What I Do After I Write a Blog Post

I’ve previously talked about my blog writing process. After I write the post, I do a few other things before publishing it. These steps make the post into shareable content.

Find an image for the post

I got to Librestock to find an image that complements my content. For my posts on freelancing, I like to find images of offices, people working, and computers. I also like photos of nature scenes. Sometimes I include pictures of my family, but only in the parenting posts.

Create a Canva graphic

I edit the image in Canva to create a “Pinnable” image. I do this by taking a template that I made of the blog title and my website address. I change the image, add the new text and insert it into the end of the blog post.

Write social media posts

I post every new blog entry once on the Freelancing Mama Facebook page. Sometimes I share Freelancing Mama’s post on my personal Facebook page. I also tweet each post three times within the week that it was published.

Schedule the blog post

I schedule each blog post at least one day in advance, but sometimes posts are scheduled a few weeks in advance. One of my goals for 2017 is to have content scheduled at least one month in advance.

Post on Facebook group

Once the post goes live, I post my link in a variety of places. There are several freelancing and blogging groups that allow people to share their content once per week on a certain day. I take advantage of this and post my work in the threads. Usually, this results in 2-5 people sharing my content. You can find groups by searching Facebook for your topic of interest and choosing the Group tab to see what exists.

Pin my post

My next step is to pin my post. I do this by using the Pinterest Chrome add-on. I hover over the pinnable image that I include at the end of my posts and then add my blog. I have a Pinterest board for the Freelancing Mama’s posts. I typically add more to the description field before saving the pin.

Repost on Medium*

Medium is another blogging platform. My husband primarily uses it for his writing. I read Medium articles every day, but only post some of my work there. One reason for this is that I don’t want to negatively affect my website’s SEO rankings. Duplicate content can lower your ranking. The second reason is that I want to keep a consistent image on that site as a social media marketer / freelancer. On my own blog, I also write about parenting and being a stay-at-home mother.

I’m a relatively new blogger and don’t do this as a career so this is a basic list of resources. As I learn new things, I’ll continue to add to this procedure.

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How I Write a Blog Post

The hardest part of writing is often just getting started. One of my favorite pieces of writing advice is “BICHOK” – butt in chair, hands on keyboard. Often the magic happens when we show up.

My writing process rarely varies.

I always start with a blank Google Document.

I title the document and change the font to Headline 1 size. I may end up tweaking the title after I finish the post, but most of the time I know what I want to write about and my title explains it fairly well on the first try.

Next, I write a bullet point outline about what I’m going to discuss in the blog post.

  • First point
  • Second point
  • Third point
  • 1-2 sentence conclusion

As we all learned in school, essays should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Blog posts are similar, but they are open to your personal style choices. Some people’s posts are a stream of consciousness while others are more like newspaper articles. It’s up to you to choose your style of writing.

After I have the bullet point list, I may skip around in the document and write sections that are coming easily first.

I also like to include 1-2 links to other blog entries and websites. This doesn’t always happen, but it’s my rule of thumb. When I think of something that I want to cite I write (LINK) next to the text to remind myself to go through and find the links during the editing process.

I work on a blog post when during my 30 minutes of concentrated writing time each morning. If I don’t have anything to add in one post, I’ll move on to another. I have between 20-30 drafts going at all times so there’s always something to do.

I complete some posts in 10 minutes and others take hours. It depends on my familiarity with the topic and how easily writing is coming to me that day. Sometimes I’m pulling the words out of myself and other times they are flowing freely.

Concentration

I write with Brain.fm playing in the background. I truly believe that it helps focus my brain. I also use YouTube to find classical music. Here’s a nice 3 hour compilation of classical music.

Proofreading and editing

After the first draft is complete, I read through the post out loud to look for any errors or sentences that should be reworked. Often, reading out loud helps to find awkward phrasing or incorrect grammar. I run a free spelling and grammar checker called Grammarly on my posts to catch anything I’ve missed.

I typically spend another 20-30 minutes proofreading and editing the post to get to draft two. Once the second draft is complete, I leave the document alone for a few days.

Final read through

I do a final read through a few days after editing draft 2. After I read through, I go through my after blog writing process.

