Jasmine is a writer and editor based in Hawai'i. She enjoys discovering ways to achieve personal financial freedom while snacking hard.
How to Make Money Freelance Writing and Editing
Writing and editing are an art, and just like any financially poor (but spiritually rich) soul in the arts will tell you, making money doing what you love isn't always easy. Working with words is no different.
Good news, though! I have spent the better part of the past decade perfecting my personal job-finding strategy, and in this article, I'm going to share with you the specific steps you can take to find a writing and/or editing job online in no time.
First, we'll quickly discuss a few crucial components to your success, then we'll get down to the nitty-gritty.
In this article, I'll teach you:
- The importance of confidence and an online presence
- Why accepting rejection invites success
- Why you should cast a wide net and avoid saying no
You'll also learn how to create:
- A stellar personal bio
- A concise, professional resume
- An attractive cover letter and introduction email
- An easy, free website and LinkedIn account (optional)
- And more
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
— Mae West
1. Control Your Online Presence
In our modern world, most of us live two lives—one online, and one offline. With a few rare exceptions, your potential employer or contractor will likely enter your name into a search engine to find out more about you as an individual. They will find any of your professional work or resumes online via your personal website or LinkedIn profile, and they will likely try to determine who you really are outside of work via your social media accounts.
Don't panic; this is a good thing! Why? Because, for the most part, you can control your online presence—and therefore control what your potential boss will see.
Make It Professional
Creating a professional online presence (for example, a LinkedIn profile and a personal website) is equally important as eliminating any unprofessional online references to your name (for example, changing your Facebook name from "John Smith" to "Johnny Appleseed" if you have pictures of yourself getting drunk on your Facebook profile).
2. Be Totally Confident
There's an old saying that is often overlooked because it sounds deceptively simple. "Whoever you think you are, you are." What does this mean? It means that first and foremost, your perception of yourself internally is how you present yourself externally.
Feeling down in the dumps with low self-esteem? That will show on the outside. If you gave yourself a pep talk this morning and said "I am amazing and determined, and I will succeed as long as I put in the effort," that will show on the outside, too.
Try Re-Training Your Thoughts
If you're feeling like a failure because you can't find a job, put that thought aside and slowly retrain your mind by flipping every negative statement. For example, change that "failure" thought to, "I would be a valuable asset to any company. I simply haven't found the right job for me yet."
If you want to learn more about how this effective, science-based method of training your thoughts can help you get a job, read up on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). However you see yourself is how others will see you, too. Tell yourself you're awesome!
“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone, and as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
— Marianne Williamson
3. Talk Yourself Up to Potential Employers
This leads on from the previous point: don't be afraid to talk yourself up shamelessly in your email, cover letter, or resume! This doesn't mean being obnoxious, and it definitely does not mean lie—it just means always present yourself in the best light possible. Make every small thing about you sound amazing.
Here's an Example
Let's say the jobs you want often require a college degree, and you don't have one. Don't give up, instead, get more detailed.
Have you ever received any kind of certification? CPR, hospitality training, summer cooking course, liquor license, anything. Add it to your resume at the bottom under "Education & Qualifications". Did you graduate at the top of your class? Take an honors course? Add it. Are you competent with Google Suite or Microsoft Suite (Excel, Word, etc)? Add it.
While these things might not be strictly relevant to the role you are applying for, they show your potential employer that you are ambitious, know how to work hard, and are experienced in a variety of roles. That's valuable.
4. "Cast a Wide Net"
Have you ever heard the saying, "It's a numbers game"? It means that the more you put yourself out there, the better your odds are. "Cast a wide net" is a fishing analogy that means the same thing: the bigger your net, the more fish you are likely to catch.
In this case, it means you should apply to as many jobs as possible. Sure, maybe you only truly love two out of the hundred you scrolled through, but that's not how this game is played—at least not while you're starting out.
If You Catch One Fish, You're Winning
If you apply to 40 of those writing/editing jobs, you might get 5 replies back if you're lucky. Out of those 5, you might get 2 interviews. Out of those 2 interviews, you might get hired for 1 job. Score! This is a big success.
