Updated: Jan 16
Websites like Upwork and Fiverr are powerful platforms for starting your career as a freelance writer. But they can also hold you back from commanding high freelance rates and growing your writing business.
The problem comes down to supply and demand. Upwork and Fiverr are some of the most popular freelance platforms in the world. They attract writing talent at all levels, from across the world.
If you’ve spent any time on these platforms, you know it’s common to find yourself competing for projects against 20–50 other freelancers. As more people compete on fewer projects, freelance rates inevitably trend downward. It’s a race to the bottom.
But here’s the good news:
You don’t have to rely on Upwork and Fiverr
The competitive environment you see on freelance websites isn’t a realistic depiction of supply and demand in the real world.
When you uncover new strategies for finding freelance writing jobs, you soon realize that the roles are reversed. More businesses are looking for freelance writers than there are writers available to meet the demand. In fact, it’s possible to build an uncontested writing business where clients expect to pay high rates and competition is irrelevant.
But enough motivational writing. Here are six ways I’ve connected with high-paying freelance gigs over the years — so you can stop relying exclusively on Upwork and Fiverr.
1. Use LinkedIn search
Businesses hire a lot of people through LinkedIn, including freelancers.
I’m not talking about job boards. Sure, businesses tend to use LinkedIn’s job listing services to hire full-time employees. But they use a different method to hire freelancers. Specifically, they write a post to their network asking for recommendations and referrals.
Here’s the secret: You don’t have to be part of someone’s LinkedIn network to bid on their project. All you have to do is track down their freelance request by using the LinkedIn search bar and then bid on the project.
It’s literally just a three-step process:
Use the LinkedIn search bar to type a phrase that someone might use when they’re hiring freelance writers. Common phrases might include: hiring a freelance writer, looking for a freelance writer, looking for a contract copywriter, etc.
After you click search, sort your results by Latest (instead of Relevant) and by Posts.
Scroll the freelancer requests until you stumble upon one that you’re excited about. Then shoot your shot with a simple DM or cold email!
2. Join local Facebook groups
Many businesses prefer to work with local contractors over distant ones. This gives you a unique marketing edge in your city. One of the best ways to find local freelance writing projects is to join local business Facebook groups.
I did this for a few years. In my home town of Austin, there are multiple Facebook groups around remote work, freelancing, and the like. I joined these groups and paid attention regularly for posts from people looking for writing services.
Every couple weeks a new person would post about their blogging, copywriting, and ghostwriting needs. Since the group was limited to local freelancers, there were usually only a few people competing for each project — and sometimes I was the only one!
Oh, and if you don’t live in a major city, just look for business Facebook groups in the largest neighboring city to your home.
3. Join industry Facebook groups
Facebook groups aren’t just a good way connecting with people in your same city. You can also use them to find people in specific industries.
I’m not on Facebook anymore. But when I was, I participated in multiple software-related groups because that is my specialty as a copywriter and ghostwriter.
Often people in these groups were either software founders, employees, or aspiring entrepreneurs. Any of these people could have reasons to work with a writer. I would bid on projects as people posted about them. I would write content with advice about marketing and writing (to showcase my expertise by being helpful).
4. DM (or cold email) agencies
Agencies are always flooded with work. If you can take some projects off their plate, often they’ll give you as much work as you’re able to handle.
I have a few agencies who contact me almost weekly inquiring about my availability. Once an agency falls in love with your work, you’ll never lack for leads. So, how do you connect with agencies?
You can network by attending events or by cold emailing the right people. In 2018, one of my favorite agency partnerships came from a DM (direct message) my wife sent to an agency founder on Instagram. The agency had an office down the road from our apartment, so we thought it was a worthwhile pitch. The agency ended up hiring both of us for several projects. Years later, we still receive occasional referrals from the founder.
5. Contact entrepreneurs in your network
My first copywriting clients all came from my network. I just sent Facebook messages to all my friends who owned businesses or worked in agencies. In my initial messages, I explained I was offering writing services and would love to help if they have upcoming projects. It turns out, some of them did.
Trust is a big part of the decision-making process when it comes to hiring. That’s why it’s great to start with people in your network. The trust factor is already bridged, meaning people may be more likely to hire you over a complete stranger.
After you send some direct messages to friends and colleagues, you can also post on social media. People one degree of separation from you may see your post and choose to hire you based on your shared network.
6. Attend local events
Creating a local marketing strategy is one of the most underrated approaches to promoting a freelance business. And among local tactics for promoting your business, networking is one of the easiest to execute.
Think of it this way: every business needs to create more content. Every person in leadership has projects they aspire to complete (but don’t have time to execute). Freelance writers are productivity machines, able to help business owners and managers check more items off their to-do lists.
In other words: every business needs a freelance writer.
By attending industry events, you can strike up conversations with people who all have need for your services. Here are a few pointers for successful networking:
Collect more business cards than you give out, so the responsibility for following up stays in your court
Go to paid events to network with people who’re willing to financially invest in themselves and their businesses
Ask people about themselves and their businesses — being a great listener is a more effective sales technique than trying to “sell yourself”
7. Just write
At the end of the day, the best way to market a writing business is to write for yourself. The most successful writers in the world don’t have to actively promote themselves. Clients come to them based on the freelancer’s reputation.
You build a strong reputation by performing great work for clients, as well as by publishing high quality content that showcases your writing abilities.
Many top ghostwriters and content writers are simply journalists. They write for major publications. People who love their work contact them to inquire about their writing services.
One of the best things I’ve ever done for my writing business was to create a consistent writing and publishing routine. The longer I freelance, the more common it is for total strangers to contact me because they connected with one of my past articles. created a regular writing + publishing cadence. Every piece of content I’ve written in the past six years of freelancing is now marketing on my behalf.
Of course, this final tactic is less predictable than the others. You don’t know which article will lead to a new client — or when. The key is to just keep writing.
Good things will follow.
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