If you’ve been following my series about becoming a WAH freelance writer, you’ve learned a bit about finding a niche and pricing your work, but that doesn’t help you unless you have clients! All kinds of individuals and businesses throughout the world are looking for writers like you to help them produce content for their blogs, websites, advertising campaigns, and other materials. You’ve just got to find them.
Here, from most to least difficult, are the best ways to find clients.
Cold calling is when you telephone someone with whom you have no history and you try to convince them to purchase your services. It is perhaps the most intimidating way to meet new clients.
Now, if you are courageous enough to give cold calling a try, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Only call businesses and organizations (B&O). The chances of you finding an individual who is willing to pay for writing work are incredibly low.
- Make sure you ask for someone in charge. The owner is your best bet. The guy working the cash register can’t make business decisions like the one you’re proposing.
- Personalize your pitch. Don’t just call and say “Hi, I’m Daniel and I’m a writer. Do you need a writer?” The answer will always be “no.” Research the B&O before you call and speak to them, specifically. Check out their website (if they have one). Find out where they fall short. Pitch a solution.
- You’re targeting B&O with bad writing or none at all. Businesses with highly professional websites don’t need your help. You want local businesses with bad websites or advertising materials. Those are the people to whom you’ll be most valuable.
Finally, expect to fail. Cold calling is no fun because you’re not going to have a good success rate. You need to have thick skin. It’s just the nature of the beast. Luckily, if cold calling isn’t for you, there are other options.
Slightly less intimidating, networking requires you to meet people face-to-face. The good news is that you’re not expected to pitch to all of them, so the stakes aren’t quite as high.
The biggest challenge with networking is understanding how to do it. Most of the time networking simply means putting yourself in the same place as other people and making sure that they remember you.
If you want to start networking, here are some things you’ll need to do:
- Get some business cards and make sure that the contact information on them is correct. You can get cheap business cards at VistaPrint.
- Practice your “elevator pitch.” Figure out a way to thoroughly explain what you do and what kind of value you offer to clients. And figure out a way to say it in ten seconds or less.
- Sharpen your social skills. Networking is largely just talking to people, so be certain you can remember names, shake hands properly, and carry a conversation.
Once you know that you can handle networking with other professionals, you’ll need to find networking events. The internet is great for that sort of thing. Meetup and LinkedIn are top notch ways to locate networking events in your area that suit you.
Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter are social media tools that you may already be using for entertainment, but they can benefit you professionally too. It is an opportunity to put your name, face, and skill set in front of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people with whom you already have some sort of relationship.
If you’re going to stand a chance of landing a gig on social media, you have to take certain steps.
- Make sure that your new freelancer role is identified on your profiles.
- Don’t be afraid to comment on other people’s posts, asking them about their side projects, businesses, and blogs.
- Create a LinkedIn profile dedicated entirely to your role as a freelance writer. Link to it frequently.
Just like cold calling, you are most likely to secure a writing contract with businesses. Offer to write their social media posts. Give your elevator pitch and link to your LinkedIn profile.
Social media is still as much science as it is art. If you have creative ideas about how to promote yourself on social media, use them!
Internet job boards are a great resource. In fact, I picked up my very first professional client using Craigslist. Two or three times each week, I continue to check Craigslist for new opportunities. If you decide to use CL, be sure to check out the “writing/editing” section under “jobs” and the “writing” section under “gigs.”
The beauty of using internet job boards like Craigslist is that you get to check out the client before you decide to throw your hat into the ring. Bad clients will make you want to jump off of a bridge, so it’s a bad idea to simply work for anybody, anytime.
They are easy to use and updated regularly. Want to try using the job boards? Give these a try:
- ProBlogger – blogs looking to pay writers for content submit jobs here, but the competition can be steep.
- LinkedIn – check out personalized opportunities based on your LinkedIn profile and your connections
- Morning Coffee – sign up here and get new opportunities sent your inbox each day
- Dice – most listings here are for technical writers. Unless you have a strong niche, you probably should skip this one.
Finally, the freelance platforms! These are my bread and butter. I found nearly all of my regular clients on freelance platforms. Similar to social media engines, freelance platforms connect people from all over the world. The difference, however, is that want to connect freelancers and clients for paying gigs.
In order to take advantage of these great platforms, you need to:
- set up a profile
- upload any samples you may have
- search the thousands of available jobs
- bid on the jobs you want
- initiate the contract
- get to work!
Most of these platforms are free to use, but when you finally land a contract, you’ll pay a percentage to the platform. That percentage is usually 10% or less and is used to pay their staff, pay their bills, and line their pockets. It’s a small price to pay for the contracts, in my opinion.
My favorite two platforms are, undoubtedly, oDesk and Elance. I have found the most clients on these platforms and find them the easiest to use. Their search functions allow you to hunt for projects based on whether they are hourly or fixed price, high-paying or low-paying, and other factors such as where the client lives and the length of the assignments.
Once you’ve activated a contract, you can track your time using their tracking software for guaranteed payment (in hourly projects) or set up milestones (which release some portion of the total agreed funds for a corresponding portion of the work) to ensure that you are paid for your efforts. Any time I’ve had a problem, customer service has been excellent.
Payment is easy, and both allow you multiple options for receiving your money. I usually receive my Elance funds by PayPal and oDesk funds by direct deposit to my checking account.
Perhaps the best thing is that their messaging and organization tools allow you to keep your clients all in one place, so you never forget about anyone when you get busy. oDesk and Elance really are the tops, and I can’t recommend them enough.
A little more help
Next week, I’ll give a more thorough walkthrough for using oDesk and Elance successfully. Don’t miss it or else you’ll be burning money!