How I Got Two Great New Writing Clients — Guest Post

Carol Tice

Pile of dishes spread out on a counter topBy James Patterson

After nine months of being a freelance writer, I’ve decided that marketing my business is like doing the dishes; I absolutely can’t stand doing it, but I feel so much better when it’s done.

I jumped into freelancing head first back in February, leaving my stifling full-time job to see if I could cut it on my own as a health and wellness writer.

I set up a website, found some steady writing work and had a few decent months, replacing my former Corporate America salary. Things were great for quite a few months, but I fell into a trap of complacency and a bit of neglect at marketing my business due to a busy summer schedule.

When I started to notice my revenue dipping in the fall, I decided it was time to start marketing myself again. I tried the age-old methods of pitching magazines and scouring the job boards, but with zero results.

Thanks to some great advice from Carol, who I hired as my freelancing mentor back in the early summer, I decided to finally take a different approach. I set a goal to try two new freelancing tactics and see if they would work.

Boy, did they ever.

Tactic #1: My existing LinkedIn network. Carol challenged me to contact my LinkedIn connections, whether or not they were an editor or potential client, and pitch myself. If nothing else, it’s good practice, she said. So when I sent out 20 or so LinkedIn messages one day, I didn’t think anything would really come of it.

About a month after my LinkedIn blitz, I got a phone call from a former friend and colleague who’s in sales, now with a different company than when we worked together. Turns out he was in a staff meeting when someone mentioned needing a health writer.

He told me later over the phone his ears perked up because of my LinkedIn message, which I had sent him just a few weeks before. He spoke up, said he had someone he could talk to and BAM, a few weeks later I’m getting steady work from a new client who meets almost every one of Carol’s criteria for lucrative writing clients. I’m about to close the books on my best month of freelancing ever.

Tactic #2: Cold calling. After months of pitching organizations and editors with zero results, I was fed up. I told Carol of my pitching woes, expecting to get at least a measure of sympathy. Instead, Carol gave me a virtual slap upside the head and said, “Email isn’t working. So what? You have a phone, don’t you?”

Reluctantly, I made another goal: To make 20 cold calls to hospitals in my region asking a simple question: “Could you use a freelance writer?”

A funny thing happened. My first phone call was a no. My second phone call was a no. My third phone call was a no.

I was about to give up. For some reason, seeing ‘no’ on a computer screen is much more palatable for me than hearing it over the phone.

But I decided to give it one more try. I picked up the phone and dialed the next number.

That call resulted in a referral to the marketing director for a large Intermountain west hospital chain. As I type this, we’re hammering out details for me to come on board and help lighten the load of their current freelance writer.

Good things happen when you try new approaches. Sometimes, you just have to roll up your sleeves and do the dishes.

It may not be fun for you to get on the phone and hear a few people tell you “no.” It may feel like a waste of time to contact former friends and colleagues. But you really never know under which rock your next client is lurking. Why not turn over every one?

How have you found new clients this year? Leave a comment and describe what’s working for you.

When he’s not obsessing over college basketball, James Patterson is a freelance health writer and public relations consultant at OnPoint Writing and Communications. His past clients include the National Institutes of Health, the President’s Cancer Panel and the National Diabetes Education Program.

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  1. Chelsea

    When I started hand-picking the clients I wanted to work for and cold-calling, I had the same success as James, so I swear by this approach — even though it can be a little unnerving!

    I've also answered a few obscure Craigslist ads that turned out to be big-name (and wonderful) clients, so I still spend a few minutes each day scouring online ads, but I definitely don't put all my stock in that approach.

    I'm looking forward to trying the LinkedIn tactic, too. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Pam

    This is for Carol — I am just starting to try all this marketing of myself as a freelance writer, and have joined LinkedIn. But none of my friends seems to know how to manage LinkedIn to get results such as your guest discusses. I have been wondering… is it acceptable to contact someone listed as a connection on one of my connections? For example, Peter is my connection. But he has a connection to an editor of a publishing company. Is it "okay" for me to contact that editor directly, tell them I am a friend of Peter's, and ask if they might consider reviewing my work? I'm not sure how to use LinkedIn to full advantage, although I have several connections on there now (mostly former co-workers). And as I said, none of my other friends on there seem to have a clue either. I would appreciate any suggestions! Thanks!

    • TiceWrites

      Hi Pam –

      I don't believe you are free to contact friends of friends on LinkedIn — what you have to do is ask that friend for an introduction on LinkedIn. You click on "Get introduced through a connection."

      The system won't let you send to someone you don't have a direct connection to unless you get a paid level — then, you can send InMail.

      More on different ways to use LinkedIn's features to prospect here:

  3. Didi

    Okay. James, I'm impressed by the risks you took and the results you got but… your website is beautiful. Polished, professional and to the point. Your writing shines. You did the outreach but also had the credentials in the bank to make potential clients sit back and say 'whoa.' Congratulations. You look like a class act every step of the way. I applaud you and am inspired.

    • James

      Wow, Didi, thanks for the kind words! Sometimes it's a bit hard to accept such high praise like this because I feel like a lot of my success is the result of luck and good timing. I'm glad I was able to inspire you with this post and hopefully you can turn around and use some of the same ideas to help give a boost to your freelance writing business!

      • TiceWrites

        IT'S NOT LUCK. You're working your butt off to get where you are, and writing your way there with the quality of what you deliver.

  4. James

    I knew you were going to say that Carol! No it's not luck…like I said in my post, when you do the right activities, eventually good things happen.

    I love (and firmly believe in) the quote that says "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."

    My favorite piece of advice you've given me and that I think anyone trying to make a go of freelancing is: Don't quit until it starts to work.

    There were definitely times I wanted to give up and started scouring the local job boards in my town for a different option. But that statement always replayed itself in the back of my head. Now it's working and I'm so grateful I didn't give up.

    If you make 50 cold calls and don't get any results, don't give up until it works. If you contact all your LinkedIn connections and don't get any responses, don't give up until it works. Go out and make more connections.


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