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Thread: I can't even imagine how to get started.

  1. #1
    figuring it all out ANightToRemember's Avatar
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    I can't even imagine how to get started.

    I feel many might share in this, but the freelance writing work gives me some pretty dismal prospects.

    How on earth do you find work? Any site with listings are insanely competitive, with hundreds of people applying for one crummy opportunity. Any site I read has people arguing over what the proper way forward is - what sites to use and avoid, how to get started, what to look out for and hide from, all sorts of things.

    I've felt myself pretty qualified (college degree, working at a writing center, previous published work, etc.) but alas - nothing.

    Does anyone else share in this frustration, or have any advice? It seems impossible to make any sort of semi-decent income in a system like this.

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW
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    I don't know what type of freelance work you are looking for, but if it's to write articles for newspapers and magazine, you pitch the editor a good story and then work from there. It's not impossible at all. If you say more about what you are looking to do, I think people will be able to give you better direction.

  3. #3
    figuring it all out ANightToRemember's Avatar
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    As dumb as this sounds, I didn't know a writer had a choice in what they were looking for. I just assumed, given the competition I'm running into, all kinds of writing was taken up for the sake of having work. What kinds of freelance work are there?

  4. #4
    Shaddup and lemme think. Angie's Avatar
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    There are many kinds, but I suppose the two major categories are journalism/articles (magazines, newspapers, etc) and copywriting (anything written for a business, like marketing materials, internal communications/newsletters, etc).

    I do strictly copywriting, and it has one big thing in common with magazine writing -- the best clients don't advertise on those job boards you're talking about. Job boards (like Upwork, Craigslist, etc) tend to be a race to the bottom in terms of fees. You really have to go out and find clients on your own.

    Do you have writing experience? Experience in a particular industry that you could build a writing niche around? That's the quickest way to find success as a freelancer - find a niche and advertise yourself or build a platform as an expert in that niche. Let us know what kind of background you have, and we can start steering you toward the best first steps to take.


  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW cornflake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ANightToRemember View Post
    I feel many might share in this, but the freelance writing work gives me some pretty dismal prospects.

    How on earth do you find work? Any site with listings are insanely competitive, with hundreds of people applying for one crummy opportunity. Any site I read has people arguing over what the proper way forward is - what sites to use and avoid, how to get started, what to look out for and hide from, all sorts of things.

    I've felt myself pretty qualified (college degree, working at a writing center, previous published work, etc.) but alas - nothing.

    Does anyone else share in this frustration, or have any advice? It seems impossible to make any sort of semi-decent income in a system like this.
    The only qualification you've got there is previously published work. How did you get those jobs?

    I'm really kind of confused by your post. Sites with listings? For freelance work? Do you mean like content mills? That's not going to make money or anything else. You get freelance work same as always - go after it. What do you have that's published, and where?

  6. #6
    permaflounced
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    Do you know any graphic designers? A great way to get clients is to become a designer's go-to copywriter. Often clients will need a copywriter when they're getting something designed (say, a new website). If you're able to get in on that job, and you do it well, etc, it's likely that client will want to use you for other projects.

  7. #7
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Here's how I did it, years ago. I've shared this with several friends over the years and so long as they put the work in, it always worked for them.

    I listed what I did for fun, the things I knew about, the places I felt secure. So several years ago I was keeping a lot of poultry, living in a big house which was a renovation project, and looking after my young children. I knew a lot about those three things. Then I looked for specialist magazines which dealt with similar subjects, and I bought a few copies of each. I worked out a list of ideas for each subject, and pitched them to the editors.

    I got work. It didn't pay much. Perhaps 50 per thousand. But within a year I was writing for the national press, and earning 350 to 500 per thousand. Much better work.

    I did work hard at it, I invested time in my research, and I always delivered good work, on time.

  8. #8
    figuring it all out
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    Are you referring to Upwork and other bid sites? Because as much as certain things about them suck, I would recommend giving it a try. You may have to do a few projects on the cheap to get reviews, but there are some pretty good clients there if you can learn to identify them and position yourself as a premium writer, not as a bargain choice. A lot of clients there have gotten used to receiving crappy and/or plagiarized content, so if you're able to provide them with quality content they will provide repeat business. Ed Gandia's High-Income Business Writing podcast (which I highly recommend) had a good show recently on Upwork.

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW
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    I'd suggest rereading Angie's advice. She said exactly what I would have said, only better.

  10. #10
    Benefactor Member WeaselFire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ANightToRemember View Post
    How on earth do you find work?
    How do you find any job? How does a salesman get a client? How does a business get customers?

    You market yourself and work your butt off.

    By the way, Old Hack's method is the same as I used many moons ago. And still do when I go out to get new business in those areas. Trade magazines, Writer's Market and a decent ability to deliver on deadline got me strated and still provide a side income.

    Jeff
    Last edited by WeaselFire; 01-08-2018 at 06:02 PM.

