How One Freelance Writer Got $3,000 From a Simple Request

Editor

Freelance writer makes a simple requestBy Angie Mansfield

I was a frustrated freelance writer.

Late last year, I was finally starting to gain traction in my freelance writing business, but I still wasn’t as busy as I wanted to be. I was doing okay. But I wanted to take that next step to being able to tell my lowest-paying clients, “Sorry, I’m fully booked right now.”

As it was, I felt like I had to take their cheap gigs in order to fill in the gaps. I needed to replace them with higher-paying gigs to do more than break even every month.

The Rave Review

My chance came when I asked one of my freelance writing clients for a testimonial. I was fresh off of my initial project for her, an article and blog post based on her CEO’s book.

In her opinion, I’d knocked it out of the park, and the testimonial she wrote for me was nothing short of glowing.

Instead of just thanking her and going on my merry way, I thanked her β€” and then told her I had a little time in my schedule coming up. Would she mind sharing my contact information with colleagues who might need my services?

The Referral

Turns out, she wouldn’t mind. In fact, she was thrilled to send an email introducing me to one of her clients.

And what a client: A small marketing firm that has run direct mail campaigns for a few little companies you might have heard of β€” Lowe’s, Petco, and RiteAid, among others.

Here’s the first thing I learned about referrals: They make the process of closing a deal extremely easy.

My new client didn’t ask for clips. She didn’t ask what experience I had. She just responded to the introductory email to ask if I was available for an immediate assignment!

After getting over my initial shock at how easy that was, I took the gig β€” to the tune of $1,000 extra for January.

The Hidden Bonus

If the story ended there, I’d have counted it a solid success. A new, lucrative client always is.

But it didn’t end there. When I told my first client that I had some time available in my schedule, it also prompted her to send me more projects herself.

Not only do I credit her with helping me land that extra $1,000 from her referral, but she sent me another $2,000 in projects of her own.

All from one simple request in response to a positive testimonial.

The Moral of the Story

I haven’t stopped marketing. I know that, eventually, these current projects will be finished and my clients’ editorial calendars may slow. I’m continuing to send out LOIs, telling prospective clients that I’ll be available in after this current workload is finished.

But now I know that referral requests should be a part of my marketing plan, too. Which reminds me, I need to ask that new client for a testimonial … and a referral.

Angie Mansfield is a freelance copywriter, moderator-in-chief of the Freelance Writers Den, and “mom” to a chatty bird, a bratty cat, and a bouncing baby goldendoodle.

33 Comments

  1. Nida

    Referrals are an excellent way of getting new clients. I asked an old client that ran affiliate marketing websites for a referral, and she sent my contact info out to her entire mailing list. It’s worth cultivating strong relationships with clients even after the work you’re doing for them is finished, and paid for, as they can always act as your champions.

    • Angie Mansfield

      For sure, Nida! I think a lot of writers, especially new ones, overlook this super easy way to get new clients. I know I did my first couple of years as a freelancer. πŸ˜‰

    • Carol Tice

      Wow, that is awesome, Nida! You never know what that referral ‘ask’ will get you.

      Once, I reconnected with an editor I hadn’t written for in a decade, to let him know I was looking for a few more clients. A few months later, he referred me a global, $.50-a-word developer of sponsored special sections that go in daily papers. It was fun, easy work! Plus, I got to gab and catch up with someone I hadn’t talked to in a while.

      The secret about asking your network for referrals is, it can be fun. πŸ˜‰ Not all marketing has to be a slog through the salt mines.

      • Angie

        “Not all marketing has to be a slog through the salt mines.”

        Ha! Great point – referrals are waaaay easier than writing LOIs for new companies. πŸ˜‰

  2. Daryl

    I guess the moral of the story is to always been on the lookout for new gigs, as well as the power of social proof – you’ve already been vetted by the other client, so no need for you to jump through hoops for your new client since they trusted that you were a stellar writer!

    • Angie

      Definitely! It was great to not even have to send clips — the second client just trusted the first client’s word! Easiest marketing I ever did. πŸ˜‰

  3. Casey

    Go, Angie! Yours is a great example of why it pays to ask for recommendations and referrals. It’s an easy request to overlook or to feel self-conscious about, but it can pay off.

    A friend of mine, a successful real estate agent, builds that request into her marketing materials with a signature line about client referrals being the best compliment she can receive. And yes, she does get a ton of referrals.

    • Angie

      Interesting you should say that about your friend, Casey — I’m actually doing something similar now. I’ve added a line to my standard work agreement that says, “Loving my work? Know someone who could use my help? Please pass my information along — I’m currently accepting new clients!”

      We’ll see how it works over the next few clients. πŸ˜‰

      • Carol Tice

        Diabolical!

        • Angie

          Muahahahaha!!

    • Carol Tice

      OMG, I love your friend’s idea, Casey!

  4. Elke Feuer

    Thanks for the tips, Angie! I’m new to the freelance business and will add this to my box of goodies!

