Episode 6: Landing Your First Paid Writing Gig
In episode 6, I tell you how to get your first paid writing gig for your freelance career. I cover why you should never work for free and how to get around not having a portfolio.
You can listen to the episode right here. The transcription is below the player. Feel free to add your comments using the comment section below.
Episode 6 Transcript
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00:00 [JT Pledger] Welcome to Freebie Friday! This is episode number 6. Today I’ll be speaking mainly to the freelance writers, but I want to tell you a few methods of securing your first gig (paid, of course). So stick around, we’ll talk about that!
00:41 [JT] So, you’ve decided to become a writer. Check. You’ve created a cool name for your website. Check. You’ve secured the domain name and the web hosting [Affiliate Link]. Check. You’ve made your landing page or contact page and you’ve started all your social media campaigns and you’ve even secured your favorite writing software. All checks. But now you sit there and you have no responses. No emails coming in. No clients begging for you to work for them.
01:29 So you go online and you ask for help. “How do I get a client?” And you’re probably met with the standard response of “work for free,” “ask your friends,” “make up your own stuff.”
I Don’t Like Working For Free
01:48 Now, I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t like to work for free. I don’t mind helping a friend out every now and then, helping them move a couch, or taking them to and from the store. But I don’t want to work for free. So how do we get paid, with no portfolio, no testimonials, no real-world experience?
02:23 It’s hard and I’m not gonna lie to you. But, I want you to think about your very first job.
02:32 Go back to your very first job you ever had. Maybe it was fast food or working in the retail industry or being a waiter. The first week that you were on the job it wasn’t very fun and it wasn’t very easy, was it? I mean you have orientation to sit through, all those boring videos. You didn’t know anybody. You didn’t know what order to put the condiments on. Maybe you didn’t know where to find the box of extra hangers. But you showed up, you clocked in, you did what was asked of you and you got paid for it.
03:16 It’s the same thing with freelance writing. Just because you don’t know all the tricks yet doesn’t mean you need to work for free. But you won’t command premium prices, either. So, how do we get gigs?
Let’s Land a Writing Gig
03:36 Well, the first thing you need to understand is…the key here is, getting your experience. Getting your words under your belt. Getting the knowledge that comes with a freelance writing career. Maybe you want to be a marketing copywriter making ads for companies. But you still need to write words. And are you gonna pass up $100? Just because somebody wants you to write a blog post about dog food instead of coming up with an ad for a billboard? No, you’re not. Just like the fast-food job, there are steps. There’s instructions. There’s a process. And if you aren’t writing for your dream client, as long as you’re writing, you’re still getting all these valuable lessons that you need to become better.
04:40 You’re gonna learn about deadlines. You’re gonna learn about client contacts. Maybe they want email or Skype or Facebook messenger. You’re gonna learn how to do edits and what’s expected of them and uploads, formatting, Google Docs, on and on and on Scooby-Do-Be-Doo. All these things that you need to know to be a professional, elite, freelance writer; you learn by writing. But you might as well be paid for it while you’re learning.
Step 1 For Landing a Gig
05:24 So, let’s go through the steps here. Step One: check your pride and accept the job.
05:35 I don’t care what the job is. If it’s gonna pay you money, it’s gonna teach you writing and valuable lessons that I mentioned earlier. Take the job. You…you have to remember that as of right now, if you’re just starting out, you are a nobody. In the grand scheme of things you’re a nobody.
Step 2 For Landing a Gig
06:00 And that’s Step Two: understand that nobody knows who you are.
06:06 They’re not searching for you. They’re not coming to your website, they’re not filling out your contact form. They don’t know who you are. So you have to go to them, and where are they? Well, they’re all over the place, really. But, there’s concentrated places that these groups of people, that will hire you and pay you to write for them, are located.
Where Are They?
06:37 And one of the biggest spots is in Facebook groups. So you want to go there. They’re on LinkedIn. You want to go there. They’re on all the social medias. Go there. They write their own blogs. Go there.
06:57 When you’re in these Facebook groups, and I’ll tell you right now Facebook groups are one of the biggest factors for getting yourself out there, making yourself known, and getting these people to hire you. When you’re in these Facebook groups. You want to join copywriting groups, writing groups, job board groups.
07:19 But don’t just be a lurker. Don’t sit around and watch and wait for somebody to say, “I’m looking for a writer!” And then send them a message. You want to put your name out there. You want to put your little avatar, your profile picture, put it out there. Make people remember who you are.
