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10 Tips to Help You Land More Freelance Writing Clients

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.

The Links

 *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 dytonwande@gmail.com.

Writer’s Log #22: Take Two

By Joe Dyton

A year ago, I started this blog to keep track of my progress as I tried to build a successful freelance writing business. Unfortunately, things did not go as well as I had hoped. I reached out to hundreds of publications, web sites, marketing firms, ad agencies and businesses, but somehow only came out of it all with one steady client. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to have landed steady work and this client kept me busy throughout the year, but my goal was to have added six steady clients to my company’s roster in 2014.

In August, I really concentrated on my marketing efforts and aimed to make a combination of 200 calls and emails that month to see how many clients I could get out of it. I did hit my target of 200, but only picked up one potential client. I’m not going to lie, I was very discouraged. I did very little marketing after that, which I know wasn’t going to help me build a client list. I had just gotten so frustrated; out of the 200 people I contacted, only 20 even bothered to respond and 19 said they didn’t have a need for freelance writers. The other one was the potential client I mentioned an earlier; a local marketing firm that has an assignment that could use a commercial real estate writer; a subject in which I have experience. Unfortunately, the firm’s client is dragging its feet a bit, so the firm can’t get to work on the project, which means I’m stuck in limbo. Not good times.

OK, enough with the negative stuff. After the failed 200 email/call experiment, I wondered if I was cut out for this. I decided not to throw in the towel just yet though. I want a successful freelance writing career very badly and it’s not going to come to me, I have to go out and get it. It’ll be hard, but that’s OK. It’ll be worth it when I get to where I want to be. It’s like Tom Hanks said to Geena Davis in “A League of Their Own”, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would be doing it. The hard is what makes it great.” Sure he was talking about baseball, but I like to think it could be applied to anything of life’s challenges.

So here we go, back in the marketing saddle. The Aspiring Freelancer, Take Two.

The Links:

Leslie Jordan Clary shares how she built a steady stream of writing clients in nine months.

Celine Roque offers tips on how introverted freelance writers can ask for referrals.

Corina Manea shares the story of how she left her day job to pursue a freelance writing career.

Freelance business not making as much money as you’d like? Erin M. offers some tips on how to overcome that.

Joe Dyton (@dyton99) is a freelance journalist and copywriter in the Washington, DC area and co-host of The GD Podcast. He may be reached at dytonwande@gmail.com

Writer’s Log #21: Challenge Accepted

By Joe Dyton

When I’m not writing or marketing my freelance writing services, I like to read up on the freelance writing craft. Whether it’s blog posts on how to find clients or tips on writing better, I enjoy reading about the topic. Whenever I read a story about someone who built a successful freelance writing business from the ground up, I’m always inspired.

I’ve read a lot of stories since I began my quest to be a full-fledged freelancer that inspired me, but recently, I came across a post that left me intrigued. It was on Angela Booth’s Fab Freelancing blog titled, “Make Money Writing: 3 Tips to Go Full-Time in 30 Days”. When I saw this headline on Twitter, I just had to read it.

If you been reading this blog since I started it in January, I’ve put myself on a year-long quest to bring in enough work to be a full-time freelance writer. I got excited about the prospect of doing it even sooner when I saw Ms. Booth’s blog post about doing it in 30 days.

What I liked about the post was it was honest; you can’t just wave a magic wand and get work, you have to hustle. I’ve been hustling, but not as much as I should be, and I’m curious to see if I push as hard as Ms. Booth suggests if I can bring in a full-time wage in 30 days. She mentioned she gave someone advice to make 200 calls and when the person said nothing was happening, Ms. Booth told her to make 200 more calls. By the 219th call, the person had landed a pair of clients, one of which was an ongoing gig. When I read that, I realized I’m not doing nearly enough to get more work.

So, I’m using this month to make my 200 calls. I may split that between emails and phone calls, but either way, I’m going to reach out to at least 200 companies, publications, etc. in August. I sent out 20 letters of interest over the weekend to jumpstart the experiment. Hopefully, my messages will be at the top of everyone’s inbox when they get to work on Monday morning.

