We freelance writers aren’t the most outgoing bunch.
There’s a reason we like to work from home, on our own, free of any distractions or micro-managing bosses. We’re kind of lone wolves like that.
But sadly, you can’t make a successful freelance career all on your own. The truth is, you need other people…
You need clients.
You need contacts.
You need supporters.
While these types of connections can be much harder to make when you’re working for yourself, they’re not impossible to come by. It just requires a little extra work, some planning and this handy freelance writer’s guide to get you started.
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Want to make the connections you need to get your freelance career off the ground? Then this freelance writer’s guide is for you.
Use it to network in your area – and online – and find the prospective clients who can take your career to new heights.
Make Your Availability Known
You can’t expect potential clients to know that…
1) you’re a freelance writer OR
2) that you’re available for work right this very moment.
So the first step to successful networking is to make your status known.
Have a public, detailed portfolio website up and full of current details. Change your LinkedIn headline to “Freelance writer for hire” (or something more specific, if you have a niche or specialty), and post to your Facebook, Twitter and other accounts to get the word out. If someone comes across your work and Googles you, you want them to be able to see immediately what you do and that you’re available for work.
When it comes to marketing for writers, LinkedIn is one of our most powerful marketing tools. It sounds cliché, but I mean it. I can’t tell you how many clients and projects I landed from the site, and to this day, I still receive a handful of messages, invites and views every single week – I don’t even have to work for it!
The key is to fully OPTIMIZE your profile. Use your headline wisely, upload tons of samples, and fill out your experience and skills areas thoroughly.
Spend time connecting with past colleagues, bosses (even from school or your last 9-to-5), friends, family and anyone else you know, because the more connections you have, the more visible you will be to other LinkedIn members.
Once you connect with past colleagues, bosses and coworkers, reach out and ask them for a recommendation. These are displayed prominently on your profile, and often, they’re what can push a prospective client over the edge and inspire them to reach out – especially if they know and trust the person recommending you.
If you’re on the hunt for gigs, publish updates regularly to your account. Upload your latest blog posts and samples, post news stories and links that could help your customers, or just keep your connections in the loop about your work and what you’re doing. The more active you are, the more you’ll be at the forefront of their minds!
Contact Your Existing Clients
If you made your clients happy, they’ll want to make you happy, too.
Reach out to your current clients and let them know that…
1) you’re available for more work should they or anyone in their company need it
2) you’d love any tips on other freelancing gigs they may hear about.
You can even offer to give them a small percentage of your payment as a “finder’s fee” should they connect you with a new client.
If they don’t know of any other work, no big deal. Ask if they wouldn’t mind providing you with a testimonial you can post on your website, or maybe some stats or quotes regarding the work you provided. These types of proof can go a LONG way in turning a prospective client into a real, paying one.
Keep in Touch
Just because you closed a contract doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to a client forever. If you did a good job for them, keep in touch.
Send them a note every once in a while to check in and see if they need anything. Even if they don’t, this keeps you at the top of their mind should a new project come up (for them or for someone they know).
Also, connect with them on LinkedIn, Twitter and other places you have a professional presence. Your past clients are often your biggest advocates, so use them to your advantage!
Pay Attention to Everyone
Sometimes, over the course of a project, you’ll work with five, 10, maybe even 20 different people. Maybe one’s an editor, one’s a project manager and another is the CEO, simply providing feedback.
No matter who you’re working with (or even just who’s CC’d on an email), pay attention to each and every one. Address them by name, pay attention to their concerns and questions, and deliver 100-percent customer satisfaction with all that they need.
Then, by the end of the project, you don’t just have one client who can recommend you, but dozens! This means more connections, and more people in your corner.
Try a Networking Event
This strategy isn’t for everyone – especially if you’re on the shyer side (trust me, I get it!).
But if you can stand a little face-to-face awkwardness, this can be a great way to make connections and find new clients.
Another great idea is to choose networking events for complementary careers. One in particular I’ve had luck with? Social Media Club meet-ups. These events are full of people who work in a marketing and communications capacity for big-name brands and companies. Almost all of them know their clients need help blogging, writing web copy or with other content needs, and they’re happy to put you in touch with the right person to make it happen. Bring plenty of business cards!
Networking is a two-way street, so don’t expect to take, take, take only. Give back to your connections too, and put them in contact with people who can further their careers and bring them the success they’re looking for.
Know someone in need of a new website? Refer them to that web designer you met at your friend’s birthday party last week. If it turns into a paying gig, that will endear them to you for life, and you can bet the next time they or someone they know needs a writer, you’ll be the first person they call!
Join Writer’s Groups and Go to Conferences
Many cities offer writing groups, associations and professional organizations, and some even have conferences and events for writing, too. Use these opportunities to meet other locals in your field and get to know your area’s writing market more intimately.
Sure, you probably won’t get a ton of work from another freelance business writer, but what if you make friends with a blogger? Or a travel writer?
They may very well have prospective clients looking for business content, but as it’s not their specialty, they would be willing to pass those gigs on to you. You, of course, can do the same for them should any travel content come your way. It’s a win-win for everybody.
Follow Leads and Follow-Up
If you make a professional connection or find someone who may be a prospective client, follow up promptly. Send them an email, shoot off a LinkedIn message or follow them on Twitter to solidify the relationship. You don’t even have to mention working together; just say you were happy to meet and connect with them. Leave a lasting impression.
Have additional advice to add to the freelance writer’s guide? Let me know in the comments!