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.
- 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.