Home > Blog > Blog > Marketing 101 for Freelance Writers #11: Here’s Where the Good-Paying Clients are Hiding

Marketing 101 for Freelance Writers #11: Here’s Where the Good-Paying Clients are Hiding

Carol Tice

freelance writers have questions on how to find good clients

Have you wondered if all the great-paying writing clients are hiding out together under a rock somewhere?

Writers constantly tell me they’ve looked and looked at those online job ads, but they can only find the $5-a-post gigs.

That happens because most of the really good writing gigs are never advertised.

To find them, you’ll have to understand how these prospects think, and why they need writers. Then, you’ll have to go out and proactively locate and contact these prospects.

That right there is the difference between low-paid writers and well-fed ones.

Inside the mind of a great writing prospect

The good jobs begin when an editor or marketing manager is sitting at their desk, amidst piles of overflowing workload. They work at a major publication, custom publisher, company, or nonprofit. They are thinking something like this:

The stable of freelance writers I have now leaves something to be desired. These writers don’t turn things in on time. They’re less than brilliant.


One of my staff writers just quit, and I don’t know how I’m going to get my stuff written by deadline. I can’t overload the other staffers, or they’ll quit, too.


I wish I could find some new writers. But I don’t have any time to look. I definitely don’t have time to look at 300 resumes off a Craigslist ad.

So now you know the sort of situation you want to find — a quality publication or company that needs writer but doesn’t have time to search for them.

Identifying good-paying publications

It’s pretty easy to find publications that pay the best. Besides asking around in your own writer community, you could get the Writer’s Market online. Then you can set their database search to $$$$, the top pay level, and start searching.

Presto! A nice list of top payers to target.

You can also scan publications including the Wooden Horse magazines database, Editor & Publisher, and Media Bistro’s How to Pitch Guides for more publications intel.

One of the best and least-frequently looked niches for good-paying publications is trade publications. Trade pubs cover a particular industry in-depth, for business owners in that field. Daily Variety, for instance, is for executives in show business, and Ad Age is for marketing execs. You can see lists of them at tradepub.com. If you have some related knowledge, think about marketing yourself to trade-pub editors.

Another great niche is custom publications. These are magazines and newspaper inserts created for companies by a publishing company. You can check out custom publishers — many of whom publish many publications in an industry niche — at their industry group the Custom Content Council. I’ve had one custom-pub client — easy, $.50-a-word work on newspaper special sections, where they hand you all the sources. These can be steady sources of good-paying work.

Identifying good-paying companies

The key here is to think big. Many writers get stuck writing for solopreneurs or small businesses. These don’t have big marketing budgets. To earn more, you need to identify larger organizations with bigger budgets.

How big? Well $1 million is a good start, $10 million is better, $100 million better than that, $1 billion really terrific, and the Fortune 1000 are awesome. Depending on where your writing career is at, one of these categories should work for you.

For example, my first copywriting client was a small local startup that sold call-center software. The second was a $1 billion global corporation. You don’t have to pay your dues for years and slowly inch your way up.

To get started, target industries where you have some experience or find the business owner easily accessible. These could be:

  • An institution you have personal life experience with, such as a rehab clinic that took care of your sick mom.
  • A local, independently owned store you love to shop.
  • A small business in an industry where you once worked.

If you’ve got a few clips from small-business clients and are ready to move up, here are seven resources for finding bigger clients who may need marketing writers.

  1. The business section of your local paper. Scan for news of growth, acquisitions, new locations, new products, new funding. All of these may spur new marketing efforts. You can assume most of the stories you see here originated with the business doing publicity to promote what they’re doing. They do marketing, so they may use freelancers.
  2. Your local business weekly. Similar to the above situation, except these are all business news, all the time. Smaller ones may flat-out reprint companies’ press releases or do pages of release-driven “business updates.” Grab an issue, and you’ve got a prospect list.
  3. A Book of Lists. These directories of the top and fastest-growing companies in every imaginable industry are available for more than 60 markets.
  4. An industry directory or guidebook such as the Chain Store Guides. The deal with these is they give free trade-publication subscriptions to all the companies willing to give them their data for the guide…which often includes revenue, so you can quickly focus on larger companies with bigger marketing budgets.
  5. Venture capital news. It’s my experience that newly funded startups spend like big companies — they often need to quickly ramp up their business to satisfy investors. VCAOnline has a great searchable news database where you can search by city name or industry buzzwords to find companies that have landed venture funding.
  6. Your library’s database subscriptions. Many libraries have useful databases they subscribe to that could make your searches easier — maybe they’ve got the paid level of Hoovers or Lexis-Nexis for searching press releases. Be sure to ask your librarian what resources they might have to help you identify companies and their size.
  7. Niche job boards. OK, not all online job boards are bad. Ones that focus on an industry, or where the listers have to pay to post their notice, can have better-quality gigs. Do some sleuthing to find boards that are appropriate for your writing niches. For instance, I got one good-paying blogging gig off a Gorkana finance alert (since I’m a business dork).

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