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Wondering if you can make money freelance writing? The answer is a resounding yes! To help you get started, here are nine of my top tips to help you land your first paid writing gig.
You can absolutely make money freelance writing. Back in 2015 I launched my freelance writing business. And every month since then, I’ve made money. Now I consistently bring in at least $4,000 a month as a homeschooling mom of many. (Which means I don’t work a ton of hours each week…)
If you’re ready to get started, keep reading this post. I share tips on how to find your first paid freelance writing gigs. These tips can help you get your business up and running so you can start to make money freelance writing.
And if you’re not quite ready to look for clients yet, here are a few posts to try instead:
The number of pitches you send directly correlates to the number of potential gigs you land. In other words, if you never send pitches, you’re not going to find very many paying gigs.
When I coach other moms to help them grow their writing business, pitching is a topic that almost always comes up. It seems to be a stumbling block for many – they let their fear of rejection stand in the way of actually sending a pitch.
But, here’s a little secret when it comes to freelance writing. You aren’t a writer that everyone is going to love. Your style isn’t a good fit for some clients. And that’s okay.
The sooner you accept rejection as part of how you get paid writing gigs, the clearer you can make your mindset related to it. A no from a gig doesn’t mean you stink as a writer and should never try again. It means you weren’t the right fit for this client at this time. That’s it.
I promise that potential clients aren’t thinking about every single person who pitched. There simply isn’t time or brain power for that. They reviewed the pitches, made the best selection they could at the time, and turned their focus to the next round – leaving the rejected pile behind.
You need to do the same. Say, this wasn’t a good fit. Then move on. Put it behind you and move forward. Eventually, you’ll get a yes. But, there will be nos first. So plan on it and accept it.
Once your mindset is right, bump up your pitching game. If you’re looking for work, set a goal of sending 5-10 pitches each day. That’s 25-50 during a 5-day work week.
When you’re pitching that many gigs, you greatly improve your chances of landing some. It truly is a numbers game. So start pitching.
(Wondering where to pitch? Read this post for help finding your first paying gigs.)
2. Be Confident
If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. You must have confidence when you’re pitching or you aren’t going to get hired.
Use strong and positive wording. Here are two quick examples:
- Instead of saying, “I think I could” write “I’m excited to”
- Turn “I don’t quite meet all of your requirements” into “This is why I’m a great fit.
Don’t be wishy-washy when you’re communicating with potential clients. Charlie Brown isn’t the character you should be modeling when you pitch. Instead, push past your fears and remind yourself that you can do this.
3. Do Your Research
Who are you pitching? You need to do your research and find out. Look for names. And make sure they’re correct. Let me tell you a little story…
My homeschooling blog is called Maggie’s Milk. Maggie was one of my Dexter milk cows that I had for years. She was a sweet cow and my kids would always ask for a glass of Maggie’s milk when they were thirsty. So the name stuck.
But guess what? My name isn’t Maggie.
Still, I get at least one email a week in my inbox addressed to Maggie wanting to sell me a service or include a link in an existing post.
Know what I do with those emails? I junk them. Immediately.
If someone can’t bother reading the About or even looking at the author byline (totally no posts written by Maggie!) then they don’t get a response.
If you’re going to send a pitch, the last thing you want to do is send it to the wrong person and have it get deleted before it’s even read. So take some time and review the sites you want to write for. See who you’re going to be working with, and why you think it’s a good fit.
These few minutes will slow you down, yes. But, it’s definitely worth it.
4. Customize Your Pitch Template
I know, I know. Pitch templates help you save time and they’re super popular.
But, as an editor who accepts pitches let me tell you…I can tell when someone is using a generic template. I definitely appreciate it when instead of a blanket pitch, I get one that’s well thought out and matches my site.
So now, I use this experience when I’m drafting my own pitches. I have a template I look at to make sure I get all the important points. But, I now write the actual pitch from scratch each time. This way, I can customize it and make sure it’s a good fit for the person who’s going to read it.
By doing this, I can use some of the same language from the job ad in the pitch. That’s a simple way to improve your pitch for each editor.
