Freelance Friday: How to Find Freelance Work
Sharing my personal experience with finding freelance opportunities, and the strategies I use to keep building my portfolio.
On Instagram the other day, I asked my followers if they would potentially be interested in reading about freelance stuff, be it how to make money online, how to find work, how freelancing even works, etc. Well, the people have spoken…and they are very interested. And they have many questions, which is great!
So I decided to start a “Freelance Friday” series on my blog to house all of the answers to all of the questions I received. These posts will be super informal- my goal is to write more or less in a stream of consciousness style to make them feel a little more personal, like I’m answering these questions over coffee with a friend instead of writing for the masses.
I’m also going to preface starting this series by saying that I’m still pretty new to the world of freelancing myself. I still have a full-time office job that is my primary source of income, and I’m still very much learning as I go- I just figured that if I can share the things I’m learning as I learn them, maybe they can help others, provide inspiration, or even just start a conversation about the ambiguous world of freelancing.
If these provide value to you, please let me know! Alternatively, if they don’t- let me know that, too! Like I said, I honestly may not have all of the answers to everything right now, but I’m happy to talk anything through and answer any follow up questions as they come up.
Alright! Now that that’s out of the way- I’m tackling one of the first few questions I typically always get asked when people hear that I freelance:
Where do you find freelance jobs?
And to follow up with that...
Once you find freelance work, do you reach out to them, or wait for them to reach out to you first?
So, the short answer to this is: I find freelance work in a lot of ways. There’s plenty of opportunities available out there, but you need to be a bit strategic and resourceful to find them. I currently go about this in a few ways:
1- Find blogs and online publications within your niche. If you haven’t already noticed, you can pretty much find a blog out there that focuses on just about any niche you could think of. Whether it be travel, parenting, marketing, fashion- it’s probably somewhere on the Interwebs, waiting for you to contribute your expertise to.
I (try to) regularly read blogs online that relate to what I’m interested in, so I had a few in mind that I already knew I wanted to pitch to, but if you don’t, a quick Google search will probably do the trick. Once I find a blog that I like and think “hey, it would be cool to write for them,” I scroll down to the waaaay bottom of the home page of their site. Typically, there will be some type of footer navigation, including a link to their Contact page. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and they’ll have a page called “Contribute” or “Submission Guidelines” or something along those lines, and you’d find all of their requirements for contributing writers there. Follow them accordingly from there!
I know this example is catered to writers, sorry friends that do graphic design/photography or other services! I’ll have more stuff that’s relevant to you in a minute.
If they don’t have a page laying all of this information out already, that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t accept submissions or aren’t looking for freelancers. I would still use their Contact page to grab their informational email (sometimes you can find the editor’s direct email, sometimes not), and simply shoot them an email asking if they are currently accepting freelance writers/freelance story submissions/freelance photographers/designers...you get the point. They might ghost you from there, OR they could answer you and it could be the start of a beautiful working relationship.
Important Tip: When shooting over an email that’s just asking if they accept story submissions, I typically try to keep it pretty simple, and that’s strategically for a reason:
If you’re purposefully a bit vague- i.e., saying something along the lines of “I have a few story ideas I’d love to share if you’re interested!” is much more compelling vs. writing a novel about who you are, your background, your expertise, etc. etc. etc., It’s not that you’re not interesting (because you are), they’re probably just busy AF, and don’t want to sift through an email that’s a page long (or longer) if it might not be worth their time. Think about it: Would you want to read an email that long? Probs not.
Similarly, don’t give all of your ideas away right off the bat until you’ve hooked them, or you know they’re at least somewhat interested. They’ll be more intrigued and more inclined to write you back. They want that hot content, and new ideas, so they will want to hear what you have to say!
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Side note: The idea with this strategy is that you do already have story ideas that would potentially work for this particular publication, and you’re not just lying to bait them into answering you, lol. Make sure you research and familiarize yourself with the blog/publication/website before sending a pitch. It will absolutely show if you’re just making shit up out of nowhere, and if they feel like you don’t really line up with what they’re looking for, you can bet that they’ll almost automatically ghost you.
(I’m planning to do a whole post on pitching, how to pitch, putting yourself out there when it’s hard, etc. etc. so hang tight for that!)
Regardless, once you get an email back from whoever you reached out to, it would then be your responsibility to continue the conversation from there. Make sense?
2- Use LinkedIn as a search engine. What happens when you type in “freelance writer in Buffalo, NY” (substitute writer for designer/social media/whatever skill you’re looking to freelance) in the LinkedIn search bar? You’ll get results back with people who have these words/locations in their profile! Other professionals working in the same field as you, or in the field you want to work in! Ding ding ding!
You call it stalking someone’s online presence, I call it being resourceful. Lol.
I’ve used this to find common publications that people in my area write for, which gives me ideas on who I should be pitching. Or, you could even use this just for an idea of what career paths other freelancers are taking. Do they have a full-time job? Are they full-time freelance? How long have they been freelancing? Things like that.
You can also use LinkedIn to find jobs that are ongoing/contract freelance positions by switching to the jobs tab at the top of the search results page- then just read the descriptions that interest you and contact their recruiter/HR department from there, or use whatever link they provide to apply for that job.
3- Networking...But Make it Online
So, we all know that networking is a really solid way to foster new connections and build relationships. But we all also know that networking is freaking intimidating. At least if you’re an introvert like me.
I’m not saying that anything should replace networking at all, but becoming a member of Facebook groups has helped me find a few opportunities locally. If you’re local to Buffalo like me, I’d highly recommend joining the Buffalo Blogging Network Facebook group- people will post opportunities here and there for bloggers, photographers, web designers, etc. etc. Then you can just comment on what you’re interested in!
Jumping off of that, national Facebook groups sometimes have viable opportunities. You sort of have to weed through the spammy/bullshit posts with these, but I actually have found one that got me a paid blog post before (and it was working with someone I had already worked with in the past, so it worked out perfectly). I’m personally a part of a few “blogger opportunities” related Facebook groups, some related specifically to travel bloggers, and one that’s just for freelance writers.
4- Instagram Hashtags
One time last year, a coordinator that matches bloggers with companies looking to hire bloggers found me because I used the #BuffaloBlogger hashtag on Instagram. In the interest of being completely transparent, this has only worked for me, like I said, one time. But I made money off of that one time, so it’s getting added to the list!
If you have a good social media presence/following, this could definitely be a viable option for you. Just insert your own city name in front of “blogger,” or do some hashtag research that’s specific to your area to see which hashtags will give you some extra traffic.
Okay! I think that’s it!
It’s certainly not easy to figure out how to get started as a freelance writer, photographer, designer, what have you- which is why I’m all about trying to support upcoming local creatives as best I can with what I have. Hopefully this was somewhat helpful and you can start incorporating some of these ideas into your strategy right away!
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Would love to hear from you if you have questions, or if you’re a fellow freelancer and have found a way to discover new opportunities that I didn’t cover. Leave a comment below, shoot me an email, or DM me on Instagram!