5 Reasons You’re Not Getting The Writing Jobs You Want

by Anne Wayman

why you're not getting writing jobsOne of the problems with freelance writing, especially in the beginning, is it’s really hard to get accurate feedback.

When you apply online for writing gigs your responses often seem to drop into a black hole.

If you send a query or an over-the-transom submission to a magazine you’re very likely to get a printed canned rejection slip.

Here are the five major reason people attempting to become freelance writers fail to get writing jobs:

Your writing simply isn’t good enough. Although freelance writing doesn’t require a degree or even special training, it does require the ability to communicate at least clearly in print – on screen and off. If you don’t have that, you have two choices: choose another career or learn to write well.



Writing is a learnable skill. If you suspect your writing skills are just not good enough look for a class or a coach who can give you honest critiques and point you toward improving your writing.

The art of writing is something else. I don’t know if art can be taught. It seems to come from digging deep within. You don’t need art to get started as a freelancer, although it’s nice if you’ve got it.

The post, 10 Things You Can Do Right Now To Improve Your Writing may help.

You’re scattering your shots. You’re applying for all sorts of writing gigs instead of slowing down enough to do a good job applying for those you know you can do well.

Although when you’re applying online there is a need for speed because so many respond, speed at the expense of quality will get you no where.

Decide on two or three areas you’d like to write in – animals, the environment, marketing, politics, making money online, weight – either losing or gaining, etc. etc. etc. Put up some samples on your website or blog and apply to those gig.

You’re not paying close enough attention to reading the ads/publications. Sure, ads for writing can seem obscure. Read every word and consider the problem the ad is presenting. Show how you can solve it and you’re that much closer to getting a job.



If you’re writing for magazines or book publishers study the magazine or the publisher’s book catalog. Read them with an eye toward discovering what they want, what they actually use, then do something like that. They know their audience and every issue of the magazine or the book catalog offers real clues to writers. Make use of them.

You’re not following the instructions.  When I was editing magazines, when I solicit guest posts and when I talk with others who do the same, the most consistent complaint is would-be freelancers do not follow the instructions. It’s amazing. Editors ask for email queries and get them by snail mail. They ask for  submissions through agents only and have to respond to piles of unsolicited manuscripts. They ask for samples or links to samples and get anything but.

When you don’t follow the instructions whatever you submit is apt to be thrown out before it’s read. Those instructions are written because editors know what works for them. Remember, it’s not about you!

And when the instructions are vague and confusing? Simply do your best. If the ad is online it won’t do any good to ask a question. Sometimes, on bidding sites, there is an opportunity to post a question but if you watch you’ll see those are rarely answered. Do your best or skip the ad. If the employer doesn’t find someone who can do what is needed they will run the ad again, hopefully with better information.

How did you move from not getting writing jobs to getting them?

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Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by agnesgtr

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Ali | Writers Blog January 12, 2012 at 9:44 am

“not following the instructions” can be a sheer pain in the neck at times, especially when the client himself is not sure of the requirements and keeps changing them as the project progresses.
Ali | Writers Blog recently posted..How To Be Smart In The World Of Dumb Writers – Amazing Lesson From Eddie MorraMy Profile

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annew January 12, 2012 at 11:52 am

Ah, Ali, that’s different. And that’s an important distinction – the instructions as found in market listings written by editors v. trying to figure out both what a client wants and what they need and how to merge the two.

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David A. Boyington January 11, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Master the syntax to help increase your quality of writing. Also, read and study a book, titled, THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE, by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, illustrated by Maira Kalman. In addition, study AP (Associated Press). Purchase an AP membership online; it will update new format changes and spellings, for example, web site is now website. A tutor will help; you can give your writings to your tutor, to read. This is good feedback.
David A. Boyington
David A. Boyington recently posted..Musicians, Singers, SongwritersMy Profile

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annew January 12, 2012 at 11:49 am

Good recomendations.

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David A. Boyington January 11, 2012 at 8:00 pm

What does an editor want to see in a sample article that has been posted to my website? How should this sample article be posted? David B.

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annew January 12, 2012 at 11:47 am

An editor want to be reassured that you can write reasonably well. An editor will look at your sample and probably with the first paragraph decide if she thinks your work will work for her readers.
I post sample articles under the word “articles.” Other words, like “samples” would also work.

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Valerie Bolden-Barrett January 11, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Sorry for the type Os in my first comment, everybody. As you all know, that’s the thing writers dread the most. And having the technology that allows us to write instantly and on demand is no excuse.

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Valerie Bolden-Barrett January 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Anne, I recommend “Modern English Handbook” by Robert M. Gorrell and Charlton Laird. This book was originally published by Prentice-Hall in 1953. Amazon offers it in hardcover, paperback, Kindle and HTML — good things last forever. I also recommend “The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications” by Amy Einsohn and the old standby, “The Elements of Style,” by William Strunk and E.B. White.

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annew January 12, 2012 at 11:38 am

Thanks Valerie… the one I know best is The Elements of Style – wonderful guide.

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Valerie Bolden-Barrett January 11, 2012 at 11:48 am

Hi, Anne. In my exprience as a publications editor, I, too, found subpar writing skills to be a major cause of rejection among freelance writers. Also, I had to turn down far too many queries and submissions for all the reasons you point out.

I’m not sure the art of writing can be taught, either; I think it’s instinctive and comes with a basic love of the craft. I tell serious would-be writers to invest in a few highly rated books on copyediting and basic grammar, and to do a lot of reading in their chosen genre, which can help them discern good writing from bad or mediocre writing. This helped me. I’ve also recommended your site and other indispensible online sources for writers.

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annew January 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Valerie, I doubt the art of writing can be taught, but clear communication through writing is a learnable skill. What are your favorite books for people who want to write?

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Lori January 11, 2012 at 11:43 am

Great points, Anne. The scattering the shots is one a lot of writers do. And not paying attention to the instructions is a BIG problem. I once hired a writer and out of all the applicants, she was the only one who followed the instructions. That’s telling of why many writers don’t get hired.
Lori recently posted..When It’s OverMy Profile

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annew January 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm

I’ve never understood why so many don’t follow the instructions… any insight on that?

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Neal Starkman January 10, 2012 at 1:43 pm

And the fifth reason would be . . .?

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annew January 11, 2012 at 1:01 pm

That you can’t count? Actually I had thought to make persistence the 5th reason and then it didn’t seem to fit with the rest.

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