Celebration

After I finish a blog post and after all of my 30 minute writing sessions, I have a small celebration.

As an adult, even while working in an office, you don’t get praise very often. My husband is very supportive and always tells me he’s proud of me. When I’m alone in my kitchen and just finished some writing, it helps to get up and say “Go Erin!” or some other exclamation out loud. Having a toddler is a benefit because she’s always ready for an impromptu dance party. If I’ve had a particularly difficult writing session, I turn on one of my favorite songs and rock out for a few minutes.

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My Favorite Blogging Resources

There are many tools that can take your blogging game to the next level. And the good news is, most of these tools are free and easy to use! During my time freelancing, I’ve found some great resources to support my writing process. Here are some of the apps and websites I use for blogging.

Focus

To help me concentrate while I write blogs, I use Brain.fm. The app plays ambient music that’s formulated to help you focus. They also have music to help you relax and sleep. I’ve found a huge increase in productivity while using the app.

I use Self Control for Mac to block distracting websites for blocks of time while I work. This usually includes Facebook and Reddit. I block them for portions of the day so I don’t end up checking them repeatedly while I work.

Writing

There are many places where you can write your blog entries. You can write directly in a blogging platform like WordPress or Medium. Doing this gives you the convenience of having your blog posts all in one place, but adds the distraction of being online and able to click around your site.

Another option is writing in Word or Pages and disconnecting your internet access while doing so. It’s rumored that novelist Johnathan Franzen writes all of his books on a computer with no internet access to avoid the possibility of distraction.

I write all of my blogs in Google Docs. I prefer this platform because the layout is plain and doesn’t distract me. It updates every few seconds so I never have to worry about whether my work will be lost. In addition, should I want someone to read over one of my posts before publishing, I can easily share the Google Doc.

I also use the free tool Grammarly for Chrome. This is similar to spell check where it underlines words that are spelled wrong or grammatically incorrect. Although I have a degree in English, I don’t always remember every single grammar rule – there are a lot! I had to complete an entire course on grammar to receive my degree and it was one of the hardest classes I took.

Images

There are many free stock images sites out there. My favorite is Librestock which searches 47 free stock image websites. This is where I find all of the images that I use on my blog.

When I need to create an image or add some text to an existing image, I use Canva. I’ve been using Canva for 2+ years and I love it. Eventually, I’d like to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, but until then Canva does a great job for my current needs. Both of these resources offer basic functionality with a free account.

Once I post a blog, I use other tools to promote it which I’ll discuss in a future post.

The most important thing about writing a post is actually sitting down and doing it. Remember, BICHOK is the key to writing – Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard. If you spend enough time writing eventually you’ll produce something useful, entertaining, or interesting.

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What I’ve Learned from Two Years of Working at Home

This August was my second anniversary of working from home. I left my job as an Information Specialist in a biotechnology company’s corporate library in 2014 after the birth of my daughter and began working at Zirtual as a virtual assistant. After six months there, I left to start my own marketing company. Now I mostly work as a marketing specialist, but I also do some virtual assistant work and contract work with my former biotechnology employer.

I’ve learned a lot while working from home. Some days are great and others are not, but I could say the same thing about a traditional job. Here are the most important things I’ve learned from working from home for the past two years.

  • Organization is king

In my previous job, I was used to having systems in place. We had a metric board where we kept track of weekly projects and a daily stand-up meeting to discuss outstanding work. I took those skills to my own business and set up schedules and an organization system.

I track all of my projects in Wunderlist and Asana. Most of my clients are in Wunderlist. When someone assigns me a task, I add it to their list with the agreed upon deadline. Personal work, like this blog and The Sturm Agency website, is in Asana. I like both platforms for different reasons. Wunderlist is perfect for client’s work because it’s simple and easy to use. However, I also love Asana’s interface and prefer to keep my personal work organized there.

I timeblock my Google calendar. My calendar is blocked off during my working hours (6-9 am, 12-2 pm, 7-9 pm, and some time on the weekends). Each day I check my client’s requests and work on them for roughly one hour per day except for a client who has a time-based agreement with me. Timeblocking allows me to check in with each client Monday through Friday. Having things set up this way ensures that I never neglect a client for a few days and come back to missed projects or admin tasks. Sometimes the client won’t have anything for me to to do so I’ll move on to the next person. I started this system when I was working full time at Zirtual and managing 8-10 clients. I don’t have that many clients anymore, but the system still works.

