One of the fastest growing segments in the freelancing industry is writing. From 200,000 freelance writers in 2012, online job market platform Elance already houses more than 300,000 freelance writers.
Many people enter the field of writing simply because writing is a basic skill that we are taught the moment we can hold a pencil. We have honed this skill throughout the years and under different capacities. Thus, a talented writer in all of us is waiting to be discovered. In this article, you are taught how to land a freelance job even without experience.
Related: 20 Power Tips and Ways on How to Become a Better Writer
Website design, software development, legal transcription, and 3D animation are examples of projects that require a freelancer to have specific skill sets, competencies, and in some cases, certifications. For sure, you cannot hope to land job contracts for these types of projects without training and years of experience under your belt.
But in the case of writing, prospective clients just want freelancers with the ability to write. A degree in English or in journalism may give you an advantage, but for clients, having someone who can express their purpose, vision, and ideas into a narrative that can engage and influence the thought processes of readers is more important than these degrees.
The following names may be familiar to you: Harper Lee, Augusten Burroughs, Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, Mark Twain, Harvey Pekar, Jack Kerouac, Jack London, H.G. Wells, and George Bernard Shaw. They are 10 award-winning writers who never finished schooling.
Some of them, like Charles Dickens and Mark Twain, only finished high school. However, they became great writers because during a specific period in their lives, they unearthed their passion for writing. None of them had formal training in writing, but they used their ability to capture, articulate, and transform their experiences and visions into classic works of art.
Although not everyone can be as gifted as these iconic writers, they have proved that the ability to write is in all of us. All we need is to commit to the process and write!
Eight (8) ways on how you can land a freelance writing job even without experience
1. Reassess your basic skills
You don’t have to know the conventions of APA Publication Manual or the Chicago Manual of Style in formatting citations to become a successful and in-demand freelance writer. However, you should evaluate your basic skills and assess your level of proficiency in the following key areas of writing:
- Sentence structure
Nothing is more off-putting than reading a piece containing misspellings, incorrect grammar, poor punctuation usage, and sentences that are structured without sense, direction, or continuity of thought. In fact, just one instance of any of these mistakes can put the credibility of the article into question.
If you want to test your proficiency level in writing, take any of the skills tests available in popular online job platforms, such as Elance, oDesk, and freelancer.com.
2. Establish a blog site
One of the biggest mistakes freelancers make is not having a website to present their services. Keep in mind that being a freelancer means you are running a private enterprise that qualifies you as a small-business owner.
Having a website also gives you a medium to showcase your writing skills through a blog page. If you want to land a freelance writing job but have no experience, a blog page can give prospective clients a venue to view how you write and, more importantly, how you think.
Don’t you believe it? Statistically, businesses that blog generate 126% more leads than businesses that don’t.
Related: How to Make Money from a Blog through Selling Adverts
Another advantage of having a blog site is that it gives you purpose to keep writing. To become a good writer, you need to keep working on your craft. If you are not confident with your writing skills, you have to practice every day.
3. Be highly engaged in social media
Digital technology not only has ushered a revolution to make life and business significantly efficient and mobile but has also shifted the balance of power to the consumer through social media. The proliferation of social media networks has given consumers a digital platform to be seen and heard.
Businesses are quite aware of this and continually engage the social community through focus groups. Among the popular social media networks, LinkedIn is the best platform to launch or promote your services. In addition to your website’s blog page, you can use LinkedIn to launch your writing career. And you can expect immediate engagement.
Several focus groups are related to your business and you can qualify those you want to reach out to and connect. If you don’t have a portfolio, you can build up your body of work simply by posting articles to your LinkedIn communities or by sharing those from your website. You can get firsthand experience on how being a freelance writer is, specifically when receiving feedback.
4. Create a great online profile
Online job markets, such as Elance, oDesk, People Per Hour, and guru.com, offer great opportunities to land clients. These networks are business communities that bridge clients with freelancers.
Online job platforms benefit both clients and freelancers. For clients, these communities give them a resource to hire high-quality talent at prices that won’t break their monthly budget. For freelancers, they are given a wide selection of projects to choose from that requires varied skills and offer diverse compensation packages.
However, thousands of freelancers compete in these networks. To be noticed, you must create a great online profile. It must highlight your previous work experiences and qualifications. If you don’t have experience in writing, take skill tests. Some of these online job platforms do not allow external links to be indicated in their website such as Elance.
Always make sure that you have well-crafted, updated curriculum vitae on your profile, which includes the links to your website and social media accounts. You can attach this whenever you apply or bid on a project.
5. Network your services
As a small-business owner, you should view networking as a never-ending process. It doesn’t matter what the scale of your business is. You should always look for opportunities to get your services out there to market.
Freelancing market is highly competitive. You must use every avenue to network your services to your advantage. Among these include:
- Traditional networking – Attend business forums, workshops, conventions, and seminars. Companies always look for good writers to create content and copy. Make sure to have calling cards and marketing brochures, which include work samples to these events.
