Could We Get the Best Freelance Writer Job Ads… in 5 Minutes a Week?

Carol Tice

I do a lot of thinking about how to improve my freelance writing and blogging business while I’m on vacation. I try to look at the big picture. How am I doing? Where am I going? Am I on the right track? What should I be doing that I’m not?

This time, I thought a lot about how I could make Freelance Writers Den an absolutely priceless resource — one that struggling freelance writers would be just plain crazy not to join.

OK, it’s already got more than a half-dozen e-courses, busy forums where you can get your questions answered by a pro, live events for more questions like today’s marketing Webinar, and the chance to send me questions privately, too. Soon, there’ll be affiliate sales where you can make your membership free by just referring a couple of friends a month.

But how can I make the Den even better and more useful?

Every way I turned it, the answer came out the same:

Job ads.

Not just any old job ads, but great job ads.

Good-paying, quality job leads with all the baloney — the $5-an-article offers — cut out. This would be a valuable service, huh?

How many hours each week are freelancers all over the world wasting combing through the same job ads, trying to find those few needles that are buried in this week’s giant haystack of junk ads?

I don’t even want to know. Let’s just say it’s a major time-waster.

There’s got to be a better way.

And I think we can find it together.

I’m exploring a few ideas for how we could create an exclusive, quality job board in the Den.

One might relate to my recent alliance with eByline, a new site that is helping journalists connect with markets seeking to buy stories. (It’s also a self-syndication platform, which I find pretty fascinating, since that was always tightly controlled by a few big syndicators in the past…possible great opportunity there.)

Maybe I could get a widget with their ads. But if you don’t have a journalism background, I think it’s not going to help you.

Ultimately, we need something broader-based, that would have something in it for writers at all career levels.

One way I encourage writers to dial down the job-ad hours is to encourage you to more actively market your business.

The other way it could work is to give you a better job-search option that saves you time. It could free up more time to do other forms of marketing, or just bill more writing time.

The question is: how?

I have a couple of ideas, and I’m hoping you’ll give me some feedback below and suggest more ways.

My ideas:

1) Use membership money to hire a virtual assistant. I train them how to comb the ads, and they create a weekly list for all of us.

2) Members create the list in collaboration. Each member (or perhaps just a couple dozen members, who get a discount?) commits to taking one source and scanning it weekly. They send the best listings in for our weekly list.

3) I market a Den job board and land exclusive, paid listings. This would create a quality list, but would likely involve a lot of effort to attract and sell employers on the idea that our community is the place they want their ad. I’m concerned it would take away from the main point of the Den — for me to have loads of time to answer writers’ questions. Perhaps I could also hire a marketing coordinator to run this project?

Why a weekly list?

Looking at job ads every day sucks too much time.

Also, a lot of the flaky ads get taken down after a day because they’ve already gotten 300 resumes, and we want to skip all of those lame ads. So a week to me is the perfect interval.

By coming together as a community, we could share the workload. We could get better job ads faster. Everyone involved in the community would have better leads and more writing and marketing time.

Now, I know providing online job ads has been a thankless task for many who’ve tried it. Over on About Freelance Writing, Anne Wayman did it for years, but when she explored making it a for-pay thing, people wouldn’t go for it. So she stopped doing them.

Jenn Mattern over at All Freelance Writing did a quality list for a while, posting only gigs that paid more than $50 a post or article. But she was drawing a lot from Elance listings, and after Elance instituted their writer-spyware policy, she pulled the plug.

But maybe within a paid membership platform we have the resources — both the money and manpower — to deliver the holy grail for online writers: quality job listings with all the junk removed.

What do you think — could we build a better job board? Leave a comment and give me your take.


  1. Ty Banfield

    I’ve set up a system that pulls in every new writing ad posted on Craigslist. It then uses filters to automatically eliminate the unattractive ones.

    It takes less than ten minutes a day for me to go through this pared down list and find the handful of ads with potential.

    I’d be willing to use my system to contribute to your project. Also, because of the way the system handles filtering, I could break ads up into separate categories (grant writing, full-time positions, etc).

    • Carol Tice

      Wow that is a very intriguing offer Ty! I can’t wait to see all the feedback on this idea today. Thanks for kicking it off.

      Maybe we could employ you to create similar screens for additional boards as well?

  2. John Soares

    I’d go with the virtual assistant, a VA that’s also a freelance writer and has the skills to select only the quality job ads.

  3. NextGen Writers Blog

    That’s a great idea Carol! I commend option 1 or even 3 just like Problogger has their job board.

  4. Anne Wayman

    Thanks for the mention, Carol.

    I used a virtual assistant and it made life easier.

    Problogger charges employers for the ads and he’s always had the reach to make that work.

    If I’d found Ty I might not have quit posting.

