Sadly, there are no shortcuts or ‘hacks’ when seeking freelance writing jobs as a beginner. If you want quality clients (and you do) their experience with you and your writing business must be entirely professional and competent from the moment that you are discovered.
None of the recommendations in this post can be automated with a fancy software tool. Each requires your care, attention, and dedication to get right and, eventually, attract clients.
What you need is a clear business development strategy, even if you’re just starting as a freelance writer and are looking for your first client. Without a clear ‘biz-dev’ strategy, you’re trusting that the universe will be kind and place clients in your lap.
Sorry pal, but that’s not going to happen.
Business development is the most important part of a freelance writing business, maybe even more so than your writing skills. If you can’t find people to pay you to write, then you don’t have a business.
Here are five must-have components of a biz-dev strategy that will attract high-quality writing gigs.
1) With A Portfolio
What writing have you already done that will convince a potential client that you can do it again? The more varied collection of pieces that you have the better. It proves that you can write for different organisations and for their diverse audiences.
A portfolio accompanied with testimonials is great too. Testimonials show that working with you is a positive experience. Your clients will feel much better about working with you if they know that other people have hired you already and that you delivered – hiring you isn’t a risk.
2) With A Good Website
Your website needs to convince your prospective clients that you know what you’re doing. Vital components are an ‘About’ page, a ‘Hire Me’ page, and a blog. You absolutely need a page that says you’re for hire. It’s also important to explain what you’re about, but I’d particularly stress the importance of your blog.
The fact that you have a regularly updated blog shows a prospective client that you can help them with theirs. You can obviously manage a CMS (your own), write posts, and attract readers (they’re on your site, right?). Especially if you’re just starting, devote serious attention to your blog; it’s your ‘live’ business card.
3) With Offline Networking (Referrals)
Tell your friends and family that you’re looking for writing gigs. Make sure that they’re very clear about exactly what it is that you do, and know exactly what kind of client you’re looking for. You should also tell your clients that you’d appreciate referrals.
Referrals are the best and easiest way to get new writing jobs, so always be nice to people (which I hope you are anyway) and explain to them how you help your clients whenever it’s appropriate. Referrals tend to be the highest quality leads, because prospective clients approach you with a recommendation from someone they trust.
4) With Online Networking
Connect with people on Twitter and LinkedIn etc., but don’t be salesy. Explain why you’d like to connect with an initial direct message, and then be useful to connections with your updates and posts.
Be human and remember not to act like a bot. Believe it or not, but if you’re nice and friendly it’s far more likely that you’ll build genuine relationships. Respond to posts that intrigue you and engage in conversations that occur around the items you share.
This is a slow-burner strategy that will only generate leads after connections recognise your value to their online network and your ability to write interesting pieces.
5) With Google Adwords
Paid search is a good way to get potential clients onto your site. But it costs you money, so make sure you know exactly what type of client you’re looking for or else you will burn through your ad budget. Use audience targeting, specific keywords, and equally specific negative keywords.
Don’t become overly reliant on paid search though. It’s better for you to get direct and organic traffic to your site as it’s cheaper and more sustainable. I’ve found that paid search leads aren’t always the highest quality, but when you’re starting out it’s a great way to generate interest in you and your writing skills.
Summary – Take Business Development Seriously!
You need to demonstrate to your clients that you know what you’re doing and that working with you will be a breeze. This is the fundamental impression you should convey at every opportunity. Ultimately, if you can successfully convince enough people of your competence and capabilities, you will succeed as a freelance writer.
Getting a business development strategy in place is the hardest part of ‘making it’ as a freelance writer, and you need to have as many biz-dev channels working for you as possible. Try starting with these five.