5 Quick Ways Busy Freelancers Can Keep Marketing

Carol Tice

Busy freelance writerIt’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.


  1. Patrick Icasas

    Great tips, Carol.Especially the part about meeting people live. I just started volunteering at an organization for tech start-up in my region, and I’ve made so many contacts! I’m easing off on the sales pitches for now. I don’t want to appear too crass– besides I don’t need the work yet. I’m happy to just make friends and get my name out there!

    • Carol Tice

      Sounds awesome Patrick! That groundwork will definitely pay off for you down the road.

  2. Nadia McDonald

    Carol I absolutely love your marketing ideas! Marketing is the engine and life blood of all writers and their writing activity. I don’t have a website, but I am a member of LinkedIn and have my followers and subscribers with both twitter and facebook. While all those connections are pertinent, I agree that it is my responsibility to actively market my niche. There are so many ideas, but I have narrowed the scope.
    I have done a great job marketing my skills as a writer on couple sites, but I need to get more strategic and promotional with my freelance gigs.

    • Carol Tice

      Not having a website really limits your ability to impress quality prospects, Nadia. You just don’t come off as a professional freelancer at this point in time without one. Strongly recommend getting one up! See my “Products I Love” page for a couple suggestions on providers who can help with that.

      LinkedIn connections are great, but remember that you don’t own that network. LI could always change its rules or decide to ban you for random reasons…or be bought, merged, or disappear. You don’t really want anyone else to own the bulk of your network. One good thing about LI is you can export your connections — be sure to do that occasionally so you protect your list. Not so with Twitter and FB.

    • Katherine Swarts

      Speaking of LinkedIn, how about a post on the potential pitfalls of using it (or maybe just about anything) at “hyperspeed”? Opportunities for researching or “inviting” the wrong person abound if you rush to the point of carelessness. I encountered two cases in point since the beginning of this month alone:

      -Seeking out a contact at a local school, armed with her name: found out that she has no LinkedIn account–however, at least six others with the same name do, and no fewer than four of them have some professional-education connection! It’s not a name I would have guessed to be super-common, either.

      -Searching for contact information on a new employee at the local community-management district–“Chances are the next time you call, you’ll be greeted by her”: came up with four people by that name, none of whom provided a photo or could definitely be connected with the actual person sought. What I really found humorous, though, in light of her phone-answering position, was that the last entry matching that name gave the person’s occupation as “phone sex operator!” And I thought that LI was the most dignified of the social networks.

      Even before the days of the Internet, I just read about an incident where a popular British radio talk show sent an invitation to a famous author–or so they thought–and found out only as the broadcast was about to start that the man who had turned up, while having the right name, was a blue-collar worker who had never published so much as a letter to the editor.

    • Carol Tice

      You definitely need to check carefully! I’m always looking for exact name and company desired — otherwise, be skeptical whether you’ve found the right person.

    • Katherine Swarts

      Plus, some people set up their accounts under slightly different names than their acquaintances know them by–the omission or addition of a single middle initial can create confusion.


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