Why You’re Not Having Any Luck Finding Freelance Gigs

Carol Tice

Unlucky businessesman under a cloudAre you having trouble getting hired as a freelance writer?

I hear from a lot of writers in that boat.

A frequent complaint:

“I’ve been applying for writing jobs everywhere…but no luck!”

Well, here’s the thing. I don’t believe there’s a whole lot of luck involved in the freelance writing game.

Earning a full-time living as a freelancer involves marketing yourself effectively. And most writers don’t do that.

When wishing and hoping for gigs doesn’t work, instead of putting the blame where it belongs — lackluster or nonexistent marketing — which would cause you to have to change what you’re doing or put out more effort…it’s popular to lay the blame at the feet of the luck fairy.

Why doesn’t the luck fairy bring you a gig already?

It doesn’t work that way.

Mostly, when you’re not getting clients, you’ve got one (or more) of these three problems:

1. You’re not marketing

The first clue as to why the luck fairy isn’t smiling on you comes in that word “applying.”

That tells me you’re spending most of your time responding to Craigslist ads and other mass-job board postings. But that’s one of the worst ways to look for writing gigs.

In fact, it’s so bad I don’t count it as marketing at all.

It’s more like swimming in an Olympic-sized swimming pool that’s completely packed with other swimmers, and hoping you’ll be the one to spot and retrieve the single tiny pearl that’s at the bottom.

When you apply on a mass board, you know that prospect is getting 200 replies or more, from writers all over the world. Those long odds make it hard for you to be the “lucky” one who gets the gig.

And in the case of Craigslist-type gigs, you’re often luckier if you don’t get them, because they are going to pay squat. After all, if you don’t like the peanuts they’re paying, they’ve got a stack of other resumes ready to go.

2. You don’t know how to market

I recently had one writer comment on my blog that he had done 1,000 cold calls with zero results.

If this is you, stop what you’re doing right now.

That is a big red flashing warning sign that you need to learn more about how to do marketing.

When you do marketing right, you get a result. Some percentage of your phone calls or InMails or emails or meeting connections or whatever you’re doing responds to you, and you get an email back or a phone call.

If you send query after query and no editor ever responds, even to say, “Not quite for us, but pitch us again,” then you need to learn more about how to write a query letter.

My experience is that most writers do not come naturally to marketing. It’s something you have to learn.

I review queries and letters of introduction in Freelance Writers Den, and I can tell you we seldom see a first draft that is going to get that writer a gig.

If you need to learn how to market effectively, do it. Buy a book, find a mentor, take a class…whatever you need.

Don’t keep wasting time on marketing that doesn’t get you gigs.

3. You don’t have a sharp writer website

When writers give me the “no luck” whine, I ask them if they have a writer website.

Often, the answer is no. My recent writer website survey found more than 40 percent of freelance writers do not yet have a website.

They have no home online where prospects can view their work, virtually meet them, and learn how to contact them.

And yet writers are baffled why they’re not getting the good-paying, pro gigs.

Of the writers that do have a site, most of those sites don’t do a good job of helping that writer get found and of presenting their work in the best light.

Instead of waiting on the luck fairy, look at your marketing and your marketing tools, especially your website.

Improve those, and your luck is bound to change.

How have you changed your luck as a freelancer? Leave a comment and tell us how you find clients.

  Freelance Writers Den


  1. Alfrick

    I like the the article. Particularly, no. 3 stands out. Without a website, a writer cannot stand out and get noticed. Thanks Carol.

  2. Charity Kountz

    I don’t know what it is about going into freelance work but so many bad habits from having a job seem to carry over. We’re so used to applying for a job, sending a resume, doing an interview and getting hired, that doing the opposite of that (creating your own opportunities, pursuing the projects you want, pitching projects on an individual basis) all seem completely foreign and uncomfortable. Even for me after almost seven years as a freelancer, I still struggle with that. Do you have any tips about ways to change your mindset to having the confidence to do the later rather than the former? I still find when money is tight (as it has been for several months due to my husband losing his job) that I go to the job boards for a “quick fix” but it always turns into a sinkhole.

    • Joel D Canfield

      Charity, I wrote a good bit about Maslow’s Hierarchy, Herzberg’s Motivation/Hygiene Theory, and Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of “flow” in my last non-fiction book “You Don’t Want a Job.” If you’d like a digital copy (no charge) I’d be delighted to share it; just drop by my site and ask in the contact form. (I promise, I’m not setting you up for a pitch; it’s just the simplest way to *start* answering your questions about the psychology we haul with us from employee to entrepreneur.)

      Carol, I’m trying to behave here in your comments. If I’m misbehaving I’m very good at sitting down and shutting up when asked 🙂

  3. Joel D Canfield

    For every author who doesn’t have a website and active blog, a kitten dies.

    When my clients answer “no” to #14 on my questionnaire (“Do you have a blog?”) I weep silently and have to go lay down for a while.

    It’s not just a new year, folks; not even a new century.


    I set up websites for $300 (after 16 years of web dev experience, it’s just not that hard.) There are loads of developers who do more or less the same.

    If you’re writing for money, invest the money from a single magazine article and have a decent website.

    Glad my friend Karen J pointed me here. Should have come here ages ago.

    • Charity Kountz

      Wow, your rate is super reasonable! How do you manage to do anything else other than set up websites? I find if I offer $300 for a setup I’m so overwhelmed with requests I can’t possibly keep up.

    • Joel D Canfield

      We hardly sell any. Maybe we should talk 😉

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