Your first freelance writing job is the hardest one to get, in my opinion. Once you have one (or a few) gigs under your belt, you can use your past writing experience to propel yourself forward to the next opportunity. How do you approach the task of landing that first gig, then?
Start with what you know, and I don’t necessarily mean the fact that you have been writing for yourself for years. Working on your own projects is not the same thing as taking on client work. Both of them involve writing, but your own work is more of a free-range thing: you are not subject to the same restrictions that are in play when you are taking on work for someone else.
What I’m trying to get to here is that you should take some time to think about your past experiences, including paid work and volunteer work, your hobbies and general interests. All of them can point you in the direction of a niche that you can use to get freelance writing work.
Write down all the topics that come to mind, without editing them. (This can be a tough one; most of us have an internal editor that get in the way.) You should have a lengthy list of ideas when you are done.
Now you have something that you can use when you are apply for freelance. I admit that at the beginning of my career, I used the shotgun approach to finding. I applied for anything and everything that I thought I was a good fit for, and it didn’t work out well at all.
When I changed my approach and started targeting gigs that related to my previous experience or a personal interest, it became much easier to get jobs. I wasn’t sending a prospective client a cover letter saying, ” I want to work for you,” I was saying, “I want to work for you because I have experience in or am interested in [X].” My guess is that adding more specific information made me a better candidate.
If you aren’t able to find an entry-level writing gig that reflects your prior work experience or your interests, you can still present yourself as someone the client would like to work with. Tell him or her that you are able to follow instructions to the letter and that you will give the project your best effort. In other words, work with what you have when you are looking for freelance writing jobs.
What approach did you use to land your first freelance writing job? Do you still use the same one or have you changed it over time?