And just a word of caution if you do use a pitch template… make sure you take the time to change any parts that need changed. I’ve received many pitches that read, (blog title here) or something along those lines. It’s a sloppy mistake.
5. Follow the Directions
Whether you’re applying to a gig posted on a job board or using writing guidelines from a particular site, there’s one thing you must do if you want to get the gig.
Follow the directions.
This one should be a no-brainer. But unfortunately, it’s not. Too many people hastily send off a generic pitch template without bothering to read the directions. If you’re doing that, stop. Yes, you want to send a lot of pitches. But, if your pitches are ending up in the trash bin right way, you aren’t going to grow your business.
So the very first thing you need to do when you’re ready to pitch is read the entire ad/guidelines page/whatever. Read it all from top to bottom.
Look for any places that have directions. Or instructions. If you see any, read them again.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Start Small
When you’re first starting out trying to get paid writing gigs, you don’t have to search for high-paying jobs or unicorn clients. You need to find a client who is willing to let you start without experience. These clients might not pay that well.
That’s okay – you aren’t working for this type of client forever. Right now, start small. Land one paid gig to help boost your confidence and give you some experience.
Then, you can raise your rates (and your standards.) But getting some small wins under your belt can go a long ways towards helping improve your confidence. At least it did for me…once I got paid to write (even though it was writing for peanuts) I realized I could write.
And that gave me the confidence I needed to grow.
7. Watch for Red Flags
Some gigs sound too good to be true. That’s because they are.
You’ll occasionally come across scammy posts. If you know what you’re watching for and listen to your gut, you’re less likely to become a victim.
Here are some basic red flags to watch for. If you see these, stay far away!
- The client wants you to send money before you can start.
- You have to write an entire post for free before they’ll make a hiring decision (company just got lots of free content to publish and they don’t have to hire anyone…)
- You must buy equipment from a specific company to use in the gig.
- The client wants too much personal information (could be phishing…)
Basically, if something seems off, it probably is. If you tread lightly when it comes to potential scams, you may miss some legitimate opportunities. However, you’re less likely to be scammed. So that’s a good thing!
If you need more help identifying legitimate paid writing gigs, read this post: 10 Red Flags for Freelance Writing Gigs: How to Not Get Scammed
8. Ask Potential Clients Questions
If someone responds to your pitch, you might be so excited to start that you don’t stop to get essential information. Instead, you might quickly fire back an email that proclaims, yes, I can do this.
But then, you won’t have the information you need to proceed.
So instead, take a moment to celebrate the good news. Then, do some reconnaissance so you know what your client’s expectations are and make sure this paid writing gig is really a good fit.
Here’s a list of clarifying questions to ask potential clients. Use a professional email tone in this ineraction, and explain that you want to make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to the assignment. Of course, make sure you customize your questions to account for any information that’s already been provided:
- Who is your target audience?
- Do you have a content brief and a style guide? (A content brief is a quick overview of the writing gig and a style guide explains the brand’s style and preferences.)
- How do you want the draft delivered? (Google Docs and Word docs are common.)
- What are your invoicing preferences? (You’ll likely need to invoice your client to actually get paid. I use Wave for this)
If client communication is holding you back, check out this post for more information on establishing expectations:
9. Network with Other Writers
Feel like you’re going it alone when it comes to freelance writing? Since you work from home, it can feel a bit isolating at times. Especially when your real life family and friends don’t understand what you’re doing.
That’s why it’s essential to network with other writers. You can ask questions, share leads, and offer encouragement. Though it takes time to build these relationships, they are essential. Many of my current clients came as referrals from other freelancers that I met initially in Facebook Groups.
When you’re a busy mom trying to juggle housework and family and a new business, it can be hard to justify the time spent networking. But, a little bit of effort put in the right places can make all the difference in your outlook on your business and your success.
This post has lots of tips for busy moms trying to network:
And this post has ideas of different groups you can join:
Can You Make Money Freelance Writing? Yes!
Your first paid writing gig is within your reach. You can do this.
But if you’d prefer a little extra help getting started, check out Gina Horkey’s class 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success. I personally went through this and it helped me take my business to the next level!
Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.