One Indispensable Skill Every Freelance Writer Must Have

Like many other modern jobs, finding legitimate freelance writing opportunities online is less about knowing what to search, but empowering yourself to search well.

There are many search engines and various ways of accessing information online, but as of 2016, Google still dominates the market. Google is your portal to everything you need as a freelancer: jobs, research, and social media contact information for colleagues or prospects.

Even if you intend to go low-tech, scribbling in moleskines and conducting business over a refurbished rotary phone (which would be pretty cool), a working knowledge of Google’s lesser-known tricks will improve your business at some inevitable juncture.

If you’re a tech native like me, you may be toying with skipping over this section under the assumption you don’t need to improve your Google game.

But listen here, my friend: you can always improve your Google game.

Excellent writing is ethical writing, from investigative articles to those about feeding your cat. Click To Tweet

After all, Google’s always improving, finding new ways to index websites and deliver the best and most relevant content to those who search for it. And if you’re going to do any kind of writing for the internet, it’s incredibly valuable to understand how users interact with Google, and how Google ranks results — especially given that most users don’t look beyond the top three search results for any given search term.

Essential Search Techniques for Finding Writing Jobs

In terms of searching for freelance jobs right now, I’m going to assume you have at least a basic understanding of internet search and how to sort trustworthy sites from sketchy ones. I’ve handpicked four techniques that will help you find the kind of work you’re looking for:

Searching exact phrases.

Use quotes to search specific terms, and the hyphen to eliminate certain terms from your results. For instance, if you want to find websites that pay writers but not those who publish fiction, you could search “websites that pay writers” -fiction. Get specific: if you have expertise in a particular area, like rabbits or SaaS or beauty products, use those search terms in your query. It’s a wide, wide world of writing opportunities and the need seems to be growing every day, so the odds are in your favor of finding exactly the type of work you’re looking for.

Related sites.

If you have a writing site or target publication you’re fond of and want more like it, try the search term “related:” followed by your favorite site’s name. For instance, if I’ve pitched and sold a story to Jane’s Rabbit Blog and I want to find more sites like hers, I’d search “related:JanesRabbitBlog.com.”

Search within specific websites.

This is especially useful if you’re having trouble locating submission or pitching information on a site you’re interested in writing for. If you’re looking for a list of editors or a masthead on your favorite digital magazine, you may have a better go of it if you use Google instead of browsing within the magazine itself. Here’s how: put the name of the site after “site:”, followed by your search term.

Examples:
Technical writing tips site:amariel.com
Freelance taxes site:about.com
Google search tips site:theguardian.com

Use the Advanced Search tool.

Google’s “Advanced Search” form allows you to input multiple keywords to search (and to exclude), and to search within a specific date range.

Internalize as many of these best practices as you can. If you’ve found some good job sites or calls for freelancers, it’s a really good idea to check the reputation of these sites elsewhere on the Web. For instance, if you’ve found a relatively new online work platform that connects technical writers with clients looking for talent, conduct another internet search to see what people are saying about that platform. A healthy dose of skepticism goes a long way when searching for freelance jobs or making new contacts in the cyber world, and the last thing you want to do is sign away your time to a client who won’t pay — or who won’t value your hard work.

For further reading on advanced search techniques, check out Google’s complete search guide.

Want more writing advice like this? Amanda tells it like it is in The New Freelance: A Book for Writers

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