Erin’s No Nonsense Guide to Getting Freelance Work

At the end of last year, I decided that I would take my PF interest to the next level and start writing about it. I could have started my blog and then not gotten noticed for like six months, but I wasn’t really interested in that just yet. I wanted to write for blogs that people actually read. And with that, I started freelancing.

A lot of people aren’t sure how to get in the freelance business and I wasn’t sure either. But I’ll let you in on a little secret – it’s really not that difficult. If you are somewhat interesting and can string words together somewhat competently, you’re pretty much in. Now it does take a bit more skill than that to make the big bucks, but breaking into the freelancing world does not require you to be J.K. Rowling. That’s the truth.

Today I’m going to tell you how I did it and how I continue to do it. I’ve convinced several people to let me write for them, so I kinda know what I’m talking about. If you are thinking that everyone and their dog already wrote about freelancing, I promise you my post is different. Because I’m not afraid to tell you that you need to grab freelancing by the balls and do what you need to do. Preach.

Erin’s No Nonsense Guide to Getting Freelance Work

1) Start cold calling emailing. You know, like in sales? Just start freaking emailing people. As an extremely introverted (and socially awkward) person, email is like my religion. I can sell myself via email in a way that I just can’t do in person or even via Skype.

Email bloggers that you admire and that you are very familiar with. And dear god, please be yourself. Writers are creative people and you don’t need to send them cookie cutter professional emails. Be appropriate but be memorable. If the bloggers you email are not looking for writers, don’t badger them. Those connections can help you down the line if you play it right.

What I did: I literally got jobs by emailing people letting them know that I’m awesome and they need me to write for them. I snagged my first freelance job without a single writing sample, so obviously it worked.

2) Social media is your best friend. Do you know where freelance jobs are generally “advertised”? Twitter and Facebook. Make sure you are following your favorite blogs and pay attention to their posts. Don’t miss out on opportunities because you are too cool for Facebook.

What I did: I’ve gotten work from both Twitter & Facebook by paying attention to people who were hiring. You know what I didn’t do? Wait. Jump on that and email them right away. Next week (maybe even tomorrow) that position will be filled.

3) Stalk blog posts about freelancing. You know those posts that talk about freelancing and side hustles (like this one)? Go check out the comments. Guaranteed there are a few that say “I’m thinking about hiring someone soon” or “Wow, I wish I had some help on my blog”. Email those people immediately and make “soon” now and “I wish” I have.

What I did: This is how I got started in freelancing. I have picked up two ghost writing gigs this way that eventually led to bigger and better things. Pay attention, folks.

4) Join a group of freelancers. Not only will you have access to some awesome freelance opportunities that you wouldn’t have heard about otherwise, you will also make some great connections. There is always something you don’t know that seasoned freelancers can teach you. Join a club and listen.

What I did: I joined The Freelancers Club, founded by the talented and fabulous Carrie Smith of Careful Cents. I am notified about sweet freelance jobs (no joke, I just got one of these emails while writing this) and get to converse about freelancing with people who are way smarter and more experienced than me. It’s dope. Yes, I just said dope.

5) Grow a pair. I know it’s scary to put yourself out there but you have to. Saying you want to freelance and then not going for it tells me that you don’t want it enough. You will probably screw up a few times. You will DEFINITELY get rejected a few times. Life goes on.

In personal finance, everyone always says it is better to do SOMETHING only partially right than do absolutely nothing. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take and all that other motivational crap.

Just freaking do something. Today. Right now. Go email a blogger you admire and say you want to work for them. Chances are they will say no. Then email another one. Then another. Take action or don’t – but just stop waiting for something to happen on its own because it won’t.

What I did: Obviously I did this as I have freelancing clients/bosses/bestest friends in the whole wide world. And now I get paid to write. Which is the most awesome thing ever.

If you know anyone looking to break into the freelancing world, forward this on to them! If you are looking to expand your client base even more, check out my post on being a yes woman/man in freelancing. If you are potential employer looking for an awesome freelancer to add to your team, check out my portfolio and hiring page.

Alright guys, who wants to be a freelancer? What are you going to do to get there? Did I talk about balls too much? Happy Friday!

