6 Basic Steps to Score Your First Freelance Writing Gig


6 steps to score your first freelance writing gig. Makealivingwriting.com

The biggest problem I faced as a new freelance writer was wondering when I’d ever feel ready to make the leap to marketing myself effectively, and getting that first freelance writing gig.

I took me some time to realize that I’d never feel 100 percent ready. But if I wanted to make real progress, I’d have to start taking consistent action to find that first client.

Sometimes we just need a shot of inspiration to send us down the right path, and mine came from Bamidele Onibalusi’s recent Earn Your First $1000 as a Freelance Writer challenge.

My strategy and email template are adapted from his articles, and used here with his permission.

Here’s what I did:

1. Nail down a niche

With so many companies out there, it can be difficult to know who to contact. What worked for me was choosing a niche. I looked at my hobbies and interests and chose two industries I’m interested in pets and travel. This allowed me to narrow down my search to businesses in that niche.

2. Identify potential clients

Some great places to look are online business directories like Manta.com, trade magazines and directories, and lists of companies attending industry trade shows. I picked companies that seemed to  be decent-sized, and are already using content marketing. I actually found a great list of prospects on a tradeshow website that listed the names and companies of tradeshow vendors and participating companies. Google “your niche” + “tradeshow” and see what you can find.

3. Build an email list of decision makers

Next, I needed names, job titles, and personal emails for marketing-decision makers at the companies on my list – the best contact usually holds a title such as Marketing Manager, Brand Manager, or even the CEO or Founder of a smaller company. To save time, I decided to outsource this task to a vendor on Fivver.com

Here’s how I used Fiverr to find contact info for prospects:

  1. Searched Fiverr for the highest-rated vendors in the data-mining category.
  2. Hired a couple Fiverr vendors to test them out on finding contact info for a small batch of prospects on my tradeshow list.
  3. Hired a Fiverr vendor to work through the entire tradeshow list and find me as many emails as possible. (Turned out to be about 700 contact names and email address. It’s a huge list that I’m still working through to grow my freelancing business.)

4. Email 100 companies with a simple email template

Armed with a spreadsheet of contacts, I started to send out emails. I found I could send a batch of 20 emails in an hour, so I blocked out an hour a day for 5 days to devote to the task. ANd sent out 100 prospecting emails in a week. Here’s the email template I used:

Hi <prospect’s name>,

I’m reaching out to see if you need someone who can help with content at <company name>.

My name is <name>. I’m a writer for <your industry>, and have been featured in <publication name>.

I’d like to know if you need a freelance writer who can help with your content needs.

I can help with <your main services> and any of your other content marketing needs.

I’d be happy to discuss how I can be of help.

Best Regards,

<your name>

Finding prospects and reaching out by sending LOIs doesn’t have to take weeks or months. I found the tradeshow list, picked a Fiverr vendor, scored a ton of contacts, and sent out 100 prospecting emails in one week.

5. Follow up

The follow-up is an important part of email outreach that many freelancers forget. My response rate rose from around 10 percent to 20 percent after one follow-up. People are busy, and a tactful reminder at the right time can jog their memory and encourage them to get back to you. In the future, I plan to experiment with more follow-ups to see if I can increase my response rate.

Here’s how I followed up if I didn’t hear back after a couple days:

Hi <prospect’s name>,

I sent you an email a few days ago, but you didn’t reply.

Did you get it, <Name>?

Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help with your content needs.

Best Regards,

<your name>

6. Negotiate by emphasizing your value

Instead of focusing on myself, I made sure to discuss the value I can provide to potential clients. Ask yourself questions about what you can do for their business, listen to their problems and needs, and then position yourself to provide a solution. I added value by using statistics in my emails, e.g., “clear content can improve your conversion rates by 69%.” I also mentioned my expertise, e.g., “I work exclusively with companies in your industry.”

And a freelance writing career begins…

After emailing my list of clients I got my first job, a press release for a mid-sized company in the pet niche for a good beginner fee of $250. I spent about five hours working on this press release about a new range of collars sold by a pet supply company. $50/hour…I was thrilled and motivated to keep going.

I just completed a big website rewrite project for a client, wrote an article for a trade magazine, and landed a blogging gig with ongoing work. And I’m still marketing. I’m focusing on pitching pet and travel companies that need blog posts or newsletter content. My big push to reach out to 100 prospects in a week has also got the conversation started with potential clients for more work.

I think the moral of my story is to TAKE ACTION. I learned to put myself out there, consistently and methodically contacting prospects until the strategy paid off. I’m now looking forward to doing more of the same, and seeing the progress I can make over the coming months.

How did you find your first freelance writing job? Tell us about it in the comments.