    Good luck.

  5. Linda Bryant

    Great idea. I like the idea of creating exclusive relationships with companies and outlets that want to post with the Den because it’s a high quality pool.

  6. Lisa

    I love the idea of a virtual assistant to comb the ads. If you decide to go that route, another potential benefit you could offer Den members is giving them the ability to put in requests for the virtual assistant to search for specific types of gigs. Maybe one gig request a month? The virtual assistant could search for gigs that specifically fit the freelancer’s experience level and areas of concentration.

  7. Jennifer Mattern

    We already launched exactly what you’re talking about — a paid job board option that doesn’t allow crap gigs – over at All Freelance Writing.

    1. It’s still tough getting legit clients on board. Most with serious budgets still don’t want to advertise publicly for fear of being bombarded by unqualified applicants apply solely because of the rates.

    2. Writers pay for their own listings there so they can build visibility among buyers who won’t advertise.

    So it’s still being done. I didn’t pull the plug. I just stopped the listings and moved to an actual job board format.

    • Jennifer Mattern

      Also a quick correction. AFW job listings weren’t cancelled because of Elance’s spyware BS. That’s just why we stopped including Elance in the listings.

      We stopped them overall because A) readers are competent enough to browse the sites we were on their own, B) even with better listings filtered I found it didn’t save them much time as they were still going through other listing sites to make sure they didn’t miss anything (making curation a time waster as much as a potential time saver), and C) there are far better ways to land gigs than wasting time trolling job ads that everyone else sees — we just decided to focus on those things more instead (like platform-building).

      • Carol Tice

        Hi Jenn —

        Thanks for the update on how your approach has shifted…and for making me aware of the resource.

        I do worry that getting the paid job ads would be a huge slog. That’s interesting though what you say, that your sense was it still didn’t keep people from having to search on their own.

        And of course you know I agree with you that generally, looking at job ads is not the best way to find good clients. So I worry that I’d still be encouraging that behavior by creating a board, even if it’s a screened one.

        Looking forward to reading through the feedback and seeing what people think.

  8. runbei

    Great idea! But in my experience clients want to hire someone NOW, so weekly lists would likely place us at a disadvantage if the same clients are advertising on Craigslist and getting tons of immediate responses…

    • Carol Tice

      I think it’s unlikely that many of these listings would come from Craigslist. While flaky clients may wait until they’re in a panic and then try to hire someone overnight, my experience with legit clients that pay well is the opposite — their process takes many weeks to months.

      I used to scan the job ads, and my sense was waiting at least 3 days on an ad was a good plan. Then if it was the type where they were going to get 300 resumes and then pull their ad down, I could skip the bull all together.

      I’ve also found that you see ads pop up on Craigslist…and then a month later, there the ad is again because they really never found anyone with the specific background and experience they needed.

      Brainwave: One of the techniques I’ve used to get clients is to target full-time job ads and see if the company needs freelance work done while they’re making the hire.

      Maybe I could create a board for the Den that specializes in that area? Then I could pitch all the full-time job posters that our writers specialize in this type of pinch-hitting…coming in for a few months (or up to a year, in my experience) and filling in with articles while their hiring process drags on. (And in my experience it drags ON and on.) And offer them a free listing for temp freelancers?

      My experience is also that these relationships often continue after that hire is made, as turnover is fairly constant. What do people think about this angle? I think it’s one no one else is really looking at…though I’ll wait for Jenn and Anne to tell me if I’m wrong.

  9. Mike Carlson

    It seems to me, Carol, that a combination of #1 and #3 would be primo. But there are the pitfalls that everyone has mentioned so far.

    The question seems to be would the cost and effort of implementing this show a good return in benefiting members. Even though marketing is probably the best way to go, long term, job ads must have a place or we wouldn’t be talking about it, right?

    Speaking for myself though, I would love to know of a place that does the screening for me, and would be glad to pay a fee for that service.

    • Carol Tice

      The reason I think it would work is there’s already a lot of value being delivered for the price of a Den membership — supportive forums, live events, e-courses, and the chance to ask me questions privately with PMs…so this would be an add-on. You wouldn’t have to pay JUST for job ads, but your membership would include the benefit of access to our job list. Anne already tried the idea of a paid job-ad service and as I recall there was no reader interest…but hopefully as part of the full suite of Den benefits it would be more workable.

      And the base of membership dues would hopefully provide the revenue to pay a VA or otherwise devote time to the project. Very interested to explore this idea. Not sure the membership level supports it now with 150 or so members, but it’s growing steadily, and I think very shortly the critical mass would be reached that would make it work.

