Freelance Writing Jobs for Beginners: 5 Best First Gigs
Carol Tice | 20 Comments
Best Freelance Writing Jobs for Beginners

Right now, a record-high number of people are considering a freelance writing career. My inbox is overflowing with questions from newbies. And the first question is: “Where can I find freelance writing jobs for beginners?”

If that’s you, sending hugs! I totally feel your confusion. The freelance marketplace is a big, complicated place. There are lots of types of paid writing, and different kinds of clients, too.

I’ve been helping writers get started for a dozen years now. And I know how mystifying it can be. You feel like there’s a door you need to find, a person you need to know, a secret you must unlock to become a freelance writer.

But really, the path to freelance writing jobs for beginners is simple.

You need to find someone willing to let you write for them. That’s it.

You get a few samples and boom — you have a portfolio to show. And you’re on your way.

There are fairly simple, break-in writing assignments that newbies tend to get. I’m going to outline what they are below.

But first, I need to explain something…

 

Why this isn’t a list of writing sites

I realize that what you might have been expecting in this post is a list of freelance writing jobs for beginners and which content mills to sign up for. A discussion of whether Upwork is better than Fiverr. Or whether Textbroker or Writer Access has more listings.

When you Google ‘freelance writing,’ that stuff comes right to the top. Believe me, I know.

My advice is that you not sign up for ANY of those.

Because they’re a trap. And their rates generally suck.

That’s why I didn’t link to any of those above. I don’t recommend you go there.

If you’re looking to replace your day job with writing income, it’s statistically unlikely you’ll get there hanging around any of these places.

Here’s why:

  • Too much competition. In the current economy, all of the mass-job platforms like these are being flooded with newbies. Ditto for responding to online job ads. When every listing gets 500 bids or applicants, you can figure your statistical odds of getting hired are low.
  • Tiny money. Anywhere thousands of writers are gathered online, it’s a race to the bottom on price.
  • Lazy marketing. When you get into freelance writing, surprise: You’re a business startup! And businesses do their own, proactive marketing. They don’t sit around some platform’s dashboard hoping the luck fairy sends them a job. You learn bad habits that can cripple your chances of building a viable, bill-paying, remote-work biz.
  • It’s demoralizing. When you do nothing but scan job boards with $15 offers, it’s easy to get depressed. Or to conclude that freelance writing can’t pay your bills. When it can be a six-figure income.

If these platforms aren’t the answer, what is?

Learning to prospect and find your own clients. Got a quick-start guide to that for you in the final section below.

Once you commit to pitching independently for work, many doors will be open to you, to find decent-paying writing jobs. And usually, you’ll be the only writer they’re considering. Your success odds just soared.

But: What sort of work should you be pitching to do? Here are my top five projects to get started on, that lay the ground work for a great portfolio and good pay as you build your career:

Best 5 types of freelance writing jobs for beginners

Here’s a tip: Pitching a specific project gets way more responses than a generic: “Hi, I’m a writer. Do you need a writer?”

So — what should you say you could write, for these first writing clients? Here are some great newbie, break-in writing projects you can pitch for, along with thoughts on pricing:

1. Rewrite local small-business websites

Think about small businesses in your town that you patronize. Then, go look at their websites.

I know, they’re a mess! Offer to rewrite theirs. Or to add some new content. Perhaps they could use a press page, to help them get free media mentions. Or they have no ‘About us’ page with team bios and the company’s story. I find those are the most common missing pages on small-biz sites.

Study the big guys’ press pages or team bios, and then create a page like it for the little guy. Boom!

If you love writing and have had feedback you write well over the years, it’s a guarantee you’ll be able to create something stronger than Joe Businessguy wrote on his own.

2. Find abandoned business blogs

Many small businesses start a blog, because execs know it can be a great way to improve their website’s search rankings, deepen customer bonds, and build their authority as a go-to expert in their space.

But few can keep it going. Because duh, they’re busy running a business! Which is like trying to repair a plane engine while you’re flying the plane.

The blog quickly falls to the bottom of the priority list, and soon, it’s gathering dust. Which looks sad and actually hurts their image.

Abandoned business blogs — where there’s been no post for 6 months or a year or more — are legion. Pick an industry you know a bit about, search up companies in your region, and take a look.

This one’s like shooting fish in a barrel. An easy pitch: “Would you like help getting that blog going again?”

You’ve read blogs. you’re reading one now. You could write a blog post on day one that’ll likely be better than that solopreneur could create.

Pricing: Start out at $50-$100 for short blog posts (500-750 words or so) from bitty companies, if you need first samples. Go up from there. My coaching students get $500 a post and more, from bigger companies, so there is move-up opportunity.

