A balanced approach to finding freelance writing jobs will yield you the best results. By spreading your efforts between several different industries/outlets, you'll increase your chances of finding the very best-fitting work for your skill set, you'll likely have less competition, as many freelancers tend to focus on one or two of the "bigger" job outlets, and you'll have a nice variety of work to keep you afloat.
This is where many writers- especially those looking to build up their clips and client lists- tend to focus. And there's nothing wrong with that! Freelance writing job lists are oft-updated listings of people looking for writers. Sometimes the lists are "all takers" (ie "here's all the freelance writing jobs I found today") and sometimes they are in a certain niche writing area.
What makes these lists a good place to get your business going is that they are chock-full of people, companies and organizations who have already made the purposeful decision to hire a freelancer. So, that's one less to-do on your list! They have a writing project or arrangement, and they're willing to hire a freelance writer. Go for it.
Job search engines are the big players in the traditional job search, but that doesn't mean that freelancers should ignore them. One reason for this is that some companies use these engines almost exclusively for their listings.
Sure, the majority of these jobs will be traditional full time positions, BUT that's not always the case. Some search engines (such as Idealist.org, which focuses on nonprofit work) have a specific category for "contract" positions. You may also be able to convince companies who are looking for part-time writers that telecommuters are a more economical option. Interested? Be sure to read "7 Tips for More Writing Jobs from Traditional Search Engines."
The advantage of writing for magazines and newspapers (other than avoiding the whole "eggs in one basket" thing) is that you get to write about things that interest you! Another advantage is that having clips and samples in known publications (even those that are regional) ups your street cred. (Ok, not really your street cred, but your credibility with other potential clients!)
Pitch your best ideas to publications that match your experience level, and pitch in volume! Then, start accepting those article assignments and watch your client list fill up.
Businesses, non profits, local governments and other entities may hire writers through a Request for Proposals. When the organization has a project available, they may release an announcement describing the project and asking for proposals to complete it.
For writers, the most relevant ones I've seen have been for websites (where you can propose to fulfill one portion of the entire project- in this case, writing the copy for the site)m and publications materials. I most often see these from non profits, whose boards or by-laws may require them to hire contractors in this way.
I first stumbled on this fruitful pool of work when a friend of mine had an editing job for the Department of Agriculture. The government's bid system is complicated, but that just narrows the field for you! Use my tutorial (link above) to get registered with the OFFICIAL bid system (don't fall for all the services that want YOU to pay THEM to find you work). Bonus hint: if you are a technical writer, you are in demand withing the government's bid system. Sign up already!
Targeting marketing means that you are actively reaching out to potential clients with set parameters. For example, you may be targeting health care entities in a certain geographical area. Your outreach may be through cold calls, targeted mailing, or in-person networking.While it's true that the people you are aiming for may not have an active writing project in mind now and today, this kind of outreach will place you first and foremost in their minds when they do get something on their desk and are ready to hire.
Passive marketing means that you're not actively and purposefully engaging in selling yourself, but instead are relying on other things to sell you. This includes portfolios and websites, along with profiles or other clients' good words. Passive marketing is awesome, because, obviously, it works for you 24/7. Yes!
Mine those networks! Use your social web to look for work. Pay attention to what people are saying, ask for word-of-mouth referrals, and use LinkedIn's job listings to see what new editors might have a future need for freelancers.