By Jessica Leigh Brown
Have you ever needed to scare up a few new freelance writing clients? That was me in early January.
To spread the word, I decided to email all my past freelance writing clients, along with prospective clients I’d already connected with.
I’m relatively new to freelancing, so that meant sending a grand total of seven emails.
But those seven messages landed me two new clients and four article assignments — a total of $1,050 in freelance writing gigs — over the next month. I also got responses from a few more clients, saying they’ll probably have work for me later.
What to say
Did I make some kind of amazing sales pitch in these emails? No, I’m terrible at sales pitches.
In essence, all I said to each client was “Happy new year!” — and “Here’s my schedule for the next month or two. I have some availability between X and X, so if you need help with a project, let me know.”
That’s it — just touching base. So why did these messages meet with such success?
Make it personal
When I originally thought of sending emails to past and prospective clients, I posted a question in the Freelance Writer’s Den to see if anyone else had tried this method.
A few other writers had, and everyone urged me to go ahead — but to make each email personalized instead of mass-mailing my holiday greetings.
Writing personalized emails is always a better way to get gigs. Addressing a prospect by name shows that you’re willing to make an effort to write for their publication or business — and that you’re not just a spam-bot, sending out thousands upon thousands of identical emails.
In each of my touch-base emails, I reminded the prospect of the last time we’d talked. For example, “Last time we chatted, I’d expressed interest in writing for your publication, X.”
Making that link helps the communication feel like you’re picking up an old conversation, rather than starting cold.
Make it timely
The holidays are a great time to send your clients well-wishes — and update them on those gaps you want to fill in your work calendar. But you could send touch-base emails at any time of year.
The best time to send out touch-base emails is several weeks before you have a looming gap in your schedule. That way, clients have time to consult their own schedules, plan ahead, and — hopefully — give you assignments to help fill yours.
Make it short
Let’s face it: We’re writers. We like to play with words, and sometimes that means we’re long-winded.
While vivid descriptions and in-depth analyses might be needed in your writing projects (depending on the type of gigs you take), it’s better to avoid them in touch-base emails.
Instead, go for brevity and clarity. Just a few lines will do the job.
Here’s an example based on one of my New Year’s emails:
Subject: Happy new year, and January availability
Just wanted to take a moment to wish you a happy new year! Hope 2014 is off to a great start for you and yours.
Last time we communicated, I’d expressed interest in writing for [Your Publication]. I’m arranging my freelance schedule for the next month or two, and wondered if you need help with any upcoming projects? I will be fully booked from X to X, but have some availability in [month].
Let me know. Thanks, and have a wonderful week!
Give it a try
My two new clients are a trade journal editor who’s given me article assignments for two magazines she edits, and a custom publisher that produces travel-related web content.
Not bad for a quick hit of painless marketing. If you’re running low on work, I challenge you to give touch-base emailing a try. It just might yield some lucrative new freelance writing gigs.
Jessica Leigh Brown is a freelance journalist who loves telling stories. Currently, she writes for trade journals, websites, magazines, and a business college’s alumni publication.