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11 Strategic Ways to Get New Clients as a Freelance Writer

by | Oct 29, 2020

Whether you’re learning how to become a freelance writer or an experienced freelancer slogging through a slow period, figuring out how to get clients can be nerve-wracking.

Here’s the hard truth: You have to hustle to get new writing clients. Even the most experienced freelancers have to expand their circles on a regular basis to ensure they have a stable stream of paying work.

Websites that post freelance writing jobs are plentiful, but require a critical eye. It’s easy to get sucked into a trap of getting paid $1 for every 300-word post you research and write. And while that might be a good place to start, especially if you’re looking for freelance writing jobs for beginners, it pays to take a more strategic approach once you’re ready to level up your income.

How do freelance writers get new clients?

If you’re going to get high-paying writing gigs and repeat clients, you’ll have to think beyond the job board.

While these strategies can be more effective in the long run than job sites, they might take longer to show results. A job board offers the possibility of an immediate project, while the ideas outlined below sometimes return client opportunities months or even years after you put in the effort.

When you’re ready to go the extra mile, here are some fresh ideas for how to find clients.

1. Personalize your cold calls and emails

Don’t send your pitch to a generic inbox. Do some research to figure out which editor will review your pitch, and then spend more time sleuthing to find their contact information.

“Make sure the right people — the decision-makers — see your message,” advises Francesca Nicasio. “If you’re dealing with a small business or startup, the company’s founder is usually a good bet.”

Yes, this takes more effort than dashing off an email to a company’s inbox for general inquiries. But it’s far more likely to land you a byline.

2. Partner with other freelancers

Do you know any project managers, web developers or graphic designers? Their projects often require top-notch writing skills, which opens opportunities to work together.

If your web development buddy knows you’re willing to team up for a website redesign project, she can recommend you to the client. By sticking together, you might find ways to help one another.

“I have a list of writers I trust to get my clients to hire,” writes Paul Jarvis, who specializes in web design. “I know writing makes or breaks websites and I know the difference a professional makes. So I always suggest experienced writers to all my design clients and they often hire them.”

Supporting other writers can generate referrals, too, as writers who don’t have the bandwidth for a project often want to pass along the name of a qualified writer who can do it instead.

3. Volunteer your services

Volunteering may not pay the bills, but it’s a useful way to network without having to deal with small talk at happy hour.

“Volunteering is a great way to get to know influential people who can help with your freelancing career — especially if you volunteer to do the writing and promotional duties for those projects,” writes Narendra Motwani. The people you meet while volunteering could turn into connections at companies you’d love to write for.

4. Book a speaking engagement

This tip only works if you’re comfortable in front of a crowd. But if you’d rather give a speech than approach strangers at happy hour, it could be a fit. And remember, even speaking in front of 20 people counts; you don’t have to keynote to an audience of thousands of people to be effective.

In an ideal world, you’d speak to audiences that could become clients. For example, if you write in the healthcare space, look for opportunities to speak to people who work at healthcare companies.

But even if you can’t find a perfect match for your niche, getting in front of any audience could pay dividends. Share knowledge that shows you have something to offer, and the people who see you speak might pass your name to someone who needs your expertise.

5. Get back in touch with former clients

If you’re not in regular contact with previous clients or organizations you’ve volunteered for, you could be leaving business on the table.

This outreach can be as simple as a short email or LinkedIn message to check in with someone you once worked with. Look for a way to mention that you have bandwidth for additional work. “You never know when a client might send work your way simply because you popped up on their radar at the right time,” writes Samar Owais.

6. Search for opportunities on Twitter

You’ll never get any work done if you spend all day on Twitter. But by scheduling time each week to use Twitter’s advanced search, you might notice when companies are looking for help.

David Masters has a quick how-to that will get you started and help you refine your search terms. Or you could lean on a service that aggregates Twitter opportunities, like Sonia Weiser’s Opportunities of the Week newsletter.

7. Use your skills in a different way

If you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall trying to land a certain type of paying work, push yourself to be more creative about how you use your skills.

For example, can’t find a freelance writing job you feel good about? Consider going after transcription jobs instead. You might find a new niche you enjoy!

8. Write a niche blog

If you’re looking for work as a blogger, you should certainly write a blog of your own. Your blog should focus on a niche, says Carol Tice of Make a Living Writing, although the topic doesn’t have to line up exactly with your target market.

“Clients love to see that you understand how to develop many strong story ideas on a single theme, stick to a topic, write great Internet headlines, attract subscribers, and how to get engagement — comments and social shares,” Tice says. “[Potential clients] will want you to do all that for them.”

9. Sell a product

You only have 24 hours in a day, but selling a product you created help showcase your expertise, which can lead to clients over time. Plus, it never hurts to make money while you sleep.

Consider writing an ebook or white paper as a starting point. With so many online platforms and tools available to digital sellers, it’s never been easier to collect money for your work. If you’re not sure where to start, check out GumRoad, ConvertKit or Substack.

10. Pitch guest blog posts

Guest blogging might not bring in revenue — only some sites pay for guest posts — but it will get your name in front of a lot of potential clients. In fact, some businesses find freelance writers by looking at who writes for their competitors’ websites.

Don’t spread yourself too thin by guest-blogging for everyone, though. After all, you’ll need plenty of time for paid work as it comes in.

11. Sharpen your skills

Still getting nowhere? You might consider investing in yourself by taking some online writing courses.

Of course, you never want to put yourself in a position where you’re spending more than you can earn, but sometimes it’s worth paying for training to set yourself up for success. Many online courses offer feedback from the instructor and interaction with other students, and that could lead to insight about your own skills or approach.

What are your tried-and-true methods for reeling in new clients?

This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.

Photo via fizkes / Shutterstock