Checking Online Ads? Here’s How to Get More Writing Jobs

Carol Tice

Online Job Ads: The 30-Day Challenge to Get More Writing Jobs. Makealivingwriting.comDo you frantically scan the online writer job ads each week — or worse, each day? If you’re applying to lots of these writing jobs, you’ve probably discovered a painful truth.

It’s rare to ever hear back, much less get hired off an online job ad on any popular, public writing job board.

I don’t care if you’re viewing an Upwork dashboard, scanning Craigslist, the ProBlogger board, or any other online set of job listings that are free to view and can be seen by thousands (upon thousands!) of writers.

I hear complaints about this from writers all the time. Things like:

“I often see ads for something near my expertise, but rarely hear a peep after I apply.”

If this is you, here’s a bulletin: If you spend so much time applying for online job ads that you ‘often see’ certain types of listings, that’s a red flag.

You’re putting too much of your marketing time into the least-productive method for getting well-paid writing jobs.

Now, I’m no job-ad snob — I used to check them three times a week, like clockwork. That is, until an analysis of my marketing results proved to me that writer job ads aren’t the road to great-paying clients.

How can you get more writing jobs, for better pay? Here are three big tips for dealing with online writer job ads:

1. Take my 30-day challenge

When you realize you’ve become too reliant on writer job ads, the best thing to do is go cold turkey.

So I’d like to ask you: Could you go a month without looking at online job ads?

This is my 30-day challenge. Imagine you couldn’t respond to any writer job ads for a month.

They’ve all mysteriously disappeared. You’ve been banned from Upwork or Fiverr. Invent a scenario. Your Google is broken.

What would you do? How would you find writing jobs?

Now, do that instead.

Find your own writing jobs

I know. For many writers, this will be radical.

If you’ve been firing off resumes into the void on online writer job listings that 1,500 other writers are also going to apply for, and calling it marketing…this will seem scary.

But realize that you really haven’t been marketing your business at all.

Responding to mass online writer job ads is a passive undertaking, where you let your career be determined by whatever Upwork or People Per Hour or whatever posts each week.

And you stay in denial about how many responses each mass job ad gets, telling yourself you’ve got a shot at landing this gig.

Once you figure out online job ads are a time-waster, it’s best to make a clean break and begin your new life as a proactive marketer. Start identifying and targeting your own clients, get out of the giant pool of 1,000 resumes, and actually get hired.

How should you do this proactive marketing? Any way you like:

  • Go to in-person networking events
  • Send pitch letters or queries
  • Work your LinkedIn profile
  • Do direct-mail packages
  • Ask your network for referrals.

I don’t care. Anything else you choose will likely get you better results.

What if you’re too terrified to do the 30-day challenge? Got a couple other ideas for you…

2. Get picky — and set a time limit

This is one of the things I did as I began weaning myself off online job ads. I stopped responding to most writer job ads, and got selective.

This is sort of like a drunk weaning themselves down to a single glass of wine with dinner. It’s easy to relapse, but better than staying soused in the gutter.

In particular, I skipped any writer jobs that had:

  • No company name, website, or contact person (scam alert!)
  • A vague description of what they wanted
  • A request for ‘my best rates’ despite offering zero project details
  • An eagerness to let you write about any topic you want (spoiler, there are NO well-paid writing jobs like that)

Instead, I only responded to job ads from real companies I could research online from their contact info, that asked for a specific expertise I had.

They wanted someone with experience writing for lawyers, about insurance, or on corporate finance? I’m taking the time to shoot them a resume.

Those are the only ads that ever yielded good jobs for me.

Using the 10% rule

I also looked at how much marketing time I had in a week, and then limited my job-ad checking to about 10% of that time. So if I was going to invest 10 hours in marketing that week, only 1 hour could be devoted to ads.

Quickly, I got the process down to about 20 minutes three times a week. I created some stock paragraphs I could mix-n-match for quick responses to these ads.

The result? A few decent gigs, and plenty of time for other, more effective forms of marketing.

3. Find niche boards for writing jobs

The other change you can make — if you can’t just kick the job-board habit overnight, that is — is to change where you look for online writing jobs.

Not all job boards are free and open to the public, or free to leave a listing on. There are better boards out there (here’s a list).

Good boards where companies pay to list include LinkedIn’s jobs (which are including more and more freelance listings lately, by the way). Yes, many may respond, but in general these are all very legit companies. The deadwood has been cut because they won’t pay the fee to list.

