Author: Ian Chandler

Freelance FAQ #5: Should You Use Unpublished Work In Your Portfolio?

Whenever we hold a Q&A session, we almost always get this question. It’s on a lot of new writers’ minds, and so I wanted to answer it conclusively in this video.

While having a large portfolio and lots of experience is great, you don’t need any of that to get started. You can get published without any prior experience––you just need to find the right publications.

Typically, you’ll want to look at small- to medium-sized blogs. There’s a certain sweet spot to look for. You want to find blogs that don’t require previous experience, and ideally, you should get paid for your work. (If you’re still working for free, watch this.)

If you’re struggling to get started, don’t worry––we’re here to help! Here are 3 tips for getting published without any experience at all.

1. Refine your search.

When most writers start out, they don’t exactly know where to look, so they end up looking all over the place.

However, it’s much better to take a targeted approach. This will save you a lot of time and effort, and you’ll have a higher chance of getting published.

First, consider your niche. Try to find blogs that are directly in your niche to start with.

Second, don’t consider the top tier of publications. I’m talking about publications like the New York Times and Better Homes & Gardens. (I’m not saying that you can’t ever get published at this level, but when you’re starting out, these kinds of places are simply out of your reach.)

Third, make use of keywords and search operators. (I go over these in the webinar linked at the bottom of this post.)

2. Browse blog lists.

Many writing-based sites will compile tens and sometimes even hundreds of blogs into one big list. This makes it much cleaner and easier to find the right blog for you. Many of these lists are even organized by industry, so you can easily find blogs in your niche.

Freedom With Writing has hundreds of blog lists, and it’s a wonderful place to start your blog hunt. Our members also have access to a database of over 1,200 publishers.

Also – if you sign up for Thursday’s webinar, we’ll be sending you a very relevant bonus after the webinar. (Yes, you’ll have to wait a bit!)

Sign Up Here.

3. Don’t make a big deal out of your lack of experience.

When you pitch your ideas, it might be tempting to include a note explaining your lack of publication, but don’t do it!

As I mentioned earlier, many editors don’t mind if you don’t have experience. If you draw attention to it, you’ll only be needlessly emphasizing your shortcomings.

Instead, lead with a fantastic pitch. If your pitch is compelling, it’ll do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.

So don’t be discouraged! You don’t need years of experience to get published.

One last thing: Pitching is mostly a numbers game. You have to do it over and over to get good at it. Even great writers can get rejected 9 times out of 10. The more you pitch, the better off you’ll be, so get out there and start pitching!

If you’d like to learn more about blog writing, check out our free hour-long webinar:

Freelance FAQ #4: How to Find the Name of an Editor

If you pitch to publications on a regular basis, you might have run into some roadblocks.

One of the most common issues is being unable to find which editor you should pitch. On the other hand, sometimes you know which department to pitch but can’t find the name of the specific editor to pitch.

Here are a few tips for finding the right editor:

You might be thinking, “But what if I can’t find anything at all?”

If you’ve tried the 3 tips in the video and still can’t find a name, then don’t worry about it. While you should always do your homework, it’s ultimately on the publication to provide submission information. If they don’t list the editor’s name, you can’t be expected to know it.

Now, you should still try––it’s a good practice to know who you’re pitching to, and it can set you apart from other writers. At the same time, there’s only so much you can do.

This raises another question: What greeting do you use if you can’t find a name? There’s not one right answer, but there are some generally accepted greetings you can use:

  • “Dear editor” – This is a good standard greeting if you can’t find the name of an editor.
  • “Hello!” – A bit less formal and more enthusiastic, this mostly neutral greeting is good for most blogs.
  • “Hello _____ editors!” or “Hello _____ team!” – Slightly chummier, these greetings are good for more informal publications with fun styles.
  • “Greetings!” – This is a more generic greeting, but it might suit your writing style more closely.

There is only one big NO: Never use “to whom it may concern” or “dear sir or madam.” These greetings are severely dated, impersonal, and frankly a bit lazy. You need to do everything you can to catch an editor’s attention, and that includes your email greeting. The “to whom it may concern” alternatives above are much better and will work in your favor.

Your Turn: Which of these email greetings is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below.

