When you’re a freelance writer trying to break into a new niche, how do you solve the problem of not having the right samples?
Cry? Roll around on the floor? Host a personal pity party? Or maybe you think lamenting on social media could be the solution.
Don’t do that, OK? Those things won’t solve the problem.
Maybe you’re thinking about working for free to get a clip. That can be a calculated way to get a solid writing sample, a referral, and some additional work.
But let’s be honest, as a freelance writer you’d like to get paid for your work. Yes?
If you’ve already got some writing samples, you can totally score that gig, even if you don’t have niche-specific experience or a similar project in your portfolio.
There’s an easy way to get around the problem. I like to call it the Simple Addition Method.
Here’s how it works:
Seriously, you can do this. If you’re doubting yourself as a freelance writer, but you’ve already got a few solid samples, you’re probably infected with Imposter Syndrome. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here’s how the Simple Addition Method works:
It’s called the Simple Addition Method, because all you have to do is follow a simple formula (A+B=$):
- Variable A. You take one type of writing you’ve done. Pick your best samples from your portfolio.
- Variable B. You present your best work, along with another type — or with life experience in a particular area.
- Add A + B, and together, these different credits add up to qualifications to do the new type of gig.
Here’s an example:
I had a freelance writer contact me recently. She wanted to get a gig writing articles for a healthcare company. But there was a problem:
All my healthcare writing is on the sales side: case studies, sell sheets, websites. I don’t have any really “medical” articles or anything. Can I just send what I’ve written and not call that out, or should I mention it?”
So, no healthcare articles. Problem.
But…this freelance writer had written articles about other topics.
My answer: Send the healthcare sales pieces PLUS send your best articles on other topics.
Between the two, she could show she understood medical topics and how to write an interesting article.
Use samples + expertise to get freelance writing gigs
It’s all-too-easy to talk yourself out of pitching a prospect or bidding on a project when you don’t have the exact samples or niche experience they’re looking for.
Stop right there, and get this in your head:
You can patch together the expertise you need with two or three different clips and get the gig.
- You don’t need a clip exactly like the thing you’re being asked to do.
- Maybe you have two pieces that show those skills between them.
- Maybe you have some life experience that gives you knowledge of their topic.
Great — send them in and make that case.
I’ve personally used the Simple Addition many times, and so have many of the freelance writers I’ve coached.
Here’s one example:
A couple years ago, I was contacted by a major government agency in my state that was interested in having a pro writer work on its annual report.
Two strikes against me:
- I hadn’t done any government contracts.
- I hadn’t written annual reports.
But I still got the gig. Sounds crazy, right? Not if you use the Simple Addition Method:
Here’s how I added up my work + experience to get the contract:
- As a business reporter, I have read, analyzed, and reported on the contents of many lengthy annual reports put out by major corporations (which are a whole lot like big government agencies).
- I have written for large organizations — most recently, for a local hospital network.
- Finally, I had some personal experience to share about the agency’s activities, which I highly supported. In fact, their work had been a major factor in my moving to Seattle. I was a frequent user of their services, so I understood their mission.
1 + 1 + 1 = I’m qualified.
One more thing you have to add when you use the Simple Addition method:
When you don’t have the exact clips that would be a perfect fit, you have to simply ooze self-confidence that you can do the job. That’s the final clincher.
Have you ever used simple addition to get a gig? Leave a comment and tell us about it.