One Great Tip for Finding Freelance Work – Don’t Try*

*At least not until you’ve completed your prep work!

By Terreece Clarke

The first thing freelance writers want to know is “Where do I/How can I find work?” the second thing is “When can I quit my day job?” What many writers fail to do is complete the necessary prep work that will not only aid in getting a writing gig; it’ll help you keep your freelance writing career afloat.

Know Your Role
Before you start scanning the job boards and devouring Deb’s 23 Places to Find Work list, decide on what type of work supports your platform. Are you trying to define yourself as a niche writer? If you’re a business writer, what types of projects fall under your area of experience? Or if you don’t have a specific platform, have a goal – i.e. working for clips and project work that will lend weight to your resume. Are you trying to break into a new area, for example, a magazine writer moving toward the blogging realm or vice versa?
Defining what you are looking for before hand will help you find a sweet gig that meets your criteria. Not defining your search wastes your time as you chase every gig with a paycheck.

What’s It Worth?
“I need twenty 500 word articles a week on any subject. Compensation: $10 per batch of 20.”
Sound familiar? To the well-trained writer this is a horrible gig. However, many writers, especially those who have yet to define their rates, only see a paycheck and quickly begin to figure out how they can accomplish such a feat.
A writer ready for work understands what a project is worth going into a job search. There is a difference between wanting to first consult with a client to understand their needs before giving a rate and blind acceptance of a bottom-of-the-barrel rate for an article.
Of course defining your rates requires some research on your part. Find out the average rates for projects, articles, etc. Writers should be mindful that their local and regional market rates might differ from the national average. Often, a regional parenting magazine will offer the same rates as a national parenting mag. The difference in advertising rates and circulation plays a large part in what defines a magazine’s budget. The same goes for a marketing project for a non-profit organization versus a large corporation.
A quick web search can produce widely varying rates for projects. One great way to find out what people charge is to simply ask them. Send a quick email or log a phone call and ask writers in your locale or in your genre what they charge for a couple different projects. Understand your rates may vary based on experience as well. You may not be able to command $2/word like Linda Formicelli or $30/blog like Deb Ng when you’re first starting out, but at least you have a range with which to work.

Pay Me Now?
You’d be surprised how many writers do not have reliable billing software. They’ve got a steady stream of gigs coming in and they are still hand typing their invoices. Billing software not only produces quality invoices, it also keeps track of what’s coming and going. One click and you can see what invoices are still out, which ones are past due and update those that have been paid. At a glance, freelancers can see how much they’ve made over the fiscal year and if they’re on track to meet their income goals. Your success as a writer is dependent on treating yourself as a business – you’re in the business of writing.

Largely, the key to being successful in finding freelance work is developing a strong foundation before you set out. It takes research to develop your rates, it takes dedication to define what type of work you want and maintain focus on your search and it takes determination to maintain the business side of your writing.

What helped you define your job search focus? Do you have a favorite billing software? Do you embrace or despise the business side of our creative field?


  1. Candidate #11 says

    Good point. I have software for my expenses, but not really for billing. I was just looking at some at Fry’s a couple of days ago. I may have to go ahead and get it.

  2. #3 says

    Jenny B – Thanks!

    #11 – Thanks! I tried a couple before I found one that had the right feel. You might want to try free trial versions first, that way you can see what you want and need in a program.

  3. says

    The bottom of the barrel jobs make my head ache. 500 words takes me an hour to write if I want it to be any good. When I see things that say, “Will pay five dollars for three posts a week” I remind myself that I made decent money as a receptionist answering phones. Writing takes at least as much effort as being an office administrator, so I will not work for pennies.

    Thanks for the well thought out post.

  4. #3 says

    Hey Melody,

    Same here and what good does it do you to churn out a bunch of crappy pieces you can’t use for clips, because I can almost guarantee that’s what’ll end up happening by week three when your near burn out. But my favorites are the ones who want you to write for free for a while and see if you work out :0)

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