The other way better boards work is that you pay to access their more obscure info. A good example is FlexJobs (which I proudly affiliate sell).

At FlexJobs, they scan dark corners of the internet for juicy, lesser-known listings. You pay them for their time spent collecting them all in one handy place for you.

Mine the niches

Alongside paid boards, the other opportunity lies in finding more obscure job boards that simply aren’t checked by the multitude.

For instance, if a professional association or organization in your industry niche runs a little job board for members — perhaps in their e-news, rather than posted on a web page — that’s a much less traveled place far fewer writers will check.

My favorite niche source of job leads for years was Gorkana’s journalism board. These are generally well-paid jobs for industry trade magazines (the oil & gas trades seem to advertise perpetually). Not everyone would be qualified, but if you are, finding one of these less well-known boards can get you some hot leads.

Find your own writing jobs

I’ve given you some ideas on how to mine the job boards for good leads. And it’s not like there’s never a good job listed online.

If I thought that, I wouldn’t run my own niche job board, inside my Freelance Writers Den community.

The idea of my board is really to show you that there are only perhaps a dozen decent writing job listings in any given week. (We also have a relationship with FlexJobs on my board, and share a few of their top listings.) We gather the cream, here they are, stop wasting time on Craigslist.

In general, if you want to earn more than about $20,000 a year as a writer (crazy outliers excepted), you’re going to need to leave the world of online writing job ads behind. The faster you get going, the sooner you earn more.

Do you use online boards to apply for writing jobs? Share your own tips (and 30-day challenge pledges) in the comments.

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  1. Sue Chehrenegar

    I have decided to focus more on your first suggestion. I just read about a preliminary report from the FDA, one that can impact just about any maker of dog food.

    I sent a few queries yesterday. I am not sure how to approach these companies. Do you think that my disclosure of what I have learned will help attract their attention?

  2. Vanessa

    Hi Carol!
    I teach social anthropology. I am constantly engaged in researching the principles of obtaining and using power in different societies, the economic behavior of people, I identify factors that affect the economy, but not taken into account by economics. But I would like to write all this in my research papers. I am very interested to read your articles since I find practical advice for myself.
    I already know that the most important and first exercise for a writer is writing an essay.
    But I would like to earn in my writing. So that students could buy various research papers from me.
    Writing is hard work. I still need a lot of time to learn.
    Thank you for your usefulness!


    • Evan Jensen

      Hi Vanessa,
      I don’t really understand what you’re trying to do. Write academic research papers and sell them to your students? IMO, that’s not going to be a good way to make money writing.

      Most students are cash strapped, and access to academic research and a gazillion database of journals is typically free with a student ID. Generally academic writing isn’t a lucrative way to make money freelancing.

      Not sure why you think writing an essay is a critical skill…maybe for academic writing. But in terms of freelance writing, essay writing is hardly as lucrative as copywriting, content marketing, or writing news/feature stories for trade pubs and consumer magazines.

  3. Luana Spinetti

    Hi Carol! 🙂

    Usually I only spend half an hour weekly on job boards and I only devote proper time to the few ads that I find interesting for my niche (SEO and Marketing, Marketing SaaS).

    However, now that the new treatment made me less anxious (the pathological type) I think I’m almost ready to accept a 30-day challenge like this. 😀 I’m bookmarking this post for September. I want to try new things after the summer.

    One amazing thing that happened to me recently was getting a lead through HARO interviews: one of the sources I quoted in an article for a current client asked me if I was accepting more clients because he wants to hire me. 🙂 I still don’t know where this is going, but it’s pretty amazing that this happened.


    P.S. LOL I’ve gotten so used to see comments closed everywhere (even on my sites for now) that I no longer even check if they are open or not XD I developed something similar to “banner blindness” I think.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Luana – just have to approve you once, and then you’re in! Love that HARO paid off for you.

      So… what will you do INSTEAD of checking online job ads, for marketing? That’s the big question…

    • Luana Spinetti

      Thanks, Carol!

      I’m thinking pitch letters and queries. There are small marketing SaaS companies that I appreciate and follow, as well as good blogs in the industry that I read almost regularly. Maybe they need a writer to help with branding, SEO and conversions? 🙂

      To be honest, I’d love to give trade magazines (in that same industry) a try, but the ones I like and read don’t pay writers so I will have to continue searching for opportunities.

      (But the non-paying trade mags might be still good for marketing, right?)

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