Richard Rowlands is a freelance writer from the UK with a passion for pets and travel. Find out more by checking out his website.


  1. Susie Rosse

    Awesome awesome advice!!

    • Richard

      Thanks, Rosie! I’m proof that if you follow this strategy you’ll start to see results pretty quickly. Good luck!

      • Susie Rosse

        It’s Susie Rosse xD So, how far down the list are you now? Like is your response rate 10-20% still? Lastly, how many responses turn into work/sales, like a percentage?

        • Richard

          Yes, my response rate is pretty steady around there. I’m maybe a third of the way through the list now. Only a few have converted into sales so far – closing the sale is a topic for another post – but it’s worth reading up on sales and practicing as much as possible to improve.

      • kapush

        Well done. This is a great sequel cum case study post Bamidele’s lessons. Feelin’ good!

    • Nicholas Segal

      Thank you, Great advice,
      I can do that .

      However, If it’s your first paid writing gig, what do you put in the bit that says ‘and have been featured in’ ?
      Apart from putting the Manchester evening news, where I did end up writing my own copy, as the reporter who came out to me wrote it all wrong. Mmmm, I’ve written articles on LinkedIn, is that worth mentioning?
      Please help.
      Kind Regards,
      Nick Segal

      • Carol Tice

        We all pitch with what we’ve got–and you’d be surprised how much daily paper clips impress prospects.

  2. Bamidele Onibalusi

    This is wonderful, Richard.

    Simple, practical advice!

    I’m so so impressed with your recent successes as a freelance writer — which is only testament to your work ethic (reaching out to 100 prospects a week is no joke!).

    I’m also glad that my challenge was helpful and inspired this post. Thanks for the mention, and thanks also to Carol for allowing it! 🙂

    Best Regards,

    • Richard

      Thanks Bamidele,

      The challenge was a great help to many of us.

      I’ve received a huge boost in morale, and some incredibly helpful information to start my career from both you and Carol. Onwards and upwards!

    • Carol Tice

      Hey Oni — great to see you on here! I’d love to see more writers do 100 pitches a week. Many don’t understand the VOLUME of marketing that’s required to get your career off the ground quickly.

    • Mariana

      Bamidele, your challenge was the push many of us needed (myself included) to get off our behinds and get going.

      I’m also living proof that the simple act of challenging someone can have positive results in that person’s life 🙂

  3. Susan

    Your advice sounds very practical, and thanks for sharing it! However, what if someone has not yet been featured in any publication? What do you think the chances of getting work are if you’re a rank newbie? I would guess having a website with samples of your work already up and running would help, but if you don’t have any “credentials” yet it must be pretty tough to snag the job. Should I be offering free articles to publications just to build up a portfolio? Forgive the questions if they’re unforgivably rookie in nature; I am absolutely at the start of this career change and want to begin as I go on, sensibly and with the best chance of success (and the lowest rate of time-wasting mistakes and discouraging dead ends!).

    • Richard

      Susan, if you haven’t yet been featured in any publications yet you could always omit that part of the message. Although I think a better strategy would be to hold off on pitching businesses for a few weeks, and start pitching magazines and blogs in the niches you’re drawn to. My first 2 samples were unpaid, but they’e paid off in the end as I’ve been able to leverage them to pick up paid gigs. In my experience you don’t need more than 2 or 3 samples to start picking up paid work. The whole process of getting the samples and landing that first gig took me about a month, so it’s not a huge investment of time to start out right. Hope that helps!

      • Susan

        Thanks for taking the time to reply, Richard! I’m feeling quite optimistic based on your advice. You’ve cleared the fog at bit and I can see further ahead now. Cheers!

    • Carol Tice

      Susan, remember that every writer working today once had no clips. I once had no clips. So that means you CAN break in and find first clients. You’ll be surprised how many won’t even ask for samples, if you have a strong pitch or story idea.

      You can offer a few pro bono projects at first to get started — but be sure to do those strategically, with clients that are of the type you’d like to write for, and are willing to give you a testimonial and refer you. My Step by Step Guide ebook (see the ebooks tab at the top of this blog) goes into a lot of detail on exactly how to go after these gigs and use them to launch.

      • Susan

        Thanks, Carol. I’ll check out your ebook and probably join the Freelance Writer’s Den for the support it offers! I have done some personal blog posts and written several articles for various article directories over the years. I’ve also gotten one genuine paid proofreading gig! With little exaggeration and minimal padding, I think I can manage even now to make myself look as experienced as I hope to actually be before very long.

