Making that jump from a 9-to-5 job to a freelance writing career can be scary.
Will you make enough money?
Will you be able to cover expenses, bills or even rent?
Do you have the chops to really make it on your own?
We all ask these questions starting out, and to be honest, at the beginning, there aren’t any definitive answers. It all depends on your commitment, your work ethic and, well, your hustle.
In my experience, the best way to gain confidence as a freelance writer is to book a client. It gives you a reassurance that yes, money will indeed be coming in, and it boosts your belief in yourself and your abilities. And when you’re just starting out, that can mean all the difference.
So in line with that, I want to talk about snagging that first freelance writing client – the one that helps you jumpstart your career and get you motivated to keep moving forward.
Ready to start the process and lock down that first freelance writing client? Here’s how I did it, and you can do it too:
1. Gather Your Best Clips
Even if you don’t have a large portfolio, that doesn’t mean you can’t find pieces to show off.
Review your past work – press releases you wrote on the job, news stories you wrote in college or even personal essays you turned in for an assignment. Create PDFs of each so they’re ready to send off to potential clients. If you really want to look like a pro, create an online portfolio of your clips, too.
If you don’t have any samples, write some!
Write some articles on subjects you know about. I remember when I was starting out, when I came across a job I really wanted, I wrote a new sample just for that job ad! I wouldn’t recommend doing this for every job ad as you will be spending too much time on writing samples, but don’t be afraid to write samples on the spot. Your prospective freelance writing clients will not know when you wrote them and you don’t have to tell them (our little secret :)).
You can also start a blog and write, write and write some more. With a blog, you can send prospective clients right to your posts. This also displays your professionalism (you have a working website) and that you are dedicated to your craft.
2. Find a Relevant Job Listing or Post
Since you’re not that experienced yet, find a job that’s relevant to your skills.
Have you been working in the marketing department for a while? Look for an agency in need of marketing content for their blog.
Did you study architecture in school? Check out design and architecture firms who need help with web content, brochures or product descriptions.
The more suited you are for the job, the more likely you are to snag it. In the beginning, since you won’t have much writing experience, you can highlight your experience in other disciplines. HINT: Don’t ever let prospective clients know you have no writing experience! This is a huge turn-off to them. If they liked your samples, you are fully qualified to take the job. Act confident even if you don’t feel like it and you will do great. This is how I got started and look at me now!
3. Tap into Your Network
Sometimes, the best way to find new clients is to use the network of professional connections you already have.
Were you a journalism grad? Reach out to your fellow students and see if anyone has a colleague or employer in need of a freelancer writer. Have a well-honed LinkedIn account? Post to your page and announce your new freelance status.You never know who might be in need of a writer at that very moment.
4. Craft a Killer Intro Letter & Resume
This goes for any job you’re applying for, but a great intro/cover letter and a well-done resume are key – especially since it’s the first time a freelance writing client will actually see your writing.
Customize your letter (or just your email if you’re sending it that way) exactly to the job’s posts specifications. Highlight your background and experience, why you’re a good fit for the job, and what you bring to the table that other candidates don’t offer.
On your resume, include your full-time jobs, your education, a link to your portfolio, and even “freelance writer” and the tasks you specialize in. If you know Photoshop (or have a friend who does) ask them to design your resume in a way that stands out from the pack.
If you are still struggling to figure out how to get that first client and you are pressed for time, I want to give you the opportunity to grab a cliffnotes version of how to find and land MORE freelance writing jobs and clients.My Ultimate Client-Getting Masterclass is a short video training class where I show you my EXACT steps to attracting, finding and contacting clients who will want to work with you.
5. Offer Revisions and Extras
Since you don’t have as full a portfolio as other candidates you may be competing against, some clients may be hesitant to take you on. Fortunately, you can increase their confidence in your abilities by offering certain assurances.
For one, you can include a few rounds of revisions or edits. Then, after you’ve delivered the post, article, story or piece of content, solicit feedback from the client, revise and send back until they’re 100-percent happy with the result. Also, throw in little extras like social media promotion if you have a big Twitter following, or some SEO or keyword optimization if you feel comfortable in that realm of work.
6. Provide a Sneak Peek
I’m not a big fan of offering anything on spec, but if you really want the job, offering a sneak peek of what you can deliver can sometimes help.
Now don’t go writing 2,000 words of a 4,000-word piece – that’s not in your best interest. But, write a short intro, maybe create a rough outline, or even create a quick summary of what your content would look like. This gives potential clients a way to gauge your abilities, and it’s often way above and beyond what other candidates are offering up.
7. Make the Timeline, Deliverables and Pricing Appealing
Don’t work until midnight or offer bargain-basement per-word rates, but make your services appealing to the client.
Phrase your pitch in a way that makes you seem like a real steal; offer fast turnarounds (however fast is do-able for your schedule), high-quality deliverables (with extras like SEO, built-in hyperlinks to sources, suggested images, etc.) and a price that makes you money, but also provides them real value.
If you’re not sure you can deliver a super-fast project, offer a broken-down timeline instead. Create a schedule that lists all the content pieces and exactly what date you will submit them. It might spread out the project a bit, but the client will see the progress (and that you’re making them a priority.)
8. Be Confident
You might be new to freelance writing, but that doesn’t mean you should reveal this to the client.
Convey confidence in your communication, and show them that you know exactly what to do and how to help them achieve their goals – whether they’re your first freelance writing client or your 50th. Remember you’re the pro here. Clients are hiring a writer because they can’t do it themselves, so prove to them you’re the expert they need every chance you get. Lack of confidence is one of the key topics I touched on in my post, The Top Mistakes New Freelance Writers Make that are Easy to Avoid.
Getting that first freelance writing client might seem challenging, but once you lock it down, it all gets easier. You start building up your portfolio, you get more experience, and you make yourself a more in-demand commodity in your industry.
For even more guidance on getting started as a freelance writer, check out my article, The Definitive Step-by-Step Guide on How to Become a Freelance Writer.