I am always on the lookout for more work.
I read job boards like Freelance Writing Jobs, and recently I discovered Blogging Pro. I check out Craigslist for larger areas than mine. I am on the email list for Virtual Vocations, though that is my least favorite. I belong to two discussion boards relevant to my field on LinkedIn, and I very occassionally troll CareerBuilder and Monster, though these almost never have relevant results for me. Invaluable, however, is Writer’s Market. Subscribe. You’ll pay yourself back. They’ve done all the heavy lifting for you.
Reading job ads, writing an engaging cover letter or pitch (I like to be funny in mine), digging up relevant clips, and the requisite follow up take a HUGE amount of time.
Each opportunity has specific needs, and these need to be specifically addressed in the cover letter. I like Kristen Lamb’s thought that form letters should never be used when approaching someone who has the power to honor, publish, and/or employ my work. Lamb is talking about winning the hearts and minds of bloggers, but it’s my contention that editors and developers who employ writers are equally appreciative of original queries.
I used to apply for and/or query anything for which I felt even remotely qualified. I used to sell cars, so I applied for automotive writing spots, even though I haven’t followed the auto industry since 2009. I used to sell cell phones, so I have applied for technology writing gigs. I am slightly more qualified for tech writing because I use and enjoy gadgets, technology. But I love these for their productivity, efficiency, and how cool they make me look. I love them less for their layered processors, unbelievable software, and operating systems. Technology, though useful and exciting, is not my passion.
I wasted a lot of energy asking for jobs I was sure I could do, but for which I was not adequately qualified.
People want you if you have proven skills relevant to their needs, not if you are sure you could do the job, but can’t show them any proof.
I have learned some things that save me time and self-esteem. Here they are.
Follow your passion
Only apply in subjects about which you would consider yourself an expert, or to which you have easy access to research. Don’t apply for work you wouldn’t do for free. There are ways to identify what kinds of writing for free are worth the time and effort without monetary compensation. Take a look at CopyBlogger‘s blog for tips about how and when writing for free can be a benefit to you. But if you write a food blog and you love food, apply for writing spots about food. If you read Engadget every day, and you never keep a computer longer than 6 months because something new has come out that you must own, apply for tech writing jobs. If you’re not an expert, you’re not a competitive candidate.
Try to sell articles and get positions that will be either re-sellable, or that will give you a new nuance of your topic or skill. Look for jobs and publications for whom you’ll get a bunch of practice writing about what you love that you can point potential clients or employers to. If you write for a section of your local paper, re-tool your material and market it to other publications. Other local publications may take it as-is. Too, if you do interviews, ask your subjects who else has interviewed them. Maybe you know of a publication or blog that hasn’t featured them, but should.
If you’re spending 2-5 hours applying for jobs, cut that time in half, and go read somebody you admire’s blog. I have found an unending source of amazing content from the folks I follow on Twitter. I have gained huge insight, access to career-enhancing information and tips, grown my network, and I have a sense that I belong in this world, doing what I do. When my inner editor is screaming about what a crappy writer I am, and how I should just give up, I go hang out with Twitter for a minute. Read and comment on some blogs consistently. Be courteous and thoughtful. Knowing what other people are saying about your field means you won’t repeat them. Being informed is a huge competitive edge.
Be nice, follow up
If there’s an editor with whom you made contact, but who didn’t offer you any work, or who didn’t accept any of your pitches, reach out to her once a month or so, just to say hello, remind her that you exist. Maybe she’s forgotten. It’s likely that she works with tons of freelancers, subjects, and editors. If an editor declines a pitch, or you get a note saying you won’t be considered for the position, think of it as a victory, a success. If the editor took the time to reply to you, that means she liked your stuff. That means she’ll probably look at more stuff from you in the future. Always send a note or make a call thanking her for her time. Never react defensively. Don’t give up. Keep sending pitches, queries, and checking in. It’s much easier to get work from people with whom you have established a relationship.