover letter or email. Write it just like it’s something that’s going to get posted on their website.

If you do this, you will immediately stand out from the pack. Most writers are applying with a note like this:

Hello, I saw your job ad on Craigslist. Please consider me for the writing gig. I’m a really good writer.


Boring, boring, boring. Also, your prospect can’t tell whether you could write the stuff they need done. Show them you ‘get’ their style right in your application.

Just because they’re making you apply in one of those super-annoying automated online forms doesn’t mean you can get a lazy attitude toward showing what you’ve got. This is your chance to impress them, so take it.

3. Explain why you’re unique

Instead of letting your application just lay there, have some personality. Really let them get to know you.

While you’re at it, be sure to call out any scrap of knowledge you might have about the type of writing assignment they’re offering, or their industry sector.

Did you used to horseback ride, and this is for a riding school? Clue them in. You nursed a friend through cancer and this is for a healthcare portal? Be sure to share that.

You might think all prospects want to hear is that you’re a long-established writer with a big portfolio, but you’ll be surprised how far you can get calling out your relevant life experience.

4. Watch out for this red flag

Here’s something I noticed scanning through thousands of online freelance writing job ads: If you’re required to submit a resume, it’s unlikely there is going to be good pay involved.

Why? Because successful, profitable companies that hire freelance writers a lot don’t read freelancers’ resumes. They review portfolios.

I know because it’s been many years since I was asked to provide a resume to a prospective client. At the higher pay levels, clients just don’t go this route.

I believe you see requests for resumes when a low-paying startup is expecting to get hundreds of responses, and they need to use the resumes to skim through and narrow the field. So the resume request is yet another ‘tell,’ like blind ads, that this is probably not worth your time — they’ll be choosing from hundreds of writers and your odds are extremely long of ever hearing back.

5. Avoid mass platforms

If you’re tired of never getting a response and ready to up your game — but can’t get out of the house and really need to prospect online — then stop looking at Craigslist and all other widely read job boards. Instead, find niche boards that don’t have a bajillion freelance writers scanning them.

Yes, these boards do exist, and they usually have positions advertised that pay a lot better than what you find on Craigslist. Once I got a great ongoing blogging gig for a website run by a major TV network off the listings on media company Gorkana’s journalist alerts. (Thanks to writer Sharon Baker for turning me onto them initially.) They’ve even expanded since I used them, and now have alerts for healthcare, finance, media, technology, B2B, and more.

If you write about a particular industry, check out their industry association website — they may have members posting about needs they have for marketing help. Yes, you might have to pay a fee and join in some cases. Consider doing it.

Do I know which niche job board is best for you? No. You’ll have to do your own Google work to find it, based on your interests and level of experience. But it’s worth it, I promise.

Of course, the very best way to earn more as a writer is to stop looking at online job ads altogether, and begin proactively prospecting to find your own clients.

While you’re growing your income to where you can make that leap, these tips should help drastically cut back your time wasted flipping through online freelance writing jobs that will likely never lead to a gig.

Have you gotten a gig from an online job ad? Leave a comment and tell us what worked.

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No Freelance Writing Gigs? Here are 7 Ways to Stay Productive

Freelance writer moving forwardIf you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’ve found yourself with a lull in your freelance writing career at some point.

It’s easy to feel defeated and give up altogether, but as unlikely as it may sound, there is a silver lining to this cloud.

What could be great about being out of a job?

Time. You have time on your side. You just need to make good use of it.

And by good use, I don’t mean looking at Craigslist ads to find freelance writing gigs, either. Here are seven things to do instead:
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Bidding on Elance: Here’s How Easily Freelancers Can Get Screwed

screw-1000pxFrom my very first blog post back in 2008, I’ve advocated that freelance writers avoid mass bidding sites such as oDesk and Elance.

This past week, I learned in an unexpected way just how easily freelancers can get ripped off doing writing work through impersonal, third-party platforms like Elance.

Because I got ripped off, big time.

Here’s how it happened…

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Top 3 Types of Retainer Gigs (and How Copywriters Can Get Them)

Freelance writer inks a retainer gig contractAs a marketer who hires and trains dozens of freelance writers every year, I’m a big fan of working with writers on retainer.

To me, they’re the true win-win.

As a writer, you get peace of mind knowing you have steady work (and a steady paycheck) month-after-month. And as a marketer, I save a ton of time on every project and typically get better results.

So, what are the best types of retainer gigs? In my experience, these three deals are the ones most often overlooked by writers. (Which means great opportunity for you!)

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Which Freelance Writing Tips Have Helped You Most?

Excited man with an answer to questionsSometimes it’s a little thing. Sometimes a huge mental shift. But at some point, every freelance writer gets a few pieces of advice that change everything.

For me, it was probably the first time I got an article killed — and the editor told me I was too close to the subject and had an obvious agenda.

It was the beginning of learning to be a journalist for me, and report all sides of a story fairly (no matter how I felt about the topic).

Then there was the writer friend who took my outrageously long first-ever feature article draft and showed me how to use active verbs to make my sentences less wordy. That was a game-changer, too.

It’s sort of unreal to me, but it’s been eight years (!) since I started this blog full of freelance writing advice. More than 700 posts are up.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make this blog even better in the future. I’m interested in learning more about what readers need to know — how I can help create more “aha” moments that lead to better writing income for you.

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7 Inspiring Posts For Fearful Freelance Writers

Scared freelance writerWhat’s holding you back from pitching editors?

Are you afraid you don’t have enough experience? That your ideas aren’t good enough? Editors won’t like your ideas or your writing?

Even if you get the assignment, do you worry you won’t have the chops to pull it off?

Or maybe there are just too many things you could write about — so you don’t end up pursuing any of them.

Whatever your fear block is, don’t worry — we’ve gathered a compendium of the most popular posts we’ve ever had here at Make a Living Writing on how to move past your freelancing fears:

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