3 Simple Steps To Securing Your First Paid Freelance Writing Job

A man holding a fanned out amount of money

When you get your first paid freelance writing gig, you’ll feel as though you’ve hit the jackpot

I’ve been here at GetPaidToWriteOnline.com for over two years now and I like to think the content I’ve produced has been of use to at least some writers.

When I’ve been looking back through the content, however, I’ve noticed that a lot is aimed at writers who are already on the first rung of the ladder. They might not have been writing long, but they’re earning at least a couple of dollars for their efforts.

So today, I want to go right back to basics. Before you start looking to raise your prices and before you start questioning whether you should be writing for x amount of money or not.  What I want to do is give an insight into securing your very first paid freelance writing gig, something that I feel can be accomplished in three steps.

1. Know which gigs to apply for

Although you might not think it when you first start looking for freelance writing gigs, there are literally hundreds available on a regular basis.

However, just because there are so many gigs available, that doesn’t mean they’re all going to be suitable and you need to be able to distinguish which are the ones you need to apply for.

One of the most common mistakes seen with new writers here is that they’re applying for jobs above their level of experience – a $100 blog post might be appealing, but you could be applying for 50 of these and not get one, as chances are the client is looking for someone with considerable experience if they’re paying $100.

I’m not saying you need to only be applying for $5 gigs, but you need to understand that there is a certain hierarchy, just as there is in any salaried position – you might have enjoyed cooking at home for years, but you wouldn’t expect to jump straight into a Head Chef’s role if you started looking for jobs in the catering industry.

2. Nail the covering / query letter

When I first started writing, my covering letters sucked. I had a habit of making them too formal, too casual or consisting of too much or too little information. It was no real wonder that most of my work came from referrals rather than gigs I applied for!

Over the years I’ve developed my cover / query letter writing, mainly because I realised that if I could get a foot in the door and have the client at least getting back in touch with me after reading my letter, I could probably sell myself and get them to hire me.

Your covering / query letters need to be concise and to the point, but they also need to have enough information in them to give the reader a good idea of who you are.  They need to address the gig that’s on offer and explain (briefly) why you’d be a perfect choice for it.

You need to give samples of your work (discussed below) and you need to make it easy to get in touch with you – an e-mail address is good, but it’s always advisable to include your cell phone number, too.

The one final point to make here is that you need to understand your covering letters will change regularly. Not just in the sense that they need to be tailored to the individual project, but that the more gigs you apply for, the more you’ll realise what does and doesn’t work – there’s no set winning formula and a lot of it is based on trial and error.

3. Be able to show off your work

Every writer should have a portfolio of work they can show potential clients, but it can be difficult to have one if you’re a completely new writer.

Something that divides experienced writers, I’d strongly recommend that if you’re looking to develop a portfolio, you carry out some free work/

Contact some local companies and ask if you can write a press release. Speak to a few SEO agencies and see if you can produce a few blog posts or articles. Get in touch with some small businesses and ask if you can produce some type of content for them.

Today, businesses really do understand the importance of quality content and they know that they have to pay well for it. Therefore, contact a company and say you’ll produce something for free and you’re almost guaranteed to get a bite at some point.  Plus, you never know what it might lead to – I started producing five articles for an SEO agency and a year later I was their sole copywriter, handling over 50,000 words worth of content every month.

And if you can’t get any free gigs, invest the time in your own blog. It might not show your entire skillset to a client, but a regularly updated blog will allow you to showcase your writing style and give a potential client an idea of what you could produce.

Getting your first paid freelance writing gig is one of the best feelings in the world, but without the right knowledge, you could spend an age finding it.

By following these three tips, I’m not saying you’ll find your first paying gig immediately, but I guarantee you’ll soon see the results you’re looking for.

About Dan Smith

Dan Smith is a seasoned freelance writer, currently working as the SEO Specialist for digital media agency Zine.  With a strong focus on developing strategies that are based heavily on high quality content, Dan always has one eye on the customer experience and has a distinct (dis)ability of being unable to say no.


  1. Excellent advice for anyone hoping to get their foot in the door of the freelance writing market! Everyone has to start somewhere – and “somewhere” usually means at the very bottom of the pay scale. I like the idea of using each job – paid or not – as an opportunity to add another bit of work to your portfolio. The ever-evolving cover letter is a great idea, too. Thanks!