I write a daily to-do list in my notebook each day. Every morning I go into Wunderlist and Asana, check which tasks I need to get done that day, and write a to-do list in a paper notebook. I like doing this because crossing things off a list gives me a sense of satisfaction that clicking a button doesn’t. I only write down the five or six most important tasks for the day. I can’t get more than that done on a given day and seeing a 20+ item list stresses me out.

I check what I accomplished and what’s outstanding each evening. Before I go to bed, I check what needs to be done the next day and review the list of things I accomplished that day. Before doing this, I was having a hard time falling asleep because I was running through my to-do list over and over in my mind. Reading a list of my daily achievements makes me feel like I accomplished something even on my worst days. This five-minute routine has helped me fall asleep more quickly.

I track all of my time in 17hats and Toggl. For clients that I invoice, I use 17hats. For everyone else, I track in Toggl. I even track the time I spend writing this blog. It helps because I have a visual guide that I can review at the end of the week.

  • Take a day off

During my first year freelancing, I worked seven days a week. I still have not taken a proper vacation where I stop client work for a week.

That said, I need to have one day off per week that does not involve doing work for anyone else. That doesn’t mean I don’t work on my personal projects, set up my social media feeds or write blogs, it just means that I don’t work on anyone else’s stuff. Every night, it’s my goal to stop computer work an hour before I go to bed so I can read books and relax.

Typically, I don’t work on Saturdays at all. We spend time together as a family during the day. In the evening, my husband and I rent a movie or watch one of our shows.

  • Your word is gold

Some people have a negative perception of freelancers or those who work from home. They think that remote workers are spending their days watching TV and napping. There’s even a Kraft Macaroni and Cheese commercial which mentions “working from home fakers.” Unfortunately, I’ve found that there are some freelancers who are flaky and unreachable. I’ve had to work with some web designers who took 3-4 emails about the same topic before they’d respond. I recently had another marketing specialist completely blow me off after hiring me to do some work.

I do what I say I’m going to do. I work hard to make sure that I meet all deadlines and deliver what I’ve promised. One of the biggest keys to doing that is setting realistic deadlines. I try not to let other people set deadlines for me.

I’m completely open about working at home with my daughter, but I want clients to forget that I’m also taking care of a child. I strive to be so responsive and consistent that it seems like freelancing is the only thing I’m doing.

  • Choose the right clients

One of the best things about being a freelancer is that I can choose my own clients. I try to find people that I believe I can help. I find people whose business sounds interesting to me or whose mission and vision I agree with. I like to work in areas where I already have some knowledge.

I like working with other small business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers.

That’s also why working with nonprofits is so important to me. I want to spread their message and make sure the community is aware of the good things they are doing. We need more positivity in our lives especially where I live in Rockford, Illinois which was ranked the 3rd most miserable place to live in the United States.

My ideal client is someone who is organized and realistic. I need someone who has a clear vision for what they want me to do. I also appreciate people who are quick to say thank you and slow to criticize.

  • Stay grateful

I have blessings on blessings; there is no hint of sarcasm when I say that. I think some of my success has to do with the fact that I am so grateful to be able to do this. I don’t personally know anyone else doing something like this. I know a few people with their own businesses, but they are brick and mortar operations or businesses selling actual goods (photos, invites, etc.) I live in a small town and the idea of “working on the internet” is not commonplace.

Many days I’m amazed that I’ve come this far and am so appreciative of my clients. I have the attitude of I get to do this instead of I have to do this.

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10 Things You Can Do For Your Business During Naptime

There is no sweeter word in the freelancing mama’s vocabulary than ‘naptime’ except for bedtime. Naptime can be a chance to get between 30 minutes to 2 hours of concentrated work done (or not, it’s up to you). Most days I buckle down and work during my daughter’s naps, but other days I take some time to recharge.

Here are ten things you can do for your small business while your child naps.

