What Do You Need to Land Your First Freelance Writing Gigs?

freelance writing gigs

So you think you’d like to try freelance writing. You’ve heard great things and are wondering how to get started. You want in.

That’s great!

Becoming a freelance writer has very low startup costs. You can get ready to apply for jobs in a matter of weeks. So whether you end up loving it or hating it, it’s probably worth the investment to just give it a try, right?

It’s important to know that applying to freelance writing gigs does take a bit of preparation, because you likely can’t use the same materials you would use to apply to a regular full-time job. Before you can start applying to freelance writing jobs, you will need the following things:

A Focus (In Other Words, a Niche)

This is advice I wish I’d had as a newbie freelance writer. It’s helpful to choose a niche when you start out so that you can develop a more focused career path.

Why choose a niche? Basically, because it keeps you from competing for low-paying jobs with other new writers. If you’ve read any of my advice on being location independent and being a well-paid freelancer, you’ll know that one thing I talk about is being able to do something other people can’t.

For example, anyone can write a 500-word fluff article about celebrities. Fewer people can write a white paper about technology trends, or create a great press release. When you learn specific skills from the start, you will get ahead quicker and earn more. My free course, Strategic Freelance Writer, goes in depth with how to choose a niche.

A Starter Portfolio for Finding Freelance Writing Gigs

The portfolio is the biggest undertaking to getting started as a freelance writer, so get that out of the way early on. You don’t need to work pro bono to get writing samples; you can come up with your own ideas in your niche and write about them. This can take weeks or months off of the process of setting up your portfolio to get you out there applying to jobs as soon as possible.

To create your portfolio, you first have to have your niche. Then, research on Google to choose some topics people are writing about in your niche. It’s as simple as that.

You only need 3-5 writing samples for your first portfolio. Then you can start creating your portfolio website. Even if you’re not all that technologically inclined, it is a good idea to have your own website to showcase your freelance work. It just looks more professional.

I’ve written a guide on how to set up a portfolio website on wordpress with little hassle. The key is just to get your work in a simple, clean, visually appealing online format. This doesn’t have to take more than a day if you follow my guide.

A Freelance Writer Resume

Your writing resume needs to be succinct, action-oriented, and tailored to writing. It’s honestly not the most important thing for a lot of freelance writing gigs, because your writing samples matter more. However, a good freelance writing resume should highlight your writing experience as much as possible. So take a look at your resume and minimize work experiences that have nothing to do with writing, then make the descriptions or writing-related jobs and skills take up more space.

An Intriguing Cover Letter

Your cover letter is the first encounter a hiring manager will have with your writing. It has to be awesome! I recommend you write this only when you have your portfolio and resume together; this way, you’ll have a bit more clarity about what skills you bring to the table as a writer.

What makes a cover letter interesting? It needs to be personalized to the person who will be reading it. Many folks make the mistake of making the cover letter all about them. In fact, it should be the opposite. It should mostly talk about the company and the hiring manager you want to work for. Check out this post on how to write a freelance writing pitch; it gives you some more ideas about how to make your pitch stand out with a personal connection.

That’s truly all you need to apply for freelance writing gigs: a niche, a portfolio and website, a resume, and a cover letter. You could be out in the world applying for your first gigs in a matter of days or weeks if you really put some oomph into it and get these items taken care of!

That’s truly all you need to apply for freelance writing gigs. You could be out in the world applying for your first gigs in a matter of days or weeks!

Just Get ‘Er Done

I’ve talked with many people who want to start freelance writing, but they are overwhelmed by these steps they need to take. They want to send out the perfect pitch right away. They want to have a beautiful website and choose the most lucrative and amazing niche ever.

The longer you hesitate, though, the more daunting and time consuming this all becomes. Sometimes it’s best to just get up and running, apply to some jobs, see how it goes, and adjust. You will learn a lot as you go.

Need More Freelance Writing Help?

If you’re looking for some more guidance on how to become a freelance writer, take my mini freelance writing course for free! I give more guidance on all of the things above and more-- including a question that may be lingering in your mind-- where do I actually find freelance writing clients? Go on and give it a try! If you’re looking for even more guidance than that, I do have a six week freelance writing crash course that teaches you everything you need to know to get your first clients. This is the best option if you don’t want to waste any time at all and you want to go straight into paid writing work.

What Step Are You On Now?

Have you started on any of these action items yet? How’s it going? What are you still struggling with or uncertain about? Let me know in the comments!

Who Wrote This?

Renee Hyde Digital Nomad.png

I’m Renee Hyde and I’ve been a digital nomad freelance writer since 2012. So far I’ve visited 60+ countries and counting! On this blog I share tips about dreamy travel destinations, travel hacks, ways to work remotely and travel, and advice for living your best nomadic life!


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