How to Get Freelance Clients Without Doing a Darn Thing

Editor

lazy woman hammockBy Tiffany Jansen

I was a brand-new full-time freelance writer. I had the passion. I had the drive. I had the skills.

I did not have the clients.

But, I did as any good freelancer should and built myself a website … only to have my mom post the URL on her Facebook page the next day, exclaiming “My baby’s a writer!”

Humiliating, right?

Actually, it turned out to be the best thing for my career.

Because, as you know, it’s not a matter of “build it and they will come.” But, for me it was a matter of “tell them you’ve built it, and they will come.”

I may have been too modest to shout my new freelance writer status from the mountain tops, but my mother sure as hell wasn’t.

As a result, I got a client.

When I followed my mom’s example and let my networks know I was looking for work, I got two more.

All I had to do was flash my website URL to people I already knew.

Not only does “marketing” not have to be a dirty word, you can get other people to do it for you.

Here’s how.

  • Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for work. I mean everyone. Your brother, your best friend from elementary school, your college roommate, your dentist, your grandma, the barista who just made your tall, skim hazelnut macchiato.They might not need your services, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know of someone who does. My mom certainly didn’t need a writer. But when she posted my URL to Facebook, the right person saw it. That was my mom’s high school friend’s neighbor — who paid me $1,000 to write web copy.
  • Alert your social media networks. State that you’re open for business in your next tweet or status update. Share your website URL. (You do have a writer website, right?) When I sucked it up and posted my website on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, it didn’t take long before I had another bite. A friend of mine saw it, and when her sorority sister posted on Facebook that she was looking for a Dutch-to-English translator, well, you can guess who she recommended. SCORE! Another client AND my first translation job, not to mention another $2,000 in the bank.
  • Ask others to spread the word. They can keep ears and eyes open for someone who might be looking to hire a writer. If they see any possibilities or job openings, they’re more likely to recommend you or alert you to them if know you’re looking.

Have no fear. You’re not desperately pleading for work here.

All you’re doing is letting people know what you do and who you do it for. Let them do the rest.

What’s your favorite way to get referrals? Share them in the comments below.

Tiffany Jansen is an American freelance writer and translator in the Netherlands. Nab her free eguide, The Sure Fire, Can’t Screw it Up, Completely Kosher, Super Fun Trick to Making Your Competition Totally Irrelevant… And Six Ways To Do It.

31 Comments

  1. Christi McGuire

    Thanks for the tips! I read this at the perfect time because I want to start marketing my services as an editor. During 12 years of being in the editing business, all my work has been word of mouth, and I’ve never had to market myself. I hate marketing myself! I am definitely not a “salesperson.” Do you have specific phrases you use when posting on social media about your services and looking for work?

  2. Kirsty Stuart

    Great points made here.

    The power of just ‘getting it out there’ – via a website, blog, or any other means – that you’re a professional freelance writer available for hire is often underestimated. As a new writer you could sit at your computer every day scouring for work, but as soon as you communicate to everybody around you that this is what you’re doing and you’re serious about it strange things start to happen: you get work!

    I’ve got regular copywriting work through a friend of my mother and am ghost-writing a book for my best friend’s husband. It’s just a case of becoming the ‘go to’ person for everything in your niche. In my network of friends and family I’m the writer, so if anybody in their extended networks need a writer my name comes up straight away. This is the power of word of mouth combined with a solid reputation.

    Of course, the aim is that my social media network will soon work as effectively for me as my offline friends, but for now I’m busy enough!

    Thanks for a great post.

  3. Francesca Nicasio

    “Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for work. I mean everyone.” –Couldn’t. Agree. More. I did the same thing when I was starting out. I told my relatives, my friends, my friends’ parents (who ended up hiring me), even my wedding DJ (who also hired me).

    The whole “tell everyone” strategy worked out for me so well that it’s always the first advice I give to people asking me how to get clients.

    • Tiffany

      Thanks fantastic! I figure it’s worth a shot, right? If you get something, great. If you don’t, at least it was minimal effort on your part 🙂

  4. Jessica

    Hi!
    I enjoyed reading your article. I must say, though,I have not had luck posting my writing website to Facebook, or Linkedin. I haven’t given up, though! However, all of my friends and family, and their friends and family know that I am a freelance writer, but no one is biting. It’s been more than frustrating!

    • Tiffany

      I’m nowhere near an expert, but I think a lot of it is a numbers game. The more people you tell, the more likely it is that one of those people will need you or know of someone who does. It’s just a matter of how long you’ll have to plug away at it. I’ll be the first to admit that I got lucky. But of all the places I thought I’d find a client was on my mom’s Facebook page, so you never know when and where it’s going to happen. In another comment here, Jennifer mentioned that she got a gig from one of her son’s friend’s parents!

    • Katherine Swarts

      It is true that the social networks don’t always produce quick results for everyone, and the question of “why” can’t always be measured and analyzed. It might help to ask yourself: What approach best fits with what I truly enjoy and believe in? Most experts agree that success is as much internal as external–that following a step-by-step list (however many other people it’s worked for) rarely gets far without the “backup” of positive attitude and passion. Even then, it’s still a numbers-and-persistence game, and impatience is a deadly toxin.

  5. Terri

    Hi Tiffany,

    I remember reading your blog last year. You probably don’t remember but I wrote to you that I used to live in The Netherlands for three years in the early 80s. My father was stationed there when there was a U.S. Air Force base in Soesterberg. The Dutch are some of the finest people I’ve ever met. I was just thinking this morning about how my younger brother went to Dutch kindergarden and picked up the language immediately. Sadly, he’s lost his skills. I remember a few phrases. Awesome memories…

    But anyway, what is it about writers that makes us want to hide under a rock? Then again, I’m sure it’s easy to think that what we do is so unique, no one will understand what we do or how to help us to get work. You make it sound so easy and really, it is easy if we just get out of our own way, right?

    I love when you wrote about winning a $2k job for your translation services. I thought, this is more money than many people earn PER MONTH. Yet you scored it for one job, DOING SOMETHING THAT YOU LOVE!!!. Life isn’t always fair but it sure can be sweet, right?

    • Tiffany

      Hey Terri! Yes I do! I think we connected through the Freelance Writers Den as well. I’m actually not far away from Soesterberg 🙂

      I know for me it’s an inferiority complex. That idea that freelance writer is synonymous with “unemployed deadbeat.” Which is completely off the mark, totally self-defeating, and just sad that I would let myself feel that way.

      I wouldn’t say it’s easy. It’s just that this particular marketing “effort” was no effort on my part whatsoever really. That’s not to say I’m not busting my tushy on other aspects of marketing. But, yeah, we very much stand in our own way a lot of times. Luckily we have Carol here to slap some sense back into us!

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