My favorite line in Ms. Booth’s post is the one I need to remember while I’m making these 200 calls, “Even if it seems that nothing is happening, something is.” I have to remain positive even if I don’t hear back from people right away.

So it begins: 30 days, 200 calls and the chance to earn a full-time wage. 

Challenge accepted.

The Links:

Day job have you down? Taylor Gordon explains how it can help you launch your freelance career.

Carol Tice has five ways you can find freelance writing jobs on Twitter.

Pamela Wilson shares simple eight tips to get more people to read your content.

Joe Dyton (@dyton99) is a freelance journalist and copywriter in Washington, DC. He can be reached at dytonwande@gmail.com.

 
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Writer’s Log #20: Making Time

By Joe Dyton

Ugh, I’m so embarrassed by how long it’s been since I’ve written a new post. I guess if there’s a positive to my lack of blog posts is that the reason is I’ve been busy writing. I have a pair of steady freelance gigs that have kept me busy when I get home from my day job. Between the 9 to 5 and my freelance writing, I just haven’t had the time to blog like I had hoped.

Unfortunately, the other thing my writing schedule as cut down on is my marketing. I’ve dedicated so much time to working on articles when I get home at night, I have been unable to send out Letters of Interest and resumes at the rate I had been before I started getting work. The thing is, I need to be doing that. Right now, the two steady gigs I have make for a nice supplement to my full-time salary. However, I want my freelance income to get to the point that it could support me on a full-time basis if need be. I know that won’t happen unless I start knocking on doors again and asking for work. As much as I would like it to be the case, work isn’t just going to fall into my lap.

So for the past couple of months, I’ve just chalked up my lack of blogging and marketing to, “I’m too busy working, I don’t have time for anything else.” Well, today, I decided that’s no longer a valid excuse. I need to carve out time each night to putting more posts on the blog and marketing my writing services. I’m still trying to figure out how to balance the full-time job/freelance writing/marketing/blogging quagmire. 

I’d love to open this up to you, my readers. If you’re a full-time employee and a freelance writer, or if you were a full-timer who wrote on the side and now freelance full-time, how do you/did you make time for your job, freelance work and to continue marketing? After a full day’s work, how did you get up the energy to get back in front of a computer and start writing all over again? Did you ever take vacation days from your day job to catch up on freelance writing? Please leave any tips, suggestions, stories in the comments section below!

I also wanted to pose another question. I interview people who work at various companies for a lot of the articles I write. I’m not only a freelance journalist, but I’m a freelance copywriter, too. Is it in bad taste to ask sources for my articles about doing writing for their companies? Any insight on this would be much appreciated!

Thank you for reading. It’s been far too long since I’ve done this and it feels great to be back. From now on, I’m going to make time to post here, even if I don’t have it.

The Links:

Gideon Thomas shares how he turned his writing hobby into a career.

Allison VanNest offers a few tips on how to land more freelance writing jobs as a beginner.

Kirsty Stuart has seven reasons freelance writing clients aren’t hiring you.

Christopher Cuna gives you self-motivation tricks to bring your business to a reality.

Joe Dyton (@dyton99) is a freelance journalist and copywriter in Washington, DC. He may be reached at dytonwande@gmail.com.

Writer’s Log #19: Better Late Than Never

By Joe Dyton

Happy Friday, everybody! Well, I’m a little more than two months into my quest to be a freelance writer, which means I was hoping to have at least one steady client by now. For those who are reading this blog for the first time, I set a goal of obtaining at least six steady clients this year, preferably at a pace of one every two months.

By time February 28 had rolled around. I still hadn’t gotten a new client, at least one that was desirable. I had a few offers, but either the pay was too low or the pay structure wasn’t desirable. I was tempted to just fold up my tent and forget about this freelance dream; two months of making phone calls and sending out emails, letters of introduction and resumes, and I had nothing to show for it. Then I reminded myself that a) no said this was going to be easy and b) I committed to this quest for a year, there was no backing out of it now. 

