Trust me, I’ve been there…
Figuring out how to become a freelance writer with no experience is NOT an easy feat.
You know you’re capable of handling writing projects, but how do you prove that to potential clients?
After all, they don’t want to waste money on a noob without a proven track record. Nobody wants to be your guinea pig.
…but how can you prove your track record if nobody will hire you in the first place??
It’s the chicken-and-egg conundrum we’ve all faced as new freelancers.
But it doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems.
In fact, after spending the last year coaching aspiring freelance writers on how to nab their first entry-level writing jobs, I pretty much have it down to a science.
So if you’re trying to figure out how to get into freelance writing with no experience, you’re in the right place.
In this guide, not only will I show you exactly how to land your first gig in 3 simple steps, but I’ll also give you free scripts and fill-in-the-blank templates to make it even easier.
Maybe you’re looking to supplement your income with online writing jobs for beginners.
Maybe you want to eventually make freelance writing your full-time thing.
Or maybe you’re like me and just want the perfect travel job that lets you earn money from anywhere…
Whatever your goals are, here’s exactly how to get started.
Let’s dive in!
Step #1.) Look in the RIGHT Places
One of the biggest obstacles newbie freelancers have is figuring out where to hunt for jobs.
There are SO. MANY. OPTIONS.
Which places are the best? Which ones are a waste of time?
The answer is…
There’s no one “right way” to do it. People have success with every strategy I’m about to list.
There are two places I’ve found that, in my experience, are WAY easier to get you foot in the door (that I barely ever see people talking about).
Before we get to those, let’s start with where most people look for beginner writing gigs.
The Most Popular Places to Find Entry-Level Freelance Writing Jobs
Most new freelance writers try to land their first gig on freelance job boards.
It’s common sense, right?
That’s where clients go to hire freelancers, so most assume this is where the greatest opportunity lies.
I’m not saying to ignore these places. I even found some of my first jobs on these sites…
But just remember, while you might get lucky on these popular freelancing sites, popular is not always better.
Let’s take a look at some potential options…
Every freelance writer has their opinion about UpWork. The truth is, while some people make a good living freelance writing on Upwork, they are the small minority. Everyone else is left to squabble for the scraps.
It’s not impossible to land entry-level writing jobs on UpWork, but you’ll likely be competing with a sea of other freelancers. And if you don’t have any experience or Upwork ratings, it’s tough to stand out (you’d have to nail your pitch…which we’ll get to in a second).
Just remember—clients who pay rock bottom prices are usually MAJOR headaches to work with.
While this is one way to become a content writer with no experience, it’s usually not the best way.
ProBlogger Job Board
The ProBlogger Job Board is a step up from Upwork. It costs $70+ to post a job, so it attracts slightly higher quality clients.
That also means each job posting normally gets stampeded with applicants.
To stand a chance on ProBlogger, you’ll want to sign up for job alerts and try to be one of the first people to apply.
BloggingPro Job Board
BloggingPro is very similar to the ProBlogger Job Board (but only costs $30 to post jobs, so a lower barrier to entry).
Like ProBlogger, these job listings usually get tons of applicants, so you’ll want to sign up for their newsletter (or better yet, check the site daily) to be one of the first people to apply.
That said, if you have zero experience, you’ll have to send an absolutely killer pitch in order to stand out.
Indeed, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, Monster
These are the “big four” job search sites. If you play around with the filters, you should be able to widdle them down to positions that fit your criteria.
The problem is, you have to sort through piles of crap to find the good stuff.
Outdated listings, bad match listings, listings with confusing descriptions…
Sometimes you’ll find straight up scams.
It is possible to find good opportunities here, but unless you want to spend all day scouring hundreds of listings, there’s a better way…
FlexJobs is a paid job site focused on, you guessed it, flexible jobs—both freelance and remote work, full-time and part-time.
You might wonder why you’d pay to see job listings when you can just go to the job sites above for free. The answer is time.
Their team sifts through all the junk job listings posted on job boards so you don’t have to. Every job listing on FlexJobs gets thoroughly vetted.
Plus, if you think about it, it’s actually a pretty good deal. You basically pay $14.95 and either (1) you land a job within 30 days, or (2) you can request a full refund.
Dynamite Jobs is where I found one of my first writing gigs as a beginner. They’re more focused on remote work opportunities than freelancing, but they have both.
I recommend signing up for their free newsletter to get regular emails with remote job postings that fit your criteria.
And remember—when you’re just getting started, be flexible with the writing work you take on.
The first gig I landed on Dynamite Jobs was writing podcast shownotes and social media posts. Later, I used that writing experience to “graduate” to other types of writing jobs.
