With few barriers to entry, freelance writing is an attractive option for writers who want to work on their own terms. In fact, you don’t need more than a computer, an internet connection, and a way to accept money. The number one tool to help you get clients is a portfolio with strong freelance writing samples.
But what about if you don’t have any writing samples yet? It’s the proverbial chicken versus egg problem. You need writing samples to get freelance work, but you can only get samples if you get a client to give you a chance.
But fear not! There are ways to do this quickly.
Read on to learn how to get the freelance writing clips you’ll need to ignite your freelance writing journey.
Develop Freelance Writing Samples on Niche Websites
One of the easiest ways to create writing samples is to start your own blog.
You can also post your articles on sites like Medium. This method will give you a body of work to show potential clients and will also help you build your brand as a freelance writer.
Medium is an excellent platform because it allows you to tap into a large audience.
To get ideas on what to write about, check out our free Niche Brainstorming Worksheet.
Write Guest Posts for Other Websites
Another way to get started as a freelance writer is by writing guest posts for other websites. This will help you build relationships with other bloggers and editors. It will also help you get your work in front of a new audience.
One way to find bloggers who accept guest posts is to search for blogs in your niche. Once you’ve found a few blogs that you want to write for, reach out to the blog editor and pitch your article idea.
In your pitch, include a brief summary of your article and the target audience. Discuss why you think your article would be a good fit for their blog. Share a little bit about your knowledge to show why you would be the perfect person to write this article.
Write for Local Publications or Websites
One way to get freelance writing samples to get started is by writing for local publications or websites.
To find these local opportunities, start by doing a Google search for “[Your City] + publications” or “[Your City] + websites.” The Library of Congress has a list of 420 local U.S. newspapers you can browse.
Another way to find local publications is by visiting your library or bookstore. Many cities have multiple niche or community-specific magazines or newspapers. The staff at bookstores and libraries might be able to introduce you to new publications that hire freelance writers.
You can also search on social media for publications and websites that welcome freelance writers. Look for hashtags on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn groups to get more ideas.
Visit each website to get a feel for the type of content they publish, and then brainstorm story ideas you can pitch. To find the right editors to pitch to, look for a section on the website called “contribute” or “write for us.”
Keep in mind that when writing for local publications or websites, you’ll need to be able to write on a variety of topics. This is an ideal opportunity to show off your versatility as a freelance writer!
Write for Local Companies
If you need help figuring out where to start, try reaching out to your local chamber of commerce or business association. They may be able to give you some advice or introduce you to new opportunities. Check out the U.S. Chamber of Commerce list of local chambers of commerce by state.
Often their members need writing in the form of web copy, blog posts, or even press releases. Busy CEOs may even need writers to ghostwrite speeches, bylined articles, or social media posts.
Talk to Other Writers
Another good way to find writing opportunities is by networking with other freelance writers and editors. There are many online forums and groups where freelance writers can connect. Exchanging work or ideas can be helpful in finding opportunities to create freelance writing samples.
There are also many conferences and meetups specifically for freelance writers. Attending these events can help you network with other writers, editors, and potential clients. You can also learn about new writing opportunities and get your questions answered by more experienced freelance writers.
Doing a quick search online should reveal upcoming events in your area. You can also check out websites like Meetup.com or EventBrite.com to find events near you.
How to Introduce Yourself to Editors
Once you have a list of potential places to pitch your writing, it’s time to reach out to editors.
Some writers choose to use a letter of introduction (LOI). This is a letter that freelance writers send to editors to introduce themselves and their writing.
The best letters of introduction are brief, friendly, and professional. Tailor your letter to the specific publication or website you’re pitching for the best results.
Some writers also pitch specific story ideas. To do this, you’ll need a strong understanding of each publication, its purpose, and its audience.
The best way to do this is by reading the publication’s recent articles or posts. This preparation will give you a sense of the type of content they are interested in and the tone and voice they use.
What topics have the publication covered recently? Is there a new angle you could take on an old topic?
Are there recent trends happening in the industry that the publication has yet to cover? Is there an international or national trend that you can localize?
Keep in mind that editors are always looking for fresh, new content that will interest their readers.
You should also take a look at the publication’s style guide. This document will give you an idea of the type of language and formatting the editor prefers. All of this preparation will help you get better freelance writing samples.
How To Pitch Your Writing Services
When pitching story ideas, always keep the publication’s readers in mind. Remember the old adage, “what’s in it for me?” The editor or blogger’s goal is to produce valuable and interesting content for their readers. Your job as a freelance writer is to show them how your article or post will do just that.
Personalize each pitch to the publication or website you are targeting. This will show the editor that you have taken the time to research their needs and are more likely to get your pitch accepted.
Use the editor or business owner’s name in the pitch, and address any specific needs they have that you can meet. For example, if they are looking for writers who can write on a tight deadline, mention that you can meet those timelines.
