5 Ways to Find Work as a New Freelancer
When I first started freelancing, I was unhappy in my job. I was working in Boston during the dotcom bubble burst of the early 2000s. There was nowhere for me to go in my current position, and the constant layoffs and cutbacks were making me nervous. So I retreated back to what I knew I was good at—writing.
I started off slow at first, finding a few gigs on Craigslist. I started writing for a couple of local music magazines—one of them paid and one of them didn’t. Then I started writing lifestyle pieces for a free monthly tabloid. I kept those freelance jobs up when I started a new full-time job. I liked this new job, but it was working for a small video editing house. As the in-house producer, I didn’t get a chance to write.
I loved seeing my name in print—and that’s why I did it. I made hardly any money but I did get some perks—free movie tickets, a book or CD here and there—but I was building up my portfolio.
I decided that I wanted to make a career out of writing, so applied to grad school and moved to New York City to attend NYU. I was careful to keep every clip I wrote (including an early interview with the likes of an up-and-coming rapper named T.I.) and put them together in a binder.
During an internship fair (much like a career fair, just for internships) I whipped out my trusty portfolio. My fellow students oohed and aahed over my clips. “If you’ve been published, why the heck are you in grad school?” they asked. “Because I want to get paid for doing this!” was my reply.
I had some great internships (one of them even paid) in grad school, and amassed many, many clips for my portfolio. I wrote for free a lot, but felt that that was par for the course. I knew my graduate program wasn’t going to last forever.
I paid my dues and learned a lot. And when I moved out of New York City and started looking for freelance work, I had a lot of clips to show people. I had essentially already started my freelance career while in grad school, so I felt I had the confidence to continue to get freelance work once I graduated.
Some of you may not be so confident or have a ton of clips to tout your talents. That’s OK. You have to start somewhere.
I liked the ideas on how to hustle for freelance work in this blog post on theDailyMuse. These tips are relevant for any creative freelancer, no matter their expertise.
Do it Pro-Bono – at First
Doing work for free obviously isn’t a long-term strategy, but it is a great one if you’re just starting out and trying to make contacts. —theDailyMuse
I teach an undergraduate journalism class at a nearby college, and I always urge my students to contact the owners/editors of websites they really love and follow up to see what it would take for them to write a guest post. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door, even if they don’t have any paid work available. When paid work does come along—they will already know you can produce.
Be Shameless on Social Media
If you are my friend on Facebook, you will undoubtedly notice that I frequently post my FreelanceSwitch blog posts on my wall. It helps promote FreelanceSwitch as well as my work. A lot of freelancers I know have a website that showcases their ongoing work. Having an online portfolio is a great idea.
Get Your Work in Their Hands
As a magazine editor, I can’t tell you how many photographers from across the country send me promotional materials in the mail and through email. Tangible stuff is my favorite, as it’s harder to ignore.
Don’t be Shy
Network! Most of the freelance writers I use introduced themselves to me at one time or another. It’s great to put a face to a name. Get out in the community and meet the people who can help you move your career along. Have you already done work for someone? See if they will give you a testimonial. Having another editor vouch for a writer’s work gives me more confidence.
There are lots of places to look online for work, from MediaBistro.com to JournalismJobs.com to right here on the FreelanceSwitch Job Board. There is usually a minor monthly fee for access, but it can really be worth it.
Just because you don’t have a ton of experience doesn’t mean you can’t freelance—it just means you shouldn’t quit your day job…yet. You’ve got to start somewhere, so what are you waiting for?