    • Angie

      Great, Elke! I wish I’d thought of it when I first started out — might have made my business grow a lot faster. πŸ™‚

  5. Trish

    Awesome share! Thank you for the great tip!

    • Angie

      Thanks, Trish! Glad it was helpful. πŸ™‚

  6. Stephen Quinn

    Hi Angie. I went over to your site and noticed that I recognize your avatar from the Freelance Writers Den.

    Great article, and great story! Totally inspirational.

    I am a newbie in the freelance writer field and I am going to hold on to this idea when I have one or two great clients (where maybe I do some web content and so on).

    My only client subcontracts writing work to me and he does pay well according to my newbie rates. And these past few days I have been wanting to pitch to him the idea of of approaching his clients (business persons) to let me start and write a blog for them, if they don’t have one.

    Or if they have one, let me improve it with my “professional” writing style. So for me, this article is right on time.

    The only drawback is these would be his clients subcontracted to me – so maybe I should market for my own clients instead. What do you think?

    I am just now getting my writer’s website up, starting with my blog as I work through Mary’s “A-List Kickstart Your Blog”. I say this because my site (linked here somewhere) is “under construction” (as they say).

    • Angie

      Hi, Stephen!

      Yeah, I wrangle the Den mods when I’m not busy writing. πŸ˜‰

      I would suggest branching out and marketing your services to your own clients. In your situation, I’m not sure asking for a referral is doing you much good, since the work would be subcontracted — and, therefore, won’t pay as much. Take the clips you’ve gotten from this gig and use them to land your own clients – that’s the only way you’ll build up your income and your business. I suggest checking out the ‘Get Great Clients’ bootcamp in the Den for some tips.

      • Carol Tice

        It’s bad form to ask a client if you can try to poach their clients, Stephen. Instead, ask if they would refer you. They may have peers they could pass your name along to.

  7. Jordan Clary

    Great post, Angie! I don’t know why it’s so hard for us to ask for referrals when people are usually great about giving them. I love Tranquil Geek, by the way! Great blog.

    • Angie

      Thanks, Jordan!

      I think it’s the nature of a lot of writers to be shy and worry about offending someone — especially when they’re just starting out.

      And thanks for the kind words about TG! Glad you like it. πŸ˜€

  8. Elizabeth Dimit

    Way to go, Angie! You really deserve this. I’m so excited for you. I’ll bet your new client will have more ongoing work for you because of your stellar work and your strong work ethic.

  9. Alexandria Ingham

    Great post, Angie! Referrals have been my method of gaining new clients too. So far I’ve gained four new clients through referrals. Many of the projects have come to an end, but I didn’t stop marketing either. Next time, I might just have to ask!

    • Angie

      Unsolicited referrals are great, too!

      Some clients just don’t think of it until you mention it to them. I’m now a big fan of the ask. πŸ˜‰

      • Carol Tice

        Yeah, me too. Put yourself on the client’s radar and you’re way more likely to get your name passed around when they get together with other managers or editors and hear vents from others about how they just can’t find good help.

  10. Bonnie Nicholls

    Great idea on not just asking for a testimonial, but saying you have time for more projects.

  11. Jessie Kwak

    What an awesome story, Angie. I’ve gotten a few unsolicited referrals from clients, but I haven’t been brave enough to actually ask for them. I’ll try to make that part of my plan going forward!

  12. William Ballard

    Hi Angie,

    WOW! What an amazing story!

    You know, from what I am gathering about freelance writing, the majority of beginners (sometimes I still fill like I am in this category) try to make this whole freelance writing business tougher than what it is.

    I am not saying that there aren’t obstacles to overcome, but what I am getting at is that just simply putting ourselves out there as freelance writers, in and of itself, does miracles.

    Thank you for such an inspiring piece. Believe me I will be gathering up as many testimonials and referrals as humanly possible in my business!

    My gratitude to you,

    Freelance Writer and Blogger
    William Ballard

  13. Manisha

    I think this is a brilliant tip. I am grateful to the three people who have submitted testimonials for my work because it really helps new prospects to understand how I deliver my work.

    Thanks for the referral tip, will make sure I use it when I’m no longer having issues managing my time. Yeesh!

  14. Willi Morris

    I have yet to land a client based on referrals (even though I’ve had several) but I’m hoping to change that. Sent a survey to past clients and will craft a testimonial. Also added a section about referrals! Great job, Angie.

  15. Nadia McDonald

    I love this article! In a nutshell, a freelance writer has to market and put strategies in place to land clients! In addition to strong marketing, one has to network with others to get their name out there!

  16. Pooja

    Hey Angie,

    Love, love, love this story!

    Happens all the time. Most of my clients are word of mouth, whereas two years ago, I’d have brushed the very thought of referrals aside.

    Recently, a happy client (business mentor to entrepreneurs) referred me to EACH of his clients. Guess what? I got 3 new retainer clients from that one referral.

    Always ask, and you shall receive. πŸ˜‰

    Pooja

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