07:36 And you do this by interacting. And one of the biggest things you can do is to answer questions. And in all these groups, there’s gonna be questions posted by people that are just starting out. Just like you. They don’t know what to do. Answer those questions. And if you don’t know the answer, guess what?
08:02 Google knows the answer, therefore you know the answer. But don’t just put a little one-word answer out there, or a one-sentence answer. Really give an honest, valuable answer, and then post your own messages.
08:20 You don’t have to ask questions, you can, but you want to give value to these groups. You want to provide some little lesson and you want to be active, constantly, daily. Let people know that you’re there and you know what you’re talking about.
08:42 Once this happens, you’re gonna start noticing that people will start liking and commenting on your comments. And on your posts. And this is where word-of-mouth begins, and the same thing goes for the blogs.
It Works With Blogs, Too
08:55 I mentioned the blogs earlier. When you go there, leave a comment but make it a well-written, valuable comment. And this kind of thing is gonna lead to word-of-mouth. And you’re gonna hear a lot of times people telling you when you first start out, the ones that tell you to work for free. They’re gonna tell you to go to your friends and family. And if you have friends and family that have stuff that need to be written, that’s good. But, I’m gonna tell you there’s a lot of us out there that don’t. I don’t. None of my family does anything with writing. I’m about the only one and I have quite a large family.
09:35 It’s not often that there’s a family of writers or business people that need stuff written for them. If you’re in that group, you’re lucky. Ask them, but ask them to pay you, as well. But, word-of-mouth is big.
I Have a Story
09:52 I’ll give you an example. I went out one weekend, listened to some live music. And I’ve always wanted to learn how to play a musical instrument. I don’t know how to play any. I can’t even play the kazoo. But, (laughs) I’m sitting down, I’m having a couple beers and the lead singer of the band comes over and he sits next to me. And we start talking and I told him, I said, “Man, I love your music and all this, you know, and I love watching you play. I’ve always wanted to learn how to play, you know, the guitar.” I said, “I have one, I bought one, and I’m trying to teach myself, but I don’t know how.”
10:35 And, of course, he asked me what I do. I told him I’m a writer. And as we explained what I write he asked me, “Do you know how to write songs?” Well, I don’t know how to write songs. I’ve never written songs, but I have written poems, and songs are a form of poems just with music put on them. So, I told him, of course, I do! So he made a deal with me.
11:06 I would help him write songs for their new album in exchange for lessons on the guitar. Now, it’s not money, but it is still a form of payment. And you can do the same thing. These kinds of opportunities crop up in the least expected and random places.
11:31 So don’t be afraid to tell people that you are a writer and then explain it. Tell them what you do.
Step 3 For Landing a Writing Gig
11:39 So, we move in then, we’re on the groups, we’re talking about our stuff to anybody that will listen. We’re providing value and we move to Step Three: actually applying for jobs.
11:51 And to do this, you need to go to a job board. And there’s thousands of them out there and some of them will cost money, and “join up and prove yourself, and write a little 500-word thing and, if it’s good enough, we’ll let you see the job board.” Don’t fall for those. Don’t go for those. You don’t need to spend any money.
12:15 When I first started out, I thought you did and I went to these and I joined and I got approved. And…and I found out that the same ads in these groups that I had to pay money to join, were the same ads on the job boards that are available for free.
Write This Down…
12:30 So I’m gonna give you one job board right here: problogger.com. They have a job board, and of course, by the name you know it’s mostly gonna be blogs and articles. But they pay you. It’s free to browse. You will have to apply. And when you apply, you’re gonna tell them your name and what you do and they’re gonna ask some questions and you’re gonna answer those questions.
12:56 One of those questions is invariably gonna be “show us examples of your work.” Okay, well I don’t have a portfolio. I don’t have previous works. I’m just starting out. So how do you answer this question?
13:17 First off, you do not tell them that you don’t have previous work. Because, I tell you, nobody wants to work with somebody that’s never done it before. But you don’t have to say that. You don’t have to lie. All you have to do is maintain your professionalism.
Always Be Professional
13:36 So what do I mean by that? What do I mean by “maintain your professionalism?” Well, by doing this, you answer the question in a way that proves you are a professional. You are an expert and you know what you’re talking about. And here’s how I answered it when I first started out.
