Whether you're a journalist, blogger, ghost-writer, or copywriter, the first step of starting your freelance writing career is to find clients.
Now, who that client is might look different depending on your freelance writing goals.
Journalists and bloggers align with online publications
Content writers and ghost-writers work directly with businesses or with marketing agencies
But finding freelance writing jobs is the same either way. In the following guide, I'll share some tips on how you can find freelance writing clients.
1. Know the Type of Freelance Writing You Want To Do
A core principle in business is solving a problem. People pay for your services because it solves a problem. So, as a freelance writer, you need to decide what issue you want to solve.
I started off writing social media content — that didn't go too well. I don't enjoy writing marketing copy, so I know that's not right for me. My strengths are in writing educational content. Before freelancing, I wrote scripts for online courses. So, I pivoted to my strengths: writing educational articles and e-books (How-to).
If you're a freelance writer, there's no reason to do work that you're not excited about, so pick a niche. Figure out what you enjoy writing about.
2. Go Where the Clients Are
Chris Do often says, “Make it easy for customers to find you.” So, instead of waiting for customers to come to you, go to them. There are two main frameworks you can use:
Outbound marketing — Playing the numbers game
Inbound marketing — Playing the long game
Ideally, you need both. The numbers game involves mass marketing tactics that get your name in front of many people. The long game focuses on building a personal connection with a specific audience.
The Numbers Game
Outbound marketing, like cold emailing or cold calling, is the fastest way to earn money as a freelancer. Gary Vaynerchuck is a big proponent of the numbers game. Essentially, if you knock on enough doors, some are bound to open.
The thing is, it can be soul-sucking and frustrating for creative. And it's not always sustainable. But it is effective.
I signed my first client playing the numbers game. I spent a week direct messaging business owners on LinkedIn and introducing myself. I connected with 20 people a day for seven days, and one of them was looking to hire a ghost-writer.
Other outbound marketing tactics include:
Cold emailing — Search for a contact on LinkedIn or find a website to submit a cold email.
Using direct reply ads — You can create ads on Facebook or LinkedIn that include a reply box. When an ad is submitted, you get notified in your email inbox. Then respond to the person and pitch your services.
Cold calling — You can do this on the phone or on social media like LinkedIn. Look up a business and reach out.
The Long Game
Inbound marketing requires a longer time-frame to reap the benefits, but it's a better long-term strategy for freelancers. You want to connect with your audience through sharing consistent content. Doing so will make you more relevant, and eventually people will seek you out for writing work.
The long game might take more time, but it builds trust and authority with your audience. So, when someone in your network needs your services, you're likely to be top of mind.
In the long run, outbound marketing might get you more jobs, but it can be hit or miss. Inbound marketing builds a consistent relationship with your audience, which can lead to more consistent work.
I'm currently using the long game strategy. I've been writing on LinkedIn for about two years, sharing my experience as a freelance writer. I've managed to grow over 4,000 followers and a six figure writing business in South Africa simply from inbound content marketing.
3. Set Your Rates
As a freelancer, you're in business for yourself. So, it's important to be aware of your time and expertise. Freelance writing is a competitive business, so you need to be aware of your value and get paid fairly for your time.
If you're not sure what to charge, look at professional writers who do similar work. Look at their costs, and price yourself in the same range. Also, look at what your competitors are charging for similar services. Finally, ask your clients what they can afford.
Don't lowball yourself. Set your rate based on your value and what clients are willing to pay for your services.
For help with setting your prices, check out this video, Price Creative Work with Confidence, with Chris Do and Michael Janda.
Now, decide if you want to charge hourly or by the project. Hourly rates are good for projects that have a concrete timeline and milestones. You can also use hourly rates to charge for consultations or work on retainer.
Project-based pricing is good for ongoing work with no set schedule or fixed deliverables. This is what I use for my own freelance writing business.
4. Get Your First Clients
Now, you need to land some clients! You can start by prospecting — which means actively looking for work and cold-pitching potential clients.
There are many ways to find your first few writing clients.
Here are my favourite ways:
Cold email people — Look for businesses that need writers on LinkedIn and reach out via email. Offer to do a free trial project to show your expertise.
Reach out to old contacts — Think about former co-workers, classmates, or college friends that you can get in touch with to offer your services.
Ask friends and family — Let people know that you're looking for work. You might even ask if they know anyone that needs writing services.
Post on social media — If you're active on social media sites like LinkedIn or Facebook, share your services with your audience. Share articles you're writing, blog posts, etc. People in your network might need your services.
Find clients through an agency — Many of the agencies might be able to help you get new clients.
After you get your first few clients, it's important to build a system, so you can get consistent work and be efficient. And that's exactly what we'll dive into next time.