Although many writers start writing for free, you can actually get paid right at the beginning. If, however, you have been writing for free, use those credits to find a paying gig.
Here are my top 5 suggestions for getting your first paid freelance writing job. And if you’ve already landed your first paid writing gig, congratulations. You can use this list to land more.
Try writing for your local newspaper
Your local newspaper is a great place to start. Even the big metro dailies are often willing to take on a freelancer because they get paid less than a staff writer. A weekly newspaper might be an easier shot, particularly the free ones, because there’s likely to be less competition.
The trick is to ask the person who answers the phone if the editor is off deadline. If so, ask for the editor of the paper (or section within the paper) and offer a couple of ideas. New store openings, little league signups, other civic events are ideal. See if you can find something that’s happening that isn’t big news – big news is apt to have a reporter assigned to it.
If you can take decent pictures, that’s a bonus, but not required.
Editors love writers who come with ideas and can meet the promised deadline.
The pay won’t be great, but the credit is worth it for anyone, beginner or pro.
Letting your friends and family know you write
Early on in my writing career my son suggested the reason I’d become successful is that I told absolutely everyone I knew that I was a writer. I still do. In fact, I just ordered another set of business cards which I will hand out freely.
You never know who knows someone who needs a writer! This isn’t like multi-level marketing – you have a skill that’s needed by many and some of your friends and family may know who needs writing help. Plus these folks usually are happy to back you up.
Sure, your writing skills are not the only thing you want to talk about with them, but you don’t want to hide or be too shy about mentioning what it is you do in life to earn an income. It’s surprising how often a family member or friend will lead you to your first paid freelance writing job.
Using ad lists for finding writing jobs
A well curated job list like the one you find here can be a real help in finding your first paid freelance writing job.
I suggest that you spend an hour or two looking at the links in that list and decide which are most likely to have the kinds of writing gigs you think you can do. You may or may not want to include the selection of Craigslist listings – I have decent luck with Craigslist but many tell me they don’t.
Once you’ve decided where to look, spend an hour a day looking and applying. You’ll find all sorts of additional articles about finding and landing freelance writing jobs at How to Find Freelance Writing Jobs – a directory of articles.
Cold calling for writing gigs
Everyone groans when I suggest cold calling, but darn it, it works. None other than Peter Bowerman recommend it in his Well-Fed Writer. I give tips on how to do it because I’ve done a lot of it over time. I have coaching clients who have begun to build real freelance writing businesses with cold calling.
Yes, you can find your first paid freelance writing job without cold calling, but probably not as fast, nor as well paid.
It may help to remember your offering a needed business service and you’re calling businesses… not homes at dinner times like you were collecting for a politician.
Find writing gigs by knocking on doors
I’ve knocked on doors to get writing business and it’s worked too. The most fun I’ve had is just prowling around light industrial areas with my business card and a few samples in a folder. If you’ve got samples of a press release or a sales letter or brochure copy you did, even back in the day free for a charity, take those with you. If you don’t, just a business card will work.
Take a yellow pad and write down anyone who was even remotely interested.
The approach I always used was something like “Hi, I’m a freelance writer. What are you building there?”
People love to talk about themselves and their work. In addition to finding a writing client or two, you may run into a great story you can write up for the local newspaper or some trade publication. It’s pretty easy to move the conversation to their writing needs – just takes a bit of boldness.
Finding your first paid freelance writing job
Finding your first paid freelance writing job may seem daunting. Maybe it is, come to think about it. But if it is, that’s only because you haven’t yet had any experience lining up such work - yet!
Try one or all of these methods. My hunch is you’ll soon have your first paycheck for writing. In the process you will have discovered at least one marketing method that works for you. Maybe more.
Make no mistake about it. Once you’ve been paid to write, you can consider yourself a professional writer.
How cool is that?
Soon I’ll have a new ebook on Freelance Writing Jobs – get early notice plus a discount when you sign up.
Write well and often,