Checking Online Ads? Here’s How to Get More Writing Jobs

Online Job Ads: The 30-Day Challenge to Get More Writing Jobs. Makealivingwriting.comDo you frantically scan the online writer job ads each week — or worse, each day? If you’re applying to lots of these writing jobs, you’ve probably discovered a painful truth.

It’s rare to ever hear back, much less get hired off an online job ad on any popular, public job board.

I don’t care if you’re viewing an Upwork dashboard, scanning Craigslist, the ProBlogger board, or any other online set of job listings that are free to view and can be seen by thousands (upon thousands!) of writers.

I hear complaints about this from writers all the time. Things like:

“I often see ads for something near my expertise, but rarely hear a peep after I apply.”

If this is you, here’s a bulletin: If you spend so much time applying for online job ads that you ‘often see’ certain types of listings, that’s a red flag.

You’re putting too much of your marketing time into the least-productive method for getting well-paid writing jobs.

Now, I’m no job-ad snob — I used to check them three times a week, like clockwork. That is, until an analysis of my marketing results proved to me that writer job ads aren’t the road to great-paying clients.

How can you get more writing jobs, for better pay? Here are three big tips for dealing with online writer job ads:

1. Take my 30-day challenge

When you realize you’ve become too reliant on writer job ads, the best thing to do is go cold turkey.

So I’d like to ask you: Could you go a month without looking at online job ads?

This is my 30-day challenge. Imagine you couldn’t respond to any writer job ads for a month.

They’ve all mysteriously disappeared. You’ve been banned from Upwork or Fiverr. Invent a scenario. Your Google is broken.

What would you do? How would you find writing jobs?

Now, do that instead.

Find your own writing jobs

I know. For many writers, this will be radical.

If you’ve been firing off resumes into the void on online writer job listings that 1,500 other writers are also going to apply for, and calling it marketing…this will seem scary.

But realize that you really haven’t been marketing your business at all.

Responding to mass online writer job ads is a passive undertaking, where you let your career be determined by whatever Upwork or People Per Hour or whatever posts each week.

And you stay in denial about how many responses each mass job ad gets, telling yourself you’ve got a shot at landing this gig.

Once you figure out online job ads are a time-waster, it’s best to make a clean break and begin your new life as a proactive marketer. Start identifying and targeting your own clients, get out of the giant pool of 1,000 resumes, and actually get hired.

How should you do this proactive marketing? Any way you like:

  • Go to in-person networking events
  • Send pitch letters or queries
  • Work your LinkedIn profile
  • Do direct-mail packages
  • Ask your network for referrals.

I don’t care. Anything else you choose will likely get you better results.

What if you’re too terrified to do the 30-day challenge? Got a couple other ideas for you…

2. Get picky — and set a time limit

This is one of the things I did as I began weaning myself off online job ads. I stopped responding to most writer job ads, and got selective.

This is sort of like a drunk weaning themselves down to a single glass of wine with dinner. It’s easy to relapse, but better than staying soused in the gutter.

In particular, I skipped any writer jobs that had:

  • No company name, website, or contact person (scam alert!)
  • A vague description of what they wanted
  • A request for ‘my best rates’ despite offering zero project details
  • An eagerness to let you write about any topic you want (spoiler, there are NO well-paid writing jobs like that)

Instead, I only responded to job ads from real companies I could research online from their contact info, that asked for a specific expertise I had.

They wanted someone with experience writing for lawyers, about insurance, or on corporate finance? I’m taking the time to shoot them a resume.

Those are the only ads that ever yielded good jobs for me.

Using the 10% rule

I also looked at how much marketing time I had in a week, and then limited my job-ad checking to about 10% of that time. So if I was going to invest 10 hours in marketing that week, only 1 hour could be devoted to ads.

Quickly, I got the process down to about 20 minutes three times a week. I created some stock paragraphs I could mix-n-match for quick responses to these ads.

The result? A few decent gigs, and plenty of time for other, more effective forms of marketing.

3. Find niche boards for writing jobs

The other change you can make — if you can’t just kick the job-board habit overnight, that is — is to change where you look for online writing jobs.

Not all job boards are free and open to the public, or free to leave a listing on. There are better boards out there (here’s a list).

Good boards where companies pay to list include LinkedIn’s jobs (which are including more and more freelance listings lately, by the way). Yes, many may respond, but in general these are all very legit companies. The deadwood has been cut because they won’t pay the fee to list.

The other way better boards work is that you pay to access their more obscure info. A good example is FlexJobs (which I proudly affiliate sell).

At FlexJobs, they scan dark corners of the internet for juicy, lesser-known listings. You pay them for their time spent collecting them all in one handy place for you.

Mine the niches

Alongside paid boards, the other opportunity lies in finding more obscure job boards that simply aren’t checked by the multitude.

For instance, if a professional association or organization in your industry niche runs a little job board for members — perhaps in their e-news, rather than posted on a web page — that’s a much less traveled place far fewer writers will check.

