Anyone who has spent any time at all learning about career advancement has heard about the “hidden job market.” This elusive market is often touted as the end-all and be-all of job hunting. Some advertisers try to convince you that unless you are tapping into the hidden job market, you are never going to get a job. This is far from the truth, but if you are looking for a writing job, you can definitely get more gigs by going after jobs that aren’t being advertised. That’s all that the hidden job market means, by the way – it refers to all those jobs that aren’t being advertised on craigslist, and the like.

The problem with ads in job hunting sites such as craiglist is that they get thousands of applicants for writing gigs and writing jobs. Any ad for a writing job you see is often getting thousands of applicants from people who are established writers, from people who are willing to write for peanuts, and from people who are hopefuls and want to break into writing. How can you stand out? You could have an incredible application – and you can hope that potential employers are still looking for that rather than the cheapest writer (good luck!).

Or, you can start looking around for jobs that aren’t being advertised. These jobs often get very few applicants – so the competition is much more reasonable. The best way to find these jobs is to start backwards. Rather than looking for who is hiring, look for where you want to work. Then, research the companies or publications that interest you. If they have a “careers” web page on their web site, start there. They might post jobs there that aren’t posted on job boards. They may also have directions for how to drop of your application for future consideration. If you can find out more about a company’s HR department or can find out who does the hiring (a quick phone call or a quick browse around the web site will usually tell you this) then you can drop that person a personalized email or letter about your qualifications. Don’t be shy about suggesting your services and jobs you can complete for the company. I have found many jobs by contacting a likely company and explaining my writing services. Companies who hire PR agencies or marketing firms occasionally can often save a few bucks by hiring me for smaller jobs. Similarly, smaller companies not ready to hire a big PR company or advertising agency often are more comfortable hiring me initially as they grow.

Another great way to tap into hidden writing jobs is to ask. I’ll warn you now: if you’re shy, this is scary at first, but it does get easier. If you have current writing clients or editors who like your work, you can always ask whether they can recommend you to their colleagues. You can also ask whether they know anyone who might be interested in your writing services. If you get a name, you have an automatic “in” because you can always say “Jane Doe over at Acme Publishing told me that you were looking for a writer…” Currently, 50% or more of my work comes in through recommendations, so I spend less time prospecting and more time writing (and earning).

Another great tip that has worked for me in the past is to keep tabs on industry news. Read your local paper’s business section and keep track of who is coming and going at publications and publication houses you are interested in. When you see that someone has been promoted or has a new job (especially in the HR department or as editor – people who have the power to hire you) drop that person an email, congratulating them and outlining your qualifications (very briefly). When there is a change of guard at any publication, there are often some new opportunities for freelancers and even full-timers as people get shuffled around.

Does all this mean that I never apply to job ads? Not at all. Job ads tell you who is hiring right now. While hidden writing jobs are great, it can sometimes take time to land these positions. After an initial email, it sometimes takes me months to get the “ok” from a company or client. Job ads at job banks and in newspapers allow you to get fast responses. I still look through job boards and look at job ads when prospecting – I just do a few other things, too, that ensure a steady paycheck.

Here are today’s job leads:

1) – This job search is general, but there are many jobs in the PR, advertising, and related fields. Writing jobs do appear some of the time, and most jobs advertised are freelance jobs. Most jobs are in the UK.

2) — This site lists 99 markets for tech articles.

3) — This media giant has lots of US-based writing and editing jobs.

4) – A blog listing writing jobs.

5) — Brady magazine offers writing markets, jobs, resources, and writing workshops. You have to register, but it is free and only takes a few minutes.

6) — Charisse Van Horn’s blog lists writing jobs regularly.

7) — Jennifer Mattern’s blog lists lots of writing job gigs.