How To Apply (And Actually Get Hired) For Freelance Writing Jobs


Freelance writing jobs are a terrific way to give your income the financial boost it needs. However, landing that first job might not be that easy. Here’s how to make your job application stand out from the crowd.

Freelance writing is an excellent side hustle because it doesn’t require a lot of equipment or special skills to get started (as is the case with Photoshop or FL Studio). Plus, it’s flexible enough to squeeze it in regardless of how hectic your calendar is.

That said, landing your first freelance projects might be more challenging since there’s so much competition. Hence, you send out applications, hope for the best, and, oftentimes, never hear back. Websites like and provide several options (for a fee). Still, there is a lot of competition for every project, and the pay is frequently ludicrous.

I recently managed the hiring of several new freelancers for a client, and the process was eye-opening for me as a part-time freelancer myself. Here’s what I’ve discovered:

Nothing you can do will guarantee you the job

I understand how difficult it is to learn that something is completely beyond our control, yet it is true. There’s so much you can’t possibly know about that it may be the determining factor.

Don’t take rejection personally. There are far too many variables at work, most of which have nothing to do with you or the quality of your story. For instance, screeners for literary magazines are busy, exhausted, and frequently forced to make quick decisions in order to keep up with the steady flood of newer job proposals. If your application doesn’t immediately pique their interest, it’s labeled “reject.” You could also be given to a reader with an entirely different aesthetic than yours, who would undoubtedly dislike it even under the best of conditions. This is not to say your style or taste isn’t good.

The same may be said for most freelance writing jobs. We received dozens (possibly more than 100) applications, and I had to filter through them all myself. I didn’t have much time to select who should go into the “maybe consider” folder and who should go into the “reject” folder. All of this was influenced by my schedule and workload that day, my attitude, and the arrival of a certain email. Did it arrive in a flurry with the other six? Unless there was something in the application that truly stood out to me, it probably didn’t get as much of a look. Did it appear during a period of relative calm when it wasn’t competing for my attention with eight other applications and my to-do list? Then it most likely got a closer look because of the utter coincidence of its arrival time.

Apply at the right time

Several of our finalists’ applications arrived later in the cycle, and I’m sure many more deserving candidates were ignored since they arrived in the midst of the flood.

Here’s some advice that may seem counterintuitive: While most instructions advise submitting your application as soon as possible, it may be best to wait a few days. The first flood of applications will have subsided by then, and the exhausted hiring editor will feel less burdened and more inclined to give your application a thorough, unhurried look.

Regardless, don’t give up if you don’t get the job. Also, don’t assume you’ve done something wrong.

Learn about your target audience and customize your pitches

I’d get some applications with pitches on fairly basic themes, the kind of stuff the clients’ nearly decade-old site had covered for a long time. This signaled two things: they hadn’t thoroughly checked the website, if at all, and they weren’t trying very hard.

One applicant offered a pitch that was particular and engaging, but the overall idea ran entirely opposite to our site’s stance on Robo-advising. If this writer had spent some time looking around the website, he would have noticed that we had written favorably about several automatically managed investment accounts. He might have reconsidered his pitch. (Or he may have simply realized that he wasn’t a good fit for our site and may have chosen one more suited to his more hands-on, down-in-the-nitty-gritty style.)

Again, this is not a comment on the writer, who appeared intelligent and clever. It’s simply a matter of finding the appropriate match between writer and venue.

Finding a fresh perspective on a topic as familiar as personal finance is critical. Look for prevalent themes on the site and attempt to think of one method they haven’t done previously. What information is missing from the website? What do you know a lot about or have a lot of experience with that could give a stale issue a new spin?

Send no more than three of your best work samples

Please do not send seven!

The editor is unlikely to read all seven, and you don’t want to risk them clicking on your poorer material. Choose two or three that are your best, are most relevant to the magazine in question, and clearly demonstrate how you’re the right fit. Quality, not quantity, will make you look better.

Don’t give them a reason to reject you.

If you respond to an ad (on craigslist or a freelance site), you can be sure that the recruiting editor will receive more applications than they can handle. They must find a means to reduce the pile to a manageable size. Don’t offer them a reason to put your freelancing writing job application in the “reject” folder.

Your cover letter or email application should be perfect in terms of grammar, style, and punctuation. You’re auditioning for a job as a paid freelancer writer; if you can’t handle a simple opening message, why should they trust you with a much larger writing project? Give them a taste of what it’s like to hire you by writing a crisp, engaging, and well-written cover letter. It’s challenging, but it’s necessary.

Make sure you don’t come across as extremely demanding, untrustworthy, or completely nuts. No matter how fantastic your work samples are, no one wants to deal with someone who makes it plain in their brief application that they’ll consistently miss deadlines, make unreasonable requests, or be generally rude. Give them every reason to believe in you.

Let boilerplate be your enemy. I rejected so many applications because they used stale, cliché-ridden wording in their opening letter. (All while claiming to they’re creative or adore language!) Rewrite your pitch paragraph if it sounds like a parody of content marketing evangelistic crap. Rewrite if you can’t get through your own cover letter without falling asleep. If it pops, it lands.

Avoid being casual in your emails. I understand that this is a more informal format. Still, the same principles apply here as they do in a formal cover letter. It’s your professional introduction; include a proper greeting, a few complete phrases explaining why you’re writing, and a sign-off. Use the etiquette your mother instilled in you.

Also, unless the ad clearly asks for “content marketers,” don’t refer to yourself as a content marketer. I understand it’s the current term, but it’s off-putting, especially when the ad expressly stated that your prospect was looking for “writers.” It may be unjust, but advertising still has slightly slimy overtones, a slickness that isn’t always appropriate.

Final thoughts

Starting a freelance writing job (as a full-time or part-time profession) might be demanding. To improve your chances of success

  1. Familiarize yourself with the newspaper or blog you’re trying to write for.
  2. Submit your finest work.
  3. Avoid minor errors that can knock you out of the running.

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Hey there!

I’m Imad, the content creator and online marketing strategist behind The Guemmah Freelance Hub. My mission is to help more freelancers grow themselves, their business, and their profits.

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