Comments

  1. I have pretty much no desire to be a freelancer. I would much rather use the internet for its intended purpose. To be a jerk and leave comments because I am anonymous (Google John Gabriel’s Greater Internet F**kwad theory, it was written about a particular video game but it hold true for the entire internet, oh yeah it’s a little NSFW).
    I guess to reach my apex of being a jerk I’m going to have to spend more time in the /b/ forum on 4chan (promise me you won’t go there, it really is the a-hole of the internet).
    I think you really only referenced balls once, so I would say that does not constitute talking about them too much. But then again it is kind of early so maybe I just spaced out when you were talking about them, I do tend to do that.

    • I think I said “balls” once and then more subtly talked about them again when I said “grow a pair”.

      You, a jerk? Never! Have a good weekend, Brian!

  2. I love this post, and I agree with everything you said, especially the part about cold e-mailing. I actually keep a spreadsheet of everyone I’ve emailed so I don’t do it twice and look like a dork. You can see it here: http://www.budgetblonde.com/2013/01/the-truth-about-side-hustling.html I know we chatted about it on twitter this week, but yessssss e-mailing for introverts for the win!! 😀

    • Thanks, Cat!

      That’s a great idea, I should make a spreadsheet to keep track. Right now, I just keep responses in a “Writing Rejections” folder. It seems negative but it’s not! I like seeing that I put myself out there, dealt with the rejection (which is never mean or negative, in my experience), and moved on :). Email is god’s gift to introverts.

  3. Great post! Cold emailing is definitely good. You never know if that person has work for you, or if they know of someone who does.

    • Thanks, Michelle! I am super flattered considering you are the Side Hustle Queen :).

      Absolutely! You never know until you try and as long as you aren’t repeatedly emailing them, I don’t think it annoys anyone. Not in my experience, anyways!

  4. It always feels like real freelancing jobs that actually pay well are for someone else, never for me. I know it’s a defeatist attitude, but right now I’m stuck in an underpaid gig that’s getting me down. I just wish I could make real money. : (

    It does seem really difficult…it’s hard for me to see it as not difficult.

    • I don’t focus on the money as much as the projects. I write for blogs that I really like and that’s my priority. The money doesn’t hurt though!

      I was afraid I wouldn’t get any jobs at first, so I just faked it with a “I’m awesome” attitude. After awhile, I didn’t have to fake it anymore because people responded to my writing positively. If I may ask, how many freelance jobs are you applying to monthly? You are a skilled writer, I can’t imagine why it would be so difficult to get some freelance work as long as you are actively pursuing it :). Thanks for stopping by, C!

    • I think you’ll never get one freelance job that pays all your bill. As a freelance writer myself and one of Erin’s employers, I assure you, there’s no way you could get rich off of one client. I only hire my freelancers for 1000 words/mo (2 posts) which doesn’t amount to much in pay, but I also know this is about 1-2 hours worth of work. If I need them to work more, I pay more, but generally I expect they have 5+ other clients and that’s how they earn money. Success a freelance writer is much more a volume thing rather than finding one good gig.

      Good tips Erin! 😉

      • What’s up, boss? 🙂 You are absolutely right, you aren’t going to make a ton of just one gig. That’s part of the fun though! You get exposure to different audiences, which is especially helpful when trying to grow your own blog. I am SO happy I started freelancing before I started RDS. I didn’t have to wait long to get a little attention and we all know I like attention.

        Thanks, Bridget!

    • Oooo, I just thought of something! Check this out, there are blogs willing to pay for guest posts! $50+ http://beafreelanceblogger.com/betterpaidbloglist/

      I haven’t done any guest posts for cash yet, but I’m going to be working on that when I am unemployed in the very near future! Eek, gotta hustle! Hope this helps, C :).

  5. I currently have two freelance writing gigs plus my blog income which grosses around $650 per month. After the chaos of my wedding/honeymoon/summer of concerts settles down, I think I’m going to look for a few more gigs and try to get that up to around $1,000/month. If I do take on more writing, it’s gotta be outside of the PF blogosphere since I’m pretty well tapped on topics – writing for three blogs!

    • That’s pretty good! I have 3 gigs plus my blog, but my blog doesn’t bring in any income at this point. And my monthly writing income varies because one of my freelance jobs is paid hourly so it really depends on how much work there is that month. When did you start monetizing your blog, Jordann?

    • I too am curious about when/how you started monetizing your blog!