1) Update your social media sites

Are you posting regularly on your social media sites? You should be! According to a 2014 study, 62% of people check Facebook to find out more about a small business. If your page is infrequently updated your business may appear unprofessional or closed down. Try to post at least twice a week with a mix of other people’s content and your own – a 60/40 split is a good rule of thumb.

2) Write a blog post

Blog writing keeps your site fresh and your Google ranking high. Make sure to use keywords to describe your services like copywriting, blogging, social media management, virtual assistance, or whatever it is you do. Blog posts don’t need to be long, around 500 words is good. Aim to post something new at least once per week on your site, more often if you can swing it.

3) Brainstorm ideas

How often do you sit in silence with a pen and paper or a blank Word document and brainstorm ideas for your business? Try to make some time to do this once per week. You never know what ideas will emerge when you let your brain have time to imagine.

4) Ask for recommendations or reviews

Take a minute to email a past or current client asking for a recommendation or review. Make sure you ask specific questions like:

  • “How has working with me benefited your business?”
  • “Can you describe a situation where my work had a positive impact on your day?”
  • “Would you recommend my services to a friend? Why?”

Questions like these give your client a framework to think about your services. Your client is more likely to respond to specific questions than a general request to ‘review you.’ Bonus points- set up your questions as a Google form that you can easily send to clients after work is complete and keep track of the responses in one place.

5) Read something inspirational

Reading positive news or inspirational business stories can have a lasting positive effect on your mind. Spending only five to ten minutes reading can reduce stress which increases compassion and unlocks creativity. Plus, you never know where your next great idea is going to come from so keep your eyes peeled for inspiration.

6) Google yourself

What’s showing up when you Google yourself? Make sure your internet presence reflects who you are and what you want people to know about you. Consider which accounts you should make private and which you want viewable to the public. Most clients are going to Google you before working with you so you want to know what they’re seeing.

7) Set up a LinkedIn page for your business

Your business should have a LinkedIn page that lists your industry, website, and contact information. Take ten minutes to set up your page so you’re searchable on the platform. How frequently you update the page will depend on your social media strategy. 

8) Set up a Google+ page for your business

Even though the fate of Google+ is constantly being discussed, it’s still helpful to have a page for your business. Google prioritizes Google+ on search results so as long as the platform is still kicking, you should take 10 minutes to create a page and build your online presence. Again, how often you update will depend on your social media strategy.

9) Join a Facebook group

Facebook groups in your area of expertise, or ones for freelancers in general, can be some of your greatest resources. They are full of other small business owners who are doing the same thing you are. You can ask for advice and even get some work. If you’re not a member, join the Freelance to Freedom group right now!

10) Reach out to a mentor or peer

How often do you communicate your goals with someone else? It can be hard to find a one-on-one mentor, so consider a peer mentorship or mastermind group. You could also find an accountability buddy to share your weekly goals with. Reach out and message someone about how you’re doing and ask them to share the same. Just like receiving snail mail, getting a heartfelt email can be a rare occurrence that can make someone’s day.

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Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 9/5/16)

This is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, marketing, and parenting with occasional wild cards thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

Before you get started freelancing, check out Kate Darby’s five things to know before you go solo. The article is geared towards designers but can apply to all freelancers.

Many freelancers are pricing their services too low. Justine Clay suggests going from an hourly rate to a project rate or retainer fee.

Contently has some mixed opinions on whether blogging is important for freelancers. We both agree that it gives you a place to express your creativity without any restraints.

Marketing

If you want to write one blog post every day, you should practice these habits from Neil Patel. One of my favorite suggestions is reading more than you write.

Never search for a free stock image again. Buffer pulled together a gigantic list of 53 resources that everyone should bookmark!

No matter the size of your business, you need a plan. Lindsey Evans will tell you why and make you laugh.

Parenting

Children are experiencing high levels of stress at a younger age than previous generations. Dr. Suzanne Farra explains why and tells parents what we can do to help.

Both working from home or going back to the office after having a baby are hard. Katy Widrick talks about her two experiences and the pros and cons of each.

