Freelance Writing Week: How to Find Freelance Writing Jobs: Job Ads and Cold Calls

Welcome to the final day of Freelance Writing Week! So far we’ve covered:

Writing Words.. by _StaR_Dust_ on FlickrNow it’s time to talk about two other ways you can find freelance writing jobs: job advertisements and cold calls.

* Job advertisements *

Another way to find freelance writing jobs is by scouring job advertisements. This is my preferred method, and it’s the way I’ve had the most success. You’re looking for jobs in your niche(s), and also those in your experience level and desired pay range.

Job ads may be looking for someone to write a specific piece or to become a regular writer; whether you or the editors will come up with story ideas varies by publication.

When responding to ads, you’ll need something like a cover letter—although it may not really “cover” anything as many employers don’t ask for resumes. Regarding resumes, I say don’t send one unless it’s requested; in fact, avoid sending attachments at all unless requested.

In your response, summarize the highlights of your resume in a three or four paragraph e-mail. My e-mails in response to job ads generally go like this:

1st paragraph: Tell them where I saw the ad and one sentence as to why I’m perfect for the job.

2nd and possibly 3rd paragraph: Specific qualifications for job (education, previous writing credits, organization memberships, other work experience).

Last paragraph: Thank them for their time and consideration, etc.

I recommend keeping this e-mail short and sweet—not so short that you don’t explain why they should hire you, but not so long that the reader gets bored halfway through either. People hiring writers generally want someone who can say a lot in a short space, and the place to start proving you can do that is in your introductory e-mail.

My personal tip: if you have previous writing credits you think would help land the job, link to them even if they didn’t ask for them; I firmly believe people are naturally click-curious when they see links. On that note, be sure to include links in your e-mail signature, even if it’s only to your personal blog.

Some of my favorite online job sites:

I personally have never used paid services like Elance or Guru, but I have freelance friends who have and have enjoyed success with them–just be willing to dig for good clients, I’m told.

* Cold calls *

ASDA Suede Notebooks - Stacked with Moleskine by pigpogm on FlickrThis is what I call letters (or, more likely e-mails) to publications offering to write for them. This is slightly different from query letters as you’re pitching yourself in general as opposed to offering particular ideas, but they’ll actually read pretty similarly.

For example, let’s say that I come across a site selling property in Calabria that severely lacks information on the region. They aren’t advertising for writers, and I don’t know if they’d even hire any, but I think, “Hey, I wonder if they could use someone like me?”

So I whip off an e-mail explaining I’m a full-time freelance writer who has lived in Calabria for nearly six years and built a successful website largely based on my experiences here. I include links to a few of my best posts most tailored to their site, perhaps offer photographs, cross my fingers, and wait.

You probably won’t see *huge* success with this method, but you never know, so why not give it a try?

This is yet another reason why I think aspiring freelance writers can benefit by having a blog—even if you don’t have writing credits per se, at least you have something out there somewhere.

My writing career picked up significantly right around the time I started gaining blog readers; it could be merely a coincidence, a function of my confidence level rising, or maybe employers saw me as a more serious writer. Whatever it was, it worked, so I highly recommend it.

So now that I’ve led you to job sources, it’s time to talk money, but we’re out of time for Freelance Writing Week. We’ll take a break from freelance writing tips next week, and the following week is Easter, which means special holiday posts. So right now it looks like Freelance Writing Week II will be April 13-17. Don’t worry—I’ll remind you!

What is your preferred method of finding freelance writing work?

Thanks so much for reading all week!

Buon weekend!

11 Beans of Wisdom to “Freelance Writing Week: How to Find Freelance Writing Jobs: Job Ads and Cold Calls”
  1. 03.27.2009

    Thanks for all this information.

    My pleasure! Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. 03.27.2009

    I really appreciate your generosity in sharing your tips with us. Thanks so much Michelle!

    milanese masala’s last blog post..Big Mac, Filet-O-Fish, Quarter Pounder, French Fries, Icy Coke, Milkshakes, Sundaes and Apple Pie!

    Thank you for reading! And wow, now you have me craving McDonald’s….

  3. joanne at frutto della passione

    My concern about adding to many links in an email is that it might be classiifed as spam by the security system and not read at all. Has that ever been a problem for you?

    joanne at frutto della passione’s last blog post..Ultimate Blog Party 2009

    Not that I know of, but I think just one or two shouldn’t be a problem?

  4. 03.27.2009

    Thanks again for your generosity and loads of info. Have a nice week-end. That pasture date sounds great, ciao!

    Lola’s last blog post..E’s flowers

    Hah, the pasture date was definitely fun 🙂 Thanks for sticking around, Lola!

  5. fantastic series…I’ll be back.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Flashback Friday – Eddie Murphy/Rick James – “Party All The Time”

    Glad to hear it! Thank you 🙂

  6. 03.28.2009

    I am not fond of talking on the phone, so I actually prefer responding to gig ads/calls for submissions, etc. I’ve also listed my services on Craiglist. I pass out a lot of business cards and I link to my blogs/sites in my e-mail signature. I’ve also found work thanks to Twitter and have branched out from just freelance writing and blogging to ghostwriting and ghostblogging and there’s also some social media work thrown in there. 😉


    Michele’s last blog post..Writing the Cyber Highway–Literally!

    Great tips Michele, thanks! I’m not a phone talker either, not for work anyway 😉

  7. Gil

    Have a good weekend and enjoy the lovely Spring weather!

    I shall do my best, Gil! You too 🙂

  8. 04.01.2009

    Wise words, Michelle. And a few links I haven’t checked out before. My thanks!

    Although you had me worried when I read “cold call”. 😉 But no, you meant letters.

    For job adverts, I can recommend two other places. 18 months ago when I started doing paid freelancing, I used:

    I found a few low-paying, but *paying*, gigs through adverts in there. Good for getting off the ground and getting a first paycheck, although some of the jobs pay less than peanuts for too much work, and it’s important to avoid those.

    And I can also thoroughly recommend the “Writing” job boards on the various versions of Craigslist (as Michele suggests above) – especially the American markets since they seem to be the best-paying, so SF Craiglist, Chicago Craigslist, New York Craiglist mainly.

    Now I tend to keep an eye on all of these and Problogger, and I get the Morning Coffee newsletter every week. But now my feet are a little way under the door in the freelancinf community, I schmooze a lot, on Digg, on Twitter, on Stumbleupon and all the other ways to get in contact with important people in a powerfully informal way…..

    Mikeachim’s last blog post..One Thing Done

    All *very* wonderful suggestions, Mike; thanks so much for taking the time to share them 🙂

  9. 04.25.2009

    Fantastic advice, Michelle! Especially thinking laterally and calling a real estate site and seeing if they need content. That’s definitely something I’d encourage aspiring writers to do.

    Pro-writers get most of their jobs from sites like Media Bistro. It’s really important to establish a presence there, where you can put up your CV, link to stories or upload PDFs of stories. also has editors posting work, although nowhere near as much work as they used to. It’s really drying up everywhere. But I’ve found these are the two best sources for writing jobs.

    Cold calling is a good idea, but writers need to keep in mind how busy editors are these days, now more than ever. Also, with more established publications like travel magazines, people shouldn’t cold call about themselves – these kind of publications already have thousands of writers who do this – but they should definitely cold call with great ideas (pitches). And I’m sure you covered this elsewhere, but make sure they work really hard on those pitches – they should read beautifully, almost like the intro to the story, really grab their attention and make them want to read more.

    LaraDunston’s last blog post..Travel by postcards: A Little Beijing

    Excellent, excellent advice, Lara! Thanks 🙂

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Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake