One of the things I get asked pretty often (generally by my friends on my personal Facebook profile) is how I get clients.
“How do you find people to pay you?”
“How do you do the whole writing thing? Like where do you start?”
So, I figured I would address this here.
This is an approach to freelancing that I’ve taken since August, and it is the very approach that helped me to dramatically grow my business. Freelancing requires a lot of EFFORT. You get out what you put in.
So, whether you:
- Want to quit your 9 – 5, but aren’t quite sure how to go about it.
- Really need some better clients – you know, the type that pays more than $20 per 800-word post.
- Just want to attract more clients
This post is for you.
Grab your coffee, and get ready to learn how to attract better clients in just 5 steps!
Step #1: Determine Your Ideal Client
This may seem pretty self-evident, but it’s also one of the most important steps in getting better-paying clients. How can you attract the clients you want, if you don’t even know WHO you want to attract?
What I Did
I relied on my good friend, Excel.
Open up an Excel document (or grab some paper, if you prefer), and enter in the basic demographics you’re looking for. If you’re aiming for the CEO of a company, add that. If you’re looking for the editor of a smaller trade publication, add that.
Be specific, and include things like: Personality traits, general interests, and job title. Not only will this help you profile the client you want to attract, but it will also help you tailor your website’s blog content to match the client you’re going for.
Step #2: Actively Market Yourself
One of the common misconceptions is that there is a website where writers can apply for steady work, and get paid big bucks. Yeah…that doesn’t really exist.
There are mass websites where thousands of writers compete for jobs – from Elance to Craigslist to content mills like HireWriters. These sites always have low rates, since that’s the nature of their platform. You see, having hundreds of writers scrambling for the same job drives the rates way down. Sites like that also take their own cut of the profits, so you make even less. So, if you’re looking to actually earn a living from a mass website, you’re not going to do very well.
What I Did
I started out writing for a content mill back in February of 2015. I earned a bit over a $1000 over the course of six months. After that, I really started to treat my freelance writing like the business it is. I changed my entire marketing approach from “waiting for clients to find me” to “I’m going to go out there and get them.”
If you want to get those better-paying clients, you need to actively put yourself out there. To jump-start my business, I:
- Built a solid LinkedIn profile, started interacting with others, and have maintained an active presence ever since.
- Started sending out pitches/queries, and letters of introduction. I pitched to trade publications, online websites, and everything in between.
- Got some tips from job boards, and then checked out the business on my own. I looked through all of the pages of their website, and looked for content that could use improvement. If I noticed they lacked quality blog content, I would send out a letter of introduction to that effect.
- Went to networking events for businesses within my area, and checked out what other businesses were doing to market themselves. I applied these principles to my own business, and tailored them a bit suit my own needs and budget.
- Revamped my email signature, making sure it included links to my website and social media profiles.
- Connected with various people on social media platforms, actively seeking out business professionals. I commented on their content, and left my link or email at the end of my comment. This helped a lot.
- Turned down prospective clients who were unwilling to pay professional rates.
- Set goals, and then tripled each one. For example, if I was going to send out 10 letters of introduction that month, I sent out 30 instead.
See what I mean? I got aggressive about my freelancing, and held myself accountable to my goals. I also checked in with my mother-figure pretty much every single day. Trust me, you don’t want to tell her you were slacking off on your business goals!
Step #3: Develop Your Brand
I know I’ve done a post on this before, but it really is incredibly important. Having a strong brand that is representative of YOU and who YOU are is a definite must. It will make you stand out from the other millions and trillions of other blogs and writer websites out there.
There is also the fact that building a brand around your personality and dream client is going to attract someone you actually WANT to work with. It’s not just your logo that matters, but how people feel about YOU as a person.
They are going to trust you with the content for their business or publication. They are investing their time (and money!) in you and the skills you claim to have. Make them feel good about their decision, and show them that they made the right one.
What I Did
I chose to focus on things that make me stand out from the crowd. I’m professional, but I’m still a bit of a quirky person – and a definite coffee addict. Not only can I write reviews for someone’s coffee business (which I have), but I can also write about the business aspect of selling coffee.
I worked in the pet industry for YEARS, in several different ways. I have used this experience and knowledge, paired with my business writing expertise, to bring in new clients.
I have a speech impediment. I have found a way to show why this disability demonstrates a strong value that is worth paying me for.
I have reminded clients of the business triangle: Fast > High-Quality > Cheap. They can only pick two.
I can certainly write a high-quality, well-researched article in a small time-frame, but it will definitely not be cheap. It’s worth it, and I have found that sticking to this has landed clients who know the importance of paying professional rates.
Step #5: Develop Your Own Voice
Developing your own voice goes a long way when it comes to building a connection and solid working relationship with your clients.
To start with, don’t write the content for your social media profiles (or website) in the third person. Everyone can tell it’s just you behind the curtain, so it comes across as pretentious and silly. It’s also impersonal and tends to lead to a disconnect between you and the person you are working with.
What I Did
I simply let me be ME.
When I write emails, I write like I am talking just one person. I tend to write to my best friend – you can check out her website and blog here. Doing this keeps my “voice” in check, so I don’t get too stilted and overly professional in my communication with clients.
I also use smiley faces, send “Thank You” cards/emails, and ask how the person’s weekend went. I get to know my clients – to a certain extent – and that builds a genuine connect with them.
There is only one you – let your voice be heard.
NOTE: If you are working to create a formal, professional presence, I do not recommend cursing like you would with your friends. If you’re keeping it real and being your true, authentic self…well…go for it. Just be mindful of who your dream client is, and tailor each and every single thing you write to fit that client.
Step #5: Market Yourself ALL THE TIME
Many people have this idea in their head of what a freelancer’s day is like. According to some lovely people I know, this type of day includes: Lounging around in pajamas, eating pints of ice cream, watching Netflix, and basically doing whatever I want all day long.
If you spend your days like that, you will not attract those better-paying clients. You need to treat freelancing like a business, and that means working hard every single day.
What I Did
When I was first starting out, I was writing for content mills. I accepted low-paying gigs from clients off Craigslist. Sometimes, I even got credit! Sometimes, I didn’t even have to get on their case about paying me.
Yeah. It wasn’t all that fun.
I started to get SERIOUS about marketing myself. When I wasn’t writing, I was marketing. I would spend HOURS sending out letter of introduction after letter of introduction. I sent out writing samples, and my resume. I handed out business cards, and sent mailers.
Soon, I had five paying clients who were NOT part of content mills. I wasn’t getting paid that well at first, but it was better than what I was previously making. It was also the exact thing I needed to build up my portfolio, get my testimonials and references, and break into the better-paying jobs.
I honed my skills, and continued to learn everything I could about the topics within my niches. Eventually, I got to the point where I would not accept anything below my minimum rate. At all. I wouldn’t budge on that, and I am incredibly glad I didn’t.
The freelancing life isn’t easy, but it is certainly possible. I know, because I established a solid business in less than a year. With a bit of planning and determination, you can do the same thing.
Working with the right type of client – someone who respects you as a professional writer – makes all the difference between “UGH. I don’t want to write this article” and “OMG. I LOVE MY JOB SO MUCH!”
After I stopped working for content mills, and turned down low-paying clients, I became part of the latter group. I wake up excited about working each day, and I am thankful I don’t have to go back to my previous types of jobs.