  6. Great No BS tips Erin 😉 Freelancing is something I’ve thought of doing but my gammar is horrendous so until I learn the difference between “than” and “then” and “they’re”, “their” and “there” I might just stick to my own blog for now so I don’t piss anyone off 😛

    • Thanks, GMD! My grammar is nothing to write home about either although I do know than/then and their/there/they’re. I say if you want to do it, go for it. That’s what editing is for! 😉

  7. Oh yeah, I love that you’re so into freelance writing! It’s awesome to see that excitement and passion. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing the info about the Freelancers Club! I agree that getting into freelancing isn’t too hard, but if you want to make enough money to live on — that’s a whole other story for sure. I can’t wait to see how your story unfolds more and more!

    • Hi, Carrie! Thanks :).

      Yes, making a living at it is a lot more difficult! But before you can make a living at it you have to get into the biz, which isn’t too difficult if you put yourself out there.

  8. Awesome! Definitely saving this for future (or present) reference!

  9. One part about the emailing cold – Make your intentions clear. I get a ton of requests daily from people that want to post on my site, but for the most part they are looking to place links not just freelance write on my site in exchange for payment.

  10. Hi there! I just found your blog, so I thought I’d say hi 🙂

    Your tips are great! I think I have the best of both worlds, because as a Social Media Manager, it’s my job to write blog articles. I am an aspiring author, though, so I do a ton of writing on the side (and I think your tips can definitely help with that side of things as well).

    I’m excited I found your blog (thanks to GMD) and to keep reading!

    • Welcome, Rachel! Prepare yourself for a lot of incoherent rambling :).

      Thanks! Ooo, what is it like being a Social Media Manager? How did you get that gig?

      • It’s really great! I spend my days writing blog articles, posting on Facebook and Twitter, and boosting engagement with our users. I also handle customer support, so I’m responding to emails as well. It’s really fun, and so far I’m totally loving it.

        Believe it or not, I found it on craigslist.org! A ton of companies are now posting their job openings on Craigslist- it was a great resource for me when I was looking for a job. As a side note, there are also a TON of freelance writing jobs posted there as well.

  11. I feel like my tweets might have helped inspired this post. I’m also a self-absorbed Erin so I’m taking credit either way!

    But seriously, solid tips new BFF.

    Now, I need to go get to some “cold emailing.”

    • They did help inspire this post! I figured you weren’t the only one out there in PF Bloggerland that didn’t know how to start looking for freelancing gigs. Thanks, Erin!

      Yes. Go. Now. You are an awesome writer and you have to go for it!

  12. Thanks for the advice. Since I’ve only been actively blogging two weeks bookmark it and come back in a couple more weeks. 🙂

  13. I feel like I’m kind of a bad example because I fell ass backwards into my 2 freelance gigs, but I absolutely love them! 2 sites + my blog is about all I can handle right now – I do have the kids to teach – but it’s freelancing is a really awesome side gig. You can do it from home, the pay is decent, and you make great contacts.

    Great post!

    • I love freelancing! How does one “fall into” freelance gigs? Did they find you through your blog? That’s awesome :).

      Thanks, TeacHer!

  14. Thanks so much for this information. I was also excited to hear about your positive experience with The Freelancers Club. I have accidentally done some of the things you’ve suggested. But, I never would have considered “cold-emailing!”

    • Glad it was helpful, Michelle :). Definitely try the cold emailing, you’d be surprised at the amount of opportunities that come up!

  15. Erin, really interesting post. I never thought about freelancing or pursuing even an amateur writing career. And I did not realize there are blogs that look for guest writers! I just started my blog to jot down ideas and give my friends a low-key (introverted!) way to discuss PF. I love the sassiness of your blog and will keep reading! Thanks for the tips.

  16. Thanks for the tips. I’ve known that freelance work doesn’t fall from the sky, but have not been really clear on how to get stated if I decide to go down that path.

  17. Great guide. Practical and useful 🙂

  18. I really enjoyed this post. It gave me a bit of hope. I recently (a couple of months back) decided to take my dreams of working as a freelance writer seriously. I have a past in academic research and writing, which naturally comes with a pile of debts. I have been scouting for companies and individuals with potential work for me, but I am struggling a bit. The cold mailing is definitely one of the ways to go, especially when you’re introverted, which coincidentally most writers are . 😛 I’ve at least received more answers (rejections) this way than by phone calls or standard letters. One person told me that as it is the summer most temporary positions are filled with students and graduates. Comforting…

    Also, I thought your comment on the blogging was interesting, because if there is one advice I’ve heard to death it is “you should start a blog”. While this is probably sound advice, trying to come up with a solid idea of what subject to blog about consistently is more difficult than I initially thought. Add to that the initial quiet period of most blogs…

    Keep up the good work,
    K.

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