Freelance Marketing Fix: A Nurse’s Cure for Crummy Writing Clients


What’s the temperature of your freelance marketing efforts to get writing clients?

If you’re fully booked with steady work and dream clients, you’ve probably got some healthy freelance marketing habits in place.

But if you’ve got bad clients and soul-sucking work that makes you sick, what should you do?

Cry? Roll around on the floor? Binge-watch more movies and shows? Shake your fist at the sky, and shout “Whyyyy?”

You might get some temporary relief. But you won’t get better writing clients this way.

If your freelance marketing habits aren’t well, you’re at risk for contracting low rates, flaky clients, and work that leaves you feeling empty inside. And the longer you let it fester, the worse it gets.

Fortunately, there’s a cure for crummy writing clients. And I learned all about it in an unlikely way…taking care of patients as a nurse.

Want to give your freelance marketing efforts a boost to get better clients? Here’s what you need to know.

Meet the nurse-turned-copywriter Janine Kelbach

Freelance Marketing: Janine Kelbach

Janine Kelbach

Janine Kelbach is a registered nurse with more than a decade of experience taking care of patients, working with doctors, and helping people get well.

Today, she’s a nurse-turned copywriter, founder of WriteRN and co-host of The Savvy Scribe Podcast.

She’s also the author of the book: Entreprenurse: 30+ Nurses Turn Into Business Owners and Share Their Secrets to Success.


Get better copywriting clients with a nurse mindset

If you want to get better copywriting clients, think like a nurse.

Why? If you treat writing prospects or clients like patients, you’ll make a difference, build your reputation, and help clients achieve their goals. The know-like-and-trust factor works in copywriting just as well as it does in nursing. For example:

  • Patients trust nurses because they are on the frontline of care. When a  patient doesn’t feel well, it’s the nurse who is there to make things better. Nurses call the doctor to get the necessary medication while changing the patient’s bed linens, fixing their pillow, fetching a popsicle, and helping them shower.
  • Patients are vulnerable, and nurses never make them feel ashamed. They are simply there to hold their hand.

What if you treat your freelance clients and prospects like this?

You’ll get results. Trustworthiness follows you wherever you go, from personal interactions to online.

I’ve seen it happen on my own journey as a nurse writer. And I’ve helped other nurses and copywriters achieve success, solve problems, and fix content pain points for their clients.

And so can you, even if you’re not a nurse. Here’s how:

  • Be a teacher. When I write health-related articles, I think like a nurse. I present information in a patient-friendly manner, with content that’s easy to digest and understand. Know your audience, and write content with a voice and style they understand.
  • Use primary sources. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing about health, business, technology, or something else. Primary sources demonstrate your ability to research a topic, conduct interviews, and build trust with your client and their audience. Don’t rely on “Dr. Google” to do all your research.
  • Offer insight. If you’re going to take good care of prospects and clients, know your niche. Study the trends, thought leaders, and latest news in your niche. When you reach out and engage, you’ll be able to offer unique insights that the generalist can’t.
  • Master productivity. Nurses are wired to be systematic thinkers. For example, throughout a busy shift, nurses are continually looking for ways to make their jobs more efficient. As a freelance writer, you can do the same thing. You’ll be more productive, and you’ll be able to better help your clients.

Freelance marketing fix: 5 steps to get better clients

So what’s the cure for crummy writing clients? It starts with getting your freelance marketing process right. And it’s a lot like the checklist a nurse works through with a new patient. Here are the steps:

1. Assess freelance writing prospects

It’s a lot like the intake process a nurse handles with a new patient. Give your prospect a head-to-toe evaluation. Study the website. Read the blog. Review the prospect’s social media presence. It’s a proven way to get a good picture of a prospect and find out if you’re a good fit.

2. Diagnose prospect needs

So what did you find out? Sometimes that initial assessment reveals facts about a freelance writing prospect that helps you decide to move on or prepare to send a letter of introduction. What’s the biggest problem area for this prospect that you could help them with?

3. Create a plan

What’s the treatment plan? It’s one of the first things a nurse needs to know when a new patient arrives. Think about your prospects like that.

What could you offer in terms of writing, content marketing, or planning that would help this prospect? Maybe it’s:

  • Blog posts
  • Updated sales/product page content
  • Case studies
  • White papers
  • Short and punchy social media posts
  • Content for a lead magnet

Think about what you could offer to help this prospect with their specific problem.

4. Take action

This is the implementation stage. You’ve done an assessment of your prospect, diagnosed their content weaknesses, and created a plan to help them. Now you’re ready take action. Reach out, connect, send a letter of introduction, get on a call, and see if you’re a match to work together.

5. Evaluate your freelance marketing process

How did it go? Nurses are always evaluating, reporting, and recording data about their patients. You should do the same thing with freelance marketing. It’s the best way to improve your pitches, connect with better clients, and land higher-paying assignments.

