If you’re looking for a freelance writing job, you’re in luck. Freelance writing is a booming industry that only keeps growing.
In fact, over the past few years, online retail sales have been increasing by about 15 percent per year, and are expected to reach $5.7 trillion in 2022.
Needless to say, that’s a huge bottom line for online businesses. And those businesses all need written content to keep their profits coming in.
And that’s only in the digital world! Many businesses also need printed marketing materials, such as press releases, sales packages, and full-length books.
With so many potential opportunities, it can be confusing where to start looking if you’re a beginner freelance writer.
In this article, we’ll outline seven basic steps that will help you get your foot in the door and start landing freelance writing jobs.
Step 1: Choose Your Niche or Specialty
When you’re starting out as a freelance writer, it can be valuable to choose a niche that relates to your personal interests and background.
A niche simply refers to a specific industry you’d like to write for, such as golf equipment, computer software, or baby care.
If you decide to write for a specific niche, it can help fine-tune your job search by narrowing down your options. It can also help you stand out from the competition because you’ll be seen as a specialist in your field.
But choosing a niche isn’t a requirement to becoming a successful freelancer. Many writers start as “generalists” and decide on their niche once they have some writing experience under their belt.
You can also choose a writing specialty, such as writing emails, articles, or case studies. For example, if you like writing short, quick pieces, then writing email might be your best choice. Or if you prefer writing longer, well-researched projects, then writing white papers might be a good fit.
If you decide to choose a niche or a specialty, know that ultimately your choice is never wrong because you can always change it later. In addition, any writing experience you get serves as a sample and could garner you a testimonial, regardless of whether or not you move on to a different niche in the future.
Pam Foster shares some practical tips on finding your ideal niche in her free webinar How to Choose a Copywriting Niche below:
Step 2: Learn How to Write for Your Niche
Once you’ve chosen your niche or specialty, the next step is to learn how to write for it.
You can start by simply reading about which companies in your niche are already publishing. For example, if you’ve chosen to focus on writing for the home improvement industry, read consumer and trade magazines related to subjects like home renovation, home building, or hardware manufacturing.
Check out websites related to home improvement and see what companies are publishing, such as blogs, social media posts, or FAQ pages. Do any companies offer white papers or how-to guides you can download?
Take note of the types of content that are published, and how each one is written. This will give you a good idea of the types of projects you might enjoy working on.
Also, subscribe to the email list of a few different companies in your niche and read the emails they send you.
You can include both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) companies in your research. Each one will have a slightly different approach in their marketing materials.
A word of caution – don’t spend more than a few hours on this step. The point is to become familiar with what’s being published in your industry, and then decide what you want to try writing first.
Once you’ve made that decision, it’s time to start practicing your writing skills.
The easiest way is to start practicing writing blog posts, emails, or other projects on your own. Write a few samples and share them with friends for some feedback.
If you want to speed up the process a bit, investing in professional training will almost certainly pay off in the end. For example, if you know you want to write for the B2B industry, consider taking a course like Modern B2B Copywriting, by long-time B2B copywriter Steve Slaunwhite.
The AWAI MethodTM is another excellent program that teaches you how to write five of the most common and in-demand writing projects that businesses need.
Another friendly warning here – don’t get stuck in “student mode” for too long. Once you feel you can put together one or more basic types of writing projects, start looking for paid writing work.
You don’t need to be a perfect writer before you start your job search. Writing is a skill you’re never “finished” learning, and all Barefoot Writers continue to learn throughout their writing careers.
Once you’re familiar with what’s being published in your industry, and you’ve learned the basics of how to write it, you already have everything you need to start finding freelance writing jobs.
Step 3: Prepare Your Best Writing Samples
The next step is to gather your best writing samples and put together a portfolio.
When you’re starting out, it’s best to have three or four strong writing samples you can show potential clients.
For example, if you want to write web copy, have a couple pieces of well-written website content in your portfolio. If you’re targeting the B2B market, include a white paper or case study you wrote.
And keep in mind that these don’t have to be pieces you wrote for a client. They can be pieces you wrote by yourself for practice, or projects you wrote as part of a writing course.
You could also try approaching smaller companies and offer to write a short project for them, either for free or for a low fee. We don’t recommend working for low fees in general, but this can be useful just to get some practice.
Your samples also don’t need to be long. Short blog posts, emails, or other similar pieces are fine. But they should demonstrate your ability to write in your chosen niche and style.
