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How 1 Free Article Caught My First Big Writing Client

Carol Tice

By Erika Gimbel

As a freelance writer, I agree with Carol’s Velvet Rope theory: value your work and don’t agree to low-paying assignments.

So why did I spend more than seven hours writing an article for free to land my first client?

How my client found me

As I got in touch with colleagues about my new gig, one contact prompted me to join a Chicago technology networking site.

I created a profile…and honestly forgot about it.  A few weeks later, the CEO of a health website saw my profile and contacted me, wondering if I was available to write articles for her company.

My first client meeting

We scheduled a phone interview.  I was glad I had been in Carol’s mentoring program and she’d guided me on updating my materials, because while we were on the phone the CEO reviewed my writing samples online as well as my LinkedIn profile.

Then, I asked a lot of questions about her business: when and why she started the company, what her own background was, how many employees she had, how her site made money, and where she wanted the business to go. She was forthcoming with all her answers.

Finally, we got down to business about her writing needs and pay.  She said she’d eventually need 15-20 hours a week of writing, and when I told her my rates, she didn’t skip a beat, but kept the conversation going about possible monthly vs. hourly fees, or payment by project.

Why I did a free sample

At the end of the conversation, she asked me if I’d be willing to do a free sample, and I said yes.  Why?

  • The company seemed stable and needed a lot of writing
  • The pay would probably be in line with the rate I quoted on the phone
  • Since I didn’t have a similar sample, I thought it was fair for the CEO to evaluate my skills before hiring me, especially if the job was ongoing
  • I’d get a chance to see if I could enjoy this kind of writing long-term

Landing the client

Even though the first assignment took me seven and a half hours, I could tell this was the kind of writing I liked: sifting through lots of information and distilling it down to an understandable concept.  The CEO was happy with the article and posted it on the site (still no payment for me).

Then, she gave me my first assignment.  I was able to confidently evaluate the proposal and accept the fee, since I had a very good idea how much time it would take me to write these health articles.

No regrets

After phone calls, e-mails, a free sample and an in-person meeting (10+ hours invested), I’ve started working with my first real writing client and I’m happy with the pay and with the future possibilities.

I spent a lot of time to land this client, but I felt in my gut that it would pay off in the end.  I’m glad I asked a lot of questions and trusted my instincts.

How did you land your first client? Leave a comment and tell you story.