There once was a time when blogging was just something done on the side. People had LiveJournal or Blogger accounts, and they largely just wrote about stuff in their lives. A blog was a online diary of sorts.
Today, however, is much different. Content is king online. A blog is not just considered something that is nice to have, nor is it an expendable part of your online presence. Businesses need to have active, engaged blogs with regularly updated content. It's big business.
In fact, it's so important that more than 92% of marketers believe that content should be invested in. That means, as a freelance writer, the opportunity is there for the taking.
This couldn't come at a better time, which is both fortunate and unfortunate. With the dawn of COVID-19 in the world throwing standard operating procedures and economics completely out the window at the time of writing, businesses will be looking for cost-effective ways to keep on plugging away.
That's where you come in. Freelancers are often turned to in economic crises, and keeping content flowing is a huge piece of a cost-effective marketing strategy.
Selling your blogging services is a great idea in any economic climate. If you can demonstrate the ability to write words that provide value to readers and drive new leads and sales to a company, you can almost write your own ticket.
But here's the problem: where do you find clients?
Despite the claims that there is a ton of demand for content, it almost feels like you can't seem to find clients anywhere. I would argue that this isn't because the opportunity isn't there – it's just that you're looking in the wrong places.
That's because you're a writer. You're not a marketer or a salesperson. Finding clients and prospective leads is just something you haven't had to do before. So you are tempted to go down the path of least resistance.
Do not do this.
Avoid the job boards
You know which ones I'm talking about: Upwork and the like.
These are generic freelancing job boards that promise oodles of work to the freelancer and piles of qualified professionals for the business.
Over the years, I've seen a handful of people selling the idea that you can make a living off of Upwork. And maybe some are. Heck, maybe you are. Good for you.
For the average writer, though, Upwork just isn't the Holy Grail that we need it to be. The majority of businesses who use boards like these are often just looking for the lowest possible price, causing a race to the bottom in rates paid out. Add to that the fees that Upwork takes out of your pay, and a full-time income just ain't happening.
I've tried it a few times myself, and even with a rather extensive portfolio and wealth of experience, it just isn't there. Too many people are trying to lowball you, especially since the requirements to post a job description appear to be pretty lax.
It's easy to blame companies like Upwork, but the fact is, this is nothing new. I started writing SEO articles back in 2008. It was the backbone of my freelancing business when I started out. Even working directly with clients, I was getting paid $20 per article – and some clients still thought I was too expensive.
(It should also be noted that most of those clients appear to be gone now. Weird.)
Fact is, there are plenty of clients who want to pay for valuable content, and they are doing well. You just have to find them.
And they're not on Upwork.
The first 3 places: Check the job boards!
Wait, what? Didn't I just tell you to avoid the job boards?
That's because there actually are boards that are loaded with clients who value good content and are willing to pay the necessary premiums to get them.
In fact, with just one search here, I see jobs worth: $250/week... $225/week... $200/article (with bonuses)... $250/week... $100/article... $500/article...
I won't link to those posts because they will probably be gone by the time you read this. But visit those boards now and see all the different jobs available.
How to use job boards
The key in finding the right work for you on these boards is to search for the right thing.
On ProBlogger, this is fairly easy. It's a content-focused site. But with other boards, like AngelList, you want to search for alternative names, like "copywriter" and "content marketer". The word "content" is often used in the pro circles when talking about bloggers.
Make sure you have a portfolio to show! Most of the big-time job boards are going to require a portfolio of samples and/or a resume. Have both ready to go. Start blogging now in the niche you want to cover and post them on Medium (or better yet, your own blog). That way, you have a solid package of articles demonstrating your expertise.
That's a great strategy, but check out my favorite...
Unlimited options: Find your own clients
I did this in 2008 and I'm still doing it today.
Working directly with clients rather than finding them on job boards is a great way to build a blogging career because you can cut through the noise of multiple applicants and work out your own terms with the client.
But you will have to reach out to them directly to see if you can work with them.
This is usually viewed as a con because it's harder to do. It takes more time to find clients this way, and you often have to get out of your comfort zone a little bit and negotiate with them.
But as a pro, you get to write your own ticket by building a stable of consistent clients, mitigating the risk that comes from putting all your eggs into one basket.
How to get your own clients
You've already got a portfolio whipped up, right? Now, set up your LinkedIn profile and get active. As marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk says, "LinkedIn is where Facebook was at 5–7 years ago."
Now, make sure you specialize in something. Pick an industry and stick to it. This will help you narrow down your potential client list, and you have a better chance of standing out as a great fit for their needs.
A natural health company is going to go for the holistic content writer before the generic writer every time.
And when you specialize, you can command higher rates.
Then, to find clients, you need to use resources at your disposal. That could mean scanning through AngelList or Crunchbase. Or you could Google away.
Me? I've found great success using my library card.
Thanks to my local library, I have access to AtoZ Databases, where I can search companies down to whatever parameters I want. Then I just export the list to a spreadsheet and start emailing away.
Cold email is a good balance between outreach and introversion. I can send 5–10 emails a day, with custom pitches for each client on what I would like to help them with, and I can be reasonably sure that I will get responses that will lead to work very shortly.
At least 12 more places: Paid guest blogging
A lot of writers swear by guest blogging. I can't speak from experience because I've had less luck with it than others, but I've done my share of guest blogging over the years.
For those unfamiliar, guest blogging means writing content for somebody else's blog but with your name on it. You normally get a byline that you can link back to your own site, and some clients pay for these services.
I don't recommend making guest blogging the foundation of your business simply because it's harder to control. I know that I can get steady work if I send out a certain number of pitches every week in cold emailing.
With guest blogging, a lot of pieces have to fall your way, and they often don't. But they can be powerful.
How to get guest blogging clients
Seriously, make sure you have that portfolio.
Then, search around for sites that pay for guest blogs. Here's a list of 12 sites that pay $100 per post, and there are plenty of other lists like this out there.
Now, before you pitch them, come up with a few post ideas specifically for that site. They want to know that you've done your homework. They often post requirements for guest bloggers, so review those carefully. And browse their site so that you know what kind of content they are accepting.
The important thing about guest blogging (and why I don't do it) is to take your time. You won't get five paying guest blogging clients by next week. There is stiff competition for them.
These can be tougher, so don't depend on these to be the basis for your work. You're going through a lot of gatekeepers here.
In the end, don't be desperate
I've gone through various low points in my career over the past decade-plus, and the most valuable piece of advice I can give you is this: don't wait to market yourself for work until you need it.
Do it before you need it.
Why? Because when you need it, you're desperate. If you have nothing to fall back on, those pitches are going to sound like it. Desperation shines through, and professionals aren't desperate. Clients want to work with professionals.
I worked with a very lousy client for over a year, and you couldn't pay me to go back to working with him. He was one of my earliest clients, and we worked on a lot of deals together. As much as I had trouble with him, he gave me one piece of advice that I remember to this day: "You do your best work when the bills are paid for."
In other words, it's much easier to write when the pressure isn't on. The only way to build a writing career is by writing with confidence, and you can do that when you're not banking your entire wellbeing on getting the next gig.
Even if your bills aren't fully paid, trust the process. Pitch regularly. Keep following up on leads. Work with confidence, and you'll be surprised at how successful you can be.
Now get out there and send some pitches!
Now is a wonderful time to be a copywriter. Download this free eBook to learn how: