Freelance Writing Jobs: Here's Why You Suck at Getting Them - Make a Living Writing

Freelance Writing Jobs: Here’s Why You Suck at Getting Them

Editor | 31 Comments
Do you suck at getting freelance writing jobs?

Do you suck at getting freelance writing jobs.

Frustrated with your efforts to find freelance writing jobs? It’s a common problem that plagues a lot of writers who are in denial about what’s really happening.

You tell yourself you’re doing every kind of marketing your fertile imagination can come up with to get more clients.

Just in the last month, in fact, you:

  • Sent a query letter
  • Called a prospect
  • Contacted a potential client on LinkedIn
  • Sent a direct message to another one via Twitter
  • Created a helpful email newsletter for people in the industry you’re targeting
  • Had a coffee meeting with a local editor

And still…crickets in your inbox.

When you can’t seem to get freelance writing jobs…

You cry. You complain. You eat more ice cream and binge-watch YouTube videos. And you keep asking yourself: “Why do I suck at getting more clients?”

If that sounds anything like your efforts to get more freelance writing jobs, you’re not alone. Now what?

A couple quick stories will shed light on why this is happening.

Enlightening Story #1

Once Carol suggested that an aspiring writer reach out to people who had viewed her profile on LinkedIn, saying, “Hey, I noticed you checked out my profile. Are you looking for a writer?”

The writer said, “Oh, I tried that once and it didn’t work, so I moved on.”

Carol replied, “Oh, I tried that 50 times, until I got a $1-a-word client.”

Enlightening Story #2

A coaching client told me queries don’t work. She sent one out after slaving over it for a week, and received a big fat rejection in return. So she decided to try other forms of marketing instead.

I responded, “Oh, really? Queries worked amazingly well for me, but maybe that’s because I sent out hundreds of them my first year of freelancing.”

Are you seeing a theme here?

The simple solution to get more clients

What’s wrong with your freelance marketing is that you’re not doing enough of it. It doesn’t matter what kind of marketing you do. If you do a ton of it, you almost can’t not get freelance writing jobs.

That’s why, instead of scattering your energies on six different types of marketing—a tweet here, a pitch there—I recommend you focus on just one and do the hell out of it. I call this Volume Marketing.

Volume Marketing for freelance writers

If your freelance marketing efforts have been, how should I say this, pathetic, it’s time to do something about it.

Can you imagine calling 250 prospects in a week and not getting one assignment?

How about emailing 20 LOIs a day?

Or attending five networking events, coffee meetings, or industry events in one week and meeting 50 new people, who you then follow up with?

Can you imagine doing any of those things and coming away empty handed?

Me neither.

I think we’ve established that Volume Marketing is the awesomest. Let’s dig into a few details that will help you use it to start landing writing work.

1. The marketing you do in volume needs to be one you enjoy enough to, well, do in volume.

If writing queries makes you want to pound spikes through your forehead, you probably won’t be sending out a dozen every week. If you despise talking on the phone, it’s fairly certain you won’t be calling 50 prospects per day.

2. You think you know what you like, but you really don’t until you give it a fair shot.

The first few times you do something is always a grind. Do it 100 times and you’ll be able to truly gauge whether you like, love, or hate phone calls, email pitching, social media marketing, networking, or whatever. 

3. Volume Marketing is not to be taken as an excuse to spam out hundreds of sub-par pitches.

Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them, yes. This relieves the pressure of perfectionism, which is the number one excuse writers use for scanty marketing. But there needs to be a balance between volume and quality. A life coach I like calls this doing B-minus work. I recommend it.

4. You say you don’t have time, but you do.

Volume Marketing takes less time than dividing your attentions among ten different marketing techniques. That’s because the more you do something, the faster you get at it…and also because you build up a good momentum when you do the same thing over and over. Not to mention, until your plate is full of paid freelance writing jobs, marketing is pretty much all you should be doing.

To blast your career to the next level takes laser focus, hard work, and smart marketing. Volume Marketing is all of that. Try it and see for yourself.

