6 Steps to Getting Your First Writing Gig as a Freelancer

6 Steps to Getting Your First Writing Gig as a Freelancer

Do you love writing and want to work from anywhere you like but can’t figure out how to get your first writing job? Let me tell you exactly how you can get started as a freelance content writer.

In this blog post, I'm going to share 6 steps to becoming a freelance writer so you can start a side hustle or a full-time job doing what you love – writing. Before we get into it, let me ask you a question: Are you sure that freelancing is right for you?

I know that an image of a person sitting on a beach with a Piña Colada by their side and a laptop on their knees might look appealing. But freelancing isn't an easy job. Finding clients is hard, managing yourself is also hard, there is no sense of security and it can get really lonely. Is this something you see yourself doing for a living? Let me know in the comments on my YouTube channel and let's chat about it. Thank you!

And if you're still eager to break into freelancing, there are some things that I'd like to share to help you start off on the right foot.

Let's dive in!

Step 1: Figure out how to write well

The first article I wrote – I thought it was amazing. Now, when I look back at it, it seems pretty terrible. Writing is a skill and you have to practice it to get better. The more you write, the better you'll get. 

Plus, here are a few books that can help you improve your writing:

  • "The Elements of Style" by William Strunk 
  • "Everybody Writes" by Ann Handley 
  • "On Writing" by Stephen King
  • "On Writing Well" by William Zinsser
  • "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott
  • "Writing Without Bullshit" by Josh Bernoff 
  • And finally, my own "From Reads To Leads." 

I wrote this book specifically for content writers. It provides a roadmap to succeeding with content, from understanding the reader to structuring your content and writing to elicit a response. Plus, it has a bunch of exercises to practice your writing skills. My book is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, Google Play, and other books stores. I hope you find it useful.  

Step 2: Understand content marketing

To get hired, you need to understand why businesses need content in the first place. 

The most common reason why somebody would be looking for people like you is that they want to grow their reach and acquire new leads (or potential customers). 

Publishing long-form content optimized for search engines is the best way to achieve this objective. And this means you need to know how to write content that’s designed to rank in search engines like Google. You need to know how to pick out relevant keywords, how to write SEO-optimized title tags, and how to structure your content to help it rank organically.

Check out my video How to Write SEO Content.

There is much more to SEO than just keywords. If you're interested, here are a few blogs you should subscribe to:

Because the ultimate aim of content marketing is to turn website visitors into leads, you should also learn about different stages of the buyer's journey, and how to move a reader down the marketing funnel as they're reading your content.

Being able to convince people to take action or even buy something through your writing is another must-have skill you need to develop. 

Besides, you should also get yourself familiar with different types of content and formats to be able to land different types of jobs. You should know some basic principles of writing blog posts, case studies, ebooks, whitepapers, press releases, video scripts, podcasts, and even newsletters and landing pages, if you're also considering copywriting jobs.


How to write a blog post

How to write a landing page

Step 3: Choose your niche

I've already told you: The more you write, the better you'll get. This means you need to write every single day. But what can you write about? 

If you want to make money as a writer, you should spend time writing about stuff that you want to get paid to write about. Lifestyle, health, finance, education, digital marketing, cryptocurrency, technology, remote work – you name it. I suggest that you choose a topic you feel curious about, and start digging into it to develop your expertise and increase your chances of getting hired. 

I am not the one who would tell you to go for a "profitable" niche, because I think any niche can be profitable. It all depends on your willingness to work hard and grow professionally.

At some point, I chose technology and software development as my writing niche. And even though it was hard at first, I was really curious about it. I enjoy learning new things, and this job kept me happy and motivated. 

Step 4: Create a writing portfolio

Nobody will ever hire you unless you have a writing portfolio. You can always write your own articles and publish them on websites like Medium, but you should also try to get some links to your works on the websites in the industry you're targeting.

And that might require you to write for free.

When I just started as a content writer, I remember looking for some writing opportunities. I came across one magazine that published journalistic articles about virtual reality. Because both things journalism and virtual reality seemed exciting to me, I started writing some feature stories for this magazine for free. That was an awesome experience. I had to interview people from different countries to include their opinions in my pieces and I learned a lot about quality journalistic writing doing this. I've never regretted writing for free. 

If you want to build a real portfolio (not a link to a folder on Google Drive), you should search for opportunities to get your name on blogs and magazines in your target industry. 

I've made some outreach email samples that you can use to pitch your blog post ideas to the sites you're interested in:

Email 1.

Hi [Blogger name], 

My name is [name]. I wanted to discuss the possibility of submitting a post to your site [Site name]   

The blog post's headline is [headline] and the article will include:

  1. [ idea 1]
  2. [ idea 2]
  3. [ idea 3] 

I've noticed the articles on this topic are particularly popular with your readers. I was hoping I could send you the article if you think it's a good fit. 

I am looking forward to hearing from you soon!

Email 2.

Hi [Blogger name],

My name is [name] from [company]. I’ve been following your blog since 2017.

Your recent post [blog topic] really resonated with me. I thought it was something my audience would appreciate, so I shared it with my social media and email subscribers.

I wanted to get in touch with you to see if we can work on something similar together. 

Here are a few topics that I think [Blog name] readers would get a ton of value from:

Topic #1

Topic #2

Topic #3

To give you an idea of the quality that I bring to the table, here are a few posts that I’ve recently published:

Link #1

Link #2

Let me know what you think.

Step 5: Get out there

Okay now that you've learned how to write well, and even have a portfolio that shows off your work, I'd say, you're ready to get out there and start looking for paid jobs.

Luckily there are many places on the internet where you can get yourself hired. From job boards like Indeed, Moster, and Problogger to paid membership sites like Contena and SolidGigs, to community websites like Freelance Writers Den, to freelance marketplaces like Upwork and FlexJobs, and even daily newsletters like ContentWritingJobs, you can find many opportunities online. The content writing jobs can also be found on Jooble.

At some places, you need to pay to get paid. Contena, for example, charges you around $40 per month when paid in full for the year, and the daily newsletter membership at ContentWritingJobs costs $9 per month. 

Make sure you check out these places and choose the ones that feel right for you. 

Check out more places to find freelance writing jobs here.

Step 6: Land your first gig

To land your first gig, you need to start sending out your pitches. Your pitch should follow the instructions mentioned in the job ad and you need to include some information about your experience there. Make sure you give them links to your relevant writing samples. Don't forget about a call to action (CTA) saying something like, “When would be the right time for you to discuss this project?”

How much should you charge? You can start with around $0.10 per word and grow your rate as you get more clients. It's a good idea to offer a discount if a client is willing to buy several articles from you.

If you don’t get a response within a week or two after you've sent your pitch, follow them up with a simple reminder. You can also try offering a trial period or a discounted price. 

So there you have it, 6 steps to get your first writing job:

Step 1: Figure out how to write well

Step 2: Understand content marketing

Step 3: Choose your niche

Step 4: Create a writing portfolio

Step 5: Get out there

Step 6: Land your first gig

I hope everything goes well and you get your first writing job. Remember that to succeed at writing, you need to always produce quality content, be responsive, respect deadlines and be reliable.

Watch it instead:

If you have any questions about writing or getting hired or you want to see more content like this, just post a comment underneath my video on YouTube. I've got new content coming out every week so you should definitely subscribe to my channel for more useful stuff about copywriting and content marketing. 

I also have daily writing tips on Instagram, so make sure you follow me there too.

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