How I Found 488 Red-Hot Freelance Writing Prospects

Carol Tice

Leads to big business clientsBy Ayelet Weisz

What is the most urgent need for every new freelance writer? Clients.

And finding them isn’t always easy.

They may not have the desire or budget to hire you right at the time you pitch. It ends up being a numbers game — the more potential clients you pitch, the more likely you are to find the right one at the right time.

Recently, I did a lot of research to find good businesses to pitch. I ended up with nearly 500 leads! Here’s how I did it:

  1. Let prospect news come to you: Set up Google Alerts, and industry news — funding, acquisitions, expansions and other changes — will wait for you when you log in to your inbox.
  2. Stay curious and keep looking: Check out Google News and search for “Top 10” lists, like the “10 fastest growing pet product companies in 2012.”
  3. News sites and business magazines: They often feature business news in a variety of industries. Sites of local papers where your niche is most dominant might even have a designated tab just for news about this industry.
  4. Niche news sites: Working like trade publications, these sites allow you to cut through the distractions more general sites offer. I found one site for my chosen niche that’s more effective than Google Alerts and newspapers combined.
  5. Low-ranking companies: If they’re on the 20th page of a Google search for their industry, they need your help. That’s how I found my first business client. Plenty of companies are inundated with to-do lists and will gladly pay you to help them up their marketing efforts.
  6. Watch Google ads: These ads represent companies that are actively looking to grow their client base. Click through and brainstorm ways to help them create a more long-term marketing strategy, like blogging.
  7. Conferences and contests: They list speakers or judges and participants — plenty of potential clients. To discover even more prospects, find a Twitter hashtag and follow the buzz on social media, or search for forum talks about these events.
  8. Tap into your network: You never know who the people in your network know, so make sure to share your journey with them. I found that great niche news site because I talked to a friend who shared our conversation with her husband.
  9. Think beyond your geographical area: Being local might give you an advantage with some prospects, yet there’s no need to limit yourself to one city, state or even one country. Companies everywhere need English copywriting to attract a global audience. I’ve personally written for websites from four continents.
  10. Look beyond your niche: Look for peripheral industries and organizations. If you initially looked for startups, you also have venture capital firms, computer science schools, branding agencies, business coaches, organizations that promote women and minorities’ participation in the tech industry — and the list goes on.
  11. Pay attention to your surroundings: From sponsored ads on your Facebook feed to friends who casually mention a business to consumer magazines that profile or mention companies…. opportunities are everywhere.

How I organize my leads

I like using Excel to easily sift through prospects. Unlike Word, Excel will alert you when you’ve already included a prospect in your list. I write down prospects’ names and websites, then divide them into categories (such as niches, industries or locations, depending on my needs).

I also write down where I found them, which is usually somewhere online that contains information I can use to warm up my pitch. Additionally, I leave space for random comments and for tracking responses.

How I pre-qualify leads before I pitch

To save yourself mistake time, pre-qualify prospects. Carol recommended to me only approaching prospects that earn at least $1 million a year, as they’re big enough to have a marketing budget yet small enough that they don’t have a marketing team. When it comes to startups, you can approach companies that raised venture capital funds of $1 million or more.

Check out Manta.com, business sections of newspapers and niche sites to find this information, or simply run a quick search on Google. You can also check companies’ blogs, news or press sections on their sites, as well as their social media accounts.

If you can’t find financial information, see if the company advertises the pricing of its products or services and “guesstimate” whether those prices indicate the possibility of a marketing budget.

Still coming up empty? If you think the prospect and you can be a great match — pitch anyway. Sometimes interest comes from the most unlikely prospects.

How have you found your best clients? Tell us in the comments below.

When she’s not writing about travel, business, technology or gender issues, Ayelet Weisz relishes re-discovering her home country of Israel.

48 Comments

  1. Tomas Fransson

    Outstanding tips, Ayelet! To look for Google Ads and low-ranking companies in Google searches were nifty! 🙂

    Prospecting for leads is a numbers game, I concur. I’ve recently tracked down 300+ prospects. People like marketing consultants and event managers, i.e. people who continuously can refer new assignments to freelance designer/writer. But also 150+ freelance copywriters (having Jennifer’s comment in mind regarding sharing leads and getting leads in return from peers.)

    I’ve put the prospects on Twitter lists for all awesome freelancers to use. See link below! : )

    Happy prospecting!

    • Carol Tice

      Well, that’s helpful of you — thanks for sharing your resource, Tomas!

  2. Shauna

    This is great information. I have already put some of your advice into practice. Today I saw an ad for a marketing company who is expanding and creating a new department. I emailed them, introduced myself and asked if they use or have the need for freelance writers.

    I find your website extremely informative and chocked full of useful information for freelancers who are trying to get their careers off the ground – not to mention pay the bills!

    I’m so glad I found your site!

    • Carol Tice

      Glad you’re finding tips you can put right into action from the blog, Shauna! That is why I do it. 😉

      I loved these ideas from Ayelet.

  3. D Kendra Francesco

    These tips are outstanding! I appreciate them immensely. I’m definitely going to use a lot of them, but most especially numbers 1, 4 & 5. And the Excel for keeping track. (This entry is now in my folder of “Particularly Useful” tips.)

    I’m coming late to the writing party in general (I’m 57). In the past few months, I’ve learned it’s okay to narrow my energies into a particular niche. I’m concentrating on non-profit organizations that deal with clean air, clean water, food security and art (rather eclectic mix, I know). These tips will help me sort out those non-profits that don’t serve these criteria.

    Thank you!

    • Ayelet

      There are so many benefits to starting at this game when you have life and work experience elsewhere, in my opinion. I’d love to work more with nonprofits too. Your mention of the food security niche got me Googling now and I need to get out the door! Such an important sector. I think the recommendation is to start at several niches and let the market guide you on where to focus more. Be sure to check out CharityNavigator.org so you can find nonprofits with big enough budgets.

      Besides that, what a great idea to keep a folder of particular useful tips. I have a couple of files like that which I could start updating again. Glad to read this post got to enter your folder – hope it helps you help lots of nonprofits make a difference!

    • D Kendra Francesco

      Thank you for reminding me that my life and work experiences have value to non-profits. Especially to these particular ones. The reasons for choosing them? All have immediate, personal basis, in that I’m asthmatic, and have also been without water and food in my lifetime. The art non-profits is in tribute to all the creatives that won’t get a chance otherwise.

      I’d heard of Charity Navigator in my online roamings before I’d decided on my niches, but forgot its existence. I’ll go check it out again. Thank you.

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