Landing your first paid writing gig might be the first biggest challenge to you as a new freelance writer. It will take hard work and determination, but once you do get the job, the joy you feel will be worth it.
So how do you get paid for writing? Some successful freelance writers will tell you that it happened by accident, while some may say that it took them months to get their first client.
Of course, each writer will have his own luck when landing paid writing gigs. While I say “luck”, I don’t mean that’s all you’ll ever need. Just like any job, you need to work hard to get results. The challenge would be that, if you’re new, you wouldn’t exactly know where to start.
Let everyone know you’re a writer
This may seem obvious to you, but not to the rest of the world. Certainly not for the clients who are on the lookout for writers looking to get paid for their writing. You can do one or all of the following to let your immediate network know what you now do for a living — even if you don’t have clients yet.
Update your social media accounts. Pick one or two platforms — LinkedIn and Twitter worked great for me — and update your bio to include that you’re a freelance writer. Add relevant writing experience to your resume, if any. Don’t just say that you’re a freelance writer — make it more specific, say, “freelance health writer”.
To Facebook or not to Facebook. That is the question. If you’re active on Facebook and use it for sharing personal stuff, then there’s nothing wrong with writing an update about your shift to freelance writing. You can even invite friends and family to refer you to anyone they know who might be looking for a writer.
Put up a writer website. It doesn’t have to be expensive nor fancy. Just a clean, polished writer website with your writing credits and a brief background of your work and expertise is all you need to get started. What you don’t want is a free website that leaves you no control of how your site will look like. Get your own domain and hosting to give your website a secure and customizable home in the web. We’ll talk more about this in a separate blog post, but for now, there are dozens of free resources that will teach you how to set up a website for minimal cost.
Market your *ss off
This is something first-time writers don’t want to hear. Unfortunately, this is the activity that will get you clients 99 percent of the time. If you’ve done the first step above, then you’re off to a good start. The rest of marketing involves getting your work seen by the right people.
Write a guest post on a reputable blog. I can personally vouch for this marketing move. It has led me to clients who already know what kind of topics I write about, and are willing to pay me to write for them. A guest post can be a paid or non-paid writing gig, so be sure to read a blog’s guidelines before making your pitch. As much as possible, choose only paid guest blogging offers. However, if you’re okay with writing for free for a website or publication that you believe will give you the exposure you need, then by all means, go for it.
Attend marketing events in your industry. Is there a convention in a city near you? Perhaps a gathering of the biggest names in your industry? This is where your dream client can be. Make an effort and go. Have your business card and elevator pitch ready. Businesses, whether big or small, will need people to write content for their websites, emails, brochures and everything else they use to sell their products or services. Be that person.
Learn to send pitches that gets approved. Another scary thing for a new writer to do is pitch an article to a publication for the first time. It can be a deeply humbling experience, especially when you never hear back from an editor. You need a strategy to get your pitches noticed, and that starts with reading the publication you are pitching to. Know their content, what has already been written and what unique piece of writing you can contribute that stands out. Write your pitch specifically for a blog or website. Generic, canned and pitching templates are a big no-no and a sure way of pissing off an editor.
Avoid the content mills
A rookie mistake writers make is to go to low-paying bidding sites to get paid writing work. Don’t fall into this trap. It’s tempting to take a job that pays peanuts just because you’re desperate.
In the long run, content mills do more harm than good, no matter how easy it is to get accepted or how “fast” you get paid. These low-paying clients don’t offer jobs that won’t let you grow financially and creatively as a writer. Some clients don’t even award you with a byline for your work. You can be writing tons of content, but you can’t claim it and add it in your portfolio.
Hold your ground and keep on targeting jobs that pay well. If you apply all or just a few items on this list, then you’re bound to get your first paid writing gig. It may or may not happen overnight. Be patient. Set a goal and spend your time doing things to achieve that goal. Don’t let rejections or doubts distract you. Focus on the work, and work will soon find you.