It’s always great to be busy as a freelance writer. But one problem that often crops up is that it’s easy to let marketing slide.
Then, next thing you know, those current projects wrap. And you find yourself facing the terror of an empty schedule and the plummeting income that goes along with it.
One writer recently asked me what to do about this problem:
“I have some regular clients, but projects are coming to an end. I find now, in 2014, I’m wondering where and when the next client will appear. I have a good-sized social community via Facebook and Twitter, I have glowing testimonials, but the work is simply not there.
“My question for you is a) where do you find your clients? What has worked/not worked for you? and b) do you or anyone else you know sub-contract?”
Unfortunately, just from the nature of these questions, I could tell this writer was probably headed off the financial cliff when her current projects wrapped up.
3 Things that don’t get clients
Inaction. The big thing is, freelance clients do not usually appear magically, without your doing anything. Not good ones, anyway.
The clients are “not there” for all freelancers, until we go out and proactively market and find them. Take responsibility for your business success and realize it’s up to you to get out there and look for new clients (or new projects from current clients).
Wondering how others do it. I could tell you what worked for me in marketing but ultimately, I think it’s not that helpful. Because — at the risk of stating the obvious — you are not me.
Every writer’s portfolio, goals, ideal client, specialization, and experience are different, as are the ways we feel most comfortable doing marketing.
You need to develop your own marketing plan, instead of wondering if there’s a magic rock other freelancers could tell you about, under which would be a bunch of awesome, great-paying clients.
Really, quizzing other writers on where they find clients is just another form of inaction — rather than figuring out your marketing approach, you’re hoping to find one you can swipe. Where actually doing a lot of marketing is what gives you the only useful data on where you get clients.
Asking writers for gigs. Few freelance writers I know have so much work that they’re subbing it out to other writers. If they do, it will be to writers whose work they know well, not writers who are total strangers you randomly ask for work.
In general, other writers should not be your target client. There isn’t a ton of work in that pool.
Which leaves you to do the marketing to find your clients.
Yes, it’s hard to find time for marketing activities when you’re still busy wrapping up those current client projects. But it’s essential that you do it now, or you’ll find yourself falling off the income cliff in a month or two when those projects end.
5 Quick marketing techniques
The good news is there are quick ways to keep your marketing rolling, even during busy times. Here are five of my favorites:
1. Improve your online tools
If you like clients to simply appear without exerting yourself, invest time in improving your writer website to make it a strong inbound marketing tool for your freelance business.
Don’t have a writer website? It’s time to get one. You really can’t present yourself professionally these days without a site.
Making sure you’ve got good key words for your type of writing and/or geographic location on your writer site, and that you frequently update it to help Google think it’s a busy place, can all help you get found on search by the right type of prospects.
Tweaking your site copy is something you can do 10 minutes a day on, and it’s well worth it to up your odds of drawing prospects to you. Inbound marketing is the ideal, versus having to actively pitch prospects — write copy once, let it go out and sell for you endlessly. So this should always be the first priority.
2. Tap your network
This writer says they have decent numbers of connections on Facebook and Twitter — but is she using them? Do your tweeps know you are looking for new freelance clients? If not, now’s the time to put out the word.
Yes, that’s a little tricky on social media since hard-sell messages are frowned on. But usually people won’t flame you if you just ask for their referrals.
The writer who sent this comment may be missing out if they’re not active on LinkedIn, the one social-media platform where self-promotion is more acceptable. There are great ways to troll for clients on LinkedIn — so get busy on there.
My experience is LinkedIn connections are happy to recommend and refer you, if you’ll only ask. And it takes just a few moments a day to reach out. You can even mass-mail your LinkedIn contacts 50 people at a time, but use this option with caution to avoid coming off spammy.
While you’re doing quick online networking, don’t forget to ask your current clients for referrals, too — they can be a great resource for new work.
3. Meet live humans
One of the best ways to build relationships and get fresh leads on new gigs is to get yourself to some in-person networking events. Often, these take place at night when you might normally not be working on client projects, so they can be easy to slip into your schedule.
Yes, some networking events turn out to be a waste of time, but don’t let that discourage you. Keep circulating around to different groups until you find the one where you get promising leads. Be sure to follow up after you meet, too.
4. Short bursts
If you want to send letters of introduction or query letters and feel like you never have time for a multi-hour writing project, you can get it done by splitting up the task into 10- or 15-minute tasks.
Today, just write the introductory paragraph, or maybe do a quick pre-interview with a source so your query has a quote. Tomorrow, write your bio line that’ll go at the bottom. And so on, until your query is ready to send.
5. Job alerts
Yes, online job ads often lead you to lower-quality clients. But if you target niche job boards or boards where the employers have to pay to post, such as LinkedIn’s Jobs, you can hit some nice pay dirt.
To make this quick and easy, set up alerts or saved searches on your key words and get sites to feed you relevant openings for your types of writing. A quick 5-minute scan a day of that can help you find at least a few leads.
Be sure to template some stock language you can cut and paste together and quickly personalize for the client’s situation so that it’s quick to respond when you spot a job ad that looks right for you. Also save time here by being picky and only responding to listings that sound like a perfect fit and ask for experience you have.
Whatever you do, try to commit at least a few minutes each day for some sort of marketing activity. You’ll be a lot less anxious about how you’ll pay the bills and keep your freelance business thriving when the current rush ends.
How do you fit in a quick hit of marketing when you’re busy? Leave a comment and share your approach.