Ask the Expat Freelancer: Starting Out, Finding Gigs

March 16, 2011

in blogging, writing

I’m very interested in starting to freelance, but the truth is I have no idea where to start. I’m an American living in Spain FYI. What would you recommend to someone starting out? What resources do you use to find freelance projects? Anything helps! Many thanks!

Christine

Question #1: Pitch the heck out of every site and publication that meets your standards. It’s the basic law of numbers — the more people you contact, the better your chances are that one in the bunch will say “yes.” Think of local Spanish stories that may be of interest to an American audience. Likewise, think of stories from the States onto which you can tack a Spanish angle.

Check out Mediabistro’s “How to Pitch” section, which has names and emails of editors at some of the top publications and web sites. In addition, it gives you suggestions on what the pub is looking for, how to craft your pitch and what not to pitch. You previously had to sign up for a paid year-long AvantGuild membership to get access to this feature, but I haven’t renewed mine and still can see this info. If you don’t have a specific idea for a site or publication, try sending an introductory email. I’ve actually gotten several jobs “cold emailing” in this way, including a recent gig with AOL Travel News.

Another tip for starting out is to be flexible. You’re not going to jump for joy at everything you write about. You may have to write about dry topics or subject matter of which you have little knowledge. Not only will doing this kind of work get you a paycheck, but it will let you increase your versatility, a big-time asset for any freelancer. Plus, you might actually find that you like writing about an area you never considered before.

Question #2: The sites I’ve found most useful for getting projects are Freelancewritinggigs.com and JournalismJobs.com, both of which have US and international listings. Mediabistro also has a full-time and freelance job section. This feature is free, but you have to sign up with the site.

Freelancewritinggigs.com is tops because it provides freelance jobs mined from job posting sites most days of the week. It’s basically a one-stop shop. Some of these jobs require residency in a given area, but most are remote. The site also splits the job listings into categories like travel writing, technical writing, general, and so on.

8 Comments - Add Yours!

    1. Lauren Post author

      I don’t think you’re “the worst.” 🙂 It definitely takes time, and pitching is frustrating as heck. I liken it to applying for jobs and the awfulness of writing a cover letter, often only to have your efforts met with the sound of crickets chirping. But I think once you get in the pattern of pitching in a regular and consistent manner, it becomes easier. And the more your write for decent places, the more other places take notice and take you on without putting you through the ringer.

      Reply
  1. Christine

    This is so wonderful Lauren, thank you! I really appreciate you taking the time out to answer my question. I feel much more on the right path now 🙂 Cheers!

    Reply
  2. Abby

    After years of freelancing, I am still the laziest person ever at pitching. But now that I’m an editor again, I can honestly say that the writers who pitch the most, get the work. A) they’re on my mind b) I can see they really want the work and c) hello, good ideas on their end mean less work for me!! Good luck getting those freelance gigs!!

    Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      Hey, Abby! It’s interesting you have both perspectives — that would probably make a good post to say what you look for as an editor.

      Reply
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