  11. #11
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angie View Post
    Job boards (like Upwork, Craigslist, etc) tend to be a race to the bottom in terms of fees. You really have to go out and find clients on your own.
    I strongly disagree- I still find clients on Upwork and Craigslist today. In fact, I got my first two Fortune 500 clients on Elance (now Upwork) and I was one of their highest grossing writers for several years running. The only reason I backed off that site is because they changed their payment schedules and you now have to wait to get paid- but good paying work is still there for the taking.

    Of course, nobody is going to hire you at $75-150 an hour without somewhat of a portfolio, so your first goal is to find ANY TYPE of writing work that has your name on it. I don't care if it's $5 a blog...take the job, spend a day or two cranking out content and be thankful for the opportunity. You can also pitch blogs you enjoy reading and writing about- even if it's not a paid assignment. Just build up a portfolio of quality work, collect those great reviews and soak up all feedback like a sponge. Getting these reps in is critical because there's a thousand things you don't know that higher end clients will expect you to have already mastered.

    One more tidbit- I mentioned Fortune 500 clients on Upwork; quick story about that. I saw a post for someone looking to have a postcard written for a charity event- and I personally never charge a penny to charities unless I have to. So I messaged the person and offered to write three different postcards for the site minimum of $20. I was hired, spent several hours on the postcards to get the wording perfect...not for the money, of course, but because we should pitch in and give back when we can. And about a week later, the client messaged me again asking if I did any copywriting in the tech space. We chatted back and forth a little bit, she finally shared her name and I look on LinkedIn....to discover this is the VP of Marketing for Motorola. That was eight years ago and I've billed that client in the neighborhood of $600k since then.

    The moral to that story is two-fold. #1, you need experience and something for your portfolio, so take on the "petty" work that pays lousy. #2, treat those lousy pay jobs like you're writing for Time Magazine, because you have absolutely no idea where any client can lead or what doors they may open. Some of my best clients over the years came from referrals from those early $10 and $20 jobs that everyone else was too proud to take- I'd simply embrace the role and knock out 40-50 articles a week to turn it into a living. If you really want to make it in the freelance world, then you have to have the same attitude and desire...it's no different than opening a brick and mortar business. You have to scrape, fight and claw your way to making a resume worth noticing, which most people simply won't do. There is tons of work just waiting out there though if you can find the passion to chase it.

  12. #12
    Benefactor Member WeaselFire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ANightToRemember View Post
    I feel many might share in this, but the freelance writing work gives me some pretty dismal prospects.
    Yep. But so are the prospects of becoming a rock star, movie star, football star, astronaut, billionaire startup king or President of the United States. The only thing everyone who has achieved those goals has in common is they went out and did it.

    As for finding work, how did you find the after school job you had in high school? Start the same way.

    Jeff

  13. #13
    Writer and SAHM
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    I strongly disagree with writing for cheap (and being grateful for it) just because you don't have samples. That gets you started out with a bad mindset of low worth. I also very strongly disagree with even looking at content mills. Sure, one out of maybe 100 people end up making thousands from a site like Upwork, but for the average beginner, it's not going to happen. Working for those rates will stress you out, burn you out and cause more headaches than they are worth.

    What do you have experience in? In life. Do you have retail experience? Did you get a degree in a field you enjoy? Do you have years of experience with a hobby you like talking about? Use that as your experience, go after clients in that industry. Pick a dream client, look at what kinds of content they have - blog posts, white papers, newsletters, etc - and then create your own using a fictional company name. Think of the type of content you want to get paid to write and use that idea to create a few samples for yourself. Use those samples to get clients and then replace your created samples for client work if you'd rather.

    Where do you get clients? Find them and go after them. Don't go to a content mill. Make a HUGE list of potential clients using the company name, a contact name (usually a marketing manager) and their email address. LinkedIn is a good place to find out these details. Start at the top of your list and start pitching them emails. Visit their sites and see what they are lacking. Do they have a stagnant blog page? Do they not have a blog at all? Did the company just get an award or expand in some way? Use that little piece of info as your reason for contacting them. Mention that if they ever use freelance writers, you are a copywriter in that industry and to keep you in mind. Send.

    If they respond, great. If they don't, send a new email a month later to stay in front of them. Meanwhile, continue down your huge prospect list until you get a client, then another and another. Cold pitching is a numbers game. Do it until you get a client and then leverage that into more clients.

    I've done this for a living for over a decade. It works.

  14. #14
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin KBaum1608's Avatar
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    Running a freelancing writing business is so much more than writing. The 'business' part of it can get lost in the shuffle. Marketing, marketing, marketing. Look up some sample marketing plans online and write one for yourself.

    Networking is important, too. Connect with other writers and editors on social media and interact with them professionally. Read and comment on their writing, retweet their posts, share their Facebook messages. Then pitch them in an e-mail. They will recognize your name as one who has engaged with their content.

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