How To Start Freelance Writing

One of the ways that I monetize this blog is through freelance writing. In fact, it currently brings in the most money of anything that I have going on around here. Since I know a number of you are interested in pursuing writing outside of your blog or journal, I want to take some time today to share some tips on making that dream a reality. I learned how to start freelance writing through trial and error and if you have any suggestions or additions, please leave them in the comments for everyone to benefit from!

Learn all the tips and tricks you need to start a successful freelance writing career!

1. Create a portfolio

Before you start writing for other people, you write for yourself. This could be your blog or writing you have saved on your computer. Make sure that that writing is easily accessible for you to send off in case companies/sites request samples of your writing. For me, my entire blog served as my portfolio until I was able to write for other publications. Once that happened, I created a press and publications page where I could refer people.

If you have a blog, concentrate on consistently publishing quality content. Not only will this draw more readers, but it will showcase the fact that you are capable of producing high quality work on a regular basis. Try writing about a specific topic or something outside of just showcasing your eats every day. Companies that you pitch need to see that you are able to write articles and longer posts of more substance.

There are paid and unpaid freelancing opportunities. While I’m assuming everyone prefers to get paid, there are benefits to writing for free. Huffington Post does not pay its bloggers, but they have an incredible reach. I got the most page views EVER when my HP post went live.

Writing for free allows you to build your portfolio and demonstrate the versatility of your writing when you begin pitching more paid opportunities. My advice is not to automatically discount unpaid gigs, but choose wisely which ones you will pursue. Do they have a large reach? Are they in a similar niche to what you want to write about?

2. Search and pitch jobs

The way that I find more freelance opportunities is by searching for them. I do this one of two ways:

  1. I already know who I want to write for and I pitch them directly
  2. I look for more opportunities through different job boards

There are a number of different sites that list freelance opportunities, but the ones I have visited the most are:

There are other sites such as Freelancer and Freelance that I have heard about from other people, but they require setting up an account and I can’t speak to their worth since I haven’t utilized them. My work I did for RunBuzz was organized through Upwork (formerly ODesk), but the actual open calls for writers were never enticing for me and seemed to pay very low.

My best advice is not to waste time with huge job boards or looking on places like Craigslist for opportunities. These places have open calls for all kinds of subject matter and unless you are very proficient in technical writing about software or applications, it will probably be a waste of time. Instead, take time to figure out what sites you want to write for and concentrate on pitching to them. Make sure you are familiar with the types of articles/posts that are published on each specific site and tailor your headlines and content to be similar.

Beyond Your Blog has compiled a huge number of sites that accept freelance work, both paid and unpaid. I only stumbled on it a month or two ago, but since then I had an article published on YourTango last month (a paid opportunity).

3. Get creative

As Chris Guillebeau emphasizes in his phenomenal book The $100 Startup (affiliate), you have to hustle.  Most of the writing jobs I have gotten have been from me simply sending a pitch or asking someone directly. Think outside the box when it comes to freelancing opportunities if you are not having success pitching random sites.

If, for instance, you want to write about health or fitness, find a local gym or studio and see if they have a blog. Ask if they are looking for contributors or if you can help them maintain or improve it in any way. For those types of places, the focus is on the workouts, customers, maintenance, etc and they may take you up on an offer to improve something that they may not have the resources to.

If I have left anything out or forgotten to cover something that you have questions about, please email me at erinsinsidejob@gmail.com or leave a comment. May the force be with you!

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24 Comments

  1. June 17, 2015 / 6:14 am

    Sometimes I wish I did more freelancing. I planned on it this winter/spring, but then realized that sometimes I just wanted my content on my blog, rather than elsewhere. I need to find a balance of it. Herm.
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…Encouragement: The Power of the Shout OutMy Profile

  2. June 17, 2015 / 8:30 am

    These are great tips! Thanks for those resources! I’ve done a few paid freelance articles for magazines and free stuff for sites like Elephant Journal, and hope to do more — I just need to put more time and effort into pitching. It’s hard to concentrate on growing a blog following and my writing portfolio at the same time, as some ideas end up as blog fodder instead of articles.
    Bri recently posted…#WorkoutWednesday: My Finlayson Arm 25K trail race training planMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 17, 2015 / 8:42 am

      It can be a little time consuming. I also have to be careful about the ideas I have. Some seem better for my blog and others are good for outside publications so it’s about figuring out the balance

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 17, 2015 / 8:43 am

      Anytime!

  3. June 17, 2015 / 9:37 am

    Very very helpful. I would definitely like to explore this and hope to be able to make some sort of income freelancing! Thank you for sharing ! : )
    Jamie recently posted…WIAW – Rosie’s New CaananMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 17, 2015 / 11:04 am

      Anytime! Hope they help!

  4. June 17, 2015 / 9:42 am

    This is so helpful! I recently decided I wanted to try my hand at freelancing. I just didn’t know where to start.
    Pragati // Simple Medicine recently posted…I am not my HairMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 23, 2015 / 9:10 am

      Yay I hope it helps!

  5. June 17, 2015 / 12:07 pm

    this is so amazingly helpful! i’m not sure if i want to pursue this but if i ever did, i have this post bookmarked. your posts are always super detailed, clearly you are living your life’s purpose or at least one of them 🙂
    danielle saucy smith recently posted…Deep Thoughts: Weekend WondermentsMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 23, 2015 / 8:53 am

      I’m trying to!

  6. June 17, 2015 / 6:45 pm

    Ah, this post is perfect! I’ve been thinking more about trying to start doing some freelance writing, but it’s hard to figure out where to start. Thanks a bunch for all of these great tips! I’ll definitely be referring back to this post. 🙂
    Beth @ Running with the Sunrise recently posted…How to Take Charge of Your Workout ScheduleMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 23, 2015 / 8:54 am

      Awesome! Glad I could help!

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 23, 2015 / 8:54 am

      Oh sweet I will have to check those out as well!

  7. June 19, 2015 / 11:01 pm

    I have been working to build my writing portfolio, but it’s the hustling for jobs that I’m not so good at. Getting paid sometimes would be nice. I enjoyed this post. Thanks for the tips.
    Kerry recently posted…Not My Interview With Robert MunschMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 23, 2015 / 8:53 am

      Anytime! Let me know if I can help out at all!

    • erinsinsidejob
      September 8, 2015 / 4:19 pm

      Of course! Let me know if I can help out in any other ways!

  8. September 23, 2015 / 8:18 am

    Good post, Erin! I spent many years working as a full-time freelancer, but I was working for a media company that offered steady work. I think if I had to pitch all my articles to various platforms, I would have to consider that a second job. It’s tough! But truthfully, I have found some legitimate long-term clients from Craigslist. There’s a site called: Search Craigslist where you can scan all of CL with a single search term, such as Freelance Writer. This gives you more opportunity, and writing remotely usually isn’t a problem so it’s a good idea to broaden your search to all areas. Of course we know that lots of scammers are lurking online, but they’re easy to spot — look for the typos and vague company profiles.
    Rica@YogaMatMonkey recently posted…How to Ditch Diets and Eat AuthenticallyMy Profile

  9. October 24, 2015 / 9:08 pm

    Great post and exactly what I needed to read right now as I’m trying to generate income from writing. Thanks for sharing!

    • erinsinsidejob
      October 25, 2015 / 8:51 pm

      Thanks Renee! I hope it helps!

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