        I also have the advantage of having been self-employed for several years, and have a realistic sense of what it will take to set up a website, get ranked well on Google, and deal with the terror of not knowing when the next paycheck will be coming in. I’m grateful that my little online mail order business will support me as I make the transition. But the fear, pain, frustration, dead ends, ill-spent training dollars, and the steep and backbreaking learning curve I endured to grasp the fundamentals of marketing myself and building up a customer base – all of which had to be done under the threat of imminent homelessness back in 2008 – will definitely be minimized and shortened this time around. I’m a scarred old warhorse now, and the bullets will just whiz right past me. Perhaps soon I’ll be catching them in my teeth and spitting them out altogether. Travel lifestyle, here I come!

        • Carol Tice

          Article directories? I feel like a lot of those are going away, so be sure to take screenshots if you’re relying on those for your portfolio. (You can also use Waybackmachine.org to try to find ones that disappear online.)

          Freelance writing doesn’t necessarily depend on ‘ranking well on Google’ — except for maybe one or two very niche searches. More important to have a strong LinkedIn that you can get found within, and that helps feed traffic to your writer site. As far as setting up a website, see my Products I Love page for a couple solutions that are extremely affordable and offer help and templates. I like to challenge writers to get theirs up in a week.

          And…feel ya on the side business! When I started freelancing, I had a home script typing business (I lived near MGM-UA), and that was my bridge into freelance writing.

      • Evija

        Thank you for the inspiring article! I would like to write on spiritual themes like meditation, yoga etc. It’s not a very commercial subject. I have been translating articles about these themes for a while. And I have been writing articles for a magazine in my country, but in a different field and as you can see English is not my native language. Can you suggest anything and do you think I have any chance to write for English speaking audience because of the language?

  4. Ann Walker

    Great article, but my problem would be the ‘I’ve been featured in…’ statement.

    I’ve only been freelancing since the end of June this year and – yes, am still using one of the better job-bidding sites to get work. However, I do now have some regular clients whom I met there and who are now working privately with me, off the site. They pay reasonably well and my income is steady around the £20 per hour mark, so not too bad I think, at this point.

    My problem is simply getting a gig I can put my name to! Every single piece has turned out to be used without my byline, so I am struggling to get further up in the earnings ranks as I have no named, commissioned pieces to point people to. Just one will do as a start!!

    • Richard

      Hi Ann,

      I didn’t go down the route of using job-bidding sites to find work, and in my opinion you’ll make faster progress if you avoid them. One tip is to search online for trade/industry magazines and blogs – they often need content, and the competition is lower than many big blogs or magazines. Once you have just 1 or 2 samples with a name and bio, I think you’ll be surprised how quickly things pick up. I’ve started to put a couple of links to samples in my prospecting emails and response rates have improved. The social proof from just 1 or 2 samples really helps get you noticed.

      • Ann Walker

        Thanks Richard. It’s tough to leave the job sites and head into the wild blue yonder unsupported, but I am going to give your method a go.My niche (if I’ve really got one – I’m writing all sorts at the minute) is medical stuff, so there might be a fair bit of work out there – hopefully!

        • Carol Tice

          Well, that’s why people join Freelance Writers Den — so they’re not unsupported as they begin building a more viable business through their own prospecting.

        • Karin

          Unsolicited input: I joined Carol’s Writing Den after listening to her on a podcast and checking out her website. It is one of the best investments I’ve made in myself and my writing. The information is valuable and quality. It is like standing in a library surrounded by wonderful books and knowing that any direction you turn will be the right one. My life is full of responsibilities now so I don’t spend as much time there as I’d like but I highly recommend membership.

          • Carol Tice

            Glad you’re finding the Den so useful, Karin!

          • Sushma Koppikar

            Very touching write up Karin… my eyes welled up as I read it – May God Bless you and your Mom.

    • Carol Tice

      Great tip from Richard — I’d add that 20 pounds an hour is a VERY low rate — you should read this to learn about how you’ll need to charge to survive:


      And…there’s nothing stopping you from using ghosted clips. Every copywriter working has no bylines. You’ll probably continue to struggle for good bylines as long as you hang around the bid sites.


    Great insight Richard…Thanks alot

    • Richard

      I’m glad the article was useful, Chinedu.

  6. Emily

    Thanks for this post–it gave me some great ideas for possible clients to pursue.

    • Richard

      Great, Emily!

      If you’re targeting a specific niche, a trade show list is absolute gold for finding potential clients.

      • Emily

        So I see! I’m focused on medical and health topics, and looking up tradeshow lists for surgical conferences already is helpful.

  7. Nasrumminallah Zeeshan

    This was awesome. I am feeling cool to be a part of the challenge. 🙂

    • Richard

      Great! I hope you’re making some excellent progress in your career, Nasrumminallah. Taking action really is key.

