So you've done it. You've finally taken the leap and decided to be your own boss. No more suits and ties, no more long commutes. You can wear comfortable shoes and your cat can sleep on your desk. You're a freelance writer now. Congratulations.
That first day you sit down at the computer, open a Google or Word doc, and suddenly realize you have nothing to write. Well, shit.
But never fear. That's what blogs like this one are for. Here are 4 places you can look for freelance writing work:
1. Your own network. This is, first and foremost, the best place to find steady work. Never underestimate the power of personal connections. My first steady freelance work came from a magazine I once worked at. Another client went to the same creative writing MFA program as I did. Take the connections you've made and turn them into strengths. Call up old bosses and see if they need advertising copy, or someone to populate their company blog or social media pages. Many managers and business owners can be sold on the idea of brand help from somebody who actually worked in the trenches.
2. Craigslist. This is highly dependent on where you live. While you can write from anywhere, finding a legit, paying local client on the Craigslist page of Duluth, MN, is far less likely than doing so in New York or LA. That said, not every client needs to be local, and not every Craigslist ad is looking for a local writer. Most of these gigs are going to be for blogs, and if you know a lot about niche areas like food, make-up, or fitness, you'll probably have more luck than most. None of these jobs will pay the rent on their own, but they can be good ways to build up some clips.
3. Freelance websites. Don't go to Fiverr or Freelancer or Upwork. You might find a valuable client once every blue moon on these sites, but the time it takes to do so isn't worth effort. You'll have much better luck on LinkedIn, or on job boards such asBloggingPro Job Board or the freelance section of MediaBistro. You'll still find a lot of shit to wade through (and beware of posts disguising full-time jobs as freelance work), but its less deep and the treasures are much more common.
4. Pitching editors. This is where the real money is. There are two ways to do this, and I've had some success with both, so I won't knock either. The first way is to blanket pitch, offering your writing services to editors and hoping for assignments. For this to work, however, you'll need to provide an impressive portfolio. Editors get enough pitches that they aren't going to go out of their way to work with you unless you give them a good reason.
The other way is to pitch specific story ideas to editors. The downside of this will be spending hours upon hours writing up articles that nobody ever bites on. The best advice I can give here is to find a name. Don't pitch your services into the deep, dark hole that is a general editorial e-mail address. Not only do many of those pitches end up in spam and never get seen, but editors will be more impressed that you took the time to discover their hard to find e-mail address.
PRO TIP #1: Most companies have a format for their email. If you can't find a specific editor's contact info but you have their name, then find someone else at the company and change the email address to the editor's name. Firstname.email@example.com should always be the same, no matter which employees name you plug into it.
PRO TIP #2: Know your role. The Editor-in-Chief doesn't want to talk to you. Freelancers are below their pay grade. Instead, send your pitches to Managing Editors or Associate Editors, who more typically handle writers.
There's a lot of money out there, and there are many ways to get your hands on it as a writer. As you begin to find success as a freelance writer, you'll find that your clients come from a combination of these methods above, and probably others that aren't mentioned. If you have more advice about where freelance writers can find paying clients, leave it in the comments below.