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 writing jobs. 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?
My first writing gig was actually pretty easy to get. I had spent three years working with some great people and after graduation one of them told me her husband needed a freelance writer. I think the easiest job to get was my first one because I had people looking out there for me. Definately ask around to your own friends. You could be surprised at the amount to people doing freelance work. The hardest thing now is getting better paying work.
I entered two writing contests and won them both — one was at my local major daily paper, the other a big alternative weekly. Both the wins led directly to ongoing assignments, and I was off. I never imagined the contests could lead to additional assignments — at first I was just so stoked to get $200 or so for my essays! But contests can be a powerful way to get editors’ attention.
I highly recommend new writers take a browse through the contests in The Writer’s Market and find some to enter. Many writers don’t realize what a great exposure opportunity they are, beyond possibly winning prize money.
You can read more of my breaking-in story over on my site (linked on my name) on the post “How I became a freelance writer — and 7 steps on how you can do it, too.”
As they say, the first gig is the hardest when it comes to freelancing and I think it’s a combination of pure luck and passion that compelled my first client to give my writing a try… and the journey goes on. I love your advice here, especially the part where you have to show your prospects how truly interested you are in writing for them ( and not just for the pay alone ). More success!!
I am interested this job so give me details