  8. Ciaran Gilligan

    Great article Richard. Clear, actionable steps laid out in a way that’s motivating and easy to follow. Nice work!

    • Richard

      Thanks Ciaran, I hope the message shines through … Keep pitching!

  9. Evan Jensen

    Hi Richard,

    Your guide to using Fiverr to find contact names and email address for prospects you want to reach is pretty interesting. Sure, it’s something you could do yourself. But outsourcing this task frees up your time for other things and clearly helped you ramp up faster. Love your hustle to get 100 LOIs out in a week, too.

    • Richard

      Hi Evan,

      I think the decision to use Fiverr was key to me getting some early wins. Finding that first list of contact details can be a lot of work, and I was starting to lose motivation by spending so much time searching online when I wanted to start pitching! For me it was a worthwhile investment. Having a big list to contact is very motivating!

  10. Burton Bliven

    Hi Carol and Richard,

    My question is in regards to the email template used for contacting companies.

    What should the Subject contain to better the chance of the email getting opened and read? If I use my name and title, it would be redundant to state my name again in paragraph #2 in the template you showed us. I have been a student of copywriting for 3 years now, and I have learned that the subject (i.e., the headline) is the most important thing to craft to make sure the email will get opened. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    Burton Bliven

    • Nick

      Hi Burton,

      I found that “Content at [Insert Company Name]” worked for me. Over and above that, following up based on a 3-7-7 formula also yields higher open rates.


      • Burton Bliven

        Content at [insert company name]… Do you mean the name of my company, or the name of the company I am contacting? Please clarify.

        • Rohi

          Burton, it’s the name of the company you are contacting.

          • Burton Bliven

            Thanks Rohi. I realized it was my prospect’s company when I re-read the first contact email template,made me feel slightly embarrassed. I appreciate your confirmation though!

          • Carol Tice

            Hey — there are no dumb questions here on my blog. We’re all here to learn. I personally got a couple tips from this guest post, too. 😉

          • Burton Bliven

            Thanks Carol! Although I only joined this wonderful group 2 days ago, it is quickly becoming one of my favorite sites.

  11. Nick

    Hi Richard,

    Love it!

    Well done. I will say this much. The strategy Richard followed works. I used it myself to achieve similar results. Although it did take me a little longer. The most important aspect I found, which Richard highlighted at the end, was to consistently take action.


  12. Eldorado Abrahams Afam

    It’s great to be part of this hallowed family. Before now, I had been here before and read through some of Carol’s great articles. I can’t remember how many of her pages I have bookmarked so far. But with Bamidele coming into the scene and then initiating our FB challenge, I have sprouted greatly like Neil Patel’s Quicksprout. And further boosted my earnings through YouTube(ing) as well.

    Many thanks to you all @ Bami, Carol, Richie and the rest of the house. I promise to keep improving and learning new things as the day continues to grow old.

  13. Gbenga

    Great post, Richard. Thanks for sharing.

    How about this for an email title: “Hi [contact’s name], do you have a minute?”

    I’ve used it on a number of cold emails I sent out. While most of the emails were opened (I tracked them with mailtracker), I’ve not received a single response even after one follow-up on each of the emails.

    Am I missing out something?

    • Nick

      Hi Gbenga,

      It implies you know this person when you don’t. It also seems Spammy. I suggested a possible alternative in my comments above.


      • Carol Tice

        I’d say some subject lines get overused. Personally, I now have a policy of taking 48 hours to open any email with the subject line, “Quick question.” These are never quick questions — it’s just a dodge to make you think it will be something you can deal with quickly, so you open it. If you’re not getting results with your line, it’s time to try another approach, I say.

        • Gbenga

          Thanks, Carol! I’ll definitely rework my titles. By the way, do you think HR content writing is a lucrative/good niche? I love to write about careers/job search/HR. I have no experience as an HR professional but I have worked as a content writer at an online jobs website.

          • Carol Tice

            I’ve actually had clients in that colleges/careers niche and did well with it, so I know that can be a viable niche. Many newspapers do annual ‘college guide’ special sections that require a lot of articles, and of course some of the big job portals online also develop content.

          • Gbenga

            Thanks Carol, I’ll run with that.

    • Nick

      And if they haven’t replied, perhaps you need to look at your actual content in the e-mail.

    • Richard

      I agree with Nick’s comment above. The subject line “Content at [Insert Company Name]” is what I’ve used to send all the emails.