Have you tried Volume Marketing? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Linda Formichelli is a long-time freelancer, writing coach and creator of the Volume Marketing Challenge for Freelance Writers, which starts on March 13. She’s also the author of  Commit: How to Blast Through Problems & Reach Your Goals Through Massive Action, and other books on freelance writing, business, and personal development.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

31 comments on “Freelance Writing Jobs: Here’s Why You Suck at Getting Them

  1. Elly Shirvell on

    Wow, I never thought of this before!

    I’ve been trying to juggle so many things all at once – and it’s only gotten worse as I’ve neared the end of college.

    For some reason I decided to attempt to do at least several things at once. I’ve been sending queries, trying to kick-start my fledgling blog, and I’ve also been attempting at the same time to supercharge my Linkedin and social media accounts… It’s honestly just too much!

    Thanks Linda for helping me to buckle down and zero in on the issues I actually need to focus on – it’s pretty surprising how these things don’t come to you naturally, even though they’re obvious!

    Oh, and thanks Carol for letting Linda post on your blog! This article has genuinely renewed me with extra courage and gumption to get out in this big ole’ writing world.

    Elly Shirvell

    • Carol Tice on

      My pleasure, Elly! Linda’s posts are always a w e s o m e. 😉

      And I meet many writers in your boat — I ask them for their goals for next month, and get a list of 12 different things. Narrow it down and focus, people!

  2. Neal Eckert on

    Hi Linda!

    This was a timely article for me. Thank you! I’ve done some marketing here and there and have a few clients but it isn’t enough. I now have a list of over a thousand businesses in my niche I recently starting to reach out to.

    “6 Basic Steps to Score Your First Freelance Writing Gig” on Carol’s website is a post that inspired me to jump in with both feet and start volume marketing.

    Finally, I concluded that grabbing at everything is the surest way to end up with nothing. Now I’m going forward with the attitude of if you contact enough businesses in a quality way something has to happen.

    Just like you shared, it can be easy to become paralyzed by all the marketing strategies out there and to wind up not mastering any of them.

    BTW, thanks for your recent article on SmartBlogger on how to write faster. It was helpful. I still can’t get myself to write through a piece without editing and it’s slowing me down. Hoping to break that habit soon. 🙂

    Thanks again and best wishes as you continue to trail blaze for all of us still stumbling through the process!

    “Hi” to you too, Carol. Thanks for your comments!

    • Linda Formichelli on

      Hi again, Neal! 🙂 So glad you’re liking my (and Carol’s) posts! So many writers have Shiny Marketing Syndrome…it’s a real problem.

  3. Haneef on

    I am a HUGE over thinker, and guilty of spreading myself thin, so this article really helped simplify things. Overload on info can be so draining and when you’re constantly seeing writers discuss so many different marketing strategies you think you’ve got to try them all in order to succeed when you really don’t!
    this proves that there’s really no one form of marketing better than the other, and that everyone’s gonna have different experiences. It also shows that some people in the comments of a lot of freelancer articles explaining their disdain and hopelessness most likely haven’t done this trick, but most of the time only try a couple of ways a couple of times, don’t get the immediate results they want, and just decide to quit or conclude that it’s all just a fluke.Thanks so much for the eye opener Linda!

    • Linda Formichelli on

      I like your website, Haneef! I’m so jealous that my husband went out and got the rose gold iPhone 7…for himself!

      I’m glad you liked the post. Like you, I’m a huge over thinker — everywhere EXCEPT my marketing and writing, which I guess is a good thing! Yes, the trick is to find the one thing you like and then WORK it.

  4. Wesley Hovis on

    Well this is timely. I’ve been planning to make the leap to freelance writing for some time and had the leap made for me by getting laid off a couple months ago. I’ve had a hell of a time finding gigs through Upwork. Sounds like the way to go is find something that’s relatively easy to do and just do it a LOT.

    • Linda Formichelli on

      Yeah, forget all about the bidding sites, cheap-o job boards, etc. — there you’re competing with thousands of writers in a race to the bottom. If you go out proactively, qualify the prospects you want, and reach out to them, there’s much less competition for much better gigs. Good luck!