It’s great to share any preliminary ideas for articles or posts, but don’t give away too much. You want them to be intrigued enough to want to learn more from you.
Keep your pitches brief, and avoid using attachments. If you want to include your resume or other supporting material, include a link instead.
Close with a solid call to action, whether directly asking for an opportunity to write or offering to schedule a call to answer questions.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up
Finally, don’t be afraid to follow up on your pitches!
If you are still waiting to hear back from a publication or website within a week or so, it’s perfectly acceptable (and even encouraged) to reach out and inquire about the status of your pitch. This shows that you are invested in the opportunity and are eager to get started.
You can simply follow up on your original email or give them a call if you spoke with someone directly. Editors, bloggers, and business owners are often very busy, so a gentle reminder can go a long way.
If you have yet to receive a reply after following up once or twice, it’s best to move on and focus your efforts elsewhere.
Your Pitch Was Accepted. Now What?
Congratulations! Your pitch was accepted, and you have received the go-ahead to write for a new publication or website.
Now it’s time to get started on your article or post. Be sure to adhere to any guidelines such as word count, due date, or formatting requirements.
If you have any questions about the assignment, be sure to ask for clarification. Remember, you want the strongest freelance writing samples you can create, so the more clarity you can get from your editor, the better.
How to Begin Writing Your Writing Samples
To write your first article or blog post, start by doing some basic research on your topic. This will help you to get a better understanding of the subject and will give you something to build upon as you write.
Next, outline your article or post. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it will help you to organize your thoughts and keep on track as you write.
Once you have a general idea of what you want to say, start writing. Don’t worry about being perfect; just get your thoughts down on paper (or screen). You can always go back and revise later.
Add in statistics from trustworthy sources, personal anecdotes, or quotes from experts to support your points. These will help to add credibility to your writing and make it more interesting for the reader.
If you need to interview sources for your article or post, reach out well in advance so you can easily meet your deadline.
If you get stuck, take a break! Sometimes it can help to walk away from your piece for a little while and come back with fresh eyes.
Make Sure to Proofread Your Writing
After you finish your draft, let it rest. Work on something else and return to it later. Sometimes it helps to print it out and read it in a different room. This will help you catch errors.
Once your piece is complete, proofread it one more time for any errors or typos. Then, submit it on the agreed-upon date and wait for feedback.
Edits and revisions are standard, so be encouraged if you receive change requests. This is simply part of the freelance writing process. Soon you’ll have polished freelance writing samples.
Making the Most of Your Freelance Writing Samples
Once your article or blog is published, share it with your friends, family, and social media followers. This will help to increase its reach and get your name out there as a freelance writer.
Email your links to other editors, mentors, old bosses, and business associates to keep them abreast of your progress and stay top of mind.
And, of course, remember to add your newly published article or blog to your freelance writing portfolio! You can create a free portfolio on websites like Contently or Clippings.me to showcase your work and help you land more writing gigs.
Save a PDF of the article just in case the website or publication changes its website in the future, and the link becomes inactive.
To make sharing your clips easier, consider saving PDFs in organized topic folders in GoogleDrive or Dropbox, or use an app like Pocket or Evernote to save articles and blog posts.
That way, you can quickly email potential clients links to your best writing samples without searching for them each time.
Post Your Freelance Writing Samples on LinkedIn
You can also upload freelance writing samples to your LinkedIn profile to showcase your skills to potential clients and employers.
Go ahead and request a LinkedIn recommendation from the editor or business owner after your article is published to help boost your freelance writing credentials. Their testimonial will show up on your profile for anyone who views it.
LinkedIn also has a handy skills section where you can list “freelance writer” as one of your abilities. Take advantage of the endorsements feature, where others can endorse you for specific skills related to freelance writing. These elements build your credibility and make you more attractive to potential clients.
Using as many keywords pertaining to freelance writing in your profile will increase the likelihood that you will appear in a search when someone is looking for a freelance writer.
Relationship Building as a Freelance Writer
Now that you have your first few writing samples in your portfolio, make sure to keep in touch with your editors and clients. These relationships can be beneficial as you look for new freelance writing gigs.
Sending a quick thank-you email after your article is published is a nice touch and shows that you are professional and appreciative. Keeping in touch will help you stay top of mind if your editor or client has any future freelance writing needs.
As you continue to write, you can swap out your freelance writing samples for stronger samples as you get them published. Regularly update your portfolio and social media profiles with your latest writing clips to ensure that potential clients always have access to your most recent work.
Be strategic and try to get samples in the outlets or about the topics most aligned with your goals. Remember that getting published in well-known outlets will give you more credibility than being published on lesser-known sites.
By following these simple tips to get your first writing samples, you will be on your way to becoming a successful, well-paid freelance writer in no time.
How did you get your first freelance writing samples? Let us know in the comments below!
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