  14. Carla

    A really helpful post, Richard, with practical suggestions for new freelancers. Thanks for sharing your email templates. That’s something I often find myself spending *hours* on and I like how concise yours are. I also found your tip on outsourcing to Fiverr interesting – that aspect of researching leads is very time-consuming. Fiverr is an option I hadn’t even thought of and one certainly worth giving thought to. All the best 🙂

  15. Carol J Alexander

    Great post. Thanks for sharing your way of using Fiverr to create your contact list. I, too, am working on a contact list of prospects and while I’m using my teenager to transfer the info I find onto a spreadsheet and into my email program, I’m doing all the legwork of actually finding the contacts. Giving it to someone else to do will free me up to do other things until it’s done. Great idea.

    • Carol Tice

      Love it! I’ve given my kids little money-earning projects in my writing biz as well. 😉 Good to get the kids involved in business at an early age, so they start to get a sense that we’re doing something harder than playing a FB game when we’re on the computer…

  16. Gary Harvey

    Congrats, Richard, on your achievements – and your strategy. I especially like:

    * Using Manta and trade shows.
    * Using Fiverr. How much did that cost you, in total?
    * Email subject line. Thanks for clarifying that in the comments section.
    * Email template. Having only 2 variables (person’s name + company name) makes mass-pitching easier.

    Question. I take it that step 6 (Negotiation) only begins after your prospect has responded. These would be tailored responses, but probably working off another template. Yes?

    Question. You’re in the UK. Do you target British firms only? or are you wrestling with the differences between UK English and American English?

    • Richard

      Hi Gary,

      Yes, the negotiation takes part after the prospect has replied. The aim of the first email is to spark interest and start a conversation. I don’t usually work from another template once a get a reply, but I do try to get the prospect to agree to a telephone conversation so I can discuss what they need.

      I’m pretty good at switching between American and UK English, so I target firms in both countries.

      Thanks for your questions!

  17. Kevine

    Sound advice Richard.
    I’ve toyed with the idea of contracting someone to do data mining for me for quite sometime. Glad you were successful with it.
    I’m learning about exploring the trade shows for the first time; guess I’ll grasp it fast enough.

  18. Francesca

    This article is so helpful and encouraging! Despite a three-month internship in content marketing, I feel like a very insecure newbie, and do not really know when I’ll feel skilled enough to pitch a client. Your advice is spot-on, and it’s probably what I needed. I’ll make an effort to fight my insecurity and get started!
    Thank you!

    • Carol Tice

      Francesca, the thing is that sitting and waiting to ‘feel skilled enough’ is a dead end. Only taking action builds your knowledge and skills — so start pitching!

  19. Amar kumar

    Hey Carol,

    Freelance writing is becoming a popular career choice for those who wish to work from home or abroad. For some, the freedoms associated with a career in freelance writing could outweigh the actual take home pay.

    A freelance writing career is a fun, flexible and rewarding career for any writer, and it also has the potential to be quite lucrative. It takes a lot of hard work though and is not without its challenges. A freelance proposal is important because it establishes the goals and guidelines of specific task and sets the tone professionalism and efficiency for the rest of the project. Eventually, thanks for reveling a light on this topic.

    With best wishes,

    Amar kumar

  20. Paula

    Your tips are great! I particularly appreciate the Fiverr point. Thank you for sharing! I will be implementing some of your advice.

  21. Karin

    Your article is practical and full of great tips and links. Also, thank you Carol Tice for the link/article on choosing your niche. I especially liked the ideas of farming out the research piece and saturating the market in an hour a day. Oh, how I love a good process! Thank you for sharing.

  22. Felix Abur

    The Bamidele Challenge is the best thing that ever happened to my writing career. It’s encouraging finding out about others who gained as much (and more) from the challenge. Now I’m setting my eyes on courses offered by seasoned freelancers/writers like Carol Tice to achieve even faster and higher paying growth.
    It took me almost 8 years of writing for content mills for a monthly pay of between $300 and $500 before I finally started taking effective and concerted action. I hope no one else procrastinates that long. These 6 steps are a great starting point.

    • Richard

      Absolutely, Felix. Sidestepping the content mills has turned out to be a great decision for me. There are higher paying gigs out there. It pays to be proactive and find them yourself!

  23. Ariel

    Hi Carol,
    I am looking to start building my professional writers website to advertise my services. But I do not know how to do this. I think I remember you advising in another post somewhere that it is better to have a professional do it for you. Do you have any recommendations? I cannot afford to pay hundreds of dollars for someone to do it for me. Please let me know your thoughts.

    Thanks again for all of your great resources and for being one of the few that really puts a lot into equipping writers to build successful careers and get paid well to write for a living! I’m just starying out but it is a great journey so far.

