I never thought that I could land a freelance writing gig.
The main problem was that, well…I’m not a writer. I don’t have a degree. I’ve never had a job as a writer. Sometimes I question my command of the grammar of my own native tongue.
But in 2019 I was able to land a gig where I made $700 for writing a couple articles—and I could have had more if I had wanted. Here’s how I made it happen.
Build a Portfolio By Practicing in Public
Your first problem when you’re starting from scratch is that you have no proof that you can write.
The easiest way to remedy this is to…create proof that you can write.
You’re lucky to live in a day and age where it’s easy to learn how to write by practicing in public. Putting your raw, unpolished product out into the world is scary, but it’s the best way to learn.
If you want to get paid for your writing, you need to start putting your writing out into the world and building a portfolio. You’ll want to select a platform that let’s you do this with the absolute minimum level of friction. Bonus points for any platform that puts your writing in front of people so you get feedback. Extra bonus points for any platforms that pay.
The Best Platforms
Here are the platforms that make the most sense to start your writing journey
Medium is where I started. It’s still the best place to start writing online.
If you start posting consistently on Medium, you will get people reading your writing. In my first 30 days on Medium I hit 1,000 total views across 12 articles which is insane.
Medium also is simple to use to write beautifully formatted blog posts.
The best part? They pay you if you join the partner program (which is free).
Quora is a question-and-answer site.
The best part about Quora is that you don’t have to wait to build up your views to get feedback on what you should write about. You can just look at the questions in your niche that get lots of popular answers. The questions themselves can provide the raw material for future post ideas.
The organic reach on Linked In is still great. It’s obviously best for business content, but I have a friend who writes about world travel and he’s killing it on LI.
Twitter can be used for longer form writing, but its best use is to test ideas. Start tweeting your best ideas and insights and write about the ones that gain the most traction.
You can put these ideas on a platform like Medium where they become part of your portfolio and you can earn money on them.
Search for Gigs
Building a portfolio isn’t enough, you have to search for gigs. Here are a few promising places to look.
The ProBlogger Job Board
My favorite place to do this was the ProBlogger Job Board. These are employers who are paying money to search for a freelance writer.
The best thing about the job board is that you can get a really good feel for the kind of niches that often pop up (e.g. fitness, marketing, beauty, personal finance, hobbies, etc)
Apply for any gig it looks like your a good fit for. Expect not to hear back from most of them. Consider it the price of admission.
Go to “Jobs” and then “writing.” Be careful about scams.
Your Own Social Networks
Ask around if anyone knows of anyone who is hiring a freelance writer. Post on online groups you’re a part of. Look at linked in.
You can also advertise your availability in your bio. For instance, on Medium you could update your bio to indicate that you are open to freelance work and include your email address.
Refine Your Content Creation
Once you start looking for gigs, start make changes to your content based on what you learn. For instance, if you notice that you write about personal finance in general but most gigs want someone who writs about investing, shift gears to investing.
You can also be refining your content based on your stats. Learn from what works, move on from what doesn’t. As you begin to work your way into more success on a platform like Medium, you’ll be able to leverage that in the job search. For instance, I can indicate on applications that I’ve written multiple viral articles with 50k+ views.
Set Up a Way to Get Paid
I’ve found that the easiest way to send invoices is with a simple app like paypal business. All you need is an email address and you can easily create a professional invoice with a built-in method for them to send payment.
Of course, your client might have a preferred way of receiving invoices and sending payments.
Don’t worry too much about not knowing how exactly to do this. This is a bridge you cross when you get there. But if you can, a simple tool like paypal business is a big help.
My Freelancing Gig
I found my freelancing gig on the ProBlogger job board. It was the only one I hear back on of the five or six jobs I applied for.
I leveraged the most relevant posts that I had published on Medium as my portfolio.
The most nerve-wreaking part was the email where they asked what my rates were. I replied back with $0.12/word, having no idea if this was too high or too low. To be honest, I still don’t know.
I got the job, which involved writing SEO optimized articles on investing for a big company. They had a huge list of the articles they wanted to publish, and I was part of a team that was chipping away at them.
I only ended up writing two or three articles. It was nice having the extra income, but I was spreading my focus over too many projects. The freelance job was ultimately the one I walked away from. In hindsight, it probably would have been better to continue on for a while longer.
Doing the Work is 90% of the Battle
The info in this post can help you increase your odds of finding work if you’re starting from scratch. But nothing will happen if you don’t do the work.
Like anything, there’s a lot of unpaid work and uncertainty up front. But once the flywheel begins turning, having the ability to earn extra money as a freelance writer is powerful.
My portfolio is stronger than it’s ever been and I’ve met enough people through writing on Medium that I hear about gigs all the time. If I were to look for work, the search would likely be much easier this time around.
There are lots of potential employers out there willing to pay you for your words. If you can find them and have something worthwhile to show them, you can become a freelance writer. even if you’re starting from zero.