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We all have our favorite job boards to troll, and I’m guessing that more than a few of you are well acquainted with bidding sites like Elance. Sometimes, though, these sites don’t give you crap. I remember going through a two-month period back when I was about 5 months into freelancing full time when I couldn’t find much of anything as far as freelancing work. I actually resorted to some really crummy low-paying jobs and had a yard sale just to pay bills. Screw that.

Since then, I’m happy to say that I have enough long-term clients to keep me busy (sometimes even a little too busy!), and although I know no freelance job is ever truly secure, I’m confident that I won’t have to sell my Wii to make rent. That’s beside the point, though. What I really want to talk about with you is your approach to finding work when times are tough. Over the years, I’ve discovered a few really odd, secret places that always seem to have some work for freelancers – and I’d like to share them with you today.

Ok, maybe not all of these are that secretive…but I sure as heck didn’t know to look there when I started freelancing and wish someone would have told me!

1. Churches and Other Religious Organizations

It doesn’t really matter if you are religious or not – you can do freelance writing for a church if you at least have a bit of foundation in the religion. If you grew up Catholic, you may not be able to pen something for a local synagogue! However, many places of worship have newsletters for their members – and those that do not may be interested in starting one. Ask if they are looking for someone to compile and write their newsletter. The pay isn’t out of this world (it’s a religious non-profit, after all), but it will be steady, and you typically don’t have to worry about a church cheating you out of your pay. While many churches may already have a secretary who writes the newsletter, the least you can do is ask…and you never know; they might be able to point you to a sister church or larger organizational group that could use your help.

2. Local Restaurants

Think of the name of your favorite local restaurant. Now try to find its website. Sucks, doesn’t it? It’s a little hit or miss, actually. Some restaurants are finally realizing how important it is to have a functioning website. Those who haven’t, however, could use your help, and as a patron, you actually have a great base of knowledge for the job. If the restaurants you love already have great websites, pitch a blog idea to them. I’m currently helping a local restaurant that I love set up a blog so the owner can post weekly recipes and event information. Another hint – when restaurants redesign their menus, someone has to write out the food descriptions!

3. Your Alma Mater

Most colleges have an alumni newsletter or magazine. Ask if they’re accepting submissions! Network with your college friends to find some alumni who’ve been up to amazing things in their career or personal life and pitch an interview article idea. You don’t have to necessarily stick to YOUR school, either. If there’s someone in your community doing great things, find out where he or she went to college and contact them with the story pitch.

4. Small Publishing Companies

It may seem strange to contact publishers to ask if they have any freelance work…but many do (at least, the small ones). What kind of work do they have? If you’re an expert in your field and they’re publishing a book on that topic, they may need an introduction written for book. Someone also has to write the summaries found on dust jackets, and websites with information about each book don’t just create themselves. Yes, they typically have people on staff to do these jobs, but it doesn’t hurt to give them your name. Every company has busy patches where a good freelance would come in handy.

5. Other Writers

Have writer friends? Let them know that you’re looking for work! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent clients to writer friends of mine because I didn’t have enough time for their project. Just be prepared to return the favor in the future. You don’t want to open up yourself for all of your clients to be stolen away, but sharing knowledge about open jobs is not a bad thing at all!

6. Local Bands on the Cusp

Your neighbor’s son’s garage band probably doesn’t need a writer, but that 80’s cover band that plays at tons of local bars and festivals might be able to use your services. The key here is to look for bands who seem to be doing well and are known around your area, but who aren’t yet signed. What can you write for them? A website, bios for their album inserts, PR packets, and more. Some bands are even looking for great lyricists, so if you’re musically creative, they might have a job for you.

7. Zoos in Your Area

Like churches, zoos usually send out a newsletter on a weekly or monthly basis to their members – or they want to be doing so, but don’t really know how. That’s where you come in. Remember that you’re probably dealing with a non-profit, so don’t charge them an arm and a leg, but at the same time, realize that most zoos are willing to pay good money for really high-quality zoo member newsletters. Most zoos also have a website, so check to see if it is up to date. If it isn’t, they may be able to use your services.

8. Any Small Business in Your Area that Doesn’t Already have a Website

Hopefully, you’ve already approached some of these businesses. These days, almost all successful businesses can benefit from a website – hair saloons, flower shops, grocery stores, mechanics, day care centers, and more. Pitch yourself as a writer and remember to follow up unless they give you a definite “no.”

9. Companies that “Spam” You

You don’t want to work for the enemy, but companies that send you unsolicited spam may need a writer. No, I’m not suggesting that you contact people who want to enlarge parts of your body, but at the same time, there are legitimate companies who are trying to solicit people via email, but don’t have a very good writer and it ends up looking like spam. Look for someone who actually has a service that makes sense, a real website, and contact information. Stay away from anything that looks scammy. Simply approach them, mention that you’ve noticed their email marketing campaign, and offer to help them write more engaging content for their emails, newsletters, or websites. Remember, this applies to offline “spam” as well - junk mail.

10. Large Corporations who don’t Update their Blogs Often

Everyone’s jumping on the blogging bandwagon these days, but many larger corporations don’t actually understand the concept or don’t hire someone for the job, so it falls to a “when Ned from our PR division has a spare moment” job. They have the money to pay someone – it just hasn’t been a top priority. Convince them that it should be. Any larger company that has a blog, but is updating less than three times a week could really use you…and if you remind them how much they need a blogger, they’ll pay you well in thanks.

A version of this post, written by me, was first published on b5media’s Bizzia website. It is reposted here with permission.


  1. sharon on Monday 6, 2010

    Hello Allison,
    Nice web site – crisp and engaging content. I’m known at Article Authors as Maria which is my 2nd name, but my friends call me Sharon.
    Just wanted to congratulate you on a job well done! Your post on 10 unusual places to find writing work was an eye-opener. Unique ideas.
    Keep up the good work.
    cheers,
    sharon

  2. Bobby Marvin on Monday 6, 2010

    This information is very helpful and very much needed. Thank you.