So, on this last day of February I was standing in line at a burger place waiting to order my lunch when my phone buzzes. I had email from my freelance writing email account. It was from a magazine that I had reached out to recently; one of their managing editors liked my work and said they could use a few more freelance writers. Everything about the situation was perfect; the pay rate is pretty good, they help secure my sources and set up the story angle and the turnaround time for stories is about two to three weeks. I’ve been assigned two trial assignments to see how it goes, but I’m confident I can deliver two good stories and make this a regular gig. I was just happy to hear they’re going to pay me for the trial articles (which will be published, too). As you may remember, I decided not to write on spec anymore.

It may have taken me the last day of my deadline, but I was able to bring in a desirable client. It’s funny how quickly one’s attitude could change with one email. Just minutes before, I was considering calling it quits, and now I can’t wait to market away these next two months and see if I can land another client or two.

The Links:

Lori Widmer shares what she’s learned from a freelance writing career.

Onibalusi Bamidele lists 30 websites that will pay you to contribute articles.

Alexis Grant explains what it really takes to grow a side gig.

Heather Lloyd-Martin offers seven tips for sales call success.

Shahzad asks eight successful freelance bloggers how they got started.

Joe Dyton (@dyton99) is a freelance journalist and copywriter in Washington, DC. He may be reached at dytonwande@gmail.com.

Writer’s Log #18, Taking it Up a Notch

By Joe Dyton

Well, hello! I couldn’t believe I’d let a week go by since my last post. That’s inexcusable to be honest. It’s not like I was away the last week or anything. Actually, most of my free time was spent tethered to my laptop as my girlfriend puts it. So, I definitely could have put up a couple of posts. The fact of the matter is I had spent most of my free time looking for companies to email about my writing services. At least my non-blogging time was spent looking for work, but I know I need to be more diligent documenting my quest to become a freelance writer here.

As for the title of the post, it’s what I realized I need to with my marketing if I want to get a good amount of work. I mean, I knew this before; the more I reach out to businesses, publications, etc., the more I increase my odds of landing gigs. I got a good reminder of this equation last week when I read this great post published by Yuwanda Black about an SEO writer who had a $1,000 day and already has $10,000 in work lined up for the year. The whole story was impressive, but one sentence really jumped out at me, “…up your marketing efforts. For example, if you’re used to sending out 50 emails and landing at least a couple of jobs, you may have to send out 150 to land the same number when times are slow.”

After I read that, I knew I had to step up my marketing efforts. I’ve been trying to get away with sending 10 to 15 emails out a day. That’s not bad if I had steady work, but since I’m still trying to build a client base, I probably should be aiming for 20 to 30 emails and/or calls a day. I got exhausted just writing that last sentence, but if I’m getting limited replies from what I’m doing now, I don’t see another option but to “take it up a notch.”

This isn’t to say, I’m getting no feedback. I got a very positive response the other day from a marketing firm who said it’s always looking for good writers. Someone from the firm sent me their general pricing guide to show what they charge customers and most of their rates were in line with what I’d charge someone for certain projects. Other rates were more than I currently charge. I am excited to hear back from them.

I got a couple other offers to write from sites. One was the sports blog I mentioned in my last post. I have a feeling I’m going to pass on that one; apparently my pay would be based how much ad revenue my post generates. I understand that if I work really hard and come up with stories that could bring in a lot of traffic, I could make out alright. My concern is what if i do all of this research, and submit a week’s worth of stories (the site requests at least seven posts a week during the season the team I’m covering is currently playing) and they don’t generate hardly any revenue? The earning potential could be great, but it could also be bad, and the latter concerns me. I’d much rather write for a moderate, flat per-post fee to be honest.

The other offer would give me that, but the pay isn’t great; $20 for a 500-word post, with the potential to get bumped up to $40. I have this some consideration; I thought it might be good to have a position like this in my back pocket where I could write when I feel up to it and make a little extra cash here and there. Then I read this story by Kristen Hicks about why us freelancers owe it to one another to start charging more. It was an insightful article that did a great job explaining how we can all benefit from helping businesses understand what our services are truly worth. I don’t think I’d be helping the cause by pumping out $20 500-word articles.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion though. If you think I’m crazy for turning away any kind of work, please tell me so in the comments section! I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.