  5. Angela on

    In terms of sending out tons of query letters, I have a standard for letter I can send out but I have room to personalize it for a certain project or company. It saves time on having to crank out 50 completely original letters in a week. I think the idea of mass producing LOIs can be scary but manageable if you have a system.

  6. Evan Jensen on

    Hi Linda,

    I’ve been thinking about this statement from your post a lot:

    “If you do a ton of it [marketing], you almost can’t not get freelance writing jobs.”

    Volume Marketing is such a smart way to reach a lot of people in a short amount of time. It pretty much becomes a numbers game, the more people you contact, the more likely you are to land gigs.

    Totally agree with Tom, too, that it’s important to make marketing a regular part of freelancing, even when you are booked with work. (Something I could do a better job at)


    • Linda Formichelli on

      Thanks, Evan! There’s a quote in one of Peter Bowerman’s books that goes something like, “You can strap an order form to her dogs back, and if you send him to enough doors he’ll eventually make a sale.” I don’t take that to mean that people are stupid, or that we can get away with shoddy marketing, but simply that if you do something enough times eventually someone will take a chance on you.

  7. Tom Bentley on

    Thanks Linda (and Carol). I’ve got lots of assignments right now and through the month ahead, so I’ve been more lax on querying. You remind me that there’s never a good time to scale back your marketing efforts. Fallow times can always be around the corner. Thanks!

    • Linda Formichelli on

      LOL, A truism a freelance writing! You can never really relax unless you don’t mind not having work next month. 🙂

        • Linda Formichelli on

          True that. Looking at your schedule and thinking, “OMG, I forgot to market and now I have nothing” — THAT’S stress.

  8. Todd on

    Social media is pretty natural to me, so, I’ve done better than I realize. It takes time, but I have nurtured many relationships that way.

    The one major LOI I sent after becoming a member of Freelance Writer’s Den resulted in a long-term client, one that pays almost immediately when I send the invoice. It has given me the foundation to nurture other parts of my writing business.

    I like the idea of trying and giving yourself a chance to see if you are good at the technique. Writing an email was a stretch, but it worked.

    It gave me the confidence to do it again, and I am sure I will. Email works better for me because, surprise, I like to write a little. And, it isn’t quite a cold email if you have connected with someone online or gotten some similarities with the person.

    My context is B2B so I don’t know if it works in an editor/writer situation.

    As someone who has run my own blogs, I can tell you that building a relationship will make me more likely to listen to your pitch.

    Great stuff!

    • Linda Formichelli on

      Love hearing your insights! Sounds like you made social media work because you actually focused on it, instead of jumping among 20 different types of marketing. I personally don’t like social media, but I know it can work if you do it in volume! It’s also a good way to start building relationships.

  9. Frank Phillips on

    Brilliant! Do more to get more. Somehow we freelancers never seem to think in those terms. Thank you.
    I would add one more idea: Work smarter. I learned the hard way in door-to-door sales it’s not just how many times you knock it’s the quality of the prospect and the quality of the relationship you develop. Trust and likeability (of the prospect for you) are indispensable.

    • Linda Formichelli on

      Thanks for the additional tips, Frank! I agree that even as you’re marketing in volume, you need to develop relationships with your clients.

      And yeah…we never think in those terms because then all the marketing “thought leaders” wouldn’t be able to sell us on 50 different kinds of marketing! 🙂

  10. Linda M Formichelli on

    Carol, thanks so much for inviting me to write a guest post for Make a Living Writing! I’m excited to see if this important topic resonates with readers. I’m SO sick of seeing writers constantly distracted by 100 different types of marketing they think they “have” to do, and ending up exhausted and gig-less. The trick is to pick one thing and do the HECK out of it.

    • Carol Tice on

      Yeah, you should see the conversations in Freelance Writers Den: “Has anyone tried Thumbtack?” “What about Crowdify?” Shiny object syndrome like you can’t believe.

        • Carol Tice on

          I know…don’t get me started. Writers: Every day, a new online marketing platform is born. DO NOT be the first adopter. DO NOT feel like you are missing out on something if you don’t hop on every freaking bandwagon you hear about.

          Figure out the types of marketing that make sense for YOU, based on your goals, personality, ideal clients. And stick with ’em.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *