Landing your first client as a freelance writer might become a tedious journey because aside from having no related work, referrals or testimonial to back you up, you may also experience emotional issues, such as fear of rejection or self-doubt.
But all successful freelance writers started from scratch.
They have been through unimaginable situations that also led them to where they are today.
So do not beat yourself up. As we always say, this is all about equipping yourself with the right tools and attitude. When you have prepared your profile and portfolio already, it is now time to share them and attract the clients who need your talent.
There are five ways to find your ideal prospects:
1. Your website or blog
Most clients or editors look for a writer’s website first before hiring them. Your space online serves as their deciding factor for it both showcases your works and credentials and reflects your style. Make sure it also contains your rates, services, and contact details.
You can also work on building an engaging landing page. To create one, you need to determine your goal and your audience. The page has to capture the prospect’s attention and interest in your writing services. To do this, make sure the page contains only the necessary information (the benefits of hiring you), clear call to action (what you want them to do next–call you?), social media buttons (for sharing), quality images, or trust signals (companies you’ve worked with or testimonials).
Investopedia defines cold calling as “the solicitation of potential customers who were not anticipating such an interaction. Cold calling is a technique whereby a salesperson contacts individuals who have not previously expressed an interest in the products or services that are being offered, as opposed to warm calling. Cold calling typically refers to phone calls but can also entail drop-in visits, such as with door-to-door salespeople.”
There are two reasons why cold calling can work for you:
a) Most freelance writers don’t do it. You can stand out and have the chance to touch the market that others have not reached yet.
b) Most prospects, such as companies, have not realized yet that they need good content to attract their market and that they need writers to do that. Sending a proposal and your profile to them will help them realize that. It’s a win-win situation for both of you.
c) Some may not need you now but ask them to keep you in their phonebooks so they can contact you in the future, when they are ready to revise their website or produce new brochures.
To cold call, you can write a script or an outline. You can also follow your instinct or natural voice to sound more sincere and believable. Focus on what the other party can receive, build your reputation, and always aim to build some connection whether you get hired or not. Be persistent. Do not hesitate to follow up for some prospects may be just too preoccupied to remember to note that he or she is phoning you back.
3. Free work / contributions
You can do pro bono for the right reasons. When your portfolio is not yet sufficient, you can write for free for small businesses, publications, or nonprofit or professional organizations. You can do up to five unpaid assignments for clients with a solid reputation. After this, you can ask them to refer or recommend you if they are happy with your work.
However, you need to avoid potential clients who are asking you for unpublished works or to write three articles for free based on their requirements so they can evaluate your skills. Remember: Never start working for a client without contract or upfront payment even if you are a newbie or especially if you are a newbie.
MBO Partners shares some tips in their site:
- Find an organization that could use your special skills, preferably an organization doing some kind of work that benefits the public. Examples are schools, libraries, hospitals and clinics, non-profit organizations, or civic service clubs.
- Propose a carefully limited project. Don’t start off volunteering your work on an ongoing basis, but rather offer to perform a project specifically limited in scope. Examples will depend on what your consulting or freelance talent is, but might be a one-time upgrade of their email newsletter template, redesigning a logo, importing their fundraising contacts into a more usable database format, planning an event, delivering an IT training to their staff, helping get their books in order, renegotiate a major purchasing relationship that is hurting their finances, or some other project.
- Depending on your relationship with the client, you might consider contracting up front and let them know you’ll be looking for a testimonial, case study, or portfolio piece from the arrangement. Get the permissions you’ll need to list them as a client on your website or portfolio.
- Consider binding the client to an NDA agreement so that the pro bono nature of the assignment is not publicly disclosed. This can prevent the scenario of other groups wanting free time from you.
- As the project comes to a close, request feedback and testimonials from them, or write up a case study that they can easily approve. Take on the “hard work” of coming up with the content so they can just sign off or make minor changes. Make it easy, and don’t make them think too hard!
4. Word of mouth
Start with the people closest to you: family, friends, relatives, neighbors, or friends of family, friends of relatives, and friends of neighbors. This set will branch into their respective networks, from offices to organizations. In fact, this is an easier and less expensive marketing strategy because there is trust within the circle already. Your referrals and recommendations are based on sincerity.
5. Job boards
One of the best ways to get client is to contact employers or editors directly. Their openings and contact details are often found, if not in their websites, on job boards.
Conduct your research first before contacting the prospects as some of them might be scams. Checking the credibility and background of the company or publication can save you time and energy.
When dealing with job boards, make sure your profile, resume, website, portfolio or a couple of sample works are ready for perusal for all or two of these tools are often requested.
