Thirteen Low or No-Cost Techniques to Pick Up Paying Assignments ASAP By Beth Ann Erickson

I receive dozens of e-mails each week asking, “OK. I love writing. But how do I get PAYING assignments!?!?”

Depending on where you live, landing those paying jobs may not be as hard as you think. The secret is to start small and build from there.

I began my writing career covering local city council and school board meetings. That job alone gave me more clips than I knew what to do with. And earning $50 to $75 for an evening’s work wasn’t a bad starting wage either.

1. So here’s your first technique to start your writing business: approach your local newspaper editor. Ask if they need someone to cover meetings. If they do, you’re on your way earning a living as a writer.

2. Armed with your local clips, you can start approaching bigger markets, markets like small and mid-sized magazines that are hungry for new articles. Start querying them and wait for their response.

3. While you’re waiting to hear from your magazine queries, chat with a few of the mayors, city council people, school board members, etc. that you’ve met at your meetings. Most of them are business people. Ask if they need their brochures updated, ads or direct mail letters written, or if they need a writer-for-hire for any project they may have brewing. You’d be surprised how many business people will take you up on your offer after they’ve witnessed your diligence and accuracy while covering their meetings.

4. Plus, with the good name you’ve cultivated in your community covering city council meetings, you can also start writing for other local businesses.

Now it’s time to deviate from your twelve techniques for just a minute. In case you don’t already know, writing for businesses (otherwise known as copywriting) is a great way to earn a living wage as a writer. Depending on the market, you can reasonably expect to earn $30 – $50 per hour as a beginner.

So how do you pick up commercial clients? Easy. Good writers are in demand, especially as the economy softens. Business clients need writers who get results. And if your copywriting pulls in responses, you’ll get work.

Now back to the techniques….

5. To start attracting commercial clients, you can run a small ad in your local paper. As your expertise increases, place more ads in surrounding papers. Maybe you’ll want to place a snappy classified ad in the business section.

6. Another way to get business clients is to join your Chamber of Commerce. You’ll meet the movers and shakers in your community and make invaluable contacts.

7. Send out a direct mail piece. I write a quarterly newsletter and it never fails to pull in a few new assignments. You can write a snappy sales letter complete with reply form and buckslip, or you can keep your package small with just a short letter.

8. Another technique to keep the money rolling in as a freelance writer is to have lots of irons in the fire. Along with the magazine queries, and copywriting, I always have a book in the works and am busy sending out proposals for it. I know one local writer who has cultivated a devoted clientele who has her write all their correspondence… including Christmas letters. Your projects are only limited by your imagination. 9. Make goals each day. Decide how many queries you’ll send out. Decide how many sales letters you’ll mail. How many words are you going to write in your book? How many new contacts are you going to make this week? Make your goals… then follow through with them.

10. Ask and you may receive. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. If you’re a stringer for your local newspaper, ask the editor if it’s possible for them to run a small ad promoting your business at a discount (after all you’re a staff writer.) If you run an e-mag, ask to exchange links or ads. If you write for local businesses, ask them to recommend your writing services to their friends.

11. Never tell anyone your phone number. GIVE it to them. Print up a bunch of business cards and whenever anyone asks for your phone number, give them your card instead. For example, when I took our dog to the vet for a minor surgery, the receptionist asked for my phone number so she could call me when they finished. I handed her my business card. Voila. Another contact. From what she tells me, I just may get some work from them.

12. Network. Make friends in your field. Help each other become the best writers you can be. I’m thoroughly convinced that the chances of any of us running after the same client or gunning for the same article assignment are minute if not nil. If we join forces and learn to write better, we only make our jobs easier.

13. Carry your latest project with you at all times. If you’ve written a book, bring it wherever you go. If you just finished a big copywriting project, have it nearby. Got an article in the latest issue of a magazine or newspaper? Better bring it with you…. Nothing sparks a conversation faster than “What ‘cha been up to lately?” Then, next thing you know, you’ve got a prospective customer.

I know, I know… I promised thirteen strategies to start making money TODAY as a writer. But I got on a roll and thirteen (I’ve heard) is an unlucky number so here’s one more strategy.

14. Read. Read everything you can get your hands on. If you write novels, read novels. If you write direct mail, read EVERY piece of direct mail that lands on your doorstep. If you write ads, read ads. Read what your competition is writing. Read what your friends are writing. Make note of what “works” for you and what doesn’t. Then write something better.

Read e-mags that will help you make your writing as sharp as possible. Perfect your craft, become the best writer you can be, promote your business, and you’ll have more work than you can handle.

Beth Ann Erickson is the publisher of Writing Etc. the free bi-monthly e-mag that will make your writing sparkle, help you write killer queries, and get you on the road to being published. Subscribe today and receive the free e-book “Power Queries.” Subscribe at:

Beth is also the Author of The Almach, the novel reviewers are calling a, “wonderfully written story” that provides “ample reading pleasure and more than enough adventure for any lazy afternoon.” You can purchase your copy at: