Finding freelance writing jobs can seem like a mystery. There are no clear cut instructions for how to get started and it can seem like every other freelance writer has it all figured out.

Though starting a freelance writing career or side hustle can be daunting, once you understand the process it’s actually pretty straightforward. And it’s just that: a process. Setting up a system and working through it consistently is the key to securing a steady stream of freelance writing work. 

Here are five steps to take to find freelance writing jobs. 

1. Figure Out What Freelance Writing Work You Want

The first step is to pick your niche. 

Are you a copywriter? A creative writer? Do you want to work for editorial magazines or write website copy for businesses? Are you looking for one-off gigs or long-term contract work?

These are by no means the only categories of freelance writing. Rather, they’re meant to help you start thinking about the many different kinds of work available in the field. While picking just one niche isn’t mandatory, it is helpful in differentiating yourself and landing ongoing work. A large volume of freelance work comes from referrals, so specializing in one or a few categories can help you when you’re making connections through existing clients who refer you to friends or colleagues.  

Narrowing down the type of work you want will help you when you’re searching job boards and building your writing portfolio. It’s also useful in helping you weed out work you don’t want, which is another important component of finding success as a freelance writer. 

For more ideas on the type of work that’s out there for freelance writers, check out our guide on 19 jobs for freelance writers and how to get them

2. Decide Your Pay

Once you’ve zeroed in on the type of freelance writing work you want to do, it’s time to set your rates. Freelance writing work pays in many different ways. 

Some writers charge an hourly fee. Others charge by word. There are writers who prefer to set a flat rate for the entirety of a project, and still others who charge a weekly or monthly fee as part of an ongoing contract. In reality, most freelance writers use some combination of all of these methods depending on the assignment and the client. 

To set your rate, start by thinking about how much you want to make in a year. Then, do a little math to figure out how that shakes out in terms of what you need to make per hour and per week. 

Assuming you work Monday through Friday and take two weeks off for vacation, there are about 50 five-day workweeks in a year. To figure out what you need to make each week, divide your desired annual salary by 50. 

Assuming you work 40 hours a week, that equates to about 2,000 working hours per year. To find your hourly rate, divide your desired annual salary by 2,000. Of course, if you plan to take more than two weeks of vacation time or work less than 40 hours per week, you can adjust the math accordingly. 

Now you know what you need to make each hour and each week to hit your salary goal. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to use those numbers as your rates. However, they’re a good benchmark to help you determine how much a project should cost based on how long it will take you. They’re useful in assessing whether you’re charging the right amount for your time, which is one of the trickiest parts of starting out as a freelance writer.  

It’s also useful at this stage to do a bit of research to find out what similar writers charge (spoiler alert: it’s all over the map). Learn more about how much freelance writers really make in this post

3. Build a Portfolio

The next and arguably most important step in finding freelance writing jobs is to build your portfolio. Your portfolio is like a highlight reel of your writing abilities. You should aim to showcase diverse pieces that are representative of your best work and indicative of the type of jobs you’re looking for. 

One great platform that makes building a freelance writing portfolio easy is Clippings.me. Clippings.me is a free service that helps writers set up and share online portfolios of their work with no coding or development expertise required. 

Your Clippings.me portfolio includes a bio, profile picture, links to third-party platforms like your website and social media channels, and a selection of your writing clips. You can upload your clips via file or web link and sort them into categories based on topic, style of writing, publication and more. To get started building your online writing portfolio in a matter of minutes, register for a free Clippings.me account here

Lacking clips to put in your portfolio? Don’t worry–it’s a common problem among new freelancers. Learn more about how to build a writing portfolio with no experience here.  

4. Post on Freelance Job Boards

If you don’t already have an established network of freelance writing clients, your best bet to get your foot in the door is to start with freelance job boards.

Job boards are open marketplaces where clients and publications post jobs and where writers find and apply for them. The jobs you’ll find on freelance boards run the gamut, from quick, easy gigs that take a few hours to long-term and even contract-to-hire positions. As we said in step 1, going in with an idea of what you’re looking for will help you narrow down the many listings. 

While there are many legitimate job boards with high-quality assignments for writers, there’s also a lot of clutter out there. Check out our guide to the 6 best job boards for freelancers here.  

If you apply for a few jobs and don’t hear back, don’t lose hope. It takes some time to get the ball rolling with freelance writing work. But much like riding a bike, it’s easier once you’ve picked up some momentum. Make searching and applying for jobs part of your regular workflow, either on a daily or weekly basis, and you’ll eventually work your way up to a consistent stream of assignments. 

5. Keep Your Portfolio Updated

Once you’ve worked through all the steps above, you’ll be well on your way to earning money as a freelance writer. But the process doesn’t stop once the jobs start rolling in. The more work you land, the stronger your portfolio can be. 

Keep your online writing portfolio fresh by adding new clips on an ongoing basis. As you earn bylines, add the publications/credentials to your bio. 

Also, don’t wait for people to find your portfolio. Market yourself by sharing your portfolio regularly on channels like your Twitter profile and LinkedIn account. Consider posting a status update when you add new clips to keep your name at the top of mind within your professional network.

Finally, after you successfully complete a job, don’t forget to ask for oh-so-valuable referrals. Referrals are a great way to reduce your reliance on job boards and add to your income security as a freelance writer. You can make it easy by simply asking satisfied clients to share your online portfolio link with anyone they think might be interested in hiring you. 

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Clippings.me Team

Musings and updates from the content management team at Clippings.me.