Freelance FAQ #2: Leverage Your Existing Portfolio for New Niches

In the first episode of Freelance FAQ, I mentioned 3 tips for changing niches. In this episode, I talk about using your existing portfolio to build authority in a new niche. It’s a topic I briefly covered in Episode 1 but wanted to expand on.

It might seem silly to use writing in one niche to get work in a completely different one. Lots of writers think that they have to write brand new samples for a niche if they don’t have any existing published work in that niche. Thankfully, this isn’t the case.

That’s because what matters most isn’t always the topic. Check out the video, and stick around after for some detailed discussion, which you can find below.

That’s because what matters most isn’t always the topic. Check out the video, and stick around after for some detailed discussion, which you can find below.

Now, don’t get me wrong––it’s always beneficial to have directly related work. If you write about finance, it’s best to have published work in the finance niche.

However, there are times when that’s not possible. For example, if you’re changing niches, you won’t have any related work to show at the outset. In these cases, that’s perfectly fine.

It’s important to understand that this advice isn’t evergreen. You should only use unrelated work when you have no other option, and you shouldn’t make a habit of it. It’s always preferable to show directly related work.

The bottom line is that you don’t need to worry if you find yourself temporarily without portfolio pieces that are related to the niche you’re writing in. Use what you have, get published in the new niche, and then put that work into your portfolio.

That said, remember that editors want to see two main things: social credibility and the quality of your writing. This is why being published is so important, as it shows other people value your work. (It’s also why we don’t recommend using self-published work in your portfolio.)

Ultimately, the topics of your work don’t matter as much as the type of work. For example, if you want to get published on a blog, your portfolio should have blog articles you’ve written.

In summary:

  1. It’s best if your portfolio has work in the same niches that you’re writing in. However, if you’re temporarily without related work, use what you have.
  2. Remember that editors and clients are after social credibility and quality.

Your Turn: Have you been in this situation before? What did you do?

Freelance FAQ #1: How to Change Niches as a Freelance Writer

What happens when you want to change niches as a freelance writer?

You can write in one niche for a while and eventually become an expert on the topic (and maybe that’s where you are right now). But what if you don’t want to write in that niche anymore? What if you want to pivot to a new specialty?

It can be daunting to find yourself in that position, but thankfully, it’s not as scary as it might seem. In this video, you’ll learn 3 tips for changing niches:

Let’s take a closer look at those 3 tips:

1) Test the waters first.

If you go full speed ahead and change niches overnight, you might run into some problems.

For example, what if you end up not liking the new niche? Or what if you’re having trouble finding work?

It’s much safer to make the switch gradually. We recommend starting by taking on a handful of jobs in your new niche. Evaluate the experience, and see how it goes.

If you love it, great! You can ease into your new niche. On the other hand, if it’s not what you expected, you can easily step out and go back to your first niche. Then you can begin the search for another new niche if you want.

2) You don’t have to start from scratch!

It’s understandable why so many people think changing niches means starting over.

After all, it seems like your current experience won’t cross over to the new niche. For example, if you’ve made a name for yourself as a parenting writer and you want to break into travel writing, it doesn’t make sense that travel editors would care about your experience in parenting.

However, your existing work isn’t worthless––quite the opposite! No matter the niche(s) you’ve written in, your portfolio showcases your experience. You can leverage that existing work and use it to provide social credibility and prove that you’re an expert at writing.

In addition, most editors don’t mind if your portfolio contains work that’s unrelated to the niche. Of course it’s best if you do have published work in the niche, but it’s often not a deal breaker. Use what you have.

3) Establish yourself as an expert early on.

The sooner you establish yourself as an expert in your new niche, the sooner you’ll be getting paid and published.

When you switch niches, you probably won’t feel like an expert at first. You might even come down with a mild case of impostor syndrome. That’s completely normal! But you have to realize that you are an expert whether you believe it or not.

You may not have published work in this niche, but you have knowledge about it. You’re passionate about it. You’re also an expert at writing. That’s everything you need to be an expert in any niche. The only thing you’re lacking is publication, which you’ll achieve (probably sooner than you think).

Changing niches isn’t as scary as it seems.

Taking on a new niche seems intimidating, but it really isn’t. We hope this article has illuminated the reasons why you don’t have to be scared. You have everything you need to get started in a new niche right now. So go out, test the waters, and see what happens.

Your Turn: Is the idea of changing niches frightening to you? Have you ever changed niches before, and if so, what was it like?