My favorite niche source of job leads for years was Gorkana’s journalism board. These are generally well-paid jobs for industry trade magazines (the oil & gas trades seem to advertise perpetually). Not everyone would be qualified, but if you are, finding one of these less well-known boards can get you some hot leads.

Find your own writing jobs

I’ve given you some ideas on how to mine the job boards for good leads. And it’s not like there’s never a good job listed online.

If I thought that, I wouldn’t run my own niche job board, inside my Freelance Writers Den community.

The idea of my board is really to show you that there are only perhaps a dozen decent writing job listings in any given week. (We also have a relationship with FlexJobs on my board, and share a few of their top listings.) We gather the cream, here they are, stop wasting time on Craigslist.

In general, if you want to earn more than about $20,000 a year as a writer (crazy outliers excepted), you’re going to need to leave the world of online writing job ads behind. The faster you get going, the sooner you earn more.

Do you use online boards to apply for writing jobs? Share your own tips (and 30-day challenge pledges) in the comments.

Get more writing jobs in Freelance Writers Den

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15 comments on “Checking Online Ads? Here’s How to Get More Writing Jobs
  1. Hi Carol! 🙂

    Usually I only spend half an hour weekly on job boards and I only devote proper time to the few ads that I find interesting for my niche (SEO and Marketing, Marketing SaaS).

    However, now that the new treatment made me less anxious (the pathological type) I think I’m almost ready to accept a 30-day challenge like this. 😀 I’m bookmarking this post for September. I want to try new things after the summer.

    One amazing thing that happened to me recently was getting a lead through HARO interviews: one of the sources I quoted in an article for a current client asked me if I was accepting more clients because he wants to hire me. 🙂 I still don’t know where this is going, but it’s pretty amazing that this happened.

    Cheers,
    Luana

    P.S. LOL I’ve gotten so used to see comments closed everywhere (even on my sites for now) that I no longer even check if they are open or not XD I developed something similar to “banner blindness” I think.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Luana – just have to approve you once, and then you’re in! Love that HARO paid off for you.

      So… what will you do INSTEAD of checking online job ads, for marketing? That’s the big question…

      • Thanks, Carol!

        I’m thinking pitch letters and queries. There are small marketing SaaS companies that I appreciate and follow, as well as good blogs in the industry that I read almost regularly. Maybe they need a writer to help with branding, SEO and conversions? 🙂

        To be honest, I’d love to give trade magazines (in that same industry) a try, but the ones I like and read don’t pay writers so I will have to continue searching for opportunities.

        (But the non-paying trade mags might be still good for marketing, right?)

  2. Amy Hardwick says:

    Thanks Carol! This is a great reminder that there are so many creative places to find jobs.

  3. Diane Young says:

    That’s a great new photo, Carol!
    Thanks for continuing to lead us through the murk of freelance writing.
    Diane Young

    • Carol Tice says:

      Glad you like! I couldn’t resist because that sweater is the same color as one of our new key colors in the Den revamp. 😉 Also, I think that other shot is like 6 years old already! It was time.

      So… do you use online job ads? I’m fascinated that no one seems to want to admit to it here on the comments…

      • Diane Young says:

        I’m retired, but not from life. I don’t blog or write content. Social Security is my bacon and I go for the gravy writing magazine articles, so I can honestly say that I’ve never looked at a job board.
        I get an idea for an article, do some research, line up a couple of interviews, arrange for photos if needed and I’m ready to pitch an editor at a magazine that I’ve checked out and think will be a good fit.
        I’m not aiming for six figures, but I do my happy dance by the mailbox every time there’s a check and a copy of the issue with my article. The neighbors must think I’m nuts.
        I love the Den and all it offers, and MALW, especially the lists of markets, complete with contact info. You save me so much time. You probably don’t remember me, but I won a year’s membership in the Den last year with my short story, “My Worst Writing Job From Hell.” I really did a happy dance that day!
        Thanks again, Carol.
        Diane

  4. Sue Chehrenegar says:

    I appreciate the information on the niche boards. I have also tried using the board on your website. Right now I cannot get onto that sight, even though I am using the password that worked 2 days ago.

    Sue Chehrenegar

  5. Tom Basnet says:

    Hi Carol, I love reading your article. I am from India, and recently started blogging but the irony part is that I am not able to generate traffic as well as earnings. So I think of writing paid jobs now as I need this earning to help my site’s growth. Please help for any better writing job. Thanks, Tom

  6. Duncan Seward says:

    Excellent article on the alternatives to job boards, well done :).

    • Carol Tice says:

      Glad you enjoyed, Duncan!

      I honestly wish all writers would just stop imagining that firing off resumes from listings on online job boards is a great way to build a viable freelance writing business…it isn’t. But I recognize they’re sort of a necessary evil, and every once in a while, a few decent listings DO happen…someone wanders onto Craigslist from a real company, who doesn’t understand it’s a cesspit, and just posts a real job.

      The PROBLEM is how much time you WASTE culling through all that to find 1 decent lead. Which is why I run a ‘best of’ board in the Den. Trying to do that FOR members (who do report they get decent clients off our board!)