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Getting Your First Freelance Writing Gigs

You’ve got some writing talent and you’re ready to start a freelance writing career. Scary? Sure. But, if you do it right, it can be extremely rewarding both from a personal and financial standpoint. You’ll need a few things, first. A Website is pretty darn important these days, as is a presence on various social media outlets. You’ll also need some clips and/or tearsheets. In other words, your words published somewhere.

And therein lies the rub – the Catch-22.

How do you get your work published when everybody wants to see published work before they’ll hire you? It’s a dilemma every creative faces when they’re starting out. From an editor or other client type’s point-of-view, it’s understandable. They want to know you can pull off the project and they have a certain comfort factor in knowing somebody else tried you out first.

Naturally, you want to make some dough slinging all those nouns, verbs and adjectives together. If you’re really wild, you might even consider tossing in a few conjunctions, prepositions and the occasional interjection.

So, what’s a writer to do?

A good place to start is donning your philanthropic hat and seek out some nonprofits. You may get paid. “Nonprofit” doesn’t necessarily mean destitute. But, in most circumstances, it will be a volunteer effort on your part. That’s okay. You’ve got to start somewhere and nonprofits are often tickled pink to have people like you helping out. There are a couple of upsides, too. You’ll get some published work. It might be a newsletter, fundraising direct mail package or even an annual report. Now you’ve got something for show and tell.

Another good thing is that the Board members of these organizations are usually local business owners, C-level executives from area corporations and movers and shakers around town. You might just impress them enough with your wordsmithing that they hire you for one of their projects – for money. Nifty! (That’s my occasional interjection.)

The Web offers plenty of opportunity for new writers. Poke around and you can easily find sites that are hungry for content. As with nonprofits, some pay, others don’t. Even when writing for those that do pay, you won’t necessarily get rich, but it’s an excellent route to get known and get some cash to buy some more Raman Noodles. Try the search string, “write for us.” “Contribute,” “websites seeking writers,” and similar terms can also bring some decent results.

Check around and you can likely find a few local magazines and newspapers in need of a freelance writer. You could write reviews of local businesses for a start. Restaurants or local theater productions come to mind. If you have knowledge in a particular area, you may be able to land a regular column. Once again, you come away with published work while also getting your name out in the community.

Another option is writing for trade publications. These publications focus on a particular industry, such as Macaroni Monthly (There actually was a magazine with this title. No joke.). Trade pubs don’t usually pay for articles, although some do, but they’re a great way to get some additional published work and establish yourself as an expert. Check the Web for trade pubs that match your niche. Many are published by trade associations. Another site to do some hunting is The site lists loads of trade magazines.

After you have some published work, the next step is drafting a few pitch letters to magazine editors and ringing up some businesses in your area. A good place to start is Writer’s Market which lists numerous places to sell your wordy wares.

And so, you’re on your way and the adventure begins.


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