How I Got My First $10,000 Freelance Writing Gig

Carol Tice

Happy woman with laptopLike most new freelancers, one of my first questions after deciding to take the plunge into freelance writing was, “How am I going to find gigs?”

I knew I wanted to write for businesses rather than publications, but which businesses should I target? I looked at my experience and selected an industry where I had work experience and that tended to have healthy cash flow. Education — particularly English as a Second Language — was my strongest potential market.

As I began marketing to companies in this niche, I narrowed my strategy to four simple steps that brought me something I’d never imagined I’d get in my first year in business: a $10,000 freelance writing gig.

1. Qualify potential clients

I knew that not all businesses would be able to pay me good rates. So I sussed out which of my prospects had potential by putting them through Manta.com and Hoovers.com, websites that track company revenue.

Once I got the results, I highlighted the prospects that made a minimum of $500,000 a year in revenue.

2. Develop a personalized LOI

The next step was writing a letter of introduction (LOI) that would stand out from the pack.

I wanted prospects to see that I not only had industry experience but also could identify ways to help them in their business.

As it turns out, a business’s own website is a great source of information. Once I culled my list of prospects, I headed over to their websites to identify any missing components that were featured prominently on competitors’ sites. (When it was particularly challenging to locate a missing piece, I Googled recent press releases for that company to see if there was a recent development they needed to promote more on their site.)

Using my notes, I developed a personalized LOI for each prospect.

3. Follow up

My LOIs returned a reasonable amount of interest, but nothing definite. Still, I followed through with my promise in the LOI to contact each prospect again within a month.

Soon enough, after my followup email, one prospect responded and offered me an editing gig. Could I edit a series of lesson plans and suggest new activities to include? Sure!

Although editing wasn’t where I was hoping to direct my freelance business, it was a foot in the door.

4. Surpass expectations

After my now-client mentioned they were working on several exciting upcoming projects, I knew I wanted to be considered as a writer.

To prove my worth and keep myself fresh in their minds, I made a conscious decision to ‘wow’ them on my current gig by exceeding expectations. I worked quickly and efficiently, carefully respected deadlines, and responded positively to all requests.

The project ended and my client paid, without more reference to future projects.

Be open to more

Luckily, the story didn’t end there. A month or so later, my client emailed to say he’d been impressed with my editing work. He wanted to know if I’d be open to developing the lessons myself.

I was told their previous writer had missed deadlines, which served to confirm that at least one component in my “go over and above” plan helped me stand out.

I compiled a quote. There was so much writing needed that it worked out to more than $10,000. To my ecstatic surprise, they accepted.

I’ve now gained writing experience in an area I’d never thought of working in, and that I enjoy.

Key takeaways? Qualify your clients for income. Identify how you can help them. If you decide to follow up on prospects, design and stick to a schedule. Finally, be a professional and exceed your client’s expectations.

How did you land your first big freelance writing gig? Tell us in the comments below.

Erin Walton is an Australian freelance education, culture, and travel copywriter and Spanish-to-English translator based in Chile.

56 Comments

  1. Willi Morris

    WOWWWW How exciting is that?! Congratulations & good on you for putting in more effort. You reminded me that checking the revenue of companies is really important when targeting them as prospects.

  2. William Ballard

    Hi Carol and Erin,

    Excellent article!

    I will defiantly be using point one and two more often. I just briefly looked at Hoovers.com and WOW…the value you find there is unbelievable.

    Now, in response to your question about landing my first big freelance writing gig, I did it all by networking and cultivating relationships potential clients that I wanted to work with.

    I took the time to get to know them better. That way I become the best writer for them. Because I would knew exactly what they wanted and what made them tick, then I would do exactly what you mentioned, “Finally, be a professional and exceed your client’s expectations.”

    • Carol Tice

      Is that a Freudian slip there, William — defiantly? I loved it!

      Thanks for sharing your story of landing a big client. So many writers tell me they’re designing a template letter of introduction they plan to send to dozens of prospects…and I just don’t think that works very well. Customizing your marketing so it’s clear you ‘get’ that company is what pays off.

    • William Ballard

      Hi Carol,

      Oops!

      It is getting late here and I can see I made several editorial mistakes in that comment. Grrrr!

      Anyways, you are absolutely right! I agree, you got to personalize and customize any message that you send out. Having a generic or default letter of introduction just doesn’t seem appealing.

      I know that if someone sent me a generic letter of introduction, I wouldn’t really pay it no mind because it is not connecting with me or with my heart-strings.

      We as writers got to connect first before we try to be all pitchy and salesy.

    • Carol Tice

      I think it used to work better before the freelance marketplace exploded in size. Now it’s all about doing your homework and writing in your client’s style.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Carnival of Creativity 5/24/15 - […] Tice presents How I Got My First $10,000 Freelance Writing Gig posted at Make a Living […]

Related Posts

You CAN Write a Query Letter That Gets a “Yes”: 5 Resources

Freelance writer getting a gig after learning to write a query letter.

Love them or hate them, queries are one of the most important marketing tools for any freelancer who wants to write for magazines. And the skills you learn from writing a good query letter also help business writers and copywriters pitch their potential clients.

If you’ve been sending queries off into space and never getting a reply, you may think it’s impossible to break into new magazines. But it’s not true! Editors are always looking for new talent.

To help you learn to write a query letter that will get you the gig, we’ve pulled together a collection of five of our best posts on pitching:

Can’t Write? Try These 9 Ideas for Writing Motivation

It’s the bane of every freelance writer’s life: You know you need to sit yourself down and get some writing done, but nothing happens. The writing motivation just isn’t there. Sometimes, you can't even make yourself sit down with the computer -- even if you...