Thanks for reading!

Joe

THE LINKS:

I downloaded Sophie Lizard’s (FREE!) “The Ultimate List of Better-Paid Blogging Gigs”. I can’t wait to read through it.

Jenn Mattern breaks down two freelance writing niches: Profits vs. Passion.

Shawndra Russell reveals the Table of Contents to her book, “How to Become a Freelance Writer in 30 Days”.

John Soares can help you get more freelance gigs for more money.

Jessica Leigh Brown explains how she landed two writing clients and $1,000 in just seven emails.

Joe Dyton (@dyton99) is a freelance copywriter and journalist in Washington, DC and co-host of The GD Podcast with Mike Grant & Joe Dyton. He may be reached at dytonwande@gmail.com.

 

Writer’s Log #17: Can Beggars be Choosers?

By Joe Dyton

It’s been a week or so since I started using my new Letter of Introduction and the replies have begun to trickle into my inbox. A few have been along the lines of “All of Company X’s writing is done in-house” or “We don’t have a need right now, but let’s keep in touch.” I see plenty of those on a daily basis, but this past week, I got two responses that were a little more interesting.

The first response ties into the title of this post, “Can Beggars Be Choosers?”. I heard back from a sports blog, and I was excited about the opportunity. Sports is one of my favorite topics to write about, along with pop culture. After showing them a few of my writing samples, I was offered the opportunity to cover one of my favorite sports teams for the site. Getting paid to write about sports has been my dream since I was a freshman in college, so this seemed like an ideal situation. But, as I read more about how I’d be compensated, it sounded like my pay would be based more on how much traffic my posts generate as opposed to a per post fee. I emailed the editor of the site about how exactly their pay structure worked, and am currently awaiting his reply.

If you have been reading this blog from the beginning, you know my goal is to land at least six steady clients by the end of 2014. I currently have two prior to starting The Aspiring Freelancer. So with a big, fat “0” is still staring me in face as far as new clients go, should I even be questioning this site’s pay structure? Should I just accept the gig and see how it goes so I can get that “0” off of the board? Personally, I feel my time would be better spent searching for a client that pays a straight-up, decent wage than writing for an unknown, and possibly small income. I know how tough getting that first client can be however, so I ask you more experienced freelance writers out there, do you take any client on at first, or use your time to land the best ones possible? Sound off in the comments section below.

The other response of interest is one I’ve gotten a couple of times in the past when I look for freelance work; a company asks if I’d be interested in a full-time gig. This happened again this week; I saw a high-end sports apparel retailer was looking for a copywriter, so I reached out asking if they had a need for freelance writers. I got a reply back saying my experience and background were of interest and the retailer asked if I was up for discussing the opening it had. Going in, I knew I wasn’t interested in another full-time job unless the salary was out of this world. After talking with one of their reps, it wasn’t a good match; from a full-time prospective anyway. I didn’t have enough writing experience in the areas they were looking for (product writing, social media), and as a start-up, they were looking for someone to put in more hours than I was willing to give. I did let them know if they could use an extra writer, to please keep me in mind. So, we’ll how that goes.

Overall, it looks like new letter is getting a half-decent amount of responses. I’ll keep sending it out (and maybe try a few other variations) and see what happens. 

Thanks for reading!

The Links:

Joel Runyon offers up suggestions on how to become uber-productive when working for yourself. 

Alexa Mason has tips for preparing for the instability of a freelance life.

Speaking of landing a first freelance writing gig, Tow Ewer explains how he got his.

Lauren R. Tharp explains how NOT to treat a fellow freelancer writer.

Koty Neelis lists six mindsets you have to dominate to become a freelance writer.

Joe Dyton (@dyton99) is a freelance journalist and copywriter in Washington, DC. He may be reached at dytonwande@gmail.com.