Finding freelance writing gigs isn’t always easy, especially when you’re first starting out. But with a little guidance, starting and growing your freelance writing career (multi-niche or otherwise) doesn’t have to be hard.
Make no mistake; starting any career is hard work. But the steps to get there don’t have to be hard, and finding clients should be simple. There are many ways to find freelance writing gigs. From scouring the freelance writing job boards to crafting the perfect cold pitch, opportunities abound.
I’ve found the most success via warm pitching and selectively using job boards. While I have a strong dislike for cold pitching, warm pitching fits my personality just fine. I don’t like cold pitching because it’s basically me saying, “hey, I’m someone you never heard of before, buy my stuff.” It just doesn’t sit right with this outgoing, relationship-building gal.
One of the things I love about writing for clients and publications is building a relationship between the reader and the outlets for which I write. My freelance writing business slogan is “creating conversations that sell.” Thus, it only makes sense that I like to develop a relationship with a lead or publication before I pitch them. This is what I call warm pitching.
I define warm pitching as the act of pitching someone who is already familiar with me. In my opinion, this strategy takes longer to build, but in the end, it’s more effective than cold pitching. When I cold pitch, I might send out 50 emails and hear back from 1 or 2 of the people I pitched (even if I follow up numerous times). With warm pitching, I can send only 10 emails, but I’m likely to hear back from almost all of the people I pitch. The answer to my email doesn’t always turn into paid work, but when it doesn’t, it often leads to a referral—these people already know me, so they’re comfortable referring when they’re not ready for my services.
Here’s how to make warm pitching work for you.
1. Work your network (and I don’t mean Facebook).
You already know people who own businesses. And if you’ve been practicing gratitude, chances are, you’ve already sent a letter of thanks to a company whose products you enjoy and whose service you admire. So the person who read your thank you note may remember your name.
Both the people you know who own businesses, as well as the companies whose products you already use form part of your network. And these people might need your services. Do a little digging and a little talking to see if these existing relationships can be leveraged for new business deals.
This is how I got one of my copywriting clients. First I created their website for free… and then they paid me for writing ads.
I’m not a website designer by any means, but I know my way around WordPress (at least before Guttenberg), and I can help those who don’t. My favourite bike place in Kingston, my “hometown,” didn’t have a website.
This bike sales and service shop is tucked away from the downtown area, so that unless you hear about it from a long-time customer, you’re not going to know about it. This shop needed a website. But the owner is an older guy who lives and breathes bicycle repair and doesn’t even own a computer. So I figured I’d make a website for them. I had only ever created websites for myself, but I figured I could create one for these guys. I offered to do it for free, because hey, I’m not a web designer. They said sure, and the website was born.
When they needed some ads for their new site, they asked me how much I’d charge. Even though they approached me, I still consider this a warm pitch—because I pitched them a proposal not only for the ads, but also for managing their social media.
Talk with the people and businesses you know to casually ask if they need writing done. Be aware of how they respond, and if the response seems favourable, go ahead and send a pitch. But remember: your friends and family aren’t your clients, and after being annoyed by MLM overload on social media (and being invited to “parties” that aren’t actually parties, but just an excuse to gouge you), people are weary of friends trying to sell them something. It’s best to approach people that you have a business relationship with. Let your friends approach you if they want to do business with you, not the other way around.
2. Make yourself visible and show your support
If your goal is to write for publications, show your support by liking the publications’ pages, following the editors, and commenting on posts. Show that you actually read the publication. Do this for a few weeks before sending in your pitch.
When the editor gets your email, they might remember your name and be more likely to open it. They’ll be even more likely to respond if you start your email by mentioning that you liked an article the publication shared. Want to know exactly how to write a pitch that gets a response? Sign up for the mailing list to be the first to hear when our new Complete Beginner’s course launches.
3. Follow the rules (but know when to break them)
Just because the person you’re pitching might know you, doesn’t mean you get to bypass the writer’s guidelines. If you’re pitching a publication, ensure you read these in full, and submit your pitch or manuscript accordingly.
If you’re pitching a business, follow the rules of common business sense—and these “rules” might not be what you expect. Whereas in the past, starting a letter to a Director of Marketing or CEO with Dear Mr. Something-or-other was expected, times have changed. Especially when you’re talking to a young startup CEO, and especially if you’ve talked to them before, a Hello [First Name] is perfectly appropriate. But you still need to use respectful language and remember that you’re talking to a potential client, not your college roommate. Word your pitch in terms of “what’s in it for them,” and show them what they can gain from working from you; don’t just tell them.
4. Follow up
Whether you’re using the job boards, cold pitching, or warm pitching, following up is key. Most people today have email inboxes that are overflowing, and not everyone practices Inbox Zero. Those who do are sometimes ruthless about deleting messages from people they don’t know (or don’t remember that they know). That’s why I prefer warm pitching, and whether cold or warm pitching, I always follow up several times. If you keep following up, eventually they’ll recognize your name, and you might get a response. With services like Boomerang for Gmail, following up doesn’t have to be an extremely time-consuming task.
BONUS TIP: Keep to a schedule
Getting freelance writing gigs isn’t necessarily hard, but it’s hard work. You need to be constantly looking for clients, because even if you get them on retainer (which I highly recommend—more on this in a later post), you still need to keep the pipeline full in case a retainer client decides to go. As a matter of fact, the more income you start to make as a freelance writer, the more on the lookout for clients you should be. It’s great to get paid a 4-figure salary from one client alone each month, but if that client goes, you lose a big chunk of your income. So be sure to set aside time each month when all you do is research new opportunities for clients and publications.
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