- Online networking – As discussed previously, you have to stay active in social media. Work to get your total connections in LinkedIn past 500. This seems to be a magic number in LinkedIn. Once you hit 500 connections, businesses want to connect with you. Blog everyday if you can; websites with fresh content rank highly. Try to send at least one proposal every day in various online job communities.
- Personal connections – Offer your services to your friends and former associates at work. The objective is to build your portfolio and get you considerable exposure.
6. Be smart, selective, and cautious
These online job communities generally have a good reputation, and they are professionally run with the best interests of both the client and the freelancer in mind. For example, Elance has its own moderation group that routinely oversees the projects posted by clients and the applications sent by freelancers to make sure these are within community guidelines.
But despite the best intentions and most commendable efforts, scammers whose purposes include capturing important data and soliciting work for free lurk within these communities.
Here are a few examples:
- A job post asks you to submit at least two samples of your work or to submit yourself to a written test. If you submit the samples, chances are you’ll never hear from the client again. Elance expressly prohibits the solicitation of work samples but it does not have the capacity to fish out spurious job posts owing to the large volume of transactions.
- A job post asks you to provide your e-mail address and other contact information, such as your Skype ID. The modus operandi of these “clients” is simply to collect your data so they can spam you with messages and offers. Some are out just to create mischief and make a name for themselves. One of my friends had a virus uploaded unto his PC through a link sent via Skype.
7. Conduct due diligence on the job post
This is related to the previous tip, #6. When you come across a job post that interests you, follow these simple steps to protect yourself from potential scammers:
- Click on the client’s profile. Check if the client has purchased any service and for how much. If the total amount purchased is less than what the job post promises, I would suggest that you think twice about applying.
- Check if the client has any active work. There are clients who select freelancers and indicate the status of these projects is “working.” But he hasn’t purchased or paid for any of the services he acquired. If the timeline reads unreasonable, check the job details or reach out to the freelancer. Some clients do these to appear credible.
- Be wary of the details of the job post. There are jobs under different headings but the details are the same. You can run into a job post from Canada then a few pages later, the same job post is posted under a different heading; but the this time, the client is from Bangladesh! Stay away from these postings. This is an obvious red flag.
- Read freelancers’ feedback, if there’s any.
- Google the name of the client.
- Visit his website, if there’s any.
- Visit his social media accounts.
It pays to allocate time for due diligence work. When you are trading in the virtual world, there are many filters. You have to find ways to navigate your way around them and unearth the truth.
8. Focus on market acquisition initially
When you’re starting out as a freelance writer and don’t have a portfolio to present, your objective should be building up your credibility. The only way to do this is to land clients.
Several novice freelancers I know only apply for jobs that offer a high rate. This is understandable; however, you have to anticipate that if a client is willing to pay well, he/she is probably looking for someone with extensive experience and great credentials. You can go ahead and apply if you wish, but you may only end up wasting your bullets.
What I suggest is to view your approach like a sales funnel; you need a wide opening to bring in considerable prospects that you can convert to sales.
Here are a few of my suggestions:
- Apply for the jobs where there aren’t many proposals. If there are more than 25 proposals on deck, yours might get lost in the mix. Besides, fewer proposals mean less competition.
- Look past the rate. You need to build up your portfolio. There are clients with limited budgets, and thus, they do not attract many freelancers. If due diligence indicates the client is trustworthy, and the scope of work is within your capabilities, go for it!
- Review the job post of the client; a lot are poorly written. From my experience, these are those who badly need good writers. If you feel you can contribute to the improvement of their content or do a better job than whoever composed the job post, send your application.
- Go for the “quick jobs.” These online communities have clients that offer jobs that need quick turnaround time, sometimes within a week or within 24 hours. These do not attract many candidates because the payout can be on the low side; but at the same time, the sense of urgency increases your chances of being hired.
- Post short-term service offerings. In People Per Hour, the platform recommends that freelancers post “hourlies” in their profile to attract clients. An “hourly” is an affordable work and can be rendered within a short time. In People Per Hour, freelancers charge anywhere from US$11 to US$23 for an hourly. This is a good way to attract clients and potentially earn more through volume of work.
When you are starting out a career in freelancing, you should always prioritize gaining experience above anything else. This means considering the possibility of working for little or no money at all.
Freelance writing industry is one of the most competitive industries, and those with little or no experience are always at a great disadvantage compared with those who are more experienced. But growth also implies demand. Competition only serves to open opportunities for you to land a freelance writing job even if you have no experience.
“To start” means you have to find a point where you have to begin, and this is always the most difficult. Most clients would not want to be the pilot project. Challenges abound; but for the sake of gaining ground, you have to persevere.
Not all experiences will be good; but remember that each experience becomes your best teacher in life. The lessons you learn from the experiences you gain will last a lifetime.