When I was a baby freelancer, I began on the content mills. I used Upwork, which was at that point oDesk and a few other sites where I pounded away for pennies per word.
I don’t recommend that.
If you’re just beginning, the content mills can be a good place to practice. They can also help you find a few long term clients if those clients are willing to move off the platform.
Stay Away from Content Mills
Unfortunately for top talent like you, though, you’re going to face a lot of competition from those sites. You’ll have non-native speakers bidding much lower rates than you and providing crap deliverables. (It’s frustrating.) Then, on top of that the platforms deduct as much as 20% from the little bit of pay that you did earn.
Content mills are frustrating. They’re a good place to build a portfolio or scope out competitor pricing but in the long run they just ain’t no good.
Practice what you preach, sister!
Yes. I do have a few freelance clients on Upwork even today. There are two reasons for that. First of all, at this point the service fee is only 5%. To me, that’s a reasonable price to pay for the convenience of just the accounting aspect. Secondly, these clients and I have literally years of history recorded in conversations. I still refer back to those conversations frequently and that, too, is worth the 5%.
That said, a majority of my clients come from elsewhere. Most are digital but a few are print publications. Want to know where to find freelance clients? Here are a few good places to start.
This site lists writing jobs arranged by date and includes the range of pay right on the front page. Check this out for a few freelance writing opportunities that pay as much as $500 per blog post.
ProBlogger is a great resource to find freelance jobs, but be aware: it’s saturated. Everyone knows about this site. That means that while many good freelance clients post here, many good freelancers are applying.
Not to be confused with ProBlogger, Blogging Pro curates freelance writing jobs from across the web. There are tons of great opportunities here, but be sure to check it daily as the good jobs go quickly.
For freelance writing jobs delivered to your inbox, subscribe to the Morning Coffee Newsletter. These are quality, high paying jobs and it’s free to sign up.
Media Bistro is a great resource for freelance writing jobs, particularly if you enjoy a more journalistic approach. The jobs here seem to be more editorial than fluff.
As the URL would suggest, this is another great place to find freelance writing clients. Check the posts carefully as not all jobs are remote.
Find Freelance Clients – Outside the Box
Don’t limit yourself. I’ll post more about this very soon but there are oodles of other ways you can find freelance writing clients. Here are some examples.
Join a writers group on Facebook or reach out to a business you admire. Just noticing that your favorite ice cream shoppe doesn’t have a website can land you a contract designing just that.
Twitter is a bit more difficult to use to find freelance clients, but you can do it if you know how. Start by a simple search for those who might be hiring. Enter “content writer” or whatever you choose, then see what pops up. It’s also important that you join the conversation. Simply being on Twitter isn’t enough. You’ve got to engage.
I’m going to be honest. The only reason I’m including LinkedIn is because several of my colleagues have had success there. Personally, I’m not a fan. In my experience LinkedIn is just a bunch of people who like to talk about LinkedIn. They’ll complain about their jobs, give each other a pat on the back and go on about their day.
LinkedIn consists of thousands of people scrambling to be named “thought leaders.”
That said, go on and give it a try. Maybe you’ll have more success with it than I did.
Team up with a few others who do similar work to you. Know a good web designer? Maybe his clients need content. Know a graphic design artist? The author of the book he’s designing a cover for needs an editor. There’s a power in numbers – don’t be afraid to ask your community for referrals.
Bonus Round: Keep Your Eyes Open
The freelance sector is becoming huge. With that said, there are always new startups aimed at helping freelancers and clients connect. And while I said that you should stay away from the content mills, there are certainly platform alternatives. Join a community like ilmosys studio and find a few new long term clients. Especially for very, very beginning freelancers, these platforms are a good way to post your portfolio and get a few good writing samples together.