13:58 “You’re asking me to write blogs for you on your site, where I don’t get a byline. Basically, I’m a ghostwriter and I have no problem with that. However, so are all of my previous clients and in doing so, I turn my work over to them, it becomes theirs. It is no longer mine. So it’s not mine to show anymore. And, I think that since you’re asking me to do the same thing, you would respect that. You don’t want a future client of mine to be pointed to your website and me taking credit behind those words, behind the scenes.”
14:44 And when you word things like this and you put it back on them, “hey! You don’t want me to share your stuff, I’m not gonna share others.” It shows that you’re a professional.
Guess What? You Aren’t Alone
14:58 And I’ll let you in on a little secret. And if you were to go to my freelance writing site, my work site, I don’t have a portfolio either. I’ve been doing this for years now, I make a pretty good living doing it. I don’t have to go straight anymore, but I also don’t have a portfolio, at all; I never have had one.
15:23 So, it…it can be done. You just have to be a professional.
Step 5: You Don’t Need to Point Out Step 4 is Missing (It’s Secret)
15:29 So, now we move to step 5. When you’re applying for these jobs, yes, you can take any job that’s out there. As long as you feel comfortable writing whatever it is they want you to write. But you want to look for the long-term contracts.
15:45 These are the ones that say “we are looking for somebody to write two articles a week, three articles a week, five articles a month…” Whatever it is, ongoing work that’s constant. Because once you get hired you’re gonna have a steady stream of income.
16:02 It might not be the greatest. You might not be able to quit your job unless you line up three or four of them. But. it’s constant money coming in. And, more importantly, it’s that experience and those words under your belt that you need to get better and more confident in your own work.
Step 6 to Landing a Paid Writing Gig
16:19 So once you have a long-term client and we move to Step Six: asking for validation.
16:28 Now, here is when you’ve worked for them for a while. You’ve done several projects. Written several articles, and you go to them and…your client…and you say, “hey, I’ve written for you for two months now I’m wondering if you would please be so kind as to provide me with a testimonial that I could add to my website?” “Would you please go to my Facebook page and put in a recommendation?” “Would you go to my LinkedIn profile and verify me on one of my skills?”
Step 7 is to Complete The Cycle
17:06 Step Seven is to rinse and repeat.
17:10 You go back to the job boards, you go back to your Facebook groups and your social medias and you start all over. And you get more clients. You get more long-term clients, and then you get more testimonials and more recommendations and more skill validations. And from there, you just grow. And eventually, you’ll be confident enough. With enough experience and enough understanding of what it takes to start going after your dream clients. And writing in the…in the niche and the type of copywriting that you want to do.
Now You’re Ready For The Big Time
17:48 Now, you can go after these marketing agencies and say, “I want to write ads for you. I want to write articles for you. I want to do this for you…” You still don’t have a portfolio. No big deal. Most of these people don’t care.
18:07 They want to see an example. “Okay, I’ll do a paid example for you.” So you do it. Same thing with when you first started with the ghostwriting back then, in Step Two. You just do it. You’ll get better and then you can start commanding more and more money.
18:26 So, let’s recap real quick. You have nothing. You’re just starting out. Get on Facebook groups and find relevant blogs. Make comments. Answer questions. Provide value. Get your name out there, start telling people what you do and believe in it. Be the professional. Always maintain your professionalism. Get a long-term client, uhh…get your first paid gig. Get a long-term client. Ask for validation. Do it all over again, and grow.
Go Land a Paid Writing Gig!
19:07 And, I’m gonna leave it right there. Because, I know that every single one of you can go out to the problogger and find one and apply for it and land a gig this week. So do that. And then go to the website ExtraDraft.com, if you haven’t registered for an account on the website, go ahead and do that. Find the Freebie Friday, the podcast page, and there’s a link to the forum for the podcast. Find Episode Six’s board, and tell us how your first gig went.
19:44 Maybe you’ve already had a gig and you did it for free. Tell us about it. Why did you decide to do it for free? If you had to go back and do it for free, would you do it again? Give us your experience. Let us know how it worked out, and let us know where you’re at now.
20:04 And if you haven’t signed up for the newsletter, go ahead and do that. I’ll give you more tips and tricks every week and we’ll see you around the site.
20:13 We’ll see you next week for Episode 7, and until then: write words; have fun.