The EASIER Way to Land Writing Jobs for Beginners
All of the job sites above have one thing in common…
There’s TONS of competition.
It’s where everyone looks to snatch up beginner freelance writing gigs. When hundreds of freelancers are all fishing for clients in the same “job pond”, not only are the odds stacked against you, but the pay gets driven down.
There will always be someone else willing to do the same work for less.
That’s why smart freelancers simply hop over to another pond where no other freelancers are fishin’!
How to Fish at the Secret Freelance Client Pond
So here’s the thing…
There are loads of companies out there with basically UNLIMITED amounts of writing work and practically ZERO competition from other writers.
The only catch is, they usually don’t post on job boards (hence the lack of competition), so you have to hunt them down yourself.
These companies are called digital marketing agencies.
Digital marketing agencies are GOLDMINES for new freelance writers.
Think about it…
If an agency is taking care of digital marketing for 20 different companies, that means they’re pumping out a BUTTLOAD of content.
Most agencies already have a team of writers, but as they grow (or their writers leave), they won’t be able to keep up with the demand.
That’s where you come in.
There are agencies out there right now struggling to keep up with their writing projects who would LOVE to have your help.
You just have to find them.
If you introduce yourself at the right time and show you are a decent writer, you’re in.
No competition. No fighting for scraps. No annoying clients who don’t know how to treat freelancers.
This is how I got my very first writing jobs…and I break down exactly how to do it—including where to find these agencies, how to introduce yourself, and how to prove you know what you’re doing (even if you’ve never been paid to write before)—in this free email course:
Now, you probably won’t get rich working with agencies, but odds are you’ll make a heckuvalot more than duking it out on freelance job boards.
Plus, since agencies work with many different types of clients, you’ll build up a hefty freelance writing portfolio lickety split.
Then once you have some experience under your belt, you can graduate to bigger and better things (which we’ll get to in a minute).
That said, agencies aren’t the ONLY place to find entry-level writing gigs. The other place is so obvious, you’ll smack yourself for not thinking of it earlier…
Hidden-In-Plain-Site Freelance Opportunities That Don’t Require Experience
Let’s talk about the real reason potential clients ask about your experience or want to see your freelancing portfolio…
They don’t actually care about the portfolio itself.
All they’re looking for is evidence that hiring you won’t be a mistake.
Chances are they’ve been burned by a ditzy freelancer before, and they want proof it won’t happen again.
But wait a second.
If showing experience is all about building trust…why not just have your first clients be people who ALREADY trust you?
You know, people who already know you’re a smart cookie.
People who don’t need to see a fancy portfolio to take a chance on you.
People in your existing network.
Now, you might be thinking, “I barely have any friends, let alone someone who needs help with writing projects!”
To that I’d say, I bet you know more people than you think…
- Sport groups
- Gym buddies
- Club members
- Past employers
- Family members
- Work colleagues
- Church members
- University friends
- Favorite professors
- Local businesses you frequently use
If they know your name and recognize your face, it’ll be easier to gain their trust.
And you’re not just limited to the people YOU know. When you reach out to your network, you can also tap into all the people THEY know as well.
Maybe your mechanic has a cousin who runs a successful eCommerce store. If he recommends your services to his cousin, that referral essentially bypasses the whole trust issue.
You’ll never know until you ask.
By tapping into the contacts of your contacts, it’s almost impossible not to find someone willing to take a chance on you.
This is THE easiest way to land work without experience.
So, before starting an application spree on job boards or shooting out hundreds of cold emails to agencies, take a second to reach out to the people you already know.
One easy way to do this is with a simple post on your Facebook page (bonus points if you add an appropriate, eye-catching image of yourself):
I’ve seen this work a lot. There’s only one problem.
When you make a public post, it’s easy for people to ignore.
A personalized email on the other hand…now that would be just plain rude to ignore.
Yes, it takes longer to send individual emails. But if you just target those who are most likely to have good connections, it’s time well-spent.
Step #2.) Avoid “Red Flag” Clients Like the Plague
When just starting out, it’s normal to feel a bit desperate and jump on any client willing to take a chance on you.
It’s understandable. But I don’t recommend it.
Sure, you need to be flexible with your first jobs and not expect too much. After all, you gotta start somewhere. And it’s probably not going to be on the top rung of the ladder.
That said, you have to draw the line in the sand somewhere.
Having a horrible experience with your very first clients will destroy your morale and make you want to quit.
Here are some crappy client red flags to look out for to make sure that doesn’t happen.
They want a free test run. If you work, you should get paid. Many noobie freelancers work for free in hopes of impressing their client and landing a long-term gig…only to have the client steal their work and ghost them.