Sick of bad clients? Treat the problem with better freelance marketing

Nurses use this process for their client assessment, but I have learned that writers also find value in implementing a process for finding clients and creating content.  It’s the best way to move up and earn more.

Need help with freelance marketing to get better clients? Leave a comment, and let’s discuss.

Janine Kelbach is a registered nurse, the founder of WriteRN and co-host of The Savvy Scribe Podcast.

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  1. Mikey

    My advice is to not be a writer.
    Being a writer is a HORRIBLE career.

    If you need to constantly find clients, then you are likely in no man’s land of plenty of one-off assignments where you GET zero residual.

    It makes far more sense to put that labor into building your own website and creating content that can eventually create passive income.

    Most writing gigs are soul-killing and even at the high dollar amount that some copywriters promise, it still doesn’t give you any residuals.

    Do not waste your writing talent making others rich, but instead build equity into your own websites.

    You would be better off working for Walmart for a year as you build out 10 quality sites with your writing vs doing the silly freelancer hustle.

    • Carol Tice

      Wow, sorry to hear so much negativity around freelancing, Mikey! I paid a family of five’s bills with my freelance writing for many years — and it wasn’t ‘in a no man’s land of one-off assignments,’ but through having many retainer clients.

      It’s true that most freelancing doesn’t give you residuals… but also true that building your own website to create content that makes “passive income,” will be for 99.9% of the people who try it, a complete waste of their time. Because the vast majority of blogs earn zero, ever.

      I’ve been running a blog-based business now for over a decade, and I’ll let you know when I’m kicked back on a beach and the income is PASSIVE… because I’ve been actively serving my readers, 6 days a week, all this time. Everyone else I know in online, content-driven business does the same.

      Because people pay for access to YOU. My experience is that content-based biz is HIGH touch. Anything BUT passive.

      Many dream of creating some course that runs on autopilot and they’ll be rich… but the reality is usually different. Content we create must constantly be updated, people need to be coached through it. I’m going to bet you haven’t done it, because I think the reality is quite different from the myth.

      Meanwhile… people need to eat, and pay their bills. THIS month. And for that, there is freelance writing. If you know how to do it right, and to find legit clients, it can pay very well. Keeps you off the street, while you wait for that moonshot website-based biz dream ship to come in.

      But when you’ve got your passive-income thing going, those ‘residuals’ are rolling, and you’re rich, please check back in! Would love to hear how you do it. Maybe I can get some tips. Until then, I’ll be writing in service of helping my readers claim an independent lifestyle where they control their time.

    • Mikey

      I’ve been in Internet Marketing since around 2009, so I’m not suggesting that people just start blogging and then the magical passive income comes in. I am suggesting that they truly invest in an internet marketing career. One where they have ownership, one where they collect money from their own information products or they become and affiliate which means that their marketing can be based on content and SEO or via PPC. Freelancing is good for NOW, but in the long run it is a loser where you build zero equity. The goal isn’t some fantasy of beach living doing nothing, it is making your content pay you more than a client is willing to pay, then to get paid from your content and efforts over and over again. Writers need to mimic their successful clients, not simply stay writers.

    • Carol Tice

      Mikey… my experience 12 years into this is that for the vast majority of writers who try it, the ‘internet marketing’ career is the one that goes nowhere. The idea of building equity is great, but roughly 1 in a million who try to build an online business succeed. I mean, think about it — eventually, will we all just sit on a beach and affiliate sell each other stuff on autopilot? Not happening.

      I feel sad when I see writers buying into the myth of passive income. I don’t know anyone who makes a living that way — the dirty secret they don’t tell you is building it all, optimizing it, and then finding what your audience really wants from you takes a HUGE effort level few are wililng to put in… and what people pay for most is access to YOU. I’ve succeeded by running a high-touch business, not one that’s based on passive income. Everyone I know in internet marketing works 24/7!

      Where there will ALWAYS be freelance writing clients. Always companies that can’t get all their content done. It’s not a crapshoot or moonshot or 1 in a million lucky strike… it’s a reliable source of work for thousands of writers.

    • Mikey

      I think that you keep erecting a strawman argument. I am not suggesting that it has to be a low-touch business, that it has to be passive, or that you end up on the beach. The only thing I am saying is that there are more ways to create equity and continuous income.

      The reason why many writers fail is because they have not invested much effort into learning how to drive traffic (paid, SEO or organic) and they also do not focus on what others are searching and buying, but instead they focus on who they are and assume that others are interested.

      There are many lanes for a writer, and being a freelancer chasing assignments is a good stepping stone, and perhaps a good career if you are at the top of the food chain. For mid-level writers and lower, it is a deadend job. There are much better ways to use writing skills.

      The are so many ways to get to the other side, but it takes a lot of effort. Most writers are a bit lazy and not business savvy. They will not build any equity into creating something that will pay them more, that has potential to pay recurring income, and that will get them off of the hamster wheel.

    • Carol Tice

      Mikey, I can’t help but notice that you don’t seem to have a website. So which of these strategies are you pursuing?

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