Career Growth

No Freelance Writing Experience? Here’s How to Get Your First Gig

Theresa "Sam" Houghton
July 21, 2022

This is a guest post by Theresa "Sam" Houghton, Chief Nerd at the Modern Health Nerd, where she helps plant-based and better-for-you CPG and DTC companies understand their customers and create better content. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here.

The Superpath Community asked: How can a self-taught writer without industry references start a freelance writing career?

Getting freelance writing jobs when you have no experience can be challenging. You start out spending most of your time pitching to dozens of prospects per week, networking in your chosen industry and writing unpaid pieces to demonstrate your skills.

That was my experience when I first committed myself to building a freelance business. The early months were filled with hours at the computer as I scoured industry directories, sent emails and established a presence on LinkedIn. I had to get comfortable with income being sporadic until I had enough knowledge and connections to bring in regular work.

But all those hours paid off with jobs that helped me build a portfolio and add client testimonials to my website. As I’ve worked on more projects, I’ve been able to build relationships that have advanced my business through connections and referrals.

It hasn’t been an easy road, but it is possible to get freelance writing jobs without experience or industry references if you’re willing to put in the effort. Here’s what Superpath members recommend for turning freelancing aspirations into ongoing work.

Key Takeaways:

Writing is the best way to get writing jobs. Create a portfolio of your own high-quality writing to showcase your skills to potential clients.

  • Bylines in high-authority publications increase your chances of landing freelance work.
  • Honing your skills as a writer and learning how to be visible in the marketplace creates a solid foundation for career growth.
  • Learning how to market yourself and your services helps you connect directly with companies that need freelance writers.

Show your own writing online

When you’re just getting started as a freelancer, you don’t have references to speak for you. Your writing is your reference. Everything you write becomes a sample that showcases your skills and expertise to potential clients.

Working on your own content without compensation can pay off by bringing in freelance writing jobs.

don't wait for writing work to get writing quote

If you’re a copywriter, pick some of your favorite brands in your industry, and create content for them as if they were your clients. Use this work to demonstrate what you can do for similar brands.

If you’re a content writer, start a professional blog. Write about topics relevant to the niche you want to work in, and cross-post the articles to other platforms like LinkedIn or Medium to get more eyes on your work. Send links to this portfolio with your pitches to show prospects the quality they can expect when working with you.

Paul Woodland, a Freelance Content Writer, says, “I wrote my first few articles on a personal blog and use those samples to pitch potential clients on hiring me.”

Get bylines in industry publications

Shreelekha Singh, a Freelance Content Writer, says, “Bylines build your case for outreach. The better bylines you have, the higher your chances of securing clients.”

Writing for the publications your prospective clients read puts industry credibility behind your portfolio. Having a byline in a well-known magazine or on a trusted website:

  • Builds credibility and authority
  • Demonstrates your talent and skill
  • Associates your name with prominent names in the industry
  • Increases your chances of landing new—and higher-paying—clients

To get those bylines, research top publications and news websites in your chosen industry. Find the editor’s contact information, and start pitching. Be prepared to get more rejections than jobs; these publications receive a lot of article pitches and can’t use them all.

The publications that say yes will pair you with professional staff editors who will help polish your articles. This is great additional experience for freelance writing work. You’ll learn how to improve clarity, tone and structure in your writing and develop a stronger understanding of the English language.

As you improve at your craft, you’ll be able to land better freelance jobs.

“Work with good writers and editors. This is very important to hone your writing expertise and take the quality of your work to the next level,” Shreelekha adds.

Network with marketing managers on LinkedIn

When you’re not writing, work on building your freelance network.

Where to start? LinkedIn.

LinkedIn for freelancers quote

Search for marketing managers at companies in your industry, and send connection requests. If they accept, write a quick note thanking them and letting them know what you do. They may not be interested in your services right away; if they aren’t, don’t push it.

Focus on getting to know them by reading their posts and interacting with them in comments and DMs. Building these relationships over time can open doors to freelance writing jobs in the future.

When connections do express interest and ask for samples, you’ll have your portfolio ready to share.

“In my experience, it's best to leave it up to them to reach back out to avoid the risk of turning them off,” Paul adds.

Learn how to market yourself as a freelancer

Being your own marketer and salesperson is a big part of getting freelance writing jobs with no experience. Networking on LinkedIn gets you started, but to land a consistent stream of clients, you also need to learn how to market yourself beyond the platform.

Invest in online courses that teach you how to prospect for clients and write effective outreach emails. As soon as you’re comfortable with the basics, start sending personalized messages directly to companies in your industry with a short note about what you do and how your services can help.

Finally, don’t forget to build community

This can be a long process, but you don’t have to go it alone! Join communities to connect with other freelance writers who have more marketing experience. Find out what has and hasn’t worked for them. Get feedback on your portfolio and marketing materials to fine-tune your messaging for better results.

Working on these steps one day at a time builds the exposure you need to get experience as a freelance writer. As you continue creating your own content and making new connections, you’ll attract clients who can give you industry references that can lead to a stable freelance writing career.

If you want to see daily freelance job posts and opportunities, why not join us in the Superpath Slack group? →

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