    • Carol Tice

      Ariel, check out my Products I Love page for a couple of very affordable services I recommend for getting your writer website up. 😉

  24. Leo

    This is great. Thanks Richard for sharing your journey with us 🙂

  25. Marian

    Many times advice is given for contacts. How direct should I be? I get stuck on dialogue. Do I come right out and ask? Thank-you, Richard , for adding sample dialogue in template format! Marian

    • Carol Tice

      Not sure what you mean, Marian — contacts for what? Fill us in and maybe Richard can answer.

      • Marian

        Hi Carol
        The contacts Richard referred to preceding his template.
        In my case I would like to contact the CEO or advertising head ‘contact’ of the company I want to pitch my ad idea to.
        It’s just a matter of me making the time in my day to do the research.

        • Carol Tice

          I think few CEOs are involved directly in ads, unless it’s a very small company. And I’d say I think few ad gigs are going to solo freelancers — mostly seems to be agency work, so you might be wanting to pitch the agencies you see getting a lot of that sort of work (read marketing trade pubs to find out).

          I’ve actually just made a crazy discovery of a couple tools that I’m using in combination to get a lot of email contacts — going to do a post about it in a month or two!

  26. Drew Drake

    Nice work Richard,

    I’m interested in how exactly you used fivver. What I mean is, what did you actually ask for specifically and how did you find the right fit?

    I keep playing with Upwork and find I can get work but become very unmotivated by the constant stream of terribly paid silly jobs (which I do not entertain). I’m at a stage where I have paid experience, 20 or so samples, and a great website.

    Cold pitching is the next step and I want to outsource the company/email research part, so some specifics would be awesome.

    Cheers 🙂

    • Marian

      Dear Mr. Drake,
      You have inspired me to sign up on UPSTART. My niche is life experience advice, editorial, humorous commentary and stand-up comedy joke writing on various subjects. I have three categories right now.
      I would like to take the silly jobs that you have no interest for.
      What subject matter were the paid jobs? My niche is life experience advice, editorial, humorous commentary. Congratulations on your success.
      Thank-you for asking your question about specifics and I hope you find your answer.

      • Drew Drake

        Hi Marian,

        You might find it a challenge to get work on “UPSTART” but you’ll find plenty of options on ‘Upwork’.

        A lot of people will advise you to avoid bidding sites like Upwork and I am one of them. You can make it work as I have done but it can be very frustrating and you may end up being abused. That being said if you really want to get involved you could try out a great course (freelancetowin) which will show you how be an effective freelancer (especially on Upwork).

        On Upwork I write articles in the health niche.

        Warning: People expect monkeys to do work for peanuts on Upwork. Look for the proper jobs on the site!

      • Carol Tice

        Marian, I think there’s little call for those types of writing on the mass platforms — it’s usually writing about business topics. I wish I could tell you a great-paying place for humor or personal essays, but most pay very little, unless you’re a hot, hit stand-up comic or something.

    • Carol Tice

      Drew, that’s exactly why I discourage people from hanging around places like Upwork — I find writers get very demoralized and acquire a warped view of what professional rates are, and then don’t know how to charge what they’re worth.

      • Drew Drake

        Carol, I think it’s variable. If you have no experience, Upwork is not the place to get it. I did go down that route but it’s been a challenging one. My partner, on the other hand, had 13 years of graphic design experience and gets all the work she wants from Upwork and is paid the rate she is worth.

        A seasoned writer can make money, but in the end, I’m not that big a fan of Upwork, plus they take up to 20% from you.

    • Susan

      Hi, Drew:

      I had a look at your website and it is indeed very lovely. Bravo! However, may I make a suggestion? There are noticeable errors on nearly every page of it, and you run the risk of losing those customers to whom details really matter. I spotted typos, grammatical errors, punctuation errors, missing spaces between words, incorrect words (“who” vs. “whom” and “too” vs. “to” for instance), incomplete sentences, and an inconsistent mix of British and American spelling conventions. Also, nowhere on your site do you tell anyone who you are – your name appears absolutely nowhere, not even on the “branding” page on which the very first words of your persuasive copy are “If a customer visited your website but your name was missing, would they know it was you?”

      I’m assuming you (very wisely) delegated the time-consuming task of creating your website, and perhaps you have relied too heavily on the skills of the webmaster to take care of proofing the text. My suggestion would be to have them go over it again (or take a few minutes to do it yourself, if you can) and polish up the errors; then you will most certainly have a terrific looking website that makes you look like the professional you are! I had not heard of WIX.com before, but after seeing your site I’m going to check them out, because it really does give you a great looking online presence.

      • Marian

        Dear Susan,
        Excellent observations with succinct advice that can be valuable to all and thank-you,

      • Drew Drake

        Susan, thank you very much 🙂


        • Susan

          Drew, looks great! I only had a quick look around the first time, so mea culpa if I didn’t notice your About page where obviously you DO have your name on there! I just caught a few goofs here and there in my flyover (I’m cursed with an eye that is immediately caught by that stuff – born proofreader), and thought I’d give you a head’s up.

