How NOT to Get a Freelance Writing Job

In the business of freelance writing, it's not enough to be good at writing. You also have to be good at finding work ? and selling yourself when you do. Persuading a new client to let you write for them, rather than one of the hundreds of other writers out there, can be an art in itself. Here's how not to do it?

Don't give any details about yourself.

When you're applying for a new project, whether it be through the jobs board, or in response to a "writers wanted" ad, don't bother giving anything but the most basic of information ? your name, and your price. If you absolutely must give a little bit of detail, just stick to something simple like "I can do this". You're a writer, for god's sake! You don't need to explain yourself! The employer will look at your message and just know that you're the right person for the job ? even although everyone else who applied sent their resume and writing samples, and gave a list of reasons why they'd be perfect for the job.

Why doesn't this approach work? Well, think about it. If you were in the market for a professional service, would you choose the person who provided examples of their work, client testimonials and other relevant information, or would you pick the person who told you nothing but their price? Even if your quote is the lowest, the employer will still want to be assured that you're capable of doing the job: and trust me, employers don't like to have to coax information out of writers. Nor do they need to. In most cases they'll receive quotes from so many well-qualified candidates that they won't need to chase up the ones who didn't bother to give them a reason to employ them.

Don't bother reading the advert properly.

Just stick to one set speil which you can copy and paste onto every application or quote you send. It doesn't matter if your standard speil talks about what a fabulous copywriter you are and the employer is looking for a proofreader. Again, they'll just know that you're also a trained proofreader. Even if you don't bother to tell them.

Why doesn't it work? Well, as soon as the employer realises that you haven't even read their advert properly, you can forget about that proofreading job. Employers like to think that you're paying attention to them and taking them seriously, not just firing off the same stock message to 100 people per day. It's OK to have a stock message, by the way ? but the least you can do is make sure it's relevant to the job you're applying for.

Skip the spellcheck

Obviously you wouldn't do it on an assignment, but when you're giving someone a quote or responding to their job advert, it's perfectly acceptable to forget about spelling and grammar, right?


As a writer, you'll be judged on everything you write. That includes quick emails, IM conversations and, of course, quotes. Poor spelling, lack of punctuation and sloppy grammar marks you out as someone who doesn't care too much about their craft ? if, indeed, you have one. Make it perfect every time.

Make your quote ridiculously low

We all know how competitive freelance writing can be. Unless you're willing to work for far less than minimum wage, you'll never persuade anyone to employ you. Make sure your bid is as low as you can make it without offering the employer to pay them for the privilege of writing for them, and they're sure to give you the job! Right?< br />

Um, not necessarily. While there will always be "employers" who aren't too concerned about quality and just want to find the cheapest writer around, to most employers, your low bid says one thing: that you're not very good at what you do, and certainly don't deserve decent compensation for it.

If you're willing to write for a nominal fee for a commercial employer (as opposed to a charity, for example, or a friend), the employer knows right away that you don't make a living doing this. Imagine how many $5 articles you'd need to write every month to pay your mortgage! If you're willing to write for that amount, then, it's clear that you must be pretty much scraping the barrel: so desperate for work that you're only one step away from working for free.

This kind of desperation doesn't inspire confidence: you may well get yourself some work from a certain type of employer, but when someone comes along who's willing to pay more, you'll be missing out on the opportunity to get paid what you deserve.

What's most frightening about this list is that I didn't have to make any of this up. These are all real examples of the kinds of things writers do when applying for work. And trust me: these writers never get the jobs.

Amber McNaught is a freelance writer and editor, and the owner of, an online agency for freelance writers, editors and proofreaders.

Writing World also offers a range of service such as proofreading, editing and manuscript appraisal services to new and aspiring writers.

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