  10. David Goldman

    My first thought was yeah, a great idea, but after reading the comments there seem to be more pros and cons than one would think.
    I still think that some sort of Job listings would be great.
    Maybe just a forum topic where people share where they found their last job or offer jobs or let people know of any jobs they are aware of.
    I think maybe a Den member could help to find some companies that are looking for writers, just as you said. I know that there is a job site that searches listings on company Web sites. I have the name in my notes somewhere. Someone could help by checking that out and listing possibilities or letting you know about them somehow and you could figure out the best way to share it with all of the Den members. Just kind of thinking out loud.
    By the way, I love your new logo.
    I hope some of these suggestions help.
    David Goldman

    • Carol Tice

      It’s definitely a complicated issue, or it would have already been solved by someone else. It sounds like Jenn has one approach going. I think probably soliciting paid job ads is not for me…I think the collaboration of the Denizens is likely the best answer.

      And thanks for noticing my header! I have hated my old header for so long, and I am freakin’ thrilled to finally have my plan executed for what I wanted my header to really look like. It’s actually just a rough — tune in tomorrow for a better final version, but I couldn’t wait to put it up! My cartoon is by San Smith of @sanasaurus on Twitter and I think she’s terrific. Did my “Den Mother is In” cartoon for the Den, too.

  11. Harleena Singh

    Hi Carol,

    I like your post and the concern. I do wish that something is done soon enough, as it is an uphill task hunting for jobs and the amount of time we waste doing so. Yes there is Craigslist, but that does take time, unless you really filter out things, while other job boards have a combination of jobs that may suit you or not. Collaborating with other fellow writers or making some kind of a group would surely help, though wonder how can it be done.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Carol Tice

      My hope would be that if there was a pre-screened set of leads, it would prompt writers to turn to other forms of marketing in the free time that liberates…though it sounds like Jenn’s experience says it won’t happen.

      But it just seems like such a waste of effort to have 150 writers scanning job ads each individually…has to be a way to use the power of the Den community to make it easier and better.

  12. Linda Bryant

    I like your brainwave. May be onto something there. Do something no one else is doing.

    • Linda Bryant

      You could call it something like Beyond the Job Board.

  13. Janis Meredith

    Carol, I would be willing to pay a fee to have access to primo writing job. Not too much though! I recently got a client through PROBLOGGER’s job listing, so I know these listings do work. I’ll be interested to see what you come up with!

    • Carol Tice

      My proposal is that it would be a membership benefit inside Freelance Writers Den, which is $25 a month…so it would be part of that same fee which covers forum access, all the e-courses, live events, access to all my past event recordings, and the chance to PM me also and get questions answered privately (which I don’t do on email anymore, BTW all!).

  14. Sarah Porter-Pennington

    I like your idea to make a job board on the Den forums, aside from the topic we have on paid blogging gigs.
    I have stopped spending much time looking at job ads because I’ve not found any gems in a while. I’ve been focused on marketing, but until clients start finding me on their own, I’ve got to do a little gig hunting.
    I think all 3 options you list above would be great used together. Why limit yourself to one option–with all 3 you get a greater chance of a bigger list.
    I’d recommend giving the main responsibilities to a VA who takes care of the job hunt. Then, give a discount or small cash payment to Den members who share leads not already on the weekly list (I’d stress to Den members not to waste their time looking for gigs, but post only when they hear about or happen upon something great) and make even more money to pay the VA and members by allowing businesses, bloggers, etc. to post paid ads. Maybe you could find a VA who can take care of both finding existing ads to share AND take care of marketing coordination to start building a job board that job posters will recommend to colleagues.

    Sorry this message is in a rush; I’m headed to the Den meeting, but I’ll be back if I think up any additional ideas you might consider in building a job board on the den.

  15. Edna

    Hi Carol,
    Great ideas you’ve got here. Thanks. Yes I used to spend lots of time hunting on line for jobs. I did get a couple good clients that way but it does take away alot of time we could be writing or marketing our business.

    I do marketing for small businesses but have a tough time marketing my own business, sometimes its exhausting and endless, so I’m teaming up with other people who also do marketing to help them with projects and also to have them market my business. Its taken a while but it’s a win-win for both of businesses as long as you can find honest business owners with integrity and experience. Also a difficult undertaking some days 🙂

    I’ve gotten much more business using that method lately than looking online for work.
    It’d be great to have a place to go to look for quality writing projects and to be able to pass
    leads on to other people who may have experience with something I can’t possibly write about.