 

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Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 8/22/16)

Mama's Favorites Aug 26

This is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, marketing, and parenting with occasional wild cards thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

CloudPeeps shares seven tips for avoiding bad freelance hires. As a freelancer, read this article with an eye towards how you can improve your chances of getting a good gig.

Need to set up your online writing portfolio? Meryl Williams at The Write Life created a simple checklist to get your site in tip-top shape.

Even if you don’t work in an office, you can use these seven creative tips to get ahead in your career. As a freelancer, it’s especially important to network in your network and express gratitude for any help that you receive.

Marketing

Before you set up a pay-per-click (PPC) advertisement, read Neil Patel’s detailed data-driven post. He’s spent big money on advertising and knows what works and what doesn’t.

If you’re ready to go from a one-person shop to an agency model, read this Hubspot post on how to make the leap. I’ll keep these tips in mind as I plan to expand and hopefully employ people in the future.

If you’re wondering why no one’s reading your blog, check out Apurva Chiranewala’s list of five reasons. Even if people are reading your blog, these tips could help improve your conversion rate.

Parenting

One second grade teacher’s decision to not assign any homework for the year is going viral. Research is showing too much homework too early can create negative attitudes about school. This teacher recommends having dinner together, playing outside and going to sleep early – all things that have proven positive effects in children’s lives. Hopefully, this no homework trend will continue.

This Science of Us article explains how people attach morality to danger when it comes to judging parenting. People don’t completely rely on facts when making judgments, they also infuse the situation with whether they think something is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to do.

Wildcard: Lifestyle

This long read from Benjamin Hardy lists 50 ways happier, healthier, and more successful people live on their own terms. If you focus on a few of these tips, you could find yourself in a better place tomorrow than you are today. I’ve been concentrating on making meditation a regular part of my daily routine for the past week and I’m already feeling the benefits.

On the Creative Process and Just Doing It Already

Virtual Assistant (1)

The most important part of the creative process is getting started. When I was younger, I wrote daily. I didn’t have much to do and was often grounded so I spent a lot of time in my room with only my thoughts for entertainment. I enjoyed reading, but I’d read most of the books in my house by the time I turned 11. To pass the time and keep myself sane, I created stories by writing out dreams, plans for the future, or plots of TV shows that I would want to watch. I also wrote a lot of poetry. When we got our first home computer, I spent hours figuring out basic HTML and creating an Angelfire website dedicated to my poetry. I updated it every few days. I was flattered when classmates told me they read my poems, but I didn’t really care if I had an audience.

I only wanted to write.

I wasn’t worried about running out of ideas. I wasn’t worried about whether I was producing my best content. I just did the work.

As I got older, I’d wait to feel inspired to write something. This was particularly true with my poetry. I’d have to be going through some intense emotional stuff to feel the desire to write anything. This produced some great pieces, but I only wrote a poem every six months or so. In college, not wanting to force the creative process led to many late nights writing final papers the day before they were due.

As I’ve made steps to make writing my career, I realize that like many things, you have to just do it. I can’t worry too much about the end product and whether it’s perfect. I can’t worry about who will read it and who won’t. I can’t worry about whether I’m contributing to the greater good every time I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

I just have to write. Sometimes it’s brilliant and sometimes it’s terrible. But I just have to keep doing it. That’s the only way to improve, that’s the only way to keep moving forward.

So I’ll write every day. I’ll sit down, turn on classical music or brain-stimulating ambient noise, try to focus my monkey mind and get my ideas on the page.

And like all things I wrote, I ultimately wrote this for myself, to remind myself that it’s what I need to do. Maybe you need to hear it too. My writing might be your anything. Whatever you need to be doing – whatever you want to be doing, but put off because it’s damn scary to actually do the work – go on now and get it done. You’ll thank yourself later.

The Five Best Places I’ve Found Freelancing Jobs

Finding freelancing jobs can be tough. You have to watch out for spammy Craigslist postings and sites that want you to pay to see available work. You may think you need to spend money before you can make money. You don’t need to do that! There are many reputable sites where you can find freelancing jobs at no cost to you.