5. Build Your Resume by Not Saying "No"
This is a key part of building any successful empire: you build it one block at a time, and from the bottom up.
Maybe the only job offer you get is to review books for $20 each. Take it! Accept the offer, review a couple of books to the best of your ability, and who knows—maybe you'll see some typos in the book and offer the author proofreading services for an extra $50 (I've done this a few times).
Every Bit of Experience Helps
No matter what, this is an experience that you can use to build your online presence and resume and make yourself look good. For example, now you have a new line for your resume that makes you look more experienced in the "words" industry:
Book Reviewer, Flying Fox Publishing, April 2020–June 2020
6. Learn to Tolerate Rejection
Be prepared to get rejected a lot. It's just the natural course of things, and it's a proven fact that people who can handle rejection/failure well are more successful in their chosen profession (think Albert Einstein).
Don't take it personally, because it's just business. A lot of people want the same jobs you do. You have to be patient and consistent to win. If you have a hard time with rejection, I'd recommend reading one of my favorite books of all time, The Four Agreements.
“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”
— Winston S. Churchill
7. Prepare to Find Jobs
Now that you've completed your crash course in the strategy of finding a job online, let's dive into the specifics! It might take you a little bit of time to put all of this together. But I can promise you two things:
- You'll only have to do it once (and then make small updates occasionally).
- You will shoot yourself in the foot if you don't get everything set up perfectly before applying to your dream jobs.
I know, because I've made that mistake. I sent out half-baked emails, cover letters, and resumes to some really amazing jobs, and didn't hear back from any of them. I went back and reworked everything to my personal best, and then tried again—and got a few new hits.
Making a Good First Impression Is Crucial
Unfortunately, I'll never get the chance at those first jobs again. You only get one chance to make a good impression.
If you can complete all of the items on this list, you're well on your way to finding those seemingly elusive remote/freelance writing and editing jobs. It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: there should be zero typos anywhere! If you haven't already, download Grammarly, a free grammar-checking app/extension.
8. Create a Stellar Personal Bio
You'll quickly realize how incredibly useful it is to have an amazing short bio handy. You'll use it anywhere from LinkedIn to cover letters. It shouldn't be longer than two paragraphs, and make sure you pass your final draft by family, friends, and/or co-workers for any feedback.
- Start with a little intro: "My professional background is in...." and explain the responsibilities of that role.
- Talk yourself up a bit: "My employers/coworkers know me to be punctual, kind, detail-oriented..." and mention any accolades or achievements.
- Very, very briefly mention your background: "I grew up in Virginia, later moving to Texas to study...."
- Explain your passion for the writing/editing industry: "Reading and writing are lifelong passions for me..."
9. Create a Concise, Professional-Looking Resume
Ideally, your resume should be only one page, but a little more is ok.
- Top Heading: Center your name, address, phone number, and email at the top of page with your best profile photo (resumes with photos always get more hits because people want to see who they're hiring); make sure it is only of your face and shoulders and you are smiling
- Main Body: Create a combination of the following headings for the body of your resume: Education & Qualifications (where you went to college or your CPR certification, etc)
- Strengths: List 3–5 of your best work-relevant qualities. For example, "works well under pressure, punctual, calm."
- Professional References: List as many business owners/managers as you can vs coworkers if possible, it's more impressive.
- Professional Experience: Only go back 10 years, unless there's a very important/relevant role you want to note)
- Online Presence: This is where you'll put links to your your website and LinkedIn.
Looking good! Now, save it as a PDF with a clean, simple title: your name and the year (for example, "John Smith Resume 2021"). Do not save your resume as an editable document like Microsoft Word or Google Docs; this looks unprofessional.
10. Draft a Short and Sweet Cover Letter
Look up a cover letter template online (for example, indeed.com offers free templates) and use it to draft a Word or Google Doc. You can use this template for all future writing/editing jobs by simply tweaking a few details later.
Your bio will start coming in handy here! Use your bio as the first two paragraphs of your cover letter. In the third paragraph, briefly explain why you believe you would be a good fit for XYZ company.