3. Write business emails

Ever make a purchase and not get a sequence of emails afterwards that offers to sell you more, or keeps building the relationship? Many, many businesses rely on email marketing.

But small businesses are often low on automated email marketing sequences. They may not email people who abandon their sales cart, for instance. Sign up on your prospects’ sites to get notices and see what emails you get.

Sending more emails = money in the bank, for businesses. So this can be an easy sale.

Ask if they could use help with those. There are a million examples of good marketing emails out there you can crib from.

Pricing: Consider $100 per short email a floor. Pros command much more.

4. Create a newsletter or brochure

You might think both of these are dinosaur marketing products that aren’t used much today — but you’d be wrong. There may not be as much call for physical ones in this Covid moment, but e-newsletters abound, as do digital brochures.

You’ve read newsletters, and you can write ’em, too. Partner with a designer if your client needs that.

Grab all the brochures from your local Chamber of Commerce’s members to study. Most are wretchedly bad writing, and it’s easy to improve them.

Don’t forgot to look at nonprofits for these, too. They may not pay as well, but can be a great place to get some nice-looking clips to start.

Pricing: Varies by size and frequency of publication. But $750-$1,000 for a simple, 3-fold brochure isn’t uncommon, and a regular monthly e-news could easily be a $500-$1000-a-month steady project, depending on newsletter size.

5. Report articles for local news media

Local news has never been more challenged to keep locals informed and governments accountable. Freelance help is welcome!

Budgets are tight and staffs have been slashed — which means you might get some great pro bono samples here, if you’re willing to trudge out and cover that city council meeting or protest.

If they can’t pay or it’s small money, how is this better than writing for a content mill? Writing for newspapers conveys instant credibility.

Business clients know you have an editorial process you’ve successfully got through here. Print clips impress.

Pricing: $50-$100 will be typical, if they pay at all. This writing job is all about adding great portfolio samples and building your credibility as a writer.

How to find first writing jobs

The link higher up in this post has more detail on how to locate freelance writing jobs for beginners. But let me give you a crash course right here, on search methods that work:

  • Google is your friend. Search for startups or fastest-growing businesses in your target industry or city. The list you want already exists!
  • Businesses & nonprofits you know. Where do you shop and volunteer? Those are often your best starting point for getting first writing samples.
  • Chamber of Commerce directory. Every city has one, and big cities often have multiple chambers. Look through the directory for local business names — then, check their websites for what you want to pitch. You’ll be amazed how many companies operate in your town that you’ve never heard of.
  • Walk your local industrial park. These low-glamour businesses rarely get pitched, and their websites are often an atrocity. Write down the names of all the companies you see. Go home and look at their websites.
  • Get new-business registrations. If your city has a business journal, they pull this data for you in a section of the paper each week. A Daily Journal of Commerce, if your town has one, would have these listings, too. If not, call your city, county, or other local-government’s business development department and ask how you access new-business registrations (they should be a public record you can view). Anybody starting a biz right now needs marketing help — and often, doesn’t have the budget to hire a seasoned pro.

That ought to get you started with plenty of leads to companies that could use a fresh writer. Hope this helps you get launched and rolling!

What types of first freelance writing jobs are you looking for? Or if you’re already writing for pay, what was your first writing job? Let’s discuss in the comments.

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20 comments on “Freelance Writing Jobs for Beginners: 5 Best First Gigs

  1. Lilly on

    Writing is my passion. I am educated enough to teach in a college but I also want to write about any topic mostly science topic as I am a science student. Kindly, help me in starting my career as writer.

    Regards,.
    Lilly

    Reply
  2. Sandra Cesca on

    As an English speaker living in Mexico, most publications, websites, blogs are in Spanish. When owners try to translate into English the mistakes are hilarious as well as bad for their business image. Here is my opportunity to proofread and rewrite these in English! If you are in a similar situation, this is a piece of cake opportunity. Good Luck.

    Reply
  3. Jakob+Sauppe on

    These posts always encourage me; I second-guess myself a lot!

    Perfect timing, too. Last week was my first attempt at pitching to a couple of local businesses. I know two pitches aren’t much to go by, but I’m keeping my goals light from week-to-week as I collect pro-bono work. I’m planning to get some more pitches going this week.

    Thanks for a great article with plenty of ideas!

    Reply
    • Angie Mansfield on

      Hi, Jakob –

      Congratulations on getting your first couple of pitches out there!

