How to Find Freelance Writing Clients
Find clients that are excited to hire you
The hardest part of freelance writing isn’t the writing — it’s finding clients. At least, that’s the way most writers look at freelancing. The truth is that finding clients is more about mindset and discipline than it is about tactics and salesmanship.
You need to believe that you do great work and that you are providing a service to clients. You can’t have the mindset of an employee. Nobody owes you anything. You are a business owner, and you need to approach your client search like a business owner.
If you want to have a steady flow of clients, you need to spend some time each working day doing marketing activities. You cannot hope, wish, or pray your way to more clients without doing the work of finding and attracting clients. You need to look at marketing yourself as a core part of your job. Marketing is more important to your success than your writing skills.
Every freelancer has been at the point where they need clients right away to make rent, keep their power on, or to buy enough food for the next week. When you are in this position, you are operating out of desperation. While we all find ourselves in this situation from time to time, especially at the beginning of our careers, the faster you can develop a system for landing new clients, the better-quality clients you will have.
The best clients are slow to make hiring decisions.
Below you will find the most effective tactics for landing clients divided into three different sections. The first section includes tactics for when you need clients fast. The second section is for when you are trying to land new clients in the next two to four weeks. The last section lists long-term tactics. If you spend enough time in long-term client attraction activities, you will never find yourself desperate for new clients.
Finding Clients Fast
If you need to find a client in the next few days, you will need to hustle as if your life depended on it. You need to spend all of your free time looking for client work. If you are spending six to eight hours a day diligently looking for client work, you will find something. It may not be a great gig, it may pay less than you usually charge, but you will find enough to get you through a rough patch.
However, you have to be smart. It’s easy to get stuck in desperation mode. Only take enough desperation gigs so that you can move onto other methods that will attract better clients.
My favorite tactic for getting new work fast is to reach out to former clients. I will send an email to clients who I haven’t worked with in the past two months or more. I send a short email touching base and asking them if they need more writing help. I try to be specific. If I know they have a blog, I ask if they need more blog posts. If I did email marketing for them, I ask how the campaign is performing and if they are ready for me to write a follow-up campaign.
You don’t want to sound desperate. I also never email former clients that I did not like working with.
Because these clients have already worked with you, they are often willing to hire you again right away. Even if a former client doesn’t have any work now, sending a message to get back on their radar screen can lead to work later on.
You should let your network know that you have some slack in your schedule and are available for work. Again, you don’t want to sound desperate. The more specific you can be about the projects you are looking for, the more likely you will find something.
When I’ve tried this, I’ve only posted on LinkedIn and Twitter because those are the only social media platforms, I have any kind of contact with businesses that hire writers.
I have occasionally landed a gig from a social media message. But I would never depend on this tactic alone to fill my schedule.
Most job boards have new listings every day. If you need clients fast, you need to be searching job boards first thing in the morning. Many postings get hundreds or even thousands of responses. The writers who apply earliest have the best chance of getting the gig.
Make sure to read the job posting requirements carefully and follow the directions exactly. When I hire writers from a job board, I automatically delete any applications that don’t follow my request for three samples.
The best job boards for writers are:
Freelance websites are not a great place to build a lucrative freelance business, but they can help you get work in a pinch. I would save these sites as a last resort because bidding on gigs is time-intensive. You will end up bidding many jobs that have no chance of landing because someone is going to grossly underbid you.
There are hundreds of these sites around. Save these sites for when you are truly desperate or when you are brand new.
When I’ve needed money fast, I’ve used all four methods listed above. The last time I needed to land clients quickly, I skipped the last two tactics. I was coming back from kidney cancer surgery and was ready to build my freelancing business back up.
Because I had years of experience, I had a lot of former clients to message. I also had several years of experience using other client prospecting and attraction methods. I ended up filling my short-term schedule in just one day of sending out feelers to former clients. I then got busy using cold email and content marketing to keep my schedule full.
Getting Clients in 14–30 Days
If you think you are going to need clients in the next couple of weeks, you need to act right away to find those clients, or else you will end up scrambling and accepting work that pays you less than you’re worth.
Cold email is my favorite client prospecting tactic. I wrote extensively about how to write a cold email to find new writing clients here:
How to Write Cold Emails That Land Profitable Freelance Writing Clients
From subject line to sign-off, a foolproof guide to help writers craft effective cold emails
The key to using cold email is to send out a lot of personalized messages. If you want one new client in the next 14 to 30 days, you need to send out at least 100 cold emails.
Cold emailing is a numbers game. Even if you suck at email, if you send out enough messages, you will find work. If you learn a few basic skills, you can double to triple the amount of work you get from a batch of cold emails.
Sending snail mail is still a viable way to get new work. It tends to work best if you are mailing local businesses. Many small businesses are more likely to read their “junk” mail than they are to read cold emails.
The first time I tried this, I sent 25 letters to businesses, and I ended up with two new clients. In a direct mail offer, you need to explain the value you provide and have a clear call to action. The biggest downside to direct mail is that you have to invest some money upfront.
Long term Client Attraction Strategies
While cold-emailing is my favorite way to prospect for new clients, my ideal way to get new clients is to attract them with content marketing. Clients find me through things I’ve written and then contact me, without me having to do any outreach.
I t has taken me years to build up my online reputation to the point that I rarely have to actively prospect at all.
I could write a whole book about different ways to use content marketing as a freelance writer. The most critical part of using content marketing is that you have to focus on providing value to your readers, even if they never hire you. Don’t write a disguised sales pitch. Instead, write content that will make your prospects think, “Who wrote this? They are the only person I want to write for our business.”
Business owners and decision-makers are on LinkedIn. You can write pieces specifically for LinkedIn about different marketing problems that businesses in your niche have. You can also post links to articles you have written on your blog or on other platforms. Using the right hashtags helps make sure your work is found and read.
I have had clients hire me from links I have posted on LinkedIn. I have also had clients read something of mine somewhere else and come to LinkedIn to connect with me and then hire me from there.
Many freelancers have found great success with blogging. I don’t blog on my freelance site anymore. However, in the past, clients have found me through blog posts I’ve written. Blogging requires a lot of patience.
Clients continue to find me through posts I’ve written on other platforms.
One of the best strategies is to treat each blog post as a standalone marketing piece. Make it evergreen and use your best SEO practices. Over time, your blog posts can attract a handful of new clients each month.
If I wanted to grow my freelance business beyond what it is right now, I would use guest posting. I would write posts for blogs and sites that my target market reads and follows. I would even guest post for free.
Guest posting helps showcase your niche knowledge, builds backlinks to your website, and works as an evergreen client magnet. Just like any other form of content marketing, you need to make sure you are providing exceptional value to your readers.
Some websites want to charge you for the privilege of guest posting for them. This goes against Google’s recommended best practices. It is also a raw deal for freelancers. You are providing value to the blog with your high-quality content. Guest posting for free is one thing, at least you get a link and some exposure to a new audience, but you should never pay to guest post.
If you’re a freelancer who likes money, you need to be working on client prospecting or client attraction every day. Do one marketing task each day, and you can avoid prolonged droughts. You will also have less stress and be able to only work with the clients you enjoy the most.