Throughout my freelancing career, I’ve had great luck finding jobs from these five resources:

1) Upwork (formerly oDesk and Elance)

Upwork touts themselves as “the premier platform for top companies to hire and work with the world’s most talented independent professionals.” They have over 10M registered coders, writers, marketers, designers, developers and other freelancers using their platform. The best thing about Upwork is that it’s extremely easy to use; fill out your profile and you can start pitching for jobs immediately. The downside is that there is a lot of competition. Most jobs have 20+ applicants and some will underbid to get the job. Pitching for a job requires Connects, usually 1-5 per job. With a free account, you will get 60 connects per month, but if that’s not enough, you can upgrade to 70 for $10 per month.

Upwork is where I connected with my first paying freelancing job. It was a blog writing gig that eventually included social media management duties for a Twitter account. I made about $200 from this platform. I occasionally check for jobs, but as I’ve gained experience and raised my rates, I’ve found that the average price per job is too low. However, this is a great place for a new freelancer to start building their portfolio. Keep in mind, you may need to sacrifice pay for experience at first.

Cost: Free to use, but Upwork takes a 10% fee

2) CloudPeeps

CloudPeeps is made up of “world’s top marketing, content, social media and community pros.” CloudPeeps is more exclusive with only ~1000 freelancers working in the platform. This means the jobs are easier to secure, but the competition is stiff. There are many well-known internet marketers, community managers, and PR pros working on the platform. CloudPeeps is more than a job posting site, it’s also a community of creative professionals who assist and support each other.

CloudPeeps was my launchpad into freelancing. I joined the community in October 2014 and soon had three clients under my belt. In 2015, I was named one of the top 10 most successful Peeps of the year. I have made around $20,000 from jobs on the platform in the past 18 months.

Cost: Free to use, but CloudPeeps takes a 15% fee for a CP-hosted job, and a 5% fee to manage your own clients using the platform

3) Indeed

Indeed is the Google for job postings. I’ve set up two searches that are automatically sent to my email each day. One search is for “remote, freelance, writing, blogging, marketing, and social media” and the other is for any job in my local area.

I have a local search in place because it gives me an idea of companies that are growing and looking to hire in my area. These companies may need the marketing services that I offer. If I come across these postings, I occasionally send out a cold email introducing myself as a local marketing professional and detailing my services.

I’ve secured one local client from Indeed searches and applied for several remote part-time positions. I’ve made around $5,000 from jobs found on Indeed.

Cost: Free to use, no fees

4) LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the most popular business networking site and the best place to have your online resume. Keeping your LinkedIn profile up-to-date can be a great way to get jobs. I’ve been approached several times by local businesses asking if I’d like to collaborate. I credit that to the fact that my profile is complete and up-to-date. Make sure you note that you’re a freelancer and what your skills are. As you build your portfolio, be sure to add links to your best work in the experience section.

I’ve made about $400 on jobs that originated from connections on LinkedIn.

Cost: Free to use, no fees

5) Social Media (Twitter and Facebook)

Having a regularly updated social media presence is so important for any business. People will search social media, especially if you are touting yourself as a marketer, to see if you ‘walk the talk’. My personal social sharing formula is 75% other people’s content, 25% my own. You don’t want your social feeds to be too self-promotional; that can be off-putting. Share things that resonate with you – did you love the message of someone’s article, do think other people should read it? Position yourself as a lifelong learner by commenting on current issues and news stories in your area of expertise. Remember to tag writers and publications when you share their content. It can be helpful to use hashtags to draw attention to your post, but more than two per post is excessive.

I haven’t made any money through social media yet, but I have been offered opportunities (guest blog posts and connections to people in my field), that may lead to jobs in the future.

Cost: Free to use, no fees

Special Mention

Problogger

Problogger is a board for blog writing jobs. I’ve pitched, but never been hired through this platform. I frequently check the site and there are always high-paying jobs listed. This is a place that you should check out if you’re looking to build your writing portfolio.

Cost: Free to use, no fees

Other resources for finding freelancing jobs

There are many more resources to find freelancing jobs that I have not tried yet. I’ve compiled some helpful articles with more extensive lists below:

15 Best Freelance Websites to Find Jobs via Entrepreneur
25 Top Sites for Finding the Freelancing Job You Want via Skillcrush
71 Great Website to Find Freelance Jobs via Freshbooks