  16. Di Mace

    Hi Carol,
    I so love the way you work thru things in the comments…and when you have a brainwave, it’s like being inside your head!
    Speaking of which I think your brainwave is the way to go, for a few reasons.
    Firstly, I’ll go back to the premise of your site and the mantra you extol – don’t work for nothing, or at least flick the lousy paying gigs. To me, going to a job board (any of the 3 options) is lowering the integrity of your site, Den and your beliefs.
    Secondly, the saying goes ‘definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting a different result’….not saying you are insane, but by doing any of the 3 you are repeating already tried methods that have proven to be unscuccesssful.
    Thirdly, I think your offering (to add true value) should be something different, exclusive and special – underpinning the value of being part of the Den. Your brainwave is just that (and a new approach), and its doesn’t undermine your principles of marketing your butt off and getting out there (while waiting for gigs) and looking for clients rather than passively waiting for them to ‘discover’ you.
    Think I’ll get off my soapbox now…….

      • Di Mace

        Happy to share my soapbox anytime 🙂
        We can add an annex/extension if more wanna jump onboard!

    • Carol Tice

      Well…I want to say that I have gotten some decent jobs off of online ads. Even a few off Craigslist, though surely not my best clients.

      So it’s not like online ads are entirely without value. Occasionally somebody stumbles onto Craigslist who doesn’t seem to know it’s a cesspit and just posts a great job, complete with their company name, URL, and real rate they plan to pay.

      I do think it might be interesting to position the Den as a place for fill-in freelance needs at places that have writing staff. Definitely not being done anywhere else, and I know from my own staff-writing experience there is definitely a need.

      That might be something I could coordinate with eByline as well, maybe collaborate with them on it too. Rest assured I am going to be exploring these ideas in the next couple of months!

      But nothing takes priority over getting up affiliate sales for the Den…hoping for this week! Want members (and others interested) to be able to make some income recommending the Den to writer friends.

      And I love how MALW readers HELP me work through ideas! The readers of this blog are a smart bunch.

      BTW, congrats on your Virgin Blogger Notes post!

      • Sarah Porter-Pennington

        I was about to shoot you an email to ask about the affiliate program. I’ve already blogged about the Den a lot, and been talking like crazy, but once affiliate sales open, I’ve got a handful of part time writers I’m really going to hound about it. I think they would really enjoy it. And one, who was a teacher for 2 years (straight out of college) before she realized she hated it. She’s content mill writing now because she doesn’t think she’ll stick with working from home. I want to convince her otherwise; I think she has a lot of potential. I figure I’d let her be stubborn a few more weeks and then try to get a little discount on my own membership by converting her. LOL

      • Di Mace

        Thanks Carol – was rather excited about the guestie and another on Write to Done soon! I know you’ll make the perfect decison for your site and the Den, as you always seem to make sure its the right deicison for not just your integrity, but also those of the members. 🙂 Looking forward to hearing the final wash-out.

  17. Tiffany Barry

    I love Ty’s option, but I’d like to see it expanded to encompass more than just Craigslist. Maybe pull ads from a variety of freelance job boards?

    I think maybe having a feedback system for company’s may also be a good idea. Writers could post about companies they have worked for, what the experience was like, and so on. This could help other writers build confidence approaching large clients on their own.

    The first option lets writers see who is looking for freelancers while the second option keeps writers from forgetting to market themselves.

    • Carol Tice

      That’s exactly what we plan to do Tiffany — may take a week or two to get it organized, but it’s looking exciting for creating a real timesaver for Den members, that will comb the ads across many channels for people.

  18. Melody

    Good morning Carol

    While the 1st option would probably produce results quickly and accurately, it would actually cost you unless you were able to find someone somewhere who was looking to do an intern spot or volunteer. In the end, I’m really not sure that the cost of hiring someone would be made back in terms of new members that the job board may or may not bring in.

    Option 3 I have a feeling would be extremely difficult to get started and gain momentum. I’m sure that because of your rep and history that you would be able to pull some ads, but I feel that with employers paying, it would still take well over a year, or more, before the listings were plentiful.

    To start with, I think it would be wise to go with option 2. I’m sure that there are many on here who would take the time needed to scan ads, verify information and what ever else is required to receive a discount on their membership fees that is in direct relation to the amount of work / time they put in. This costs you nothing out of pocket, you will probably have more than one person working on it so you are not just dependent on one person doing it all, the time could be taken to weed through all the garbage, and you don’t have to worry about taking the time and effort to market to companies in attempts of getting them to pay you to list their postings.

    That’s just my $0.02. 🙂 If you do decide to go with option 2, I would gladly sign up to help out.
    Enjoy your day!

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Melody —

      I think I’ve found someone to do option one in exchange for Den membership, which is a great deal all around. We’re going to give it a try and then the Denizens can tell me what they think.

      I think the coordination required to manage 30-40 different people all contributing leads from different sources might be a pain, though I sort of like the idea of it being a community effort.

      It’s all early days, so we’ll experiment and do whatever the members want and need.

      • Melody

        That’s excellent Carol! I’m looking forward to it. 🙂

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