As a budding freelance writer, it’s easy to find yourself intimidated by the accomplishments and accolades of others in the industry.
Competing for freelance writing jobs against experienced writers often feels like fighting a losing battle. But don’t buy into the lie that your work is only worth pennies on the dollar.
The very first freelance contract I landed paid me several hundred dollars. I’m certain there were better-qualified writers available to create content for my client, but he chose me in spite of my lackluster working history.
Sure, I may have had luck on my side — but I also took a few important steps to highlight my strengths for the client.
If you’re struggling to get clients, use this simple game plan to take control of your professional trajectory.
1. Take your eyes off the job boards
Listen, I understand it’s hard to ignore job ads offering handsome compensation opportunities, but you’re not doing yourself any favors by focusing your attention on such listings. You’re picking one of the hardest avenues for landing a well-paid writing job.
How many other writers are shooting off query letters with stars in their eyes, drowning your chances of landing an interview?
It behooves you to target potential clients who don’t already have an endless stack of query letters sitting in their inboxes.
Learn how to approach clients and start a conversation without the pressure of competing against hundreds of other applicants for a single job.
2. Polish your presentation to perfection
I always think of writing as the great equalizer: A freelancer either has the chops or he doesn’t. There are few in-betweens when it comes to producing well-written content.
Whether you’re pitching to an editor, responding to a lead, or simply networking with other business professionals, your correspondence serves as a writing sample. Think carefully about your word choices, and triple-check your sentences for accuracy.
You should also use resources that convey a sense of professionalism to would-be clients. If you maintain a personal blog (and you should!), host it on your own domain, as opposed to a free platform.
And for goodness’ sake, use a tasteful email address for your business endeavors. Nothing screams “amateur” more than using a cheeky nickname in place of your real moniker.
3. Highlight your personal history
Many writing newbies believe published clips are the only elements that count in the eyes of the client, but nothing could be further from the truth. While samples of your work do play a role in an editor’s decision, your unique life experiences often speak even louder than words.
Good writers choose a niche they’re passionate about, and inevitably, have firsthand experience with in real life.
For example, I spent five years living in Europe, and I often highlight that fact when I pitch stories on international travel or foreign language study. Yes, I’ve had the chance to write for some great publications in these niches, but my life experiences are what usually convince a potential client to work with me.
If you spent your teenage years babysitting the neighbor kids, you might be a great candidate for an educational blog targeting parents. Did you work in corporate America for decades? Parlay your years of experience in office administration into authority on career building and hiring practices.
You might feel inexperienced, but the truth is, you likely already hold the keys necessary to convince clients of your credibility.
4. Stay tenacious, even in the face of defeat
A simple Google search will reveal countless stories of rejection from many of the world’s bestselling authors. From J.K. Rowling to Stephen King, even the literary greats were once turned away by editors, time and again.
Receiving rejections (or no response at all) from clients can be demoralizing, but as the old adage goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Resolve to keep at it for as long as it takes to strike paydirt.
Tenacity is an invaluable trait for writers in an aggressive marketplace. Treat every query as a learning experience, and with hard work and a bit of luck, you’re bound to land a contract in due time.
How did you land your very first contract? What advice do you have for inexperienced writers struggling to compete with seasoned pros?