If you’re not sure how to put together a portfolio, check out AWAI’s free webinar How to Create a Portfolio of Writing Samples below:
When you’re ready to start sending out applications, make sure you have a PDF version of your portfolio handy to send with your resume or job application.
Another great place to keep your portfolio is on your writer’s website, which brings us to…
Step 4: Set Up Your Freelance Writing Website
Setting up a freelance writing website is the next step we’d recommend in your job search.
You don’t need to have a website to find freelance work – many freelancers simply use their LinkedIn profile or other social media accounts as their “portfolio.” But having a website gives you a professional appearance, and it’s a great place to direct potential clients who want to learn more about your work.
Your website is essentially your online business card. It should provide basic information about who you are, what type of writing you specialize in, and ideally some writing samples. You can include an ongoing blog or other elements if you wish, but these aren’t necessary, especially at first.
To get started, check out our article on how to plan your freelance website content in under an hour. And if you’re interested in starting a blog on your site, these are 20 quick and easy content ideas for your website.
If the idea of starting your website by yourself is a bit daunting, consider taking AWAI’s Build Your Freelance Website in Four Days program, which takes you through all the steps of setting up and designing your website from scratch.
Step 5: Apply to Job Postings for Freelance Writers
Now that you have a basic understanding of writing for your niche, and you have your writing samples and potentially your website ready to go, it’s time to start applying for jobs.
Many freelance writers have found their first jobs through online job postings. A wide variety of websites list job postings, and we’ve compiled some of the best job boards for beginner freelancers here.
When you’re searching for jobs on a website, keep your niche or your personal strengths and interests in mind. If you know you want to write for natural health companies, narrow your search to companies that specialize in natural health products.
Also, try to match your personal background to the types of jobs you’re searching for as best you can. For example, if you love dogs and have a lot of experience as a dog owner, writing for the pet industry might be a good place to start. You would also have a lot of personal experience you could share in your job application.
When you’ve found a job you want to apply for, make sure you read the job posting carefully and follow the instructions. Many companies ask for specific information in your application, such as how many years of experience you have or what type of writing you specialize in.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have all the qualifications a company is looking for. If you think the job is a good fit for you, apply anyway! You never know who else will apply – there’s every chance you could be the strongest applicant.
Step 6: Find Your Own Freelance Writing Clients
Another option for getting freelance writing work is to find your own clients. This can give you more control over the types of projects you work on and how much you charge for them.
To find potential clients you might want to write for, start with an internet search. Research companies in your niche or area of interest. You may already have a few companies in mind from researching your industry previously.
Next, reach out to a few of these companies using a method you’re comfortable with. The easiest way to make contact with a potential client is through social media. Simply send them a connection request and introduce yourself. Don’t be pushy at this stage – the idea is to keep in touch over time and see if a professional relationship develops naturally.
AWAI shares more in-depth tips on using LinkedIn to find clients in their free webinar LinkedIn Now: Best Practices for Getting Great Writing Clients here.
Another way to contact potential clients is through email. This is often called email prospecting.
The first step is to find the email address of a company’s marketing director, human resource manager, or other position that might be involved in hiring freelancers. If you can’t find anyone appropriate, simply use their email address for general inquiries.
Then craft a personalized email for that company. Introduce yourself and your area of writing expertise. Share something positive you like about that company, and maybe offer a constructive idea you have for their website. Close your email by expressing interest in working together, and provide your contact information.
One last way of approaching potential clients is to cold call businesses that might need writing services. This can be a little more difficult, but it can be a great way to find new clients who might not be actively looking for a freelance writer.
John Wood shares 11 tips to help you get new clients through cold calling here.
No matter how you find your clients, focus on approaching companies that relate to your niche or your personal interests. It will make your search easier, and there’s a better chance you’ll enjoy working with those clients in the long run.
For additional client-finding tips, check out our getting clients page.
Step 7: Keep at It!
The most important thing to remember when looking for freelance writing jobs is to be persistent. It can take time to find the right job or the right client, and you may not get a response from every company you reach out to.
But if you keep at it and stay focused on your goals, in time, you’ll almost certainly find writing work that’s perfectly suited for you.
A great way to stay motivated as you move forward in your freelance career is to join a writing community like Barefoot Writer. It’s an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas, share job and client leads, and advance your writing skills with the help of other writers.
And best of all, we’ll be here cheering you on as you start to land clients and establish your writer’s life.