“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.
That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”
― Octavia E. Butler
So you’ve practiced writing every day for the past few years and you think you’re finally ready to take the next step toward becoming a published author and start making money from your skill. Luckily for you, getting work as a writer isn’t too difficult. Finding a good gig for a writer…now that’s where it gets harder.
As a new writer, you have options before you. You can look for work on a website like Upwork, contacting blogs or publications specifically, self publish, or use a site to apply for jobs and projects.
I Don’t Think I’m Ready
Have confidence in yourself. Always apply for work even if you don’t get something it’s always worth it to throw your hat into the ring as long as you’ve spent some time practicing and you’re passionate about writing.
None of us are perfect writers and most of us won’t ever be great writers either. Even the good writers amongst us have a long way to go to become great.
Me? I had to put in five years just to be decent.
Two Things To Focus On
As a new writer, you have two things to focus on to get work and keep getting work. Those two things are establishing a portfolio/personal brand and looking and applying for work in the right places to get paid a decent amount.
When you’re just starting it helps you to have a set of articles that you can point people to and let them know what you’ve already done and what kind of work they can expect from you.
A perfect place to do that is on Medium. Why Medium? Well, they have a built-in audience on the platform that can funnel your writing to an audience to possibly make a little extra money and grow a following on the platform.
All you have to do is write about what you love, what you’re passionate about, and it will get a lot of attention on Medium if it’s well written.
It’s also a good habit to write daily regardless of whether or not it’s for a paying gig. It builds out your body of work and gives you extra practice. It’s important to continue practicing and working on your craft while looking for work.
When you build a name for yourself and a brand then you’ll have work to show others that you’ve done. There’s also a chance that you grow a following and a group of readers who love your writing. This could allow you to offer to coach on what you write about or writing itself to make extra money as you need.
Start by setting a word goal for yourself every day. This can be work or hobby writing. Post your writing to Medium or your blog consistently without burning out. Just practice and share your work with those and watch your brand grow!
Another great way to build your portfolio is to do some work for free. This is a very common thing for writers still getting practice and it works well. Just reach out to companies and ask if they’d like an article for free to help grow your arsenal or articles. It works like a charm. I’ve written many articles for free so that I could later use them as a reference for my work.
Anyone can find work as a writer. That’s not a joke, it’s 100% true!
While anyone can find work as a writer it’s difficult to find good work as one. There are a lot of websites out there that act as a bidding war over who gets to write an article or product descriptions or whatever else. This attracts a lot of people outside the US which tends to drive down costs and it draws in more candidates which drops the pay for the job even more.
A great example of this is on the website Upwork. If you make a profile on Upwork and look for work as a writer you’ll find about half solid jobs and the other half are practically a joke. I’ve seen posts on there to write a 1,500-word article for $5 and they wanted it at the end of the night. It’s atrocious.
If you’re paying a writer $5 for a piece of writing then you’re not paying a writer. You’re paying someone to throw words on a page. That’s it. You’re not going to get a real tone or really anyone who will be a good match for your brand. If you don’t want to pay a writer a decent wage then you won’t get a writer. You’ll get words on a page in the simplest form and nothing more.
Writers Work is a website that gathers jobs from all over the web and presents them on one dashboard for you. These jobs are typically posted on Indeed, ProBlogger, and other mainstream job boards online.
When I first heard of Writers Work I looked into it immediately. It was $50 for infinite use. The price has not changed and you can find the site here!
The service also gives you the ability to learn about freelancing at their “university” (free), start and store projects, set your goals, and even keep track of your client orders.
It’s a great investment that you can use to help yourself succeed at a low price!
ProBlogger & Indeed
The main thing you want to look for is just a good job board that has a lot of good postings for writers. Indeed and ProBlogger are the two that I find to be the best. I use these two any time I need to find something new to work on. Both are amazing and I can’t sing enough praises for either of them.
Of course, everything you can find on these sites dashboards are also viewable on writers.work too!
What You’re Looking For
Ideally, when you’re starting out you want to look for something that’s worth your time if you’re looking to get paid. Don’t think of it as a practice but actually looking for a paycheck. If you’re just starting out you can work a bit for free and we discussed that previously. Now it’s time to think about the paycheck and what makes it worth it.
Typically writing jobs are broken down into a few payment methods. The two most common that I’ve noticed so far are being paid per project or being paid per word. Here’s an example of each:
1,500-word project for $150. This is a flat rate and is standard in most cases.
1,500-word project for $0.10 a word. So $150 for the whole thing or if you go a bit over or under you've compensated accordingly. Slightly less common but you’ll see this here and there.
I prefer per word over the project because it lets you get compensated for all of your work. If you go over the 1,500 marks then you make a bit more or make less if you go under. Everyone has their preferences and you’ll find yours soon enough.
When I first started I didn’t take jobs paying under $90 per project or $0.06 per word. These both come out to about the same price for a 1,500 word article which was the most common length I’ve experienced. Writing 1,500 words wasn’t a small feat in a day or even two days sometime when you work full time still. Writing an article of that size often took between 3–4 hours. That breaks down to $22.50-$30 an hour depending on how fast I was. That’s not bad pay for a side gig that I was passionate about! I was very happy to be able to achieve that when I first started out.
- Write daily for practice or to publish
- When first starting out a few free articles help build your portfolio
- Always build your portfolio
- Don’t get into a bidding war for a project
- Look in the right places (Writers Work, ProBlogger, Indeed, & sometimes Upwork)
- Make sure it’s worth your time
This is how I managed to find work as a new writer with little professional skill and no formal writing education past college.
How’d you get your first paying job? Did you build your personal brand first? Let me know in the responses so I can get back to you. If you have any questions or comments I’ll respond to them all!
Much love & have a great day ❤️