6. Social media
Since most companies, even employment agencies, and other writing or content-oriented groups or organizations are all over social media, they will likely post their job openings online. In fact, most of the writing jobs today are related to social media.
Here are tips on how you can land jobs via social media:
- Join LinkedIn groups. Start conversations with those who might need your products/services, follow the groups your ideal prospect is a member of, provide value to discussions, and keep updated with updates and comments.
- Stop being a walking sales pitch, and focus on giving value to your audience. Share informative resources and interesting news. Share ideas and engage in conversations.
- Share feedback about your work, what you are working on at the moment, and some techniques you use when writing.
7. Writing communities and events
There are plenty of writing organizations online. You can join them and attend their events such as seminars and plays. More often than not, they exchange possible gigs or opportunities. A writer can only accept projects that are manageable. It is likely that you will get recommendations or leads when you connect to the members of the circle.
8. Corporate / public relations / product launch / business events
If you are into technology like phones or computers, you can attend the launch of a new gadget. At the venue, you can connect with other guests, the organizers, or the executives. Be sure to give them your calling cards after your conversation. Nothing can be more exciting than writing about topics you actually you love. They can hire you to write brochures, blogs, or even press releases for them.
A Forbes article by the Young Entrepreneur Council shares the following tips on networking:
- Networking starts with your current contacts. Networking doesn’t necessarily mean actively pursuing making new relationships. Cultivate those you have already and invest in those relationships first.
- Even if you “don’t need to network,” you do. You never know when you’ll need someone to help connect you (not always professionally). It’s improper to ask someone for help when you’ve not spoken to him/her in ages, but now are doing so simply to ask for something. Therefore, refer back to tip #1.
- Think of networking as a puzzle you’re piecing together. What need does someone else have and how can you use your resources to fill that gap?
- Don’t throw your cards around. We all know the person who shoves his/her business card down your throat immediately. It’s a turnoff, and not a very polite way to engage a new contact. Offer your business card after having a conversation — and asking for the other person’s first.
- Remember their Rolodex. The power of networking is the people your contacts know, not always your contact directly. Keep that in mind as you help guide people towards how to help connect you.
- Set expectations. Let people know how and when you’ll contact them (and then do it).
- Ask questions that are deeper than, “What do you do?” When possible, begin conversations with questions about someone personally, not necessarily their profession. Get to know them and attempt to find commonalities. They will tend to remember those conversations best.
- Create “reconnect” files. In your calendar, create files on monthly rotation with lists of people you’ve met and with whom you want to keep in touch. For contacts that have more immediate, obvious value (networking partners), create individual monthly reconnect files to spark you to reach out to them in the future. No need to reach out every month, but seeing their name (relevancy) is half the battle. Reach out when you have an interesting article to share, want to see how they’re doing, or ask about their latest trip, etc. Let people know you’ll stay in touch every month or so, then do it!
- Remember birthdays (and the small stuff)! If your contact has an important meeting or proposal, remember and contact him/her to wish him/her luck and ask how he/she did. If it would be important to you, it’s likely important to him/her and will be meaningful for you to remember.
- Be specific when describing your ideal targets. This specificity can be related to job leads, sales leads, dating interests, or otherwise. “Anybody” means nobody, so get specific.
- Ask them what they need. Then try to provide it by connecting them with someone you know and trust.
- Give first — without expectation of something in return. It tends to be obvious when you give from a genuine place, rather than from a place of expecting something in return. Those who give, get, but don’t do so with immediate expectation.
- Utilize LinkedIn! Link to new and old connections, go through their contacts, and ask for introductions.
- Remember that at a networking event, everyone is there to meet new people. Going alone and walking up to strangers is the point. Everyone has some apprehension. Take the initiative.
- Ask, “Why should they care?” Do you know how to describe yourself or your business in one sentence that demonstrates some value to the listener, not couched in industry-speak? Or, can you explain it so that they might be interested in continuing the conversation? Example: I help people to ________.
- Listen more than you talk! People love to talk about themselves, and you can’t learn about the other person if you’re doing all of the talking.
1. Before you talk to a prospect or attend an event, do your homework. Know the company’s previous, current, and future projects, understand what the event is (is it for charity, about wellness, or a product launch?) and discover the preferences and needs of your client’s clients–their audience and target market. Match the results of your research to your pitch or conversation starter.
2. Secretaries and assistants are your bestfriends. The key decision-makers are often busy, and their schedule is in the hands of their secretaries or (virtual) assistants. Make sure you establish a good relationship with them so you can convey your message properly.
3. Know your value. As a new freelance writer, you might have the tendency to please a prospect. Keep in mind that this is a business. When they gain, you gain. This is an exchange of energy. This is your writing talent they want to “buy.”