          Only 2 things I saw that could still be addressed: On the Services page, under Ghostwriting, switch “with” to “will.” On the Design page, under Services, you might want to tighten up the spacing on the Print Design text.

          Sorry, man, I was born with a red pencil in my mouth. But your site really is great! I went to WIX and am working on my own site as we speak. Or, you know…type. Hope I can make my site look as good as yours.

          • Drew Drake

            Your input is welcome Susan. I’ve fixed the errors you mentioned. The copy for the design page was written by someone else hence the errors. I’ve since fixed and rearranged them.

            Your careful eye is helpful 🙂

          • Susan

            Thanks for taking it kindly, Drew! Now get back there and look at the last sentence under “Ghostwriting” and get that with/will thingie sorted!

          • Drew Drake

            I wonder what you are seeing that I am missing.

            Here is a copy of the text under Ghost Writing on the ‘Services’ page.

            Stamp Your Authority
            If you are a busy CEO or Executive, I know that you understand the importance of customer engagement and that you are keen to build your reputation as an industry thought-leader who people pay attention to.

            You want to connect with your audience but you don’t have the time, right? Then let me write well-researched, well-backed articles on your behalf.

            Not only will you be able to focus your time and energy elsewhere, but by having a professional freelance writer relinquish the credit, you will be able to bond with your audience while looking REALLY smart, and not a soul with know that I wrote the article.

          • Susan

            Last sentence should read: “…and not a soul WILL know that I wrote the article.”

      • Carol Tice

        Sadly, I’m not a fan of Wix, and have yet to see a writer site on their platform I think is really set up to convert well. Just sayin’. It’s a real dabbler platform to me, not a place to site a business.

        • Susan

          Curious why you think so, Carol? Any specifics? Hoping to get your insights while I can still get my money back!

          • Carol Tice

            Susan, any platform that’s free isn’t a good choice. The dominant feature of any Wix site is “Get a free website with Wix!” ads. It just says, “I’m a dabbler.”

            Even if you get the ads taken off…I’m just saying, I’ve reviewed 100s of writer sites, and I can point you to zero built on Wix that looked professional, in my view. The layout is fairly limited in options. There’s not a developer community, a ton of plug-ins for customization. You’re kind of in a straightjacket there.

        • Drew Drake

          I wonder why as well? It’s a pretty editable platform that doesn’t require coding knowledge. It’s clean, un-fiddly, and easy to edit without out-sourcing updates.

          Surely the design and copy on a site is what determines its conversion rate.

          • Carol Tice

            And…the lack of ‘Get a free Wix site!’ ads. It’s the problem of what marketers call “too many asks” — that’s too distracting.

            If you want to sell an ebook or something and add it to the site, good luck. All the free platforms have some serious limits.

  27. Marian

    Yes, me as well.
    You will find what you’re niche is.
    It seems as though I’m leaning towards humor/comedy writing and went as far as to write 3 different subject series jokes for a 15
    minute stand-up session.
    Also, some humorous poems with illustrations and some visual humor as cartoons.

  28. Susie Rosse

    Hi Carol, I love his idea but I was wondering…can you charge magazines or companies 100% upfront payment? Like I think you mentioned contracts on other posts, but do you have to wait to get paid from businesses?

    • Carol Tice

      Sorry, no. Magazines tend to pay either on acceptance or publication, in full. I’ve negotiated with longtime editors for 50% on acceptance, if they paid on publication. That’s about as good as it gets.

      • Susie Rosse

        So…what’s the difference between acceptance and publication?

        • Carol Tice

          Acceptance means the editor has read your draft, given you edit requests, you’ve completed them, and they think it’s ready to go. Publication is when it comes out in print — can be 6 months later or even more, with the big nationals. Online usually more like 3-6 weeks.

          May I say – you seriously need to join the Den! We can really help you get oriented and rolling with some great newbie trainings.

          • Susie Rosse

            Oh that makes more sense…how long can acceptances take after all the edits on average?

            Your den does sound interesting but you told me before that the job board isn’t for newbies…I don’t mind marketing, but how could your newbie training help me exactly?

          • Carol Tice

            Susie, the Den is full of basic trainings for newbies! For a sample of the type of content, while you’re waiting to get in, you could go to the ebooks tab and check out Start Here or the Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success.

            Your question above is a ‘how long is a piece of string’ type question. An editor might never ask you questions, or they might ask you to rewrite it for months on end, edit after edit. They’re all different.

            If you’re looking to publication writing as a way to earn a steady living in writing, it rarely works — most writers who earn well have some business clients in their stable as well, as pay tends to be more reliable.

