By Kathy Widenhouse, award-winning content writer and author who specializes in writing for nonprofits and faith-based organizations.
If you’re looking for beginner freelance writing jobs – or if you’re looking for a freelance writing niche – consider writing for nonprofits. Opportunities for freelancer writing jobs with nonprofits are more abundant than you may think. It’s an underserved sector.
See what I mean by a quick comparison with other lucrative writing niches.
There are between 1.5 and 1.8 million nonprofit organizations registered in the U.S. as of 2020, including public charities, private foundations, chambers of commerce, fraternal organizations, and civic leagues. Together, these agencies contributed an estimated $1.05 trillion to the U.S. economy in a year. (That’s trillion with a T, by the way.)
Let’s compare that to an exploding for-profit niche, the pet industry, which has been growing for some time now but skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pet industry sales rose to $103.6 billion in 2020. That’s a whole lot of cat food and dog harnesses. Yet it’s still only about one tenth of the size of the nonprofit sector.
Or what about the personal development niche? During the last decade, opportunities in this area have jumped, too, as consumers look for ways to grow in physical, emotional, and mental fitness and wellness. Even so, this sector was recently valued at just $38.3 billion (with a B) globally. That’s less than 4% the size of the U.S. nonprofit market.
My point? Because of their numbers, beginner freelance writing jobs with nonprofits abound.
These agencies need writers. Writing for charities could be your ticket to freelancing success. Here’s what you need to know about connecting with nonprofits for beginner freelance writing jobs.
First of all, don’t be fooled by the “nonprofit” title. Every business needs written content in place in order to stay solvent. Nonprofits are no exception. They have advertising and communications budgets, just like for-profit businesses do. In fact, nonprofits may have an even more opportunities for freelance writers because they have unique needs that for-profit businesses don’t.
For instance, nonprofits need grant applications, appeal letters, fundraising email campaigns – projects that are unique to their niche. They often lack clear strategic plans, business plans, mission and vision statements. Then there are annual reports, donor presentations, and phone scripts. And all of that’s before we get to the usual web pages, social media, blog posts, newsletters, business letters, and press releases that every biz or organization must have.
Somebody needs to write all that content. Much of the time nonprofits can’t afford a full-time content provider, so they hire freelancers. If you’re looking for beginner freelance writing jobs – whether to build your portfolio or create an ongoing income stream – then that person can be you.
Nonprofit leaders are swamped. Most of them wear multiple hats as executives, administrators, fundraisers, negotiators, service providers, chauffeurs, webmasters, hospitality managers – even janitors. And most don’t spend hours surfing online, trying to find freelance writers to help him. They don’t have time.
If you were in that position – and a writer reached out to you with the intent of making your life easier by taking writing off your plate – you’d want to learn more, wouldn’t you?
Write a sales letter or email to these leaders -- one that sells your services. A letter helps you cut through the noise and speak directly to the person that will hire you. In your letter, include an offer for a free resource that will help the prospect (see #3). You can follow up your letter with email, direct messaging, and a phone call.
I love getting things for free. You probably do, too. But nonprofits? They adore freebies.
When you make your pitch, offer a tool that will help your prospect. Most nonprofits operate on a budget with very thin margins, so offering them something of value to them – at no cost – helps them make progress with their cause. By giving away something valuable right at the get-go, you earn a prospect’s trust. She sees that you’re interested in helping her. You show that kind of freelance provider you will be.
Did you catch the disclaimer? You must offer them something of value to her. Put yourself in a leader’s shoes and think about the problems she faces each day. Then offer a freebie that addresses one of those pain points and solves it.
You’ve made contact with a nonprofit. You’ve shared a valuable resource. The gatekeeper seems interested in your services. Now you need to land an assignment.
Nonprofit leaders fall into two camps. One group is clearly purposeful about content planning. These are the development directors and creatives – often those in larger organizations – that understand the need to purposefully plan their content calendar. They look for freelance writers to whom they can offload some of the work. You show up in their inbox. They hire you for a project because a contract worker costs less than a full-time employee.
Other nonprofit leaders, especially those who manage small- and mid-size agencies, have more demands on their time than hours in the day. Which means they may not follow up with your phone calls or emails – or at least not right away.
That doesn’t mean they don’t want to work with you or don’t want your services. It means they are busy with crises that arise … they are meeting with donors … they are recruiting volunteers because three of theirs quit last week … they are completing an endless stack of forms in order to get permission to build a well in a remote part of their service area.
They know they desperately need content. Make it easy for them. Do them a favor – one that will benefit you, too. Give them a nudge. Identify a piece of content you know they need and then offer to help.
If the answer is yes (and often it is), then ask, “Do you have a few minutes to talk about it right now?” And you’ll land a client.
Most nonprofits don’t ask if you’re a novice writer and honestly don’t care. They simply want a reliable writer who produces quality content. If you’ve written a clear email or sales letter – and then offered a valuable, free resource – you’ve provided the “references” they need.
If you have a passion for a cause, you can be sure that there’s a group of nonprofits that are working in that area to meet the need. Reach out to them. Offer superlative service and you may just find your assignment is not a one-and-done – but an ongoing gig that offers you tremendous satisfaction and paychecks.
More about freelance writing for nonprofits
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