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5 Things You Need Before You Start Applying to Writing Gigs

Freelance Writing 101

I love working as a freelance writer for a living. It started as a hobby over 17 years ago, then grew into something I liked to do part-time in my spare time. About seven years ago I started writing full-time and I’ve never looked back. It’s a great career choice, for the right people. In fact, for three-plus years of the last seven, I have supported two people on my income as a freelance writer.

Before you start applying to writing gigs, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. One of the most important things to remember is that you need great self-discipline and time management skills in order to be successful at working on your own like this. You also need to consider the fact that you might never have employer-supplied insurance.

Once you’ve accepted what it means to be a freelancer, you can start working on the rest of the stuff you need in order to start writing professionally.

1. A Résumé

You need a résumé even if you want to be a freelancer. Résumés aren’t just something for those that work in Wall Street jobs out of college. Your résumé, often referred to as a CV in the world of freelance, needs to be specific to the type of work you’re looking for. Your retail experience isn’t going to get you a writing job.

Focus on the writing work you’ve done, whether you were paid for it or not. Aside from focus, your résumé will basically be laid out the same as any other. 

2. A Cover Letter Template

Do a little online research to find out how to best write a cover letter for a writing job. Save a template to make writing them easier, especially when you're applying to many gigs in a short period of time. You may even have to write a query letter, which is basically a description of what you intend to write for the website or magazine, with a completed title and word count.

Never start your cover letter with “I saw your job ad on Craigslist/Indeed/etc.” Be more clever. Get right to the point of why you’re the perfect writer for the task at hand.

3. An Online Portfolio

Since the majority of the writing jobs out there these days are online and a lot of them are remote, you should have an online portfolio. Use your portfolio to share your résumé, writing samples (both PDFs and links), and other information on your experience or education as a writer. You can include the address to this website on your résumé and as a signature in your email. Consider getting a dot com, instead of using a blog site address.

4. Sample Articles

Speaking of sample articles, the people looking to hire writers often want them to have a certain type of experience. Make sure you have the right kind of experience and examples of your work in the writing field you're applying. If you’re applying for SEO work you need SEO article samples, and maybe even examples of how well your optimization worked for the sites you write for. If you want to be a health & wellness writer you need articles on health & wellness to show your knowledge on that subject.

Don’t simply have samples on your portfolio. You need to have some work on the web with your name on it. Many places that pay well for writers want to know that you have been published online and a PDF isn’t going to be enough proof for them. Sites like this one, Vocal.Media, give you a platform to have your name on online on various types of articles that you can then use for samples when they’re needed.

5. Education Or Experience

You don’t have to have a degree in English or Journalism in order to get a writing gig. However, most places want to hire people with some experience, whether that was just writing term papers in college or a stint as a stringer for your local newspaper. Make sure you share this education and experience on both your résumé and your online portfolio.

It's also important to know that some jobs you apply to will ask you to write a test article or blog post for them (some pay for this and some don't). This will be an item you’ll need to write fresh. It’s also a way to work on getting a gig you don’t have experience in, as you can offer to do a test article on the topic of their choice if you don’t have a proper sample.

Good luck!

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