When you’re just starting out, it can feel nearly impossible to land your first freelance writing job. “How did you get started?” is one of my most asked questions. Today, I’m breaking down how you can land your first freelance writing job if you’re currently in the market.
1. Get on freelancing platforms
Freelancing platforms help companies find and hire professionals for temporary job roles or short-term special projects. The most popular platforms around the world include Fiverr, Upwork, Contra, Guru, Freelancer.com, and more. I’ve been a Fiverr girl since the get-go, but I know a lot of people have success on all of these sites because there’s so much work out there. If you’re looking to get your first freelance writing job, a freelancing platform is a great place to start. They’re free to join, often do most (if not all) of the marketing for you, and only take a small percentage of your profits.
I’ve been on Fiverr since the beginning of my freelance writing days, and it’s helped me launch my entire career. Read more about that here in My First Gig: Getting Started on Fiverr.
With that, however, freelancing platforms can get poor reputations for both buyers and sellers. For one, there are a lot of scammers out there from both the buyer and seller perspectives. As a seller, I got a lot of messages from scammers during my first year or so on Fiverr. I learned to weed out the messages from scammers and the messages from real clients. Real clients play by the rules of the site and aren’t pushy about what they want to be done. They’re interested in forming a long-lasting and collaborative relationship with you as a freelancer.
From a buyer’s perspective, I always recommend reading reviews, messaging the freelancer in advance, and asking for samples. This can help you ensure that the individual you’re working with is legitimate.
For anyone looking to use a freelancing platform, I encourage you to exercise the same caution you would anywhere on the internet.
2. Create samples
This was a predicament I was in during the early days of freelancing. I had a buyer message me almost immediately and ask for a sample. I hadn’t worked as a freelance writer for anyone yet. How was I supposed to provide a sample?
Create one! You can create a sample blog off of any prompt you choose. For example, say you’re getting a lot of requests to write about crypto. Set yourself the prompt, “How to Create a Coinbase Account” and write 500 words on that topic. When your next buyer comes looking for a blog on a crypto topic, then you’ll be ready to go.
This advice works for any type of freelancing — not just freelance writing. If you work in graphic design, you can create sample logos. If you work in voice-over, you can create sample recordings. If you work in website design, you can create sample sites for clients to view. Whatever your field, make sure you’re able to tangibly demonstrate your skills.
3. Ask friends and family if they need work done
You’ve been on a freelancing website for a few weeks now and…nothing. You haven’t had one potential customer reach out to you about work. What do you do? You can jumpstart your career and build your portfolio by working with people who are already in your network. This is a great way to build your skills and get the word out about your services. Chances are that someone you know requires a blog, logo, translation services, virtual assistant support, or any other freelancing service you’re offering. Start with your family and friends and then build your business out from there. Just make sure they leave you a positive review, which will help boost your listing on the platform’s algorithm.
4. Pitch yourself for work
Depending on the freelancing platform, you’ll be able to pitch yourself for jobs. This is more typical on Upwork than it is Fiverr. However, Fiverr does have a section of the platform that allows you to bid for “Buyer Requests.” If you’re not getting any orders or messages, hang out in the Buyer Request section and hunt for jobs where you’re a good match. This is a great way to get your first couple of jobs! Just make sure you knock them out of the park, so you can get good reviews and return buyers.
5. Prioritize experience over money
This can be hard for people. Most people know their time is worth more than $5 to $10 an hour (and it is!). When I first started freelancing, I was selling 500-word blogs for just $5 each. This is an insane markdown, but I knew I had to discount my work in order to get clients. I had no clientele and no reviews to demonstrate I could do the work. The only way to get that was to provide an incentive through my pricing.
Once I started getting booked, I was able to raise my prices to counter demand. For me, it only took a couple of weeks at the $5 rate before I was raising my prices. However, prioritizing experience over money in those first weeks gave people some faith to take a chance on my work. Try working at a discount when you’re first getting started — it can give you those first few jobs you need to make a name for yourself!
Getting started as a freelance writer may seem impossible, but as long as you’re producing quality work, there’s room for you in the field. Use the tips above as well as my blog Top 5 Tips for New Freelancers to help you launch your career.