How To Break Into Freelance Writing To Build Awareness of Your Expertise

Freelance writing is a legitimate way to share the things you’re knowledgeable about and establish yourself as an expert in topic areas you care about; it can also serve as a bona fide side hustle, helping you earn some extra cash. Just as great? Breaking into freelance writing doesn’t require a fancy degree or specific background. Here’s how to do it in three easy steps:

1. Figure out what you want to write about.

Freelance writing is definitely the most fun when you’re able to write about topics you’re wise or passionate about, sharing your wisdom with people who will enjoy and value it most. Since you’ll want to craft compelling pitches to land assignments, first think about your areas of expertise.

Are you a pro at finding and sharing time-saving tips, new apps, deals or something else? Do you regularly read share-worthy studies or chat with people who would make great interview subjects? Are you awesome at summarizing current events, or in the know about forward-thinking topics, leadership, or business?

Identify your “swimlane” and know what fires you up so you can put together a list of general topic ideas you’d like to write about. Jot down potential headlines with a quick description of each. We’ll get to these later.

2. Do your research.

Once you’ve honed in on where you can shine as a writer, consider existing publications that’ll value what you have to share. Ideally, you’ll have a few favorites already and be able to branch out to list additional sites accordingly.

I love using Twitter’s “Who to Follow” tool to uncover lesser-known publications, especially those that are emerging in popularity. To make the most of it, click over to profiles of companies/sites you already know and love, and scroll down until you see this on the left-hand side.

In addition to major sites and platforms, consider writing for medium-to-large sized blogs, Medium publications, as well as startups, small businesses and corporate companies that might welcome external content. If you’re an avid reader and familiar with the blogosphere or startupland, this won’t be too tough. If you’re not sure where to start, pick a couple of well-known companies or blogs and look for the ‘Career’ or ‘Write for Us’ section on their sites. You can usually find this in the masthead or footer, and it’ll give you all of the information you need to know. Boom.

Breaking into freelance writing doesn't require a fancy degree or specific background.

Use a spreadsheet to put together a list of the publications and platforms you find. For each one, list the publication name, contact (editor/managing editor), link to an application page (some sites require formal applications for writers to join their writer network), and any relevant notes. If you have multiple categories (eg. Wellness, Business, Travel), add a field to your spreadsheet to note the industry so you can sort your list later as needed. For best results, really bang out a full spreadsheet. When I first kicked off my outreach efforts, I had more than 200 publications in a range of categories on my list!

3. Pitch, pitch, pitch!

Once you know what you’d like to write about and have your spreadsheet of potential platform and sites together, you have a couple of options:

  • Send a personalized mail merge. You might consider sending out a personalized mail merge (or several) to the contacts on your list, introducing yourself as a writer and linking to some stories you’ve authored elsewhere (a Contently portfolio works great for this). If you rock with this option, you can also include a general few pitches you think would work for their audience.

  • Email your pitch ideas. If a general introductory email doesn’t make sense and you’d like to pitch super specific or niche topic ideas to particular sources, go through your list of topic ideas and publications, and craft emails with killer pitches for each platform/person you’ve identified. Be sure to include your name, a sentence about yourself, your story idea and a concise, readable explanation of it. Make sure your pitch is mistake-free before you hit send.

  • Apply on-site. If you’re interested in writing for a company or platform that requires you to apply to join their contributor network, set aside time to sit down and thoughtfully complete each application and any related writing tests.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back right away or at all; if you’re fortunate enough to get feedback with a rejection, use it to hone your story ideas and perfect the art of your pitch. Keep pitching fresh ideas and writing whenever and wherever you can. You’ve got this!

Now it's time to use your new-found discoveries to jump into freelance writing as you've always imagined!

To get BEING Bold delivered right to your inbox, sign up here. You'll also be the first to know when The Collective (of Us) reopens to new members. 



Krista Gray is a web producer and freelance writer who lives in San Francisco. When she's not working with clients through her company GoldSquare, she loves reading, traveling and learning new things.