So, you’ve taken the plunge, created a Twitter profile, and learned how to send a tweet. You’re getting some followers, even.
But you may be wondering — is there any real payoff for my freelance career here on Twitter?
It can be hard to see how these 140-character snippets of conversation could lead to actual freelance writing jobs… especially when half the people on Twitter seem to be posting food-porn Instagrams or comments about what train station they’re standing in.
But the funny thing is, you can find gigs via Twitter. Good ones, too.
It’s a little tricky, because you may know that it’s not considered cool to aggressively ask people to hire you on Twitter, or anywhere else in social media, for that matter.
That said, there are low-key, effective ways to connect with and approach editors, marketing managers, and other prime targets. There are also job listings floating around Twitter, too.
Here’s a rundown on some of the most basic ways you can use Twitter to find clients:
1. Share useful stuff
First and foremost, figure out who you want to ‘talk’ to and attract here, and share things they’d be interested to read. Not all things you wrote, either. Just become a valuable resource for interesting info.
Then, prospects might start to follow you. They might offer you gigs — either situations that could give you epic exposure, or paying gigs. For instance, a tweet of one of my own blog posts led to Jon Morrow’s discovering my blog and asking me to be a guest poster for Copyblogger. And that led to tons of other, paying offers.
So. Be sharing. Your awesome stuff may bring you opportunities.
2. Get to know your followers
If you need clients, be sure to check out your new Twitter followers on a regular basis. Read their profiles. If any of them smell like prospective clients, follow them back.
From there, don’t dive in and say “Hey — would you hire me to write for you?” You’re never going to say that on Twitter, really. But definitely don’t say it first thing!
Start becoming known to these prospects — respond to or share their tweets. Go over and comment on their blog.
Once you’ve broken the ice and your name might be vaguely familiar to them, you can ask them a non-offensive, information-gathering question about freelance writing work.
For publication editors, I like something along the lines of:
“Are you the right editor to pitch a [topic] article for X magazine?”
That’s a question an editor can shoot you a quick yes or no on, or ignore, and it’s no harm. If it’s “yes,” you can proceed to ask them the best way to send over your query.
A “yes” I got a while back to that question led to my sending a query letter that got $6,000 in assignments, and started a wonderful relationship that grew into a $14,000 project in all.
If that first editor’s answer is “no,” you can hope they’ll tell you, “Not me — it’s @joesmith.” And then you can hit this lead with the always-useful intro:
“@editormag sent me — said you’re the one who takes parenting article pitches. May I send you one?”
For a marketing manager, you might simply say:
“Love what your company does — do you ever work with freelancers for marketing?”
Either way, don’t try to pitch a story idea or your letter of introduction in a long series of tweets. That’s annoying. The idea is to strike on Twitter, make the connection, and then get it off social media, where you can talk business.
Yes, some prospects will respond to these tweets, and some won’t. But keep going. As my experience above illustrates, getting one good hit can make it all worthwhile.
Finally, remember that followers can also be great referrers of business. They don’t all have to be people who’d hire you themselves. If you see someone who might be well-connected, you might want to follow them, too. How do you get them to refer you?
My approach is to simply be posting about my freelance-writing life. You want to keep it in front of them what you do. Tweet about projects you’ve finished. Clients you loved working with.
Court referrers by getting to know them better — propose a 10-minute Skype call to get to know them better and how you might help *them* with their business. That gives you the opening to ask them to keep an ear out for you, in case anyone they know needs the type of writing you do.
Besides connecting directly with prospects, another great way to build your network is to connect with other writers. They may have vital buzz for you on who’s hiring and who’s a deadbeat to avoid. You can find journalists through MuckRack.
3. Target prospects
This works like #2, but instead of waiting for interesting folks to follow you, you take the initiative and start following, responding, and sharing their stuff first. Don’t go crazy and get all stalker-ish and retweet every single thing they ever post and leave them 20 blog comments all at once… but engage with what they’re tweeting now and then.
Then start your friendly reach-outs about referrals, or whether that person could be pitched for freelance work.
4. Troll the job listings
If you’d like to cut right to the chase, there are companies and people on Twitter that are focused on collecting and tweeting freelance writer job opportunities. There are quite a few of these, actually.
I’ve taken a browse through what’s available, and some of the most useful posters of gigs include @Mediabistro, @FreelanceWJ (That’s the folks at freelancewritinggigs.com), @TweelanceWriter, and @Writing_Jobs. Journalismjobs.com is posting on there at @jjobs_tweets, and weirdly has few followers, though their listings tend to be better quality.
One interesting experiment for those who want local clients — you might check out @tmj_writingjobs — Tweet My Jobs has a series of geo-targeted subaccounts for writing gigs you can follow to find opportunities in your town, or country.
Put those into a Twitter list, and you can peruse many of the Web’s writer job listings at a glance, instead of hunting from site to site. Of course, like all online job ads, there’s going to be a lot of lowball junk in here, but maybe using these Twitter aggregators helps you save time scanning online job ads.
If you want to search more broadly among online listings, try Googling “freelance jobs on Twitter” instead of “freelance writer jobs,” or search on that within Twitter, and you’ll get many more possible Twitter users to follow.
5. Check the hashtags
There are a ton of conversations about freelance writing going on on Twitter — check out #amwriting, #WW or Writer Wednesday, #editorchat or #writechat, and see if anybody’s looking for help with a project, or has news of new publications, editors, or other potential clients.
There are also niche hashtags for particular types of writing, such as #copywriter or #speechwriting — John Soares has a detailed list.
It’s not too late
I hear from a lot of writers who feel hopelessly ‘behind’ in social media, and that it’s too late to get involved with a platform such as Twitter, build an audience, and make it a productive place to find gigs. In short, it isn’t.
And yes, social media can be a time-suck — but only if you don’t set limits on how much time you spend on there, and get focused on doing real job-finding activities instead of posting meaningless chitchat. (Hint: Don’t follow a bazillion people. Be selective. Then your tweetstream won’t be such a distraction.)
I was far from an early mover on Twitter, and now have over 10,000 followers. I’d say I rarely spend more than 10-15 minutes a day on there.
Also, getting huge followers isn’t vital to getting gigs off Twitter — just finding the right audience. So go for it.
Are you using Twitter? Leave a comment and tell us if you’ve gotten a gig there.