          • Susie Rosse

            OK. The den sounds like it has a lot so I’ll look into it. The editors can take that long?! Wow but thanks for the information!

            So do the businesses pay all upfront?

          • Carol Tice

            No, they don’t, but they do tend to pay each month on ongoing projects, and you can usually get 30-50% up-front the first month. Where with a magazine you get one article, and it’s no guarantee they’ll ever assign you another one. And then you’re back to pitching…if you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s why the Den is such a great resource — you can skip a lot of timewasting trying to figure stuff out, because you can ask 1,200 working freelancers what’s going on in the marketplace, how to bid, get a sample contract…saves lots of time.

          • Susie Rosse

            Oh, OK! And yeah, I was worried about not having future work with magazines. Just 1 last question from me then: I know you say to join the den, but I saw your posts on writing queries. Those are for magazines, so to pitch to companies, do you need to have been featured anywhere first, like how Richard wrote in his template? Like to prove that you have the writing skill…

          • Carol Tice

            Susie, all writers once had no clips. So obviously, it’s possible to break in. We have training in the Den that teach you how to do that in the best, fastest way. We help you avoid wasting time ghostwriting for pennies on mills, where you don’t get any referrals, raises, or testimonials, for instance. There are a lot of ways to sort of go down a rabbit hole and never earn much.

          • Susie Rosse

            Alright then…thanks again!

          • Richard Rowlands

            If I may reply Susie – sorry for getting your name wrong last time, it was a long day! The trainings in the den are awesome. You’ll find everything to take you from a beginner to an established freelancer. It’s not easy, but if you put in the work you have enough guidance there to make it.

          • Susie Rosse

            That’s all right! Can you also reply to my other question for you near the top?

  29. Emily

    Wanted to pop back in here to say that I started to implement #5 (follow up), and it absolutely makes a difference. I’ve been getting a lack of response from my cold emails, but dropping a follow-up note has improved things. So far the responses have mostly been variations on, “No thanks,” and “We’ll keep you in mind” but they’re polite and (IMO) better than absolute silence.

  30. Harry D. Sayles

    This is the best article I’ve read on breaking in to writing ever! You have got my blood flowing. I feel 100% positive and confident now that I will make it.
    Great, great, great! Thank you so much.

  31. Rebecca

    Great article, lots of really helpful stuff, also from the comments. I have a couple of things to offer some people might find helpful.

    While not necessarily great for 100 pitches a week, if you are looking for the email of a person at a particular company, Email Hunter is fabulous. For instance, if you know who is in charge of content acquisition for a publication and you know the website for the company, Email Hunter lets you put in the domain name and returns every email address it can find with that domain. Usually, that will be enough, sometimes a little extra googling will help. Rarely does it fail completely to find the info I need.

    Second, I got most of my paid work in the very beginning from one unpaid piece published by a reputable well-known company on their blog. I follow them on Twitter, and use their products.

    This was before I even started to write professionally. At the time, I only had a brand new travel blog set up for friends and family, it was in no way professional. But I replied to the brand with a photo of me using their product, and I guess they checked out my blog. I later found out that it was an intern who contacted me about writing a post for them, but I was happy to do so. It came out looking great, and I still sometimes use that link as a reference.

    Even though I’m getting paid much more than the content mills where I started, I’m still only getting sporadic work at 10 and 15 cents a word, so I am not anywhere near where I want to be. It has finally occurred to me that I could possibly use this tactic with other big companies, to build up a better portfolio of bigger names.

    I do like the trade show suggestion. I did try pitching one or two trade publications, but no success. 🙁

    My biggest problem has been finding the places to pitch, so I really like the idea of outsourcing this chore to a competent data miner. Huge thanks to the comment with that suggestion!

    Good luck, all. Thank you so very much, Carol, for this resource.

    • Carol Tice

      I’m hooked on FullContact for gmail myself–tried hunter.io and this is more robust.

  32. Rebecca

    I looked at the Full Contact website, but it seems to be all about contacts you already have. I didn’t see anything about finding the e-mail address of strangers based on the domain names of the company they work for the way that email hunter does.

    I often find the person I want to contact on LinkedIn, then just go to email hunter and put in their name and the domain name of the company. It’s worked great for me so far.

    • Carol Tice

      If you have a name, you put in likely email permutations and if you hit one they used to set up a social account, you see that confirmed by FullContact. It’s magical! Much better than using something like hunter to just take a guess.

    • Carol Tice

      I’m going to do a post all about how to use FullContact, so stay tuned! It does NOT have to be a contact you have…just someone who has set up a social media profile, SOMEWHERE.

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