Ever feeling like one failure after the next keeps you from finding good freelance writing jobs?
I know I did. When I first started looking for freelance writing jobs, I felt like a total failure. I even thought about quitting. It sucks when…
- You’re not getting any bites from query letters or letters of introduction
- All the freelance writing jobs you find on bid sites, job boards, and content mills pay pitiful rates, or
- Even after consuming countless podcasts, courses, and blog posts about freelance writing, you still doubt your skills.
Instead of giving up, I decided to take a step back and look at what I was doing wrong. I really wanted to find a way to turn things around and get back on track.
And I’m glad I did. It took me about five months to break down all the false ideas I had about freelancing writing and start landing better-paying gigs. It wasn’t easy, but I learned a lot from those failures.
Want to avoid making the same mistakes? Check out these five fast-track fixes to find more freelance writing jobs:
Mistake 1: I’ll tell people I’m a freelance writer…someday
It’s tough being new at something, and a lot of people have negative perceptions of freelancing like:
- It’s financially risky
- There’s not enough freelance writing jobs to go around
- Freelance writing isn’t really a career
- You don’t have enough writing experience to make this work
You’ve probably heard it all before. And if you start believing it like I did, you’re headed for failure. It can be hard to reveal yourself to friends and family as a freelancer and possibly face negative reactions.
But there are people in your circle who want you to succeed, only they can’t help unless you tell them what you’re doing.
The fix: Practice saying: “I’m a freelance writer. I write about (your niche topic).” Stand in front of the mirror and say it. Write it out on paper. Type it up and make it your screensaver. And tell every one you know. Make it a habit, and you’ll start to believe it.
When I started telling people I was looking for freelance writing jobs, they sent me encouraging articles, introduced me to other freelancers, and even brought me story ideas.
Mistake 2: I’ll network after I have samples to brag about
You might be tempted to hide in the shadows until you’ve landed your dream assignment. You convince yourself nobody wants to do business with you unless you’ve been published in all the major consumer magazines.
If you’re not going to do any networking until that happens, you’re making a big mistake and missing out on potential freelance writing jobs.
The fix: Choose one or more networking activities to make connections with other people that you’ll work on regularly. For example:
- Attend networking events, tradeshows or conferences to meet potential clients
- Use LinkedIn to make connections
- Ask your current clients for referrals and introductions
- Get to know other freelance writers in your niche or in your city
I reached out to other freelance writers in my city on LinkedIn. I bravely clicked the “connect” button, and guess what? They all accepted. I wrote several people friendly messages and got offers to meet for coffee. One writer introduced me to an editor who gave me a great assignment with a regional magazine.
Mistake 3: I’ll get started after I set up my writer website
Developing a writer website is a great idea. But if you don’t know how, or you don’t have a portfolio of work to post online, it’s easy to use this an excuse for not being able to find good freelance writing jobs. So you don’t do any freelance writing activities for days, weeks, months, or even years (seriously, this happens).
The fix: Just do it. Create a writer website or online profile as a freelance writer on a done-for-you platform. For example:
- WordPress and Square Space have easy-to-use templates and tools to get a writer website up and running fast
- Use your LinkedIn profile to show off your freelance writing skills until you’ve got a writer website.
- Platforms like Contently and NewsCred allow you to create a writer profile with a portfolio.
- Or if you want a done-for-you writer website, check out FolioSetup (which Carol Tice recommends and affiliate sells).
Taking a little time to set up my writer website helped me focus on developing a niche, forced me to get a good headshot, and define my writing style. It’s also great way to give yourself a boost of confidence as a freelance writer, and develop some basic tech skills.
Don’t have a writer website yet? Just do it. You can get a basic site up and running within a week, easy.
Mistake 4: I have to work for free or really low rates first
While your rates for freelance writing jobs as a noob might be lower than a more experienced writer, don’t sell yourself short. Working for very low rates or for free can get you stuck. It’s tough to make a living writing and pay your bills with $10 blog post assignments that take hours to write.
The fix: Aim high, and you just might get it. Set a minimum rate like $50 to $100 an hour, and only accept freelance writing jobs that pay pro rates. You’ll need to do your own marketing to make it happen, instead of relying on job boards, bid sites, and content mills.
If you don’t have any samples, consider doing a pro bono project to build your portfolio. One sample is enough to help you raise your rates and find better clients.
Mistake 5: I’ll get more freelance writing jobs without a niche
You might like to think you can produce great writing on any topic, but likely you can’t. It’s another mistake I made starting out.
For example, if you don’t know anything about tax reform and you hate accounting, you’re going to have a tough time writing about business finance.
If you don’t specialize, you’ll miss out on freelance writing jobs when an editor or marketing director is looking for a business writer, health writer, technology writer, etc.
The fix: Stick to one or two niche areas that interest you, no professional experience required. If you love to garden, or enjoy cigars, those can be your niches. Plan your website, networking activities, and marketing efforts around your niche topics. It’s how I carved out a niche writing about food and health.
Learn from failure for freelance success
Failure happens, even to the best freelance writers. But it doesn’t have to stop you from being able to move up and earn more. Learn from your mistakes, and you’ll be on the fast-track to freelance success.
Catherine McBride is a freelance writer based in Louisville Kentucky who writes about food and health.