When you started freelancing, did you have a vision of where you wanted your career to go?
Does your current career match that vision?
Today, we’ll look at a reader’s question about pitching “vision clients” and discuss why your freelancing vision might change over time.
First, my numbers for October:
Completed pieces: 61
Work billed: $11,734.33
Income received: $11,774.81
In October, I earned over $10,000 in freelance income — a new milestone — and I should earn over $10,000 in November as well.
These earnings are due in part to a large project that’s scheduled to complete by the end of the year, so I don’t anticipate $10K monthly earnings being “the new normal.” However, it’s a nice temporary normal.
What am I doing with these high earnings? I’ve paid off my last outstanding debts, I’m putting aside a little extra for taxes and I’m saving as much as I can for the future. Freelancing is unpredictable, so I want to be prepared for income downturns, as well as upswings. It’s what the financial advisors would recommend, right?
Advice on pitching higher-paying clients
On the subject of advice: A reader recently asked if I’d give some advice on pitching higher-paying clients as well as pitching what she called “vision clients:” the clients or publications that represent where you want your career to go in the future.
I have a lot of advice on pitching, so I’ll start with two links. If you’re looking for advice on how to write a pitch, please check out my Write Life “Pitch Fix” series, where I workshop real pitches from writers and make those pitches stronger.
If you’re looking for a specific and actionable guide on getting better clients and earning more money, I wrote an ebook for The Write Life called “Get Better Clients and Earn More Money.”
(Seriously. It’s worth reading.)
But let’s look closely at this reader’s questions: how do you pitch higher-paying clients, and how do you go after those clients that represent the next stage of your career?
The short answer is that you pitch higher-paying clients the same way you’re pitching your current clients. You craft smart, tailored pitches that focus on how your skills and ideas can benefit that client’s audience. You also highlight your previous work to prove that you can deliver a quality product.
I often reference Shane Snow’s video “Hacking the Freelance Ladder” for a great analysis of how a writer can use the clips and connections they build with their current clients to move “up the ladder” to better-paying clients. (Watch the video. It’s so good.)
From my experience, the first steps on the ladder are close together, and don’t always represent a significant increase in pay; I remember feeling like it was a huge deal to go from 3 cents a word to 5 cents a word, for example. As you continue to build your freelance career, the steps on the ladder might feel more like jumps; instead of getting $100 more per piece, you might get offered $500 or $1,000 more per piece.
As I moved up in my freelance career, I spent less time pitching potential clients and more time working with clients who had contacted me. When you’re pitching a client, they have most of the leverage; although you can negotiate, you often have to take or leave what they’re offering. When a client reaches out to you, you’re the one with the leverage and they’re the ones who have to take or leave your rates.
Finding your “vision clients”
Which brings me to those “vision clients.”
Here’s one of the hardest truths about freelancing: you might have a vision of where you want your career to go, but there’s going to be a lot that you can’t predict. I would never have guessed that my primary freelance beat would end up being personal finance, or that I would become an editor, as well as a writer. I didn’t plan to earn much of my income through content marketing, either; when I started freelancing, I didn’t even know what that term meant.
If you had asked me who my “vision clients” were four years ago, I probably would have named a few highbrow publications that focused on intellectual and cultural commentary. As it turns out, my greatest freelance success has come from the areas where my skills match a client’s vision; in my case, my willingness to be open about my finances and my earnings, or my ability to quickly research and analyze a subject in a way that is interesting to a client’s target audience.
So here’s my advice: if there’s a client or publication that represents where you want your career to go, absolutely pitch them. But pay attention to the clients and publications that are interested in you, even if they might be taking you in a slightly different direction. Sometimes your career might not match your vision — and that’s a good thing.
Four years ago, I couldn’t have imagined the career I have now. I didn’t know the freelancing industry well enough to know which opportunities were available to writers, or which opportunities might be the best match for my skills. But I kept climbing the ladder, paying attention to which clients were most interested in my work, and my vision changed as my career grew.
Expect your vision to change as well. That’s the best advice I can give.
What was your first “freelancing vision?” How close or far away are you from that original idea?