By Joe Dyton
We hear all of the time as freelance writers, “You have to market your services if you want go get work.” It’s true, believe me, but knowing that you have to pitch is just the first step. You also have to know how to pitch if you want to get clients!
As I try to forge a career as a freelance writer, I’ve experimented with different strategies for finding clients here and there. Here are 10 things that have helped me get clients that I believe will work for you, too.
Tip #1: Just Do It!
Not to go all Nike on you, but one of the best ways to be good at pitching is to actually pitch. It can be easy to be paralyzed by fear, but if you don’t reach out to people and ask for work, it’s going to be virtually impossible for you to build a client list.
Tip #2: Pitch Often
It would be tough to become a marathon runner after one treadmill session, or a master pianist after a couple of lessons, right? The same goes for pitching, the more you do it, the better you’re going to get at it. More importantly, the more you pitch the better chance you’ll have of landing clients. Pitching is a numbers game, especially when you’re just getting your freelance business started. Exercise that pitching muscle every day!
Tip #3: Use Your “Power Base” to Find Clients
One of the reasons I’ve seen people hesitate to start pitching is they don’t know who to approach. Here’s a place for you to find prospects, your “Power Base”. I came across this term in the book “Sell Or Be Sold: How To Get Your Way in Business and Life” by entrepreneur, sales expert and best-selling author Grant Cardone. He explains the Power Base as people in your life who would be happy to hear from you and want to know what your up to. This would include your friends, family, colleagues: anyone who you interact with really.
Rather than reach out to complete strangers about your freelance services at first, chat up your “Power Base”. Not only will you get practice pitching, but it’ll be less nerve wracking talking to so to someone you know. Even if your “Power Base” doesn’t need a writer now, you’ll be fresh in their mind when they, or someone they know, do.
Tip #4: Don’t Just Rely on Job Boards
After you’ve reached out to your Power Base, it’s time to pitch businesses, publications, blogs, etc. your freelance writing services. One place to find freelance writing work is on job boards; JournalismJobs, ProBlogger, BloggingPro, etc. These are great place to find leads, but it shouldn’t be the only place you look for work.
Why? Well, if you’re looking for freelance work on these job boards, chances are a lot of other people are too, right? It’s not impossible to get gigs from job board posts but your odds are decreased a bit because of all the competition you’ll face.
Increase your odds by cold pitching people, too. If you aren’t sure where to start, think about your niche and search publications or businesses that can use your services. I have a lot of real estate writing experience for example. So, I might do a Google search for “Commercial Real Estate Publications” or “Commercial Real Estate Blogs”, gather a list and start emailing or calling the editor or owner. A lot of times, businesses have a need for a writer, but just don’t have the time to put a listing on a job board. Think of how happy they’ll be to hear from you when you reach out to offer your writing services!
Tip #5: Vary How Your Pitch
It can be easy to fall into an “email only” pattern of pitching people your services. While that may be the way most people’s preferred method of contact, you should know other ways to reach out to prospects! What if you find someone you really want to pitch, but he or she doesn’t use email very much, or at all? You might have spent valuable time crafting this email pitch that never gets seen.
That’s why you should have fallback pitch methods; cold calls are good one. Calling people when you’re just starting out can be scary, but it just might be a quicker way to get in contact with your prospect. An email can be deleted; if you get your prospect on the phone, at least you know they heard your pitch, even if they say they’re aren’t interested after you’re finished.
Other pitching methods could include reaching out through social media; a Tweet, Facebook or LinkedIn or if your prospect is in the area, pitch them in person!
Tip #6: Follow Up!
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m terrible about following up. I’ll do more than 100 pitches in a month, not hear from a bunch of them and do another 100 pitches the following month, and forget about the previous month, rinse lather repeat.
I recently decided to adopt the follow-up philosophy of business and life strategist Gary Coxe: follow up with 100 people 10 times each. His thinking makes sense; your chances of making contact and/or a sale are higher that way than trying to contact 1,000 people once. Especially when you consider the staggering stat that 80% of sales are made on the 5th to 12th contact.
If you don’t hear from prospects after a pitch, try again! If you emailed them one or two times and didn’t get a response, follow up with a phone call or see if they’re on Twitter.
Tip # 7: Easy on the “I’s”
When you send out a pitch/cover letter, it’s easy to fill it with a lot “I have experience writing about this” or “I worked there”. It is important to let prospects know what you did, but what they really want to know is what you can do for them. So, when you write up that pitch, it has to include the value you’re going to bring to the prospect.
Instead of, “I have more than 10 years’ worth of sports writing experience,” you could say, “I looked at your website and noticed you have a sports section. I would love to use my decades’ worth of sports writing experience to help contribute even more content (and bring more viewers) to that section.”
I thought investor and entrepreneur Daymond John of ABC’s “Shark Tank” explained this well in his new book, “The Power of Broke”:
“What happens a lot of the time is that people let their desire run interference—you know their back is against the wall, they really need funding or resources or whatever it is, and they can only think about what’s in it for them. That’s a big mistake. When you’re pitching, you should never lose sight of the other person’s needs. You should think, ‘What’s in it for them?’ And not, ‘What’s in it for me?’
Tip #8: Ask for the Sale!
Take another look at your pitch; is it just a list of your accomplishments/experience with a “Call me maybe” closing? That might get you a response, but your pitch will be that much stronger if you end it with a strong call to action. Instead of, “I hope to hear from you soon!” ask the prospect to respond, “Thank you for your consideration. Please hit, ‘Reply’ to let me know what writing assignments I can take off of your plate.”
I’ve asked for a response and offered value to the prospect by offering to lighten their load.
Freelance writer Renee Davis does a great job of explaining the importance of a strong closing/call to action in this post. Check it out!
Tip #9: Follow Instructions
When you respond to an ad on a job board, follow the instructions in that post exactly. I know this sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people make the mistake of leaving out required information or adding something that’s not necessary. If the post says three writing samples, include three not two or four. If it says no attachments, include links! Sometimes the job post is a test to see how well if you follow instructions. Don’t kill your chances of getting a gig at the application stage!
Tip #10: Pitch efficiently
In the beginning, you’ll want to pitch just about anyone you think could use your writing services. It’s how you’ll improve your pitch and build your client base. As you start to pick up work, the time you’ll have to pitch will dwindle some. Don’t stop pitching though; you never know when a client might decide to part ways with you (or vice versa). Instead, just the use the time you do have to pitch more efficiently; target places that you’re confident you’ll get responses/work, whether it’s publications in your niche or jobs that require someone with your experience. It becomes more of a “quality over quantity” process at that point.
I hope you find these tips helpful as you develop your pitch. Remember, the easiest way to sell your freelance writing services is to ask people to buy them!
Thanks for reading.
*I found my pitching game after I took Gina Horkey’s “30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success” course. I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to get their freelance writing business off the ground or are looking for ways to take it to the next level.
*Carol Tice offers up seven tips for landing better freelance gigs.
*Jorden Roper explains how she used cold e-mailing to earn $800 in her first month as a freelance writer.
*Annette Brown shares five writing lessons she’s learned over the last eight months.
Joe Dyton (@JoeDyton) is a freelance copywriter and journalist for hire in Washington, DC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.