In Part 1 we covered how to get started and using freelance sites.
In Part 2 we covered how to start a personal website for your business.
In the third installment of the “Become a Freelance Writer Series” we’ll be talking about how to go about getting clients.
Back when I started my freelance writing career, there was one main method to get clients. What you would do is look up as many SEO companies as you can and email them pitching your writing work. SEO companies are always looking for more content to promote on their clients’ sites, and they hire freelance writers to write that content.
For example, if you had a law firm and wanted to start ranking for terms to get more traffic, you would hire an SEO company to get that done. The SEO company would possibly start a blog on the site to start ranking for stuff. That SEO company doesn’t want to write the stuff, so they go out and hire someone to write a bunch of 500 word articles for the blog. That’s supposedly where you would come in.
There’s a couple problems with this though. For one thing, it’s extremely difficult to actually email SEO companies. When I set about doing this I just started googling “major city SEO company” or something like that. You go to the sites and a lot of the time there aren’t any email addresses shown. You either have to do some real homework or use a contact form on their site.
I must have sent hundreds and hundreds of emails out to different companies across the United States. I only got 3 responses from that. Of those 3, no one was interested. I decided to amp it up a little bit. I went on odesk and had someone compile lists for me. One guy had a huge list of SEO companies in Australia he sold me for 10 bucks. I emailed everyone on there and didn’t hear back from anyone.
At this point I was like fuck this bullshit, there’s gotta be a better way. Perhaps I didn’t have the greatest pitch, or possibly these companies weren’t impressed with my website. Either way, I came up with a number of different ways to get clients that are much better than cold outreach.
Create a Linkedin profile
I know this sounds like common sense advice, but you’d be surprised how many people doing work online don’t have a profile. Creating a Linkedin profile gives you a little more professionalism, allows you to directly contact people who run SEO companies, and gives you the visibility to allow people to contact you for work.
Linkedin is a social network for professionals. It is like an online business networking system. A teammate on my softball team first introduced me to the concept of Linkedin. He was raving about it, telling me the difference between it and Facebook. He seemed to have a lot of passion about it so I decided to sign up. It was a great move because I got some clients with it.
The trick here is to be professional and treat Linkedin as your online resume. When creating your profile, add skills that have to do with the online world. For example, I put SEO, Freelance Writing, Social Media, etc.
After you fill out your profile, join SEO groups that are focused in your general area. For example, I’m from Philadelphia so I joined Philadelphia SEO, Freelance Writing Jobs, etc.
I have had a couple different people who run SEO companies contact me about work through Linkedin just by having a profile on there. I didn’t even have to do anything, the work came to me.
Linkedin also allows you to contact heads of SEO companies directly on a platform that immediately allows them to view your credentials.
Leverage your current contacts
People go about trying to getting business in this field and forget to use their current contacts to get an in somewhere. The beauty of doing this is that when you have someone vouch for you, it gives you a much bigger level of authority in the eyes of the companies hiring people to write content. As I was saying in part 2 of this series, authority is a huge thing in the freelance writing field. Use it.
This has been a very lucrative avenue for me because I managed to get a gig that paid a lot of money. A lot of my family members worked in the phramacutical industry for years. I was able to leverage that into getting a gig writing a script for a video to be used at a drug convention booth.
If you’re not familiar with drug conventions, they are basically a way to get doctors to prescribe a company’s drugs. So pharma companies spend big bucks on getting the most baller presentations possible. They hire media companies to build the booths, show videos, and to capture leads. Pharma companies have billions and billions to spend, so they often throw crazy money at these media companies. As a result, these media companies have a lot of money in their budget to spend on freelancers.
I was able to get $4000 just for a few hours work in one instance. This was an example of stepping out of my comfort zone a little bit, and it really paid off. I had no idea what writing a script entailed, but it was actually really easy. They basically had the copy already written, they just needed someone to come in and put it together in one script.
This is why being willing to take on any job even if you have no idea what you are doing is important. I was willing to do anything, so when they told me about the gig I wasn’t fazed too much.
Moving from doing 500 word articles every day to doing copywriting work for the right clients is the way you want to go here. You get paid much more money to deliver less work. Easy decision.
Go through all your contacts and figure out if anyone works in PR, Media, and especially Marketing in any way. Don’t be a dick about it, but ask them if they know of any opportunities for writers that they know of. It could really pay off big.
I picked up this idea by accident and it’s amazing to me people in the freelance writing world aren’t more aware of this. A great way to get clients is to interact with people in person. I know this sounds completely absurd since we’re working online, but it really works well as no one does this.
I was able to get a couple offers to work for people without even trying. People just came up to me at meetups and once they figured out what I do, they just offered work. That’s the beauty of meeting in person, you can talk shop with people and befriend them. This makes them want to help you in some way.
My experience here is that I saw on meetup that the local SEO group was giving a talk on SEO for ecommerce sites. I thought that was an interesting topic so I signed up to go. Once there I met the guy giving the talk. He worked for an SEO company that handled SEO for a number of ecommerce sites. I was talking to him and his coworker when they asked for my contact information to write content for some of the sites they run. I wasn’t even there to get business, I was just shooting the shit.
Since then, I’ve met a bunch of people there who run their own ecommerce sites, people who work at SEO companies, website flippers, ebay employees, and bloggers of all sorts. The beauty here is that if you have any social skills at all, you can just chat them up about what brings them out and eventually that will lead to discussions about their business.
All these people need writers in one way or another.
If I was starting again in freelance writing today, I’d start going to meetups immediately to forge real life relationships with people. This is a gold mine for freelance work and I encourage everyone to start taking advantage.
Just go on meetup.com, write a small bio about yourself, and go to SEO, WordPress, Freelance Writing, or anything to do with working online. I guarantee you will meet a lot of people you could do work for.
The beauty of my methods of acquiring customers is that these guys need someone who they can trust to get the job done. They need someone who can do good work and they don’t want to spend a lot of time looking for that person. Once they find someone, they will go back to that person for repeat business.
Be that guy and get set up with consistent work that pays well. That’s how you survive in this business.
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