Don’t just start calling people willy-nilly in search of writing jobs. Prepare yourself for the gruelling yet rewarding haul that IS being a freelance writer. These tips will help you on your way…
In my opinion, you can never do enough research, especially when you’re a writer. Read whatever resources are recommended by writing associations and other writers, then read the bibliographies within those resources to find more resources! Inform yourself about freelance writing and the market in your area and online as much as you can. See my post on Resources.
* Develop your portfolio.
You will need samples of work to show potential clients. Nowadays, it’s great if you can get those samples online, on your own blog or website. You may be just starting your writing career and haven’t had any previous clients, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create content: write your own samples! Depending on what you decide your niche is, write a press release, make some marketing slogans, write some essays, blog, etc. If you’re an experienced writer, develop your online portfolio but keep it relatively easy to digest for potential clients: an exhaustive portfolio is just that: exhausting. Post just a few samples of each type of writing and then when they call you for a meeting, dazzle them with your printed portfolio.
* Decide what your rates are.
Research online for what the industry rates are. They will fluctuate according to where you live and where your client lives, amongst other things. A good place to start is any writing association like the Professional Writers Association of Canada (other countries will have similar organizations). They have a section called What to Pay a Writer that spans the gamut of different types of writing. Copywriters will charge differently than journalists, ghostwriters and technical writers, for example, so inform yourself. Once you know the average rates, factor in your background and experience. There are many things to consider when deciding your rates and negotiating with clients, so feel free to read my post on Writing Rates for more information… or email me with your question!
* Develop your pitch.
Don’t contact potential clients without being prepared because you may miss out on jobs that could have been nailed down had you had all your ducks in a row. Take the time to understand what kind of services you’re offering, what your rates are, how long it takes you to write a given project (ballpark), how many revisions you will include in the price, and the right person to contact. See my post on The Pitch.
* Keep detailed notes.
When you’re ready to contact potential clients, be ready with pen and paper or an open Word or Excel document: something to record the date of contact, company name, name of the person you want to speak to, name of the person you actually speak to, response, any extra thoughts. The last thing you want to say to yourself is, “Wow, that nice person needs a press release, what was her name again? What company was that?” Fail.
* Make your contact list.
Now that you’re prepared, who are you going to contact? Well, every company needs written material, so why not start with the phone book! The idea is to be systematic about it; you want lists of companies to contact. While it’s true that communications or marketing firms are traditionally thought of as working more directly with writers, so does every communications, PR and marketing department within every company. Start at the top and work your way down: contact Fortune 500 companies first! They are the ones with the money! Remember: it’s a numbers game and the more people you contact, the more likely you’ll get a gig. See more in my post Who Are Your Potential Clients.
* Cold calling still exists.
People like to hear a human voice and it will differentiate you from the pack. Be sure to have your BRIEF pitch ready. See my post on The Cold Call.
* Don’t send form emails or letters.
If you do your marketing blitz by email or direct mail, make sure you get personal: no one wants to receive a form letter because they’ll feel like a number. Instead, take the time to research the company, find out who they are, mention their name in your email/letter and something particular about the company so it shows you did your homework and that you care. It takes more time, but will achieve better results. Even if you don’t get work from them, they are more likely to remember you in the future if some work does come up.
Whether calling or writing, always follow-up. That will be another pitch that needs to be written out before you contact the potential client. In your first contact, whether by phone or email, give them a date when they can expect to hear from you. For example, if you call your contact and they mention they have no need at the present moment, you can say something like “Would it be okay if I contact you again in a few months time, to touch base?” Or, if you’re writing an email, mention that you’ll call them in a week to follow-up and set up a meeting to discuss future projects. Be assertive; you have nothing to lose except a potential client.
Talk to anyone and everyone you come into contact with. Hand out business cards. Let everyone know that you’re for hire!