How I Found a Great Freelance Writing Client in My Spam

Carol Tice

Writer searches spam for client leadsBy Chris Peden

I wasn’t trained as a writer. I got my undergraduate degree in accounting, and went off to the working world to balance some books for various businesses. Eventually, I started my own firm, doing accounting and taxes for small businesses and individuals.

However, I have branched out into freelance writing, helping explain the sometimes complicated world of accounting and taxes for my clients.

Of course, like many of you, the big question I have is how to find freelance writing clients. You do have to go out and look for them. They aren’t just going to appear in your inbox.

Or are they?

From junk mail to prospect

I receive multiple emails a day, pitching me accounting products and services. It never occurred to me that these might be resources for writing work. Like many freelance writers, I don’t always see that connection between my previous experience and my writing.

One day, that changed. One of those accounting-related emails I got was a newsletter service for accountants. I was about to hit the delete key, but then it hit me: Here’s an organization that puts out content.

You know, content created by writers. Why not send them a pitch?

I put together a letter of introduction and sent it off.

And forgot about it.

A few weeks later, I got an email back from one of the editors offering me $150 a post, which was twice my old rate. They then asked me to submit some story ideas.

Looking for story ideas

Gulp! How do I how to come up with what to write about?

Simple, I went back to my inbox.

I receive daily news feeds keeping me abreast of the latest trends in the world of accounting, so I know how to advise my clients on what to do on a tax return, or how to record a financial transaction in his financial statements. I sat down with the daily news feed to see what I could come up with.

Soon, I had ten ideas.

With every news story, I asked myself how this information relates to my target audience. How could they benefit by knowing more about this subject?

I was able to propose a few stories ideas for the next couple of months, got them approved, and started working on the first article.

Searching for your hidden clients

So how do use your previous work experience and knowledge to find new clients?

First, look in your inbox for any email advertisements for publications or blogs you could pitch. Then go ahead and send one. They started the conversation. Continue it.

Then, sign up for email alerts in your area of interest. This will keep you up to date on what is going on in that area, and give you plenty of ideas for articles to pitch.

Have you ever found a client in an unexpected place? Tell us how in the comments below.

Chris Peden, CPA, CMA, CFM, is a freelance writer using his over 15 years in corporate accounting to help individuals and small businesses understand taxes and accounting and organize and make sense of their financial information.

Get Great Freelance Clients


  1. John Soares

    Chris, I once found an excellent client in my spam folder.

    Why? Because she shouldn’t have been in the spam folder in the first place. She’s a developmental editor who freelances for large companies in my field, and she was writing to offer me work.

    I’ve done several well-paying projects for her over the last two years, and it never would have happened if I hadn’t developed the habit of quickly scanning my spam folder for emails that should rightfully be in my inbox.

  2. Chris Peden

    John, that was the point I was trying to make with this article. You need to look at email advertisements with the view as to how you could help them with your writer services. Don’t just blow past an email because “it is just an advertisement”.

  3. Elke Feuer

    Great post, Chris! I found a client reading a local free magazine. I got an idea while reading, pitched them, and bam! New client.

  4. Chris Peden

    Well done to you Elke! Way to keep your eyes open for a new client while not actively searching for one.

  5. Lee Rankin

    Great story and advice, Chris!

    Prior to starting my writing career this year, I spent several years listening to advertising sales pitches from publications and organizations as a marketing manager in the hospitality industry. After transitioning from marketing to writing, I began pitching the same publications and organizations that previously called on me. To date, this has resulted in two clients and solid leads for additional projects down the road.

  6. Chris Peden

    Lee – that’s good advice for someone looking to go from one career and into writing. I did the same thing going from accounting to writing, although I still do tax returns and accounting.

  7. Lori Ferguson

    I was reading my college alumni magazine one day and thinking, “Hey, fellow alumni would be good to network with, and then it occurred to me, ‘Before that, Why not start with my alumni magazine, see if they use freelancers?'” And they do. I now write for them as well as numerous other alumni magazines. Find a vein and mine it. 🙂

  8. Chris Peden

    Great idea, Lori! Most of the time, and I am guilty of this as well, these just get tossed aside without a second thought. Way to go!

    • Carol Tice

      I love my junk mail, personally… AT&T sends me their fancy newsletter in the mail ‘cos we have their plan for one of our celphones or something, and every time I think, “I should be writing for these folks!”

  9. Chris Peden

    Carol – Send them an LOI! What are you waiting for? They should be so lucky to have you writing for them.

    • Carol Tice

      😉 I don’t have anything in telecom so I always think it’d be weird. But I probably should!

