How to Find Legitimate Freelance Writing Opportunities
There are many scams online, including the occasional freelance writing scam. Some unscrupulous publications will charge you a ‘reading fee’ or submission fee, with no intention of publishing you. Others will take your work and simply refuse to pay. I should point out that this doesn’t happen often. In my 20 years + as a freelance writer I have only ever had one client just refuse to pay my invoices. The scary thing is, she was a well-known (in her niche) author and writing coach. There were no real red flags when I started writing for her, and I never expected her to just stop paying her team, but she did.
As I was owed a relatively small amount, and working across international borders, it simply wasn’t worth suing her for the payment (which of course she knew). One piece of advice I now offer writers is based on that experience. When dealing with a new client direct (that is, not through an agency or brokerage site) ask for some payment up front if possible, and never do huge amounts of work and leave yourself with large invoices which they can skip out on paying. It’s better to be down a few hundred dollars than a few thousand.
Many brokerage sites take money from clients and put it in escrow to pay writers when the work is complete, so that can be a more secure way to work as a new writer. Writing for magazines or other publications does mean you’ll sometimes have to wait for your money, and that’s fine. It’s normal to pay on publication, which can take a while. Just do what you can to make sure the publication is legit and known to pay its writers.
Having said all that, there are plenty of legitimate writing gigs out there. As I say, I’ve only ever dealt with one non-payer in my entire career. So please don’t be put off. Here are a few proven ways to find legitimate writing for pay opportunities.
One of the best ways to find legitimate writing opportunities is to network. In fact, ask any successful writer or freelancer how they grow their business and chances are they network. Some of your best clients will come to you this way. Connect with other writers. Connect with business owners. And connect with other people in the marketing, advertising and website design and management fields.
Both online and off there are valuable networking opportunities. Online you can of course participate in mainstream social networking sites. Create a fan page on Facebook for your business. Post on Twitter. However, don’t neglect industry forums, blogs and chat rooms too. You may also want to consider Medium as a way of networking for new clients. Two of my current long-term clients originally found me through work I posted over there.
For example, if you’re a web copywriter you might participate in Warrior Forum. It’s a forum that’s dedicated to internet marketers, who often need copywriters. Offline you might join local business, network, and meet-up groups. Choose groups where you have the potential to meet clients. It’s easy to join other writing groups. However, then you’re networking with your competition. Instead, join groups with other business owners. They’re your prospects.
Make a shortlist of your ideal clients. For example, if you’re a copywriter for the health and wellness field, target companies in that niche who might need web copy, or publications that specialise in health and wellness. It’s never a bad idea to follow them on social media, share a few of their posts, and sign up to their newsletter if they have one, to really familiarise yourself with their mission and messaging.
Then, instead of waiting for an opportunity, ask for it. Contact your ideal clients and make a direct pitch, or write a letter of introduction and ask if there’s anything you can help them with. Of course, before you pitch make sure you know who and what they are and how you can offer value. Research them thoroughly.
Job Board Sites
Job board sites and freelance sites get a bad reputation. It’s true that some of them are packed with low paying work, and even scams. However, other sites are legitimate. Before searching for writing jobs on a freelance or job board site, make sure it has a reputation for quality. Some of the more respected job sites are Upwork and PeoplePerHour, but even here, you’ll need to avoid the low paying jobs and search for the better opportunities. One of the best pure ‘job board’ type options is the ProBlogger Job Board. Again you’ll still need to stay alert. Not every job there is legit or worth your time.
Some freelance job sites charge a fee. Don’t pay for a site unless you are certain it’s a good one. Most freelance sites offer a free trial or free membership. Take advantage of that. Use freelance sites that hold payment in escrow. That means the client pays for the work up front. The freelance site holds onto it. You get your money when the project is delivered. This gives you both an element of security.
Clients on any freelance or job board site should be willing to pay some sort of deposit. They should also be willing to negotiate a delivery/payment schedule that works for both of you. If they’re not willing to do this, don’t work with them. Also beware of clients asking for ‘samples’. You should generally be able to share samples of work you’ve already done. If they want you to write a sample to show you can write to a brief, proceed with caution. You need to check that if they use that sample, you’ll be paid for it. And if they don’t, the copyright remains with you (meaning that depending on the details, you may be able to sell or publish it elsewhere).
When applying or responding to job postings, stick with customers that have a high rating. Read the comments other providers have left. Research the client online if possible. And trust your instincts.
Writing for pay is a rewarding and fulfilling lifestyle. There are many legitimate opportunities available, but scammers are present in any industry. Be smart. Shop for your writing jobs carefully. And keep a positive attitude. With a little patience and planning, you can definitely make a living as a writer.
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