      One note that stuck out for me in your comment was the bit about “collecting pro-bono work.” Just want to say, you don’t need to collect more than a couple of pro bono pieces – once you have 1-2 clips to show prospective clients, you should be pitching paid work instead of more free work. Don’t get caught in that trap of thinking you have to amass a big library of free clips before marketing yourself in earnest. And make sure those pro bono clients are giving you a testimonial to display along with those clips!

      Reply
      • Jakob Sauppe on

        Thanks for the advice Angie!

        Yeah, I’m not expecting to do pro-bono work for too long. Maybe a couple clips, like you said. I already have ten published articles in my alma mater’s newspaper, but I wanted the purpose of my pro-bono pitches to be diversifying my portfolio apart from just article writing… to bolster my own experience as much as to have something to show (admittedly, it’s also for my own comfort, like testing the waters of freelancing).

        My professional freelancing network is pretty much non-existent right now too, so I also figure pro-bono would help get my name around.

        Reply
  4. Kennedy on

    Hello and Good evening.
    My name is Kennedy. I am an upcoming writer. I’m looking for a mentor in writing. I will appreciate if you can school me on how to become a better writer.
    Thank so much as I anticipate your reply.

    Your sincerely,
    Kennedy

    Reply
    • Angie Mansfield on

      Hi, Kennedy –

      Carol can’t provide individual coaching to everyone who asks, as I’m sure you can understand. But if you want to learn about freelancing and get your business off to a great start, you can join the Freelance Writers Den – learn more here: https://freelancewritersden.com/

      Reply
  5. Andrea Drake on

    I was part of Upwork two years ago and started getting paid to write. At first it felt like an accomplishment. Over time I realized I was wasting my time and getting frustrated. Now, I am recharged to start again. I am looking to start writing for business blogs and their web content.

    Reply
    • Angie Mansfield on

      Yeah, we’ve heard a few success stories about Upwork, but most writers ultimately get tired of it and look for something better. Writing for businesses directly is definitely a step up – good luck!

      Reply
  6. Angela Dowdy on

    For the past two years I have written for content mills (avg $2 a pop) and gotten a few travel articles published online (up to $25). Then two months ago I launched my own website on which I write lots of pro bono local articles. I expect my writing ability to be noticed and lead to other jobs.
    Your article has encouraged me to reach out to local small businesses and to research abandoned blogs.
    Hopefully in a few months I can tell you a success story.
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Angie Mansfield on

      Hi, Angela –

      I’m a content mill refugee too. I started with one of the more notorious ones 10 years ago. Lots of us find our way to Carol when we’re looking for ways to escape those race-to-the-bottom sites. πŸ˜‰

      Want to clear up one small misconception in your comment: a pro bono piece is a free piece of content we write for a client in exchange for the clip and a testimonial, not the articles we write on our own websites. A true pro bono piece makes a good clip to show clients; the stuff we write on our own websites is not nearly as impressive to prospective clients. They want to see that we can go through an editorial process to please an end client, which doesn’t happen with our own blogs and such.

      You may be able to use some of your content mill clips, though, until you’re able to get a clip or two from new paying or pro bono clients. Depends on where they’re published and the quality (I know some of those mills have weird editorial requirements that make those clips less appropriate). You just need one solid clip you wrote for a client to start marketing yourself. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  7. Beverly Coomer on

    This article’s timing is perfect. Having just completed the LinkedIn Bootcamp, I was overwhelmed to realized that while I have a more polished marketing platform, I need proof of actual writing experience! I’ve felt behind the curve for some time, but you’ve given me plenty of ideas to put into action. Thanks — it’s the most-used word in the Den, I’m sure!

    Reply
  8. Julie+Ann+Trentin on

    Hi Carol,
    As usual your advice comes at such a great time. I may have a job prospect but it is not in freelance. I’ m hoping to do that on weekends😁 Your advice on those job places is so accurate. I have kept my resume to Indeed
    and ZipRecruiter.They are free to.post a Resume and they have legit jobs to bid on as well.
    I have submitted a few articles; I haven’t heard back yet as you know they can take months to respond!! πŸ™‚ Well, I keep listening to you and I couldn’t be more Grateful! Thanks for the help! It’s so appreciated 😊
    Julie Ann Trentin.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice on

      Julie Ann — you may have noticed that none of the methods in this post are ‘post resumes around on mass boards’ or ‘submit pre-written articles.’ Only dysfunctional clients hire writers from resumes — the sane ones look at our portfolio instead, read our work and see if they like it.

      And better-paying article markets don’t like pre-written articles you ‘submit’ – you send them a query letter first and write on assignment. Hope those tips help you avoid wasted time!

      Reply

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