Job Hunting for Writers: Tips from Cynthia White

by Cynthia White, PWAC BC

Member, PWAC National Communications Committee

I recently became a member of PWAC. One of the first things I noticed was that our job board appeared very sad and empty. Since I’m a freelance writer always looking to add to my roster of regular clients and since I look at several job boards every day anyway, I volunteered to populate the PWAC Job Bank. So fasten your seatbelts everybody; that job board is taking off for the stratosphere. While discussing this with Stephanie Lasuik, Vice President of PWAC National, she asked me if I’d like to write about job hunting for writers. I was thrilled to do that because I am an active job hunter, but first, let me give you a little background.

In 2009, I retired at the age of 47 from a career as a marketing executive for a small oil company, got remarried and moved from Calgary to Vancouver Island. Before working in marketing, I had worked over the years as a physician’s assistant, a stockbroker, an ESL teacher in Europe, a speechwriter, a bookkeeper, a French teacher, Editor-in-Chief for a petroleum industry newsletter, a submissions editor for a literary magazine, and a freelance writer even when I was employed doing other things. Writing is how I channeled a surfeit of opinions! I wrote business articles, book reviews, guest editorials for the Calgary Herald, and magazine articles on several hobbies. In 2016, I decided that being retired did not suit me; my brain was turning to Jell-O, and so I started looking for freelance and remote job opportunities. I want to work in my pajamas.

Over time, I’ve become better and better at getting different writing jobs. So, I’m going to write a few articles for The Poke on job hunting for writers. This article is the first, so let me jump right in. We’ll deal with building up a portfolio, résumés and cover letters in separate articles, but right now, I want to tell you about online job boards.

There are a lot of them: some good, some not. Some are just for writers, and some are not. First, let me address the “gig” boards. There are several job boards including Freelancer, Guru, and Upwork that allow you to create a profile and then bid on posted jobs. If you get the job, then the board takes a percentage and acts as an intermediary.

The advantages to using a gig board like those I mention are that there is a lot of work available, and there are some good jobs and good employers mixed in with a lot of terrible jobs for low wages. The main disadvantages are that it can be difficult to get a start there, reviews from past clients play a role in your overall “rating” and you’re giving up a percentage of what you earn in order to participate. I recommend gig boards only if you don’t have a lot of experience or much to show in your portfolio and if you like the convenience of one-stop shopping.

The key to success on those boards is a great profile, and persistence. In the spirit of transparency, I have to admit that I tried Upwork and closed my account after a month. I’m an instant gratification kinda gal. I did not have the stamina or internal fortitude to bid against 1,000 people from third-world countries willing to work for one dollar per hour, but there are some good jobs there if you’re persistent. So, don’t rule gig boards out.

Let me tell you about some other job boards. These are boards I look at every day. The good news is that I have started populating our internal job board from all the boards I’m going to mention next. The ProBlogger Job Board is excellent. It is a very busy board, only contains writing jobs, and it doesn’t cost anything to look at the jobs or apply to them. You don’t need a profile there to participate.

Online Writing Jobs is a great board. It doesn’t cost anything to look at the jobs or apply to them. No profile needed. Plenty of “anywhere” or remote jobs. The only disadvantage is that new jobs are posted on a somewhat erratic basis. You may see the same jobs there for a week or two, and then it explodes with new postings. Hubstaff Talent is slightly different, but I highly recommend it. Here, it’s free, but you need to create a profile to apply to jobs. There is a mixed bag of high-quality and lesser quality jobs, so you have to be discriminating. I don’t mind telling you that I have two regular clients that I found by applying to jobs posted on HT: one is a gentleman with two storefronts selling products on Amazon for whom I write different kinds of sales or marketing copy and manage his social media accounts for the two businesses, and the other is the president of a very prominent IT think tank for whom I write press releases and may soon be managing the organization’s social media as well. So, don’t write off HT just because it appears slightly low-rent and there’s a mixed bag of jobs posted. There’s gold in them thar hills. I’ve also turned down two jobs from there because I didn’t think they paid enough.

Don’t forget about Indeed. Remember, there is Indeed.com and Indeed.ca. Make yourself free profiles on both and check both. I recommend them highly. My favourite client is an internet marketing agency that I applied to on Indeed.com. I write for the blogs of three of his small business clients. I love the variety—I get bored easily.

One other job board that I almost forgot is Flexjobs.com. Flexjobs is a very high-quality site with tons of great remote jobs. You do have to pay to have a membership and apply to their jobs, but if you’re looking for something full-time, then it’s well worth it. Remember, you could just take a membership for a month or two if you want to explore the site. You create a detailed profile, and they also have many skills tests available that you can add (or not) to your profile. I had a membership here for about six months. I’ve let my membership lapse because I’m not looking for a full-time job. I don’t want to be a regular employee; I just want to add to my stable of clients, so, it’s not the best fit for me, personally.

The last job board I want to recommend is Angel.co. You create a free profile and can look at, search through, and apply to tons of jobs. The Angel website is for start-up companies. The beauty of Angel is that most of these companies are high-tech and are designed and set up for remote work. These folks anticipate having employees all over the world, so, it’s perfect for a freelance writer. Don’t worry about being fairly paid. Many of these companies already have substantial backing and funding and are prepared to pay fair wages. I applied to one job through Angel and was hired for a 30-hour per week job. I really wanted that job, and the work (confidential) was super interesting. However, I quit after the first two weeks of training. I wrote 60 or 70 documents, often seven or eight drafts of the same thing, and I never once heard, “yes, this is what we want.” What I thought would be the job of my dreams turned into the job of my nightmares.

I appealed to my writing mentor, a cousin of mine and prize-winning writer. He told me that there’s an adage in freelance writing, “If the client is not happy with the third draft, then there’s either something seriously wrong with the writer or something seriously wrong with the client.” I know I can string a few words together, so I quit.

And speaking of mentors, you should have one. I don’t care how old you are. If you would like to improve your writing, your clients, and/or your rate of pay, then you need a mentor. Anyone with more experience than you in freelance writing, who can lend a sympathetic ear and give some occasional good advice will make a fine mentor. But how do I find one? Easy. Post it to the PWAC-l. Ask one of us. Ask me.

So, perk up everyone! There are lots of good writing jobs out there. I’m going to help you land them. In future articles, I’ll talk about building up a portfolio, writing winning résumés and cover letters, creating profiles on job boards, and we’ll talk specifically about working remotely.

Cynthia White is a freelance writer with a BA in English. She lives with her husband and two bulldogs on Vancouver Island. She can also be found on Quora, on Twitter, and on LinkedIn. Feel free to email her at: info@dearcynthia.com

 

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