11. Draft an Even Shorter and Sweeter Email
Basically, your cover letter condensed into one short paragraph. Do not make any mistakes in this email, it's the first impression you'll make on your potential employer.
Pro Tip: If you don't have an email address that sounds professional (email@example.com sounds like someone I'd hire, firstname.lastname@example.org does not), make one today.
12. Create a LinkedIn Account
This is essentially just an online version of your resume, but it helps support your professional online presence.
LinkedIn has changed over the years from "strictly resumes" to more of a "resumes + connections + social media" format, so you can search for other professionals in your desired industry and "connect" with them. Do this! Every little connection helps.
"Success is 90% preparation and only 10% perspiration."
— Thomas Edison
13. Make a Personal Website (Optional)
This sounds intimidating, but it's actually incredibly easy these days and it makes you look very professional. You can easily whip up a simple website in a single day with Wix or Weebly—for free!
Don't get complicated. Just upload a few beautiful photos (if you don't have any of your own, use Unsplash.com: they offer free images available for commercial use) and create a few simple pages:
- About (bio coming in handy again!)
- Contact (add your pro
- Something Else (for example, if you have photography, you can upload a nice gallery here, or if you have any published writing, display that here).
14. Clean Up Your Social Media and Online Presence
If you have Facebook, either remove all inappropriate photos/content on your profile, or simply change your Facebook name to something an employer wouldn't recognize. Repeat for Instagram, TikTok, and any other social media accounts.
Try "Googling" your full name. What comes up? Any inappropriate photos from MySpace days, for example? Clean that up.
15. Find Your Writing and Editing Job
Phew, good work so far! Now you're ready for the fun part. Now that you're all set up, it's time for a little research and some actual applying to jobs! I live in the United States, so I'll share my method for finding jobs in the U.S.: Craigslist.
However, you can try this method with any kind of job-finding site (another U.S. example is Indeed.com). I've found full-time, part-time, and freelance jobs; writing, editing, and content creation jobs, and in fact, it's where I found my current jobs that I love (I'm an editor for Hubpages.com, and a writer/editor for Neighbors of West Maui magazine and Neighbors of Wailea and Makena magazine).
Login to Craigslist
Search for "Craigslist Los Angeles".
Navigate to "Jobs", then select "Writing and Editing", "Gigs - Writing", and ............
Scroll through and bookmark every single editing/writing job you can find that doesn't specifically state that the position is in-house (many of these jobs are actually remote, though it may not say so in the ad).
- First, adjust the email draft you created earlier to match the application company's name (and the recruiter's name, if provided).
- In the subject title, simple copy and paste the Craigslist ad title and add your full name ("Editor for Local Magazine—John Smith"). This helps keep your email inbox organized for later (trust me, when you're applying to 100 jobs and 20 of them reply back, it can get hectic).
- Next, adjust the cover letter you created earlier to match the application company's name, address, and phone number. Save it as a PDF with the title "Local Magazine Editor Cover Letter—John Smith".
- Now, upload your resume PDF and cover letter PDF to your email. Add a writing sample, too, if you have any (a sample of your writing, preferably something that's been published).
- Send! Repeat for all relevant Los Angeles writing and editing jobs.
Head Back to Craigslist
Search for "Craigslist Las Vegas" and repeat steps 1-2. Then search for "Craigslist New York" and repeat steps. Then, search for every major city in the U.S. and repeat steps 1-2! This is called casting a wide net, and this is how you catch some great fish.
Critical: Always Follow Up
If you haven't heard back from any of the application companies two business days after sending out your emails, create a little follow-up email and send it to everyone:
"Good afternoon, I applied to the ........ role two days ago. I'm very interested in this position and would love to speak with your recruiter or hiring manager this week. I am available on Wednesday and Thursday from 2–7 pm and all day Sunday. Looking forward to your reply!"
Bam. If you do all of this and don't get a few hits in your first week, I'll eat my hat.*
*Leave a comment if you don't get any hits, and I will comment back with proof of hat-eating. Promise.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Jasmine Hanner