OF NEEDLES AND HAYSTACKS: How I Navigate the Daunting Job Boards By Sarah Snyder

I have a regular conversation with a freelance friend and it kind of goes like this: She laments not being able to find work. I say hit the job boards because that’s where I find them. She replies that she’s tried it and it’s hopeless. I believe her.

I know, not all jobs come from job boards. I landed one of my favorite gigs at a SXSW party last year. Another two were the result of having a profile up at MediaBistro’s Freelance Marketplace. However, when I get that nervous feeling that I don’t have enough work, I go to the job boards (right after I re-activate my Freelance Marketplace account).

You Can Do It (And Still Catch Law and Order)

I have a limited amount of time and dozens of websites to comb through – and I don’t want to spend hours applying for jobs, then endure mockery the next morning by spam messages that I wish were responses. In the sales world, all sorts of stats say that for every X doors you knock on, you’ll get Y responses. I find this to be true about my search. I don’t have the exact number (and I should track it next time), but when I surf the job sites and apply for a large batch of jobs, I average about one to three viable responses per session (or as I like to call it, a binge). They don’t all bear fruit, but it’s reaffirming that my efforts weren’t for naught.

I have two sites that I tend to have the most luck with; it’s different for everyone. Mine are Freelance Writing Jobs and About Freelance Writing. I make it my mission to regularly check out these sites, weekly at the least. I don’t leave a single day’s post unturned, and I use where they’re finding jobs as a guide to other sites to check out, such as Freelance Job Openings and Problogger.

Work Smarter, Not Harder (If Not at the Gym, at the Computer)

Next, I scan the listings, skipping any that aren’t in my city, look undesirable, and/or are out of my league or skill set…Time Saver Numero Uno. I treat these job searches like an effective workout…working smarter, not harder. At this point, I haven’t opened a single link yet. Then, I see a title of something up my alley, and it isn’t location-specific. I open it, then immediately scan for a dollar amount. I don’t waste my time reading an entire post only to find that it pays a dismally low amount. If there isn’t a rate listed, look for clues in the wording.

So, I finally find something. The gig sounds cool, the price is right, and I’m ready to begin my query. There’s really no magic that happens at this point. I speak in simple, direct and confident language, stating: 1) What I do and where I live; and 2) Why I wouldn’t waste their time as a new hire. That’s it…no flowery language, no grandiose prose about how I’m going to cure cancer someday. Quick and simple, because, like them, I’m too busy for nonsense. They’re either going to want you or not, and your samples will do most of the work.

Oh yeah…writing samples. I bookmark these and categorize them by client. When I select my samples, they never are the same combination for each potential client. Just as I carefully select the jobs I apply for, I’m not generic about samples. It sounds like a time saver to do that, but I’d be undermining myself – and that is a waste of time.

Sarah Snyder is a San Antonio-based freelance writer who specializes in creative ad copy, SEO and blogging. For more information, visit http://www.seesarahwrite.com. Contact Sarah at sarah – at – seesarahwrite.com.