They won’t pay at least 50% up front. This one’s more of a yellow flag. Many new freelancers are scared to ask for money upfront. But requiring a deposit is the norm. Things could go perfectly fine without a deposit, but you’re opening yourself up to risk of non-payment.
They fight you on price. There’s nothing wrong with negotiation. But the clients that fight you too hard on price are almost always the biggest pains in the neck. They won’t value your time and will always try to add in “just one more small task” (AKA scope creep).
They have never hired a freelancer before. Life is hard as a guinea pig. This doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. But expect things to be more complicated than they’d be working for a freelancer-hiring veteran.
They have no clue what they want. If the client seems indecisive and is always changing their mind, you could have a problem. Don’t be surprised if, halfway through your project, they switch things up on you and ask for something else.
They want you available 24/7. Some clients think that if they throw a few bucks at you, that makes you their slave. If they’re calling and messaging you all the time and expect instant responses, run.
You get a sketchy vibe. There are lots of scammy people out there who will happily take advantage of you. It’s sad, but it’s true. If you get any weird vibes from a potential client, you’re probably better off giving them a hard pass.
Basically, just use your best judgement. Your first entry level writing jobs aren’t going to be perfect (mine was getting paid pennies per word to write about blockchain diamond exchanges and conveyor belt powertrain parts).
But after those first gigs, everything gets easier.
Step #3.) Send “Sniper Pitches”
Alright, so you’ve identified some promising potential clients. Now it’s time to wow their panties off with a killer pitch.
The style of your pitch is going to vary depending on the job opportunity.
If you found it on Upwork or a job site, you’ll have specific instructions on what needs to be included.
But since I’m all about those agency writing jobs for beginners, that’s the type of pitch we’ll focus on today.
It’s really not that complicated. Here’s everything you need to know…
The 10 Commandments of Cold Pitches
#1.) Thou shalt keep it short ‘n sweet. You just invaded the inbox of a busy stranger. No life stories. Get to the point.
#2.) Thou shalt not jump the gun on the sale. The goal of the pitch should be to get someone to respond to get more information. Don’t try to close the sale in the first email.
#3.) Thou shalt personalize it. Research the person (and company) you’re emailing. You’re hunting with a sniper here, not a shotgun. Build some rapport. Avoid “fake personalization” templates—you ain’t foolin’ nobody.
#4.) Thou shalt includeth a clear call to action. Tell them exactly what you want them to do (e.g. call your cell phone).
#5.) Thou shalt write like you speaketh. Don’t use big words and technical jargon to try to make yourself look smart. Write as if you were writing to a friend.
#6.) Thou shalt provide proof. You might not have client experience, but that doesn’t mean you can’t whip up a few practice samples and attach them as PDFs
#7.) Thou shalt send it to the right person. Take the time to identify the person in charge of hiring writers (this will depend on the size of the agency), and confirm their email address is correct.
#8.) Thou shalt useth a clear subject line. If your email doesn’t get opened, your work was in vain. Don’t be clever. Brownie points for adding a personal touch. E.g. [NAME], looking for writers? (fellow MSU grad)
#9.) Thou shalt make it about THEM. Nobody cares how much you love to write or what you’re favorite ice cream is (unless it’s the same as theirs). They care about solving their overflow writing problem and avoiding hiring a bad egg.
#10.) Thou shalt not mention you’re a hungry noobie. You don’t have to lie. But you also don’t have to say they will be your first ever client. Remember, the goal is to inspire confidence.
Ahh, and I almost forgot…the most important commandment of all…
Keep following up until they respond.
People are busy and emails get lost. If they are interested in your help, they’ll be happy you kept bugging them.
(And if they’re not interested, they’ll eventually just tell you to piss off…and that’s fine!)
If you want to see some good cold pitch examples (feel free to copy them if you want) as well as ideas for creating your practice samples, sign up for my free 1k freelancing mini course below.
How to “Snowball” to the Next Level
So, you’ve used all the beginner freelance writing tips we’ve gone over and managed to land your first gig…now what?
Now, my friend, is the fun part.
Because you’ve powered through the biggest obstacle—landing a freelance writing job with no experience.
Imagine that first job is a small snowball. Now it’s time to roll it around until you’ve got yourself a giant, indestructible freelancing boulder.
There’s three ways to build your boulder. And they all have one pre-requisite:
You must impress the daylights out of those first clients.
When you’re getting paid scraps, it’s tempting to rush through your work. But that’s a mistake.
If you exceed your client’s expectations, finding your next job becomes much, much easier…
Boulder-Builder #1.) Propose New Projects
It’s WAY easier to squeeze out extra work from a current client than it is to land a whole new client.
