Whether you’re just starting your freelance writing career or slogging through a slow period, figuring out how to get clients can be nerve-wracking.
The hard truth: You’re going to have to hustle to get new writing clients. Even the most experienced freelancers have to expand their circles on a regular basis.
Sites that post freelance writing jobs are plentiful, but require a critical eye. It’s easy to get sucked into a trap of getting paid $1 for every 300-word post you research and write. But that work isn’t fulfilling, and it’ll never fill your piggy bank.
If you’re going to get high-paying writing gigs and repeat clients, you’ll have to spend some time thinking beyond the job board.
Here are 10 ways to kickstart your client search.
1. Personalize your cold calls and emails
“Make sure the right people — the decision-makers — see your message,” advises Francesca Nicasio.
If you’re sending pitches or letters of interest to a generic inbox, your message is likely to get deleted by an intern. Do some research and direct your note to the one person at the company who is most likely to need your services.
“If you’re dealing with a small business or startup,” Nicasio explains, “The company’s founder is usually a good bet.”
2. Partner with other freelancers
Do you know any project managers, web developers or graphic designers? Their projects often require top-notch writing skills, which opens up opportunities to work together.
If your web development buddy knows you’re willing to team up for a website redesign project, she can recommend you to the client. By sticking together, you can find ways to help one another build your businesses and get paid.
“I have a list of writers I trust to get my clients to hire,” writes Paul Jarvis, who specializes in web design. “I know writing makes or breaks websites and I know the difference a professional makes. So I always suggest experienced writers to all my design clients and they often hire them.”
3. Volunteer your services
Volunteering may not pay the bills, but it’s a useful way to network without having to deal with small talk at happy hour.
“Volunteering is a great way to get to know influential people who can help with your freelancing career — especially if you volunteer to do the writing and promotional duties for those projects,” Narendra Motwani notes on Instashift. Motwani advises you to consider the people you meet while volunteering to determine potential connections to companies you’d love to write for.
4. Book a speaking engagement
This tip only works if you’re comfortable in front of a crowd. But if you’d rather give a speech than approach strangers at happy hour, then this is your perfect fit.
“Any business/civic organization made up of businesspeople would be a good target for a speaking offer,” writes Peter Bowerman of The Well-Fed Writer. “What we commercial writers do … is something every business potentially needs.”
Make it easy for businesses to remember you when they need assistance by sharing your experience at local events.
5. Get back in touch with former clients
If you’re not in regular with previous clients or organizations you’ve volunteered for, you could be leaving business on the table.
Samar Owais shares via Copyblogger that this outreach can be as simple as a short email to check in with a business; be sure to mention that you have bandwidth for additional work. “You never know when a client might send work your way simply because you popped up on their radar at the right time,” Owais notes.
6. Search for opportunities on Twitter
You’ll never get any work done if you spend all day on Twitter. But by scheduling time each week to use Twitter’s advanced search, you’ll be able to see when companies are looking for help. David Masters has a quick how-to that will get you started and help you refine your search terms.
7. Shout about your skills and services
Advertising your freelance writing services goes beyond printing up business cards and going to networking events. Check your online profiles. Is your specialty listed clearly?
“When I added ‘freelance writer’ to my author bios and social media profiles,” Kristi Hines tells Bidsketch, “more new client requests started rolling in.” Your writing business should be apparent on anything and everything a potential client might see. Your network won’t know they can hire you unless it’s clear what you do!
8. Write a niche blog
If you’re looking for work as a blogger, you should certainly write a blog of your own. Carol Tice of Making a Living Writing tells Bidsketch your blog should focus on a niche, although the topic doesn’t have to line up exactly with your target market.
“Clients love to see that you understand how to develop many strong story ideas on a single theme, stick to a topic, write great Internet headlines, attract subscribers, and how to get engagement — comments and social shares,” Tice says. “[Potential clients] will want you to do all that for them.”
9. Sell a product
You only have 24 hours in a day, but selling a product you created can help you make money even while you’re sleeping.
“Creating a product can be a great way to demonstrate your expertise,” suggests Corbett Barr on the Men with Pens blog. “A strong product will create the perception that you’re an authority on your topic and can lead to attracting new clients.” Think about white papers, short guides or ebooks you could offer.
10. Pitch guest blog posts — with discretion
Guest blogging might not bring in revenue — only some sites pay for guest posts — but it will help get your name in front of a lot of potential clients. Don’t spread yourself too thin by guest-blogging for everyone, though.
“Branding and image-building should be your primary reasons for guest blogging,” Jawad Khan shares. “High-quality guest posts on [4-5] top blogs of your niche are enough to build your credibility.”
What are your tried-and-true methods for reeling in new clients?