I started with Freelancer.com, took a plunge into some content mills and then developed a legitimate client list through LinkedIn and some random referrals.
That was the simple, yet not so glamorous route I took to make freelance writing my career. This was my route to find freelance writing jobs by using bits of advice from other bloggers and testing the waters myself.
Is there anything wrong with this route? Sure.
It kind of sucked. I thought it was fun when I would receive a job for an 1000 word golf article priced at $10 on Freelancer.com, as I perused the site during the lunch hour at my old job. I told people I was freelance writing on the side, and they thought it was cute, and the reality is that it was cute. Only cute. There’s nothing professional or inspiring about writing that many words for that little money.
I even spent about three months scaling the workload I had from CrowdSource (or MTurk) to slowly realize that the quantity of work would just dry up. Seriously, I found a way to hammer out three 400 word articles in one hour for about $14 a pop. And honestly, $42 an hour was great in my eyes, and it still is a great wage…if it only lasted, and if the content I created was usable for my portfolio, and if I got to even see the companies I was writing for.
I always tell people to spread out their investments when it comes to freelance writing, because frankly it’s the way I did it, and it’s the only way I can justify telling people to spend hours of their time creating a blog, guest posting, writing books and pitching high paying clients, all for free. You need to spend some time on these crap sites to pay the bills, which is understandable, but eventually you need to find other sources such as LinkedIn, contacting companies directly or from what I returned to recently, the ProBlogger job board.
Why I Initially Passed on ProBlogger
Everyone who blogs has heard of ProBlogger, and it was on every list for writers to find potential freelance writing jobs. So naturally I started submitting to some of the listings when I started. Unfortunately, not a single person replied after submitting maybe 10 or 20 applications. Sure, this doesn’t seem like that many, but in my eyes, if you submit that many times and you don’t get a single response, you’re doing something wrong. Some part of the approach needs to change.
About two months ago I figured I would try ProBlogger again. I created a schedule to submit to at least three listings on the job board everyday. I hardly stuck to this schedule, but I probably sent out about 40 or 50 emails in those two months, and to my surprise I have gained six well paying clients in those two months.
So what was I initially doing wrong and how did I fix it?
The Snazzy Websites
Your websites are key when convincing people on ProBlogger to hire you. I figure most people just send an email filled with links to their content and the other half send a link to their portfolio. Initially I would send an attached resume with links to jobs I completed. Between the time I spent boycotting ProBlogger and now, I created a nice blog and sleek portfolio. If you don’t have a self-hosted blog with a beautiful template, you’re at a huge disadvantage.
I’ve seen a handful of free sites that can pass as professional, but let’s be honest, most of them look pretty rough. The weird thing is that a hosting plan and template is pretty darn cheap. I found my portfolio template for around $15 and it took me maybe four hours to complete it with my portfolio examples and everything.
So, I told these companies how proud I was of my blog and included a few links to my favorite posts. I also placed my portfolio URL in the email and said they can look at it for some extra niche work. Finally, I threw one or two links towards the end that related directly to their company. After asking all six companies why they chose me, five of them said because of my websites, and one of them said because of my social presence on Twitter (They are hell bent on getting their social numbers up).
The Way I Filtered Out Companies
This change in approach towards Problogger actually worked to save me time and frustration. I figure that spending so much time on the site, only to get no responses, was one of the main reasons I originally stopped trying. I outlined a way to cut down on the “waste of time” companies and the listings that probably wouldn’t get me a response. What did I look at?
I only submitted for projects that offered long term work.
A few blog posts or pages on a company website was no good. That would just send me digging for another job in a few weeks. I wanted companies that needed daily or weekly blog posts. I could build a stronger career on this.
I only submitted to companies that shared who they were.
If they are too embarrassed or secretive to give a link to their website they either aren’t legitimate or have some trust issues of some sort.
I only submitted to posts where I could get excited about the job descriptions.
There’s a fine line here. If you know nothing about gardening you probably can’t write about gardening. You really need to garden in order to know the details. But if someone needs you to write about home security products, that’s a small niche that is pretty self explanatory. We all know how security cameras and pepper spray works. If you can get excited about it, go for it. Other than that you can always submit to listings that include topics where you are an expert.
If the job post asked for me to answer several specific questions or talk about certain experiences I jumped on them immediately.
If someone sees this post they will either put in the time to submit, be too lazy and move on, or submit their default template and be immediately rejected. These posts are gold, because the competition decreases drastically. Put the work in to reply to these posts. Two of my recent jobs came from ProBlogger listings that required I answer at least ten specific questions. If I just sent my standard template I never would have gotten the jobs.
I Put Honesty, Not Effort Into My Submissions
The first job from ProBlogger I received was for a smartphone blog. The job was to write technical posts on Android phones, apps and how-to’s like rooting. I love Android phones, but I didn’t even know what rooting meant. The technical aspects were not my forte. In the past I would sell myself hard and say how I have experience with all the types of posts they want. This time I decided to be honest.
I told them that I was a lifelong Android owner, but my technical knowledge was limited. I had a small level of experience writing long how-to posts for technical readers. They called me up and asked me to be the editor for a team of five writers based on my blogging and marketing experience. I didn’t have to write the technical posts, but they now pay me to edit and moderate content. I’m beginning to learn that honesty, not putting effort into sales pitches, opens up new opportunities.
I realized that I used to put so much effort into customizing each submission to give companies what I thought they wanted to hear, when what I needed to do was give them an honest conversation. Why the hell was I originally writing a cover letter similar to the ones I wrote in business school when I should have been writing the way I do on my blog: conversational and honest.
These changes madethe difference for me. Sure I accumulated portfolio items that made me a more credible writer. Sure I developed more content on my blog to give people a better idea of my writing style. But the combination of sleek, clean websites (not cluttered, corny or cheap-looking), filtering out bad companies to save time and being honest instead of pitching people landed my six new freelance writing jobs, so I’m sticking to it.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments if you have any experience with the ProBlogger job board. What are some other tips for getting jobs there, and what other job listing sites pay well and offer legitimate work?