Anyone who has spent a week looking at the writing jobs posted on Craigslist knows online job ads are not a great source of top-paying clients.
You find the best clients by doing your own proactive marketing.
However…there are a few creative ways you can use job ads to find good gigs.
The key is to not let online job ads take up too much of your marketing time. You need to scan the ads quickly and move on to more effective marketing methods (namely, just about anything else).
I went through more than a year solid where I was scanning the job ads nearly every day. After a while, I got it down to a system and didn’t spend more than about 15 minutes a day on it.
How did I do it? Here are my seven tips for how to quickly find good leads in the job ads:
1. Look at the ads for full-time jobs. Yes, you’re not really looking for a full-time job. But when a company is advertising for a full-time person, my experience in 12 years of staff-writing jobs says that means the publication or company is now freelancing out that staffer’s workload to avoid overloading the remaining staffers.
Concentrate your attention on the companies that are a perfect fit — you know their industry or read their publication.
Maybe they need someone to fill in until they complete their job search? Maybe they also use freelancers regularly, as well as in-house writers? You won’t know unless you ask.
The full-time job ad simply provides me with a good contact. So if it’s a company or publication that fits my expertise, I go ahead and apply. I say, “Hi there, not looking for full-time, I’m actually a happy freelancer. But I have the skills you need (I usually throw in a few relevant samples here). Do you use freelancers?”
I’ve scored several great new editor connections this way over the years, including two in the past year or so that paid $1 a word. It’s a great way to get your name in front of people that use writers, at a time when they may well need help.
2. Be picky. As I hinted above, you don’t want to apply to a lot of online job ads, as most will be a waste of your time. So skip everything that asks for free samples, or says you can write about any topic you like, or that they have unlimited assignments. These are never good gigs. Be very wary of blind ads, where the company isn’t identified. You’re looking for the ad that seems like it was made for you — it mentions the exact expertise you have, and the company checks out as a real, decent-sized, going concern. That’s the one you want to take the time to apply for.
3. Look at site-specific job ads out of your area. I’m selective here — if it says anything like “meet with us weekly at our Akron offices,” I move on. On the other hand, if the ad title mentions a city, but the ad text doesn’t describe anything that needs to be done in person, and it mentions my expertise, I go ahead and apply if the company seems legit.
Just ask right up top if they’d consider someone working remotely. Play up your expertise both in their field, and your expertise in working remotely.
4. Watch for paid listings. Companies that place paid ads are usually established, legitimate organizations. Specialized job boards and organizations’ job listings are often paid situations. These companies are telling you something when they take out that paid ad — they want to post in more exclusive places as they don’t have time to wade through 300 resumes. The ads on LinkedIn are paid, as are the ads at Flexjobs.
To me, a paid listing qualifies that client right away as a good lead.
5. Use social media. If you’re not looking at the jobs on LinkedIn, I highly recommend it — many of the listings are exclusive to the site.
LI is a great place to find full-time job ads you can piggyback on with your freelance request, as per #1. You can also try to use your connections to get a referral attached to your application, which I’m told greatly increases your odds of getting the contact’s attention in the pile of resumes they are likely receiving.
Twitter is also a growing place for freelance gigs. Not only can you tweet about the work you’re looking for, but you can use Twitter’s search feature to troll for jobs. Some of the sites mentioned above are on Twitter tweeting about listings, so you could get a jump on the masses this way.
There are an increasing number of job-focused tweeters, too — I’ve checked out @WritersDigest, @FSsJobs (that’s Freelance Switch), @tweetajob, and many others.
Even Facebook is getting into the act lately — I’ve been spotting some interesting-looking listings going up from Facebook4Freelancers, which has a lot of writer listings.
6. Look for niche job boards. Get off Craigslist and find more exclusive job boards. These usually focus on one niche area. For instance, as a business-finance writer I’ve had good luck with Gorkana Alerts (they’ve got alerts for healthcare and media, too). You’ll have to do some sleuthing to find where your best ads hang out, but it can be well worth it if you find a good board. I got one of my biggest, long-term blogging gigs through my niche board.
7. Try the Junk-Free Job Board. Inside Freelance Writers Den, we’ve developed a job board that scans dozens of the mass job-ad places, screens out all the junk, and then only presents better offers (thanks to some tech help from Ty). Some weeks there’s hardly anything on it — a testament to how few good jobs can really be found online. But the few listings we have tend to be quality, and all are a cut above the usual $5-$10 article offers. You save a ton of time by not having to wade through the junk, and quite a few Denizens have already gotten good gigs from them. The bonus: I pass on a lot of freelance offers I get these days, and when I do, I often add that lead to the job board, too.
In this market, it pays to get creative when you’re looking for clients. If you’re not able to go out and do in-person networking, a discerning scan of the job ads can help you turn up good clients without leaving home.
Homework: For at least a week, don’t look at any Craigslist or other mass-job-board ad sites. Instead, find appropriate, better-quality job boards for your writing niches and scan their listings instead — or proactively search for your own clients. You’ll probably never go back.
P.S. Next time on Marketing 101: One small but important thing to do.