Applying for Freelance Writing Gigs—A Challenge

In this series, we personally test traditional online freelance marketplaces to share first-hand experiences and honest assessments of marketplaces and resulting jobs, as many freelance writers turn to these outlets to find writing gigs. You can read all the posts in the series here.

There are a lot of different sites that post adverts for freelance writers. Since October, I have used Craigslist, Journalism Jobs, and Media Bistro to find gigs and apply for them. I decided that I wanted to challenge the conventional wisdom that the best way to get gigs that you apply for is to apply for a lot of them. Let me explain.

The Freelance Writing Rumor

There was a time when I believed, like many others, that you needed to apply for 15 or more freelance writing gigs each day in order to get a reasonably good response rate. I went into this challenge believing the same thing and never have I been proven quite so wrong. The key to scoring a lot of gigs when applying for them is not about bulk it is about:

  • Applying early
  • Making a really strong case for yourself as the best candidate

What this Freelance Writer Did

Between October 7th and December 16th I applied for a total of 11 gigs. That is just over 1 gig per week. I applied for only financial writing gigs and I applied to many without knowing what the pay would be. I used my standard response which talks about my experience in the financial industry, industry licenses, writing experience within the industry and attached my resume and industry-related samples (unless the ad instructed that applicants do otherwise). I cannot stress enough just how focused my approach was.

I received a total of 5 responses from the 11 ads. That’s just short of 50%. Now, I know many readers query and network to get gigs—but a lot of you also apply for them when they are posted. When was the last time 45% of your responses to ads generated an email back?

The Results

Okay, so an email back is one thing—but how many of the gigs did I score? I scored 3 of them and accepted 2. The pay on one is extremely low but it actually does have fantastic exposure, so it is worth it. The pay for the second is $0.55-$1.33 a word. Ironically, that one was listed on Craigslist.

The Trick to Scoring Those Freelance Writing Gigs

Apply for those gigs you are irrefutably qualified for by experience, knowledge, and education. Attach only those clips that show your experience in the subject matter and attach a niche or industry-specific resume--just like you would when applying for a regular desk job. Even if you are a generalist, you should be able to craft a few industry-specific resumes that strengthen your appeal to someone posting a job within them.

Also, apply early. One of the posters of a gig I applied for told me they had already hired someone for the gig but would have hired me if I had responded first.

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Yolander Prinzel is the profit monster behind the Profitable Freelancer website. She has written for a number of publications and websites such as American Express,, Advisor Today, Money Smart Radio and the International Travel Insurance Journal (ITIJ). Her book, Specialty Ghostwriting: A New Way to Look at an Old Career, is currently available on Amazon.

3 thoughts on “Applying for Freelance Writing Gigs—A Challenge”

  1. I love when people test stuff like you did and talk about it. I’m stunned that the pay was so low for these people, however; that’s drastically low, in a way.

    I say it that way because I’ve started a blog writing service where I charge a flat fee for the month to write someone’s blog. When I think about how much I’m actually getting per word I realize it’s relatively low, but blogging is easy for me and I like having a guaranteed amount coming in for the month. I need to up the number of blogs I’m writing for to get a bit more financial balance, but it works well in supplementing other things I want to do.

    Thanks for sharing your tales.

  2. One of the reasons I’ve been procrastinating hopping back onto the freelancing bandwagon is this idea that I needed to apply to so many jobs in order to find work. Since I’m working full time right now that’s just not feasible. But trying to focus on quality versus quantity, now that’s definitely feasible!

    Thanks for the results on the experiment. I know it’s helped me out.

  3. I’ve often wondered about that age-old advice to apply for as many gigs as possible. Though I get the point that firing lots of bullets makes it more likely to hit the target, surely, if someone’s gonna hire you, it’s because you’ve put in a quality application and they think you’d be a good fit, which isn’t really relevant to how many jobs you’ve applied for.

    It’s like all these recession news stories I’ve been reading over the last year or so where people moan about applying for 200+ jobs a month and not even getting an interview – in that case, maybe you shouldn’t apply for so many and focus on making sure you’re likely to be the best candidate?


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