Find Your Perfect Writing Job With Mix and Match Search Terms

A Word-Math formula your job search

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Freelance writers have to search for work continually. (It’s the only thing about living the writer’s life that I don’t like.) But because I spend time every day on job boards, I’ve become an expert on the words used by employers looking to hire writers.

Those job-search terms are not as straight-forward as you’d think.

If you’re old enough to remember doing research before computers made the process instantaneous, you might remember that you had to dig through card catalogues and try dozens of different search phrases to yield results in the periodical guides. And if you’re young enough NOT to remember what research was like before computers, trust me. Finding information wasn’t an easy process.

Searching for gigs on online job boards isn’t easy either. You have to enter multiple terms and try different word combinations.

Mix and match three terms for search success:

Type of writer + level of responsibility + location

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Type of Writer:

  • Copywriter
    A copywriter is someone who writes advertising and marketing material for businesses. “Copy” is sometimes viewed as the online or digital format of a message, but that’s a narrow definition. Most people probably don’t differentiate between copywriter and content writer. (See below.)
  • Content Writer
    Traditionally, “content” has a more generic meaning than “copy.” Content generally means any written message in a variety of mediums. Usually, the term “content” is used for writing that’s created to build a relationship between the seller and the buyer. Quality content builds trust and establishes loyalty.

The difference between copywriter and content writer is so blurred that most companies don’t distinguish between the two. So be sure to try both of these terms when searching job boards.

  • Writer
    Some companies advertise for a “writer,” the generic term for someone who can put words together for any number of purposes. A “writer” may create anything from blogs and white papers to social media posts and product descriptions.
  • Creator
    How about combining Content + Creator? I’ve found posts that say just that: “Content creator needed for our start-up business.” (Sounds omnipotent, doesn’t it? The concept of “creator” is a powerful elixir for writers, just don’t let the God complex go to your head.)
  • Blogger
    The term blogger is narrower than “copywriter,” “content writer,” “content creator,” or “writer.” Companies looking for bloggers need that specific format. You may have to do research and use keywords, but writing a blog is a different skill than writing a white paper.
  • Marketing Copywriter
    Some jobs are labeled “marketing copywriter.” That might mean that you assist the marketing team or that you help generate marketing ideas and then base your writing on those ideas. The term may even mean that you are searching for people to market to, or you’re doing marketing research on demographics of purchasers. Generally, this term means that you need knowledge of marketing techniques, but if you’re a skilled writer with business savvy, this might be a good fit.
  • Contributing Writer
    Probably not a full-time, or even a regular part-time writer, but someone who is called on to write when editorial slots need to be filled, or when a particular expertise is required. “Contributing” implies that you’re writing-on-demand or when your pitch is accepted.
  • Staff Writer
    Staff writers are typically employees and not freelancers, but read the posting to make sure. If the job is good enough, or if you’re mobile, you might even consider moving!
  • Scriptwriter
    A scriptwriter is a writer who pairs words with pictures or actions. You may have to do a storyboard. You might have to do research and create a video script for an expert to read. Scriptwriting is still WRITING, so if you can line up words with visuals, you’ll be able to master the format.
  • Direct Response Writer
    “Direct Response” refers to long-form sales materials that elicit a response and then make a call to action.

Do multiple searches using any of these words.

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Now add the level of responsibility

How much responsibility do you want?

Select a word that describes the level of responsibility you’ll have.

  • Manager
    A manager is responsible for a department, other employees, or a set number of tasks. Managers are more experienced than entry-level writers. Tasks may be more diversified than just writing and may include coordinating schedules, calendars, or other workers.
  • Editor
    Some writers are also editors. Just because you’re a writer, however, doesn’t mean that you’re automatically an editor. An editor has a superb command of the language, an understanding of the company “brand,” as well as the ability to improve writing by enhancing structure, content, or grammar. An editor may choose material or make decisions on graphics in conjunction with the writing.
  • Coordinator
    Handling multiple writers, tasks, schedules, and calendars may be required of a coordinator. The term can also be applied to the liason between sales people and accounts, or writers and clients. A coordinator juggles multiple balls and makes daily tasks run smoothly.
  • Expert
    I smile when I see this term, wondering if each person’s definition of “expert” is the same. But some jobs post for “expert” writers, and I applied for one that called for an “article expert.” Make sure you know both your writing “stuff” and your niche “stuff.” Have the confidence to call yourself an expert.
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Add a “location” term to your search:

(For most writers, add a “no-location” term to your search)

  • Freelance
    Have you thought about what the term “freelance” really means? It first appeared in Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Ivanhoe, in 1819, and it referred to a mercenary soldier who took up his lance, traveling the country to fight for whichever power paid him. The word evolved into the modern-day term for someone who does work on her own terms for whoever she wants, whenever she wants.

Beware of any job posting that advertises for a freelance writer, but then asks for full-time, on-site work. If you don’t sign a contract for a specified length of time or a specific project, the employer may be using the term “freelance” to avoid providing benefits or withholding taxes.

  • Remote
    Work from home, from the beach, from the waiting room in the doctor’s office or wherever you need to be. Working remotely means there is no schedule and as long as you complete the work before the deadline, it doesn’t matter where or when you work. In some instances, the job posting will say that you have to be available for conference calls or during certain hours in a specific time zone. Be forwarned. There is a town in Oregon named Remote, and depending on the site you’re using, you may end up searching for jobs in a tiny Northwestern hamlet if you key in the word “remote.” The term you use to identify your job location depends on the job site you’re using.
  • Work from home
    This option is the same as the “remote” option. Get the work down at any hour. Do it in your jammies or your overalls or whatever mode of dress you prefer. It doesn’t matter. Nobody will see you.
  • Telecommute
    A little archaic, perhaps, but you still find this word used on multiple job sites. Telecommute used to mean working from a remote location using the telephone, but now it includes internet, email, and texting as well as the phone.

The better your search terms, the better your chances of finding the perfect job posting. Try them singly. Put them in pairs. Mix ’em, match ’em and land your next gig.

Happy hunting!

Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

Melissa Gouty loves manipulating words and finding the perfect combination of terms — even when searching for jobs.

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Writer, teacher, speaker, and observer of human nature. Creative content for the literary world. Follow me at, Twitter, or Facebook.

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