Poke around your clients business and look for opportunities to help.
Does their blog look stale?
Do they need an email newsletter?
Someone to take care of social media?
Once you prove yourself valuable, your client will be more open to additional projects.
Boulder-Builder #2.) Ask for Referrals
There’s a good chance your client has connections with other businesses who could use your help.
One of my first clients happened to be a top member in an important organization in her industry (life organization). She happily posted my services in their publication, putting my name in front of hundreds of other business owners in her niche.
There’s no need to be shy about asking for referrals, either. Connecting a colleague with a good writer will make your client feel GOOD.
Boulder-Builder #3.) Build Up Testimonials
While add-on projects and referrals are the best ways to snowball, sometimes it just doesn’t work out.
In this case, you can still make sure you get a killer testimonial from your client.
With testimonials, you no longer have to rely on fake writing samples to land clients. You have proof you can get the job done. Add it to your portfolio, and it’ll make landing the next client easier.
Pro Tip: The best way to get powerful testimonials is to ask your client if YOU can write the testimonial yourself. Then just get their approval.
Freelance Writing Growth on Steriods
Everything we went over today works.
If you’re a half-way decent writer and put in the time, you will find success sooner or later.
The problem is, it requires patience. Building a freelance writing business from scratch doesn’t happen overnight. (And anyone who tells you it does is selling smoke).
But I’m going to let you in on a little secret…
There are some shortcuts that’ll help you skip a few “rungs in the ladder”.
One of these shortcuts is the CMC Course.
And before you roll your eyes at the idea of another course…it’s not what you think.
This is a certification program that, once certified, gives you access to a pool of “big fish” clients.
The ones that pay their writers big bucks without blinking an eye.
The ones that are near impossible to gain access to without some kind of personal connection.
In fact, the CMC course GUARANTEES you land a high-paying client within 60 days of certification. (Which, if you think about it, is a pretty crazy guarantee).
The trick is actually getting certified.
The training is designed to transform you into the top 5% of writers online. When you pass the exam (which is NOT easy), you will be a “top rung writer” with the confidence to charge “top rung prices”.
So, as I said—it’s still hard work, but it’ll get you where you want to go faster.
Anywho, if you’re a “go big or go home” type of person like me (i.e. someone not keen on starting from the bottom at drive-thru worker wages), it’ll be right up your alley.
The best part is, you can get a taste of what it’s like with this free six-figure freelancer mini-course.
(Disclaimer: While this course is free, I’ll earn a commission if you decide to buy something down the road. I have personally reviewed the course and—realizing how huge of a shortcut is—thought it would be a disservice not to share it with you. Check out my full Smart Blogger Content Marketing Certification review for more details).
Once you master the art of landing high-paying clients, it’ll up new income options for you as well. For example, if you don’t want your income to be tied to your time, you could transition into a drop servicing business where you find high-paying projects, then outsource them to other freelancers farther down “the ladder”.
Whatever you choose to do, you’ll find that writing becomes much more enjoyable when you’re playing in the big leagues.
Cheatsheet to Scoring Entry-Level Writing Jobs Online
STEP #1.) KNOW WHERE TO LOOK. There’s nothing wrong with using Upwork and job boards, but it’ll be hard to compete with hoards of other freelancers if you don’t have any experience. A better option is to start by tapping into your current network and reaching out to agencies.
STEP #2.) AVOID RED FLAG CLIENTS. It’s easy to get burned by a client when you’re just starting out. Make sure to keep an eye out for any [JUMP LINK TO SECTION: red flags].
STEP #3.) SEND SNIPER PITCHES. If you don’t have experience working with other clients, use other credibility boosters instead. This could be as simple as writing a few practice samples or crafting a killer cold email. But whichever method you choose, don’t forget to personalize your outreach!
BONUS: LEVEL UP WITH THE “SNOWBALL EFFECT”. Don’t let any client relationships go to waste. Turn one-time projects into ongoing work. Ask for referrals. And build a base of strong testimonials and results.
Mitch is your typical nomadic backpacker. Or at least, he was. But after stopping in Colombia to take “one week” of salsa lessons, his life took a sharp left turn. He met a cute Colombian girl in dance class, fell in love, and got married. Over half a decade has passed since he left his career to travel the world as a digital nomad, and he’s never looked back.
Nowadays, he’s the blogger behind Project Untethered—where he runs an awesome email newsletter and Youtube channel teaching adventure-craved wanderlusters how to escape the rat race, earn money from anywhere, and build an “untethered life”.
Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills.
Booking.com - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Skyscanner - Find cheap flights.
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Anytime Mailbox - Virtual mail service that can handle your mail while you’re away.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).