  10. Holly Bowne

    Wow. What wonderful, common sense advice with terrific, actionable steps we can take right away. This totally reminds me of that part in the movie “Evan Almighty,” (I don’t know if you saw that movie) but the main character played by Steve Carell keeps saying something like, “Gee, if only God would give me a sign” and the signs are, like EVERYWHERE, and he’s totally oblivious. Ha, ha!

    Thanks so much for your post, Chris. I can’t believe I never thought of doing this!

  11. Rob

    Alas, all I find in my spam folder is spam. I have “won” or “inherited” millions of dollars over the years, but wouldn’t pitch any of those sources no matter how much they wanted to pay me. Your blog prompted me to look in my spam folder today. Weirdly enough, gmail put its own Google news alerts into my spam folder.

    Oddest lead I ever got was years ago when I foolishly got an account in one of those spammy writing “communities.” Someone asked me if I wanted to blog for them. Wrote for them for over two years. They paid okay, too.

  12. Chris Peden


    Good point about the signs. It’s not that you are not getting signs, it’s just a matter of seeing them. I always quote something I read in one of Phil Jackson’s (old coach of the Bulls and Lakers) to my son – “Being aware is more important than being smart”.

  13. Chris Peden

    Rob – sometimes they don’t come in your spam folder. If you look at some of the other comments, you will see that people are finding leads by looking at something in a different light, and always asking how you could turn even a mailing from AT&T (like Carol got) into a client. It’s really just a matter of looking at everything with an eye to finding a client.

  14. Neil Eldred

    Great article Chris. I see that I need to resubscribe to newsletters I used to receive in my old job. They came to my work email so I didn’t even think about it when I left. Thanks for the great article and tips.

    • Carol Tice

      Great idea, Neil!

  15. Chris Peden

    I agree with Carol, Neil. And since you have experience in that industry, you are in perfect position to pitch your services since you are an expert in what they are writing about.

  16. Patrick Icasas

    Great article, Chris! I once got a lead from my junk mail too, only the situation was the other way around. The marketing manager was reviewing her distribution list, saw my title was “Freelance Writer,” and contacted me asking if I could write for them! We started off with just blogging, but now we’re doing our first whitepaper project together!

  17. Chris Peden

    Patrick – You illustrated a great point. You need to have freelance writer as a title in your social media profiles so you can get found. I recently changed my LinkedIn profile to specify that I was a writer.

    • Carol Tice

      Right on — and put it in your email signature, too…sounds like maybe what Patrick did that caught that marketing manager’s attention.

      I see a ton of LI profiles where the writer still has as their tagline their title at their last day job! Give yourself a chance to get discovered and tell people what sort of writing you do. 😉

  18. Tanya

    Hmm..Never thought to actually read my spam. I’m sure there would be something in there that is not a scam. Thanks 🙂

  19. Peggy Carouthers

    I never would have thought of this, Chris, but it’s a great point. Now that I’ve heard it, this seems obvious. Businesses that end up in your spam folder clearly need writing help. I’ll definitely be looking through mine later. Thanks!

  20. Angela Booth

    In my early years as a copywriter, I kept a close eye on junk mail — the postal mail. This was long before the birth of the Web. It was my favorite way of getting clients.

    Anyone sending a direct mail letter is in the market for direct mail letters, and other sales material too, so it’s worth asking. As you pointed out, Chris, they started the conversation, even if it’s just a flyer or catalogue stuffed into your mailbox.

    Here’s the big benefit of targeting clients who mail or email stuff: you know that they’re communicating. Someone is writing their materials, and getting paid to do it.

    What else might they need, that a freelance writer (you) could supply?

    If you hate cold calling, try pitching these “warm” clients. It works. 🙂

    Great advice, Chris.

  21. D Kendra Franceso

    I’ve a half-dozen emails, most of which I don’t look at often anymore. They certainly aren’t dedicated to my writing trade (one is strictly for family). This would be a good way to get use out of some of them again!

    Thank you!

  22. TimothyTorrents

    Though I never found a client in my spam folder, I do get a lot of newsletters from companies so I might be able to find some clients…

    I think this is really important because a lot of people don’t realize that, if they reply to a automated email, the reply will be sent to the person who’s in charge of sending the emails. Everyone automatically assumes that there’s no one behind these messages. I get emails straight to my personal inbox when someone replies to my autoresponder!

    So thanks for this, it was really informative!

  23. Chris Peden

    Excellent point, Timothy. The person who sends out the emails is probably someone who has to put together what was sent out, so they also need to find people to write what is sent out. You are probably doing them a favor by giving them another resource.

  24. Karen J

    Absolutely, Carol!
    You’ve said before, “If you write, you’re a Writer!” What you want to do more of, put in your headline – that’s what keyword searches see first, and puts your “wish” top of mind for folks.

  25. Karen J

    Not to mention, “what you look for, you see more” – a classic *rewrite your own script* line. 🙂

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