I started with places like Elance and Guru, job boards and freelance databases. I found a whole slew of them and put them into a freelance folder in my bookmarks.
I even looked on Craigslist! A lot of people will say stay away from there, but it's where I found my niche as a freelance writer and one of my biggest paying and ongoing assignments.
I also sent out letters of interest to companies I had worked for and companies I was interested in. I told them I was offering writing, editing, and proofreading services. Simple emails that introduced who I was and what I hoped to do for them.
One such email was to a local magazine. All I wrote was (excluding contact information):
If Natural Awakenings is in need of a freelance writer, I would love the opportunity to write for the publication. Please let me know what the submission requirements are.
I'd be more than happy to work on assignment and have included a link to my portfolio to give you an idea of my voice and style.
Please let me know if you have any questions, and I look forward to discussing ideas and possibilities with you!
Some emails were more involved and explained in more detail my qualifications. Here's another one that got me assignments:
Hi Ms. Barker,
If Ballet San Antonio is in need of an intern or freelance writer/editor, I would be more than honored to offer my time and skills.
I currently work for Trinity University, but have recently made a personal decision to become a solopreneur as of August 3nd. I am looking for opportunities to serve the San Antonio creative community; I can help with and have experience in advertising/marketing, writing/editing/proofreading, social media management, and administrative tasks. I've also been a dancer for 10 + years and am over the moon for the dance community.
I would be happy to send you work experience and/or clips of my writing. My schedule will be much more flexible come August 3rd and I would be happy to meet with you about internships or freelance projects. If you'd like to meet before August 3rd I am off on Fridays.
The thing I always try to include in my letters of interest and proposals is the human element. And I always, always tailor the letter to the specific person or organization I'm interested in working with. No copying and pasting the same stuff! It sounds rehearsed and boring, and the person on the other end will be able to see right through it.
It's a Numbers Game
I sent out A LOT of emails and only got a handful of responses. That's just the way it is. The more you send out, the more opportunities you'll have. Just like with resumes and job hunting.
You have to keep knocking on those doors. A lot of people won't answer. Some will shut the door in your face. But keep on knocking and sooner or later someone will answer and invite you in.
I love what Linda Formichelli says about rejection:
"So how can you get over the idea of rejection? Here's the thing: Rejection isn't about you. If your idea or writing are rejected by a prospect or editor, it's a simple business decision: Your offering was not right for the prospect at this time."
I did some free work at first. I wrote blog posts and press releases for a non-profit and proofread magazine articles. I knew offering my services for free to those certain people would bring me more experience and pay off later.
You just have to follow your intuition. Don't let people walk all over you, but don't turn down opportunities to help if you know it will help you in return.
Find Your Niche
A lot of freelance books and websites will tell you that you ought to find a niche, and they're right. I've found that it's much easier to score jobs now that I have a specialized field.
I found a job writing for a local wedding magazine on Craigslist. I had never written about weddings before, but I thought it couldn't hurt to apply.
I got the job and found out I love writing about weddings!
I wrote a few articles for the magazine, which in turn gave me clips to put in my portfolio, which in turn got me more jobs in the wedding industry.
I continue to blog about real life weddings, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, wedding inspiration, fashion and trends.
Build a Portfolio
It's nice to have a place to direct potential clients to where they can see samples of your writing, work history, and read more about you.
Mine's hosted on Weebly (just like this blog) and I update it every few months to make sure people are getting the correct information.
I have links to writing samples, a writing resume, and my professional resume, which is basically my "day job" resume.
Take a look.
Job Boards & Freelance Websites
Here are some places I frequent and that might be of help to you:
Women on Writing Job Board
Blogging Pro Job Board
Problogger Job Board
Make a Living Writing
I was serious about freelance writing that morning I turned on my computer and claimed the writing life. If you're serious about it too, just know that persistence and patience pay off. Keep knocking on those doors. But more importantly, keep writing!
Questions, comments? Bring em on! I'd love to help you on your own journey. And if you think someone else can benefit from this post, please pass it on. :)