Is The Movie M.O.M Based On A True Story Need Clients for Your Freelance Writing Business? Here are Six Proven Tips

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Need Clients for Your Freelance Writing Business? Here are Six Proven Tips

If you want your writing business to go from a sporadic hobby to a full-time career (with full-time benefits and income), you need to understand the writing business. Nothing is more important to your business success than knowing how to get clients. It’s a great time to be a writer — but only if you know where to find and how to land clients If you’re looking to transform your writing career from a part-time job to a career, here are six proven methods for landing clients.

Getting clients is one of the great secrets of the writing life. It’s a mystery because writers who can do it rarely talk about it.

And there are many myths about it.

Here are six ways to get clients—some of which you might not have thought of before. These strategies are perfect for landing new clients, bringing back former clients, and stimulating more business from your regulars.

First build your network. Networking is one of those things that many people talk about but few people really understand. For a professional writer, your network is made up of people (not companies, not industries, not departments, not publications) who can hire you. You need to keep tabs on these people. This means holiday cards, occasional e-mails or phone calls, and reminders about your business. I would say that 60% of my business today comes from someone who knows me (someone in my network). This is your richest field for business…it’s mine!

However, people hire writers. Let’s say a person at Company A has worked with you for a while when he leaves to take a new job at Company B. Guess what? You’re now more likely to get your next writing job from Company B than Company A, but if you play your cards right, you might as well stay at Company A. Man is loyal to man; Companies are only incidentally loyal.

Second, talk about what you do. Don’t be a horrible dinner guest, but be sure to let people know what you do. Whether people know people and believe it or not, there are actually people who scratch their heads trying to find writers. Don’t discuss the issue, but make sure your friends, neighbors, guests, acquaintances, and the mailman know what you do. I once got a year-round gig from a contact my mom made at a bowling alley! (She told a bowler on another team what I did for a living- and I got a call a few days later from another woman’s daughter. She was looking for a very specific type of writer!)

Third, don’t overlook sites like eLance and other places where freelance talent can bid for jobs. True, it’s a market on those sites and you’ll see crazy offers (like “write 100 articles for $12, must be able to complete the assignment in three hours”) but there are some very reputable businesses that use these sites. Be discreet, but check it out. I use these sites to fill what I call “dead time”, the times of the year when my business slows down. I’ve never made money working on these sites – but you can’t bid on every job there. Some of those jobs are not worth having!

Fourth, create your own website that promotes your own services. Most creative people make sites that are really online portfolios; It’s interesting but I don’t think it does much. Instead, use your site to discuss your ideas about writing, your areas of expertise, and that sort of thing. You can always talk about samples when a client calls. A year ago, I wouldn’t have listed this as a strategy because even though I had a website, it wasn’t bringing in any business. It is now – I found a pretty strong new client who came to me on the strength of the website.

(Mostly a website is something that helps convince your new client that he’s made a good choice. People look at your website, but they don’t find authors that way. I think that’s changing.)

Fifth, try direct mail. You have to be very clever with this. The letter you write must be persuasive and compelling, and it must be sent by first class mail to an actual person (by name). The less direct mail (aka junk mail) looks like, the more likely it is to get through. Put a real stamp on it. Even address it to a real person by hand. This letter should introduce your business and what you can do.

You have scoped out target clients. Find a few businesses that might need your services, call to find out who hires freelance writers, and send a letter directly to that person. Call after a few days. It’s a tough program because you have to keep after it, but it works, especially if you’re diligent and target the right people and have a compelling sales letter. This is the best way to get new clients; In my experience, this works better than cold calling, which I’ve never had much success with. (Not to mention it’s less fun than going to the dentist.)

Sixth, contact a newspaper and write a column. Don’t just contact random newspapers, but don’t be shy to approach major papers or local local newspapers. Look it over, see what’s missing, write a sample column or two, and send it directly to the appropriate editor via e-mail or letter. I got my first big writing job that way (I was a stringer for variety) and the second I tried it, I got a job writing a column that was entering its fifth year. This works. Two drawbacks: it usually doesn’t pay well and you have to be very careful and make sure you target your offer to what the newspaper needs.

If you find the right publications, you can probably get a job as a film critic or gardening expert or travel writer. You have to be a matchmaker though. Don’t propose something until you feel it’s the perfect fit for the newspaper.

You might be excited about that last idea, but think about it for a minute. Who needs a low paying writing job? Well, maybe you do. Appearing regularly in an important publication builds your credibility as a writer. You can often parlay these writing credits into more lucrative (but less visible) writing jobs in similar industries. Newspapers help fill your clip files, and sometimes you can resell articles or use a piece of research to create similar stories for a well-paying magazine or website.

Writing is a great life, but it’s a lot of work, and work work. Getting clients isn’t easy for any professional, and writers have to do the same amount of chatting, networking, direct mailing, and finding opportunities that other people do.

What’s surprising to me is that some of these things work really well. Very often, when you connect with a great long-term client, you get to hear the other side of the story. Many businesses dream of finding a reliable, high-quality writer. Right now companies and clients are wondering how on earth they are going to write their brochures and articles and press releases and websites.

Your job is not to “sell” them your service. Your job is really to make sure they know you’re there and ready for the assignment.

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