4 Steps for Wooing Clients and Landing That First Gig
So, you’re new to freelance writing.
Nobody is hiring you. Your emails go unanswered. You’ve wasted money on ads.
You just can’t seem to get clients, and now you’re thinking about giving up.
Think about it – Every freelance writer you see started somewhere. At some point, that super famous freelance writer you’re trying to emulate didn’t have a single client. They didn’t have the impressive portfolio they do now. They had to start off with a tiny gig, possibly even free work.
Some of us even started off working for *gasp!* content mills.
If you’re new to freelancing, and keep getting turned down for not having enough (or the right) experience, this post is for you.
Keep reading for tips on how to get clients to hire you, even if you’re totally new to freelancing.
1: Make sure you’re targeting the right type of clients
This is a big one.
When you’re first starting out, you need to focus your marketing efforts on pitching clients for whom you are a perfect fit. Applying for every single job board listing you come across won’t get you anywhere. It will just be frustrating and discouraging.
Instead, show your prospect you have a connection to their topic. Let’s say you’re pitching a trade publication for veterinary staff – and you used to work in a veterinary hospital. Maybe you’re pitching an article about improving your pet retail sales, and you worked in a pet store for years. It could even be website content for a beauty supply store, and you know every shade of that brand’s lipstick by heart.
Focus your marketing on clients in an industry where you’ve got some inside knowledge or experience that other writers probably don’t have. Sure, you may get a lot of beauty bloggers or fashionistas going for some of those same clients, but can they name the exact shade of foundation from popular brands just by looking at a picture?
(I can’t, for the record, but I have a friend who most definitely can. She’s probably a wizard.)
By ensuring you’re targeting the right client for your interests, experience, and niche, you have a better chance of landing a solid-paying gig.
Hubstaff Talent is a 100% free freelance platform with over 20,000 freelancers, and is a good place to start finding clients within your niche.
2: Focus on the right markets
When you first start out, it can be pretty tempting to pitch those big-name magazines. Who doesn’t want to see their name on that slick, glossy page?
Unfortunately, this rarely works out for newer writers.
When you’re just starting out, it’s easier to go for gigs you stand a better chance of landing. Not only will it cut down on that feeling of discouragement, but it will also help you build your portfolio much faster.
Some great markets include:
· Newsletters of organizations to which you belong or are associated with in some way
· Local newspapers or small online magazines
· Local businesses you go to a lot
· Smaller business journals or trade publications
· Businesses owned by your friends, family, or other types of connections
· Any of those free papers, handouts, and brochures
Those places often have a hard time finding quality writers, and would probably be able to offer you a gig that would be a great start for your portfolio. It may be something small, like a review of a local event, but it’s an excellent stepping stone.
Not only do these build your portfolio, but they give you experience and testimonials you can include on your website.
Did you notice what I DIDN’T list? Content mills. They won’t impress a prospective client, and they won’t pay you what you are worth, so it’s best to avoid them.
3: Make it clear you are the best writer for the job
Even if you’re pitching to markets you have expertise in, it won’t do you any good if you’re not really making a solid case for why they should hire you.
Make sure your knowledge and experience really shines throughout your LOI (letter of introduction) or query letter. Cut right to the chase.
It also helps to pitch locally as much as possible. That local factor puts points in your favor, and will help you get the gig over someone else.
Put your location, experience, and knowledge together in a pitch like this:
“As a [city]-based freelance writer with x years in [industry], I was really intrigued by your [company’s service/product, publication’s latest article].
I noticed your company has a blog, but that it hasn’t been updated in x months. As it happens, I have x years of blogging experience. Would you be interested in adding a freelance writer with a [industry] background to your marketing team to keep your blog updated? I’d be delighted to discuss the details with you.”
Simple. Straightforward. To the point.
You’re not just some general writer, but one with relevant knowledge and experience. You also never mentioned you’re new. You simply demonstrated your value by knowing their industry and having expertise in the type of writing they are looking for. Plus, you’re locally-based, which is always a positive.
4: Work on building your portfolio
This is probably the most common problem for those new to freelance writing. How are you supposed to pitch clients when you don’t have any clips?
You actually may have more clips than you think: Blog posts, staff writing, reports and case studies in former places of employment, newsletters for your favorite club or social gathering, etc.
If you truly can’t think of anything to use, you can do a bit of pro-bono work. I’m talking about a small project with a clearly defined scope, completed for a good company or a publication that has a following and good reputation. The client should “pay” you in a testimonial, and you can leverage that when you add that clip to your portfolio. They should never tell anyone you did it for free, and they should refer you if they are satisfied with your work.
Want some more actionable tips? Check out my post on how to start a freelance business from home.
What’s your biggest hurdle as a new freelance writer? Let me know in the comments below.