You’re sifting through a massive list of businesses and organizations looking for freelance work and come across a solid prospect. What’s your next move?
If you’re the stereotypical sales type (extrovert, talkative, a good presenter, a won’t-take-no-for-an-answer closer), you pick up the phone and hustle with a lot of bravado and high-pressure tactics.
(I don’t know about you, but that’s diametrically opposed to my own personality traits as a writer.)
So if you’re looking for freelance work, how do you find prospects and turn them into clients?
When I started this journey, I headed down an unmarked path to find niche freelance work for clients with the budget to pay pro rates, hoping for the best.
I took a few wrong turns, got back on track, hiked deeper into the freelance forest looking for prospects, and then something happened. I landed a client that pays $100 per hour.
When I looked back at the route to get there, I discovered that I was following the Persistent Path to freelance work the entire time.
Looking for good freelance clients? Follow this path to find them.
Use your freelance navigation skills
Not cut out to be a high-pressure closer to land freelance work? Neither am I, and I spent 20-plus years in sales and marketing before I jumped into freelance writing.
The good news is that, as a writer, you likely already have personality traits that will help you find freelance work. These are the freelance navigation skills every writer needs:
- Tenacity for research. If you want to find well-paying freelance work, do your research. Know your niche, key players, where to find them, and trends that impact your industry.
- Curiosity. Ask questions. Study your dream clients, magazines, and their competitors. Connect with sources and ask about their work, their wins, and their pain points.
- Persistence. Sometimes journalists have to be persistent to get the story. It’s a skill that can help you land more freelance work, too.
These are the skills that helped me land freelance work and long-term clients that pay $100 an hour and up. Here’s the path that I followed:
Find your ideal freelance client
There’s no shortage of ways to find prospects that might need to hire a freelance writer. You can find them via:
- Using LinkedIn to make connections and get in-bound leads with your profile
- Attending in-person events to meet people and potential clients
- Paying attention to social media that some clients prefer to other platforms
- Asking your network for referrals (an often overlooked source for freelance work)
- Studying niche publications for key players, leaders, businesses owners
After a considerable amount of research, I found a CEO in my niche I wanted to connect with. How did I find this prospect? The company was on a local agency Fast 50 lists and reported impressive growth numbers year after year.
(Note: If you’re looking for prospects, don’t overlook small to mid-size companies. I’ve found that these CEOs and owners have a soft spot for cold-callers. They personally know how hard it is to grow a business.)
Send a letter of introduction
Once you find a potential prospect, reach out with a customized letter of introduction. It’s a way to break the ice, get a conversation started, and find out if both you and the prospect are a good fit.
I mentioned the Fast 50 list when I reached out to the CEO via email, and kept the message short. But nothing happened. Here’s what I did next:
- Follow up. If you don’t get a response, don’t give up. There are lots of reasons a prospect doesn’t get back to right away. It’s easy to think the worst, but that’s rarely the case. I followed up my email to the CEO with several voicemails and emails over the following weeks, never more than one per week. Still no response.
- Find another company contact. Because of what I had read about this company, I really wanted to get in the door, so next on my list was the CMO. Same routine: cold emails with several follow-up voicemails over many weeks. Still nothing. Not a peep from anyone and nearly three months passed from the time I first contacted the CEO.
- Keep going. If you really want to land some freelance work with your dream client, don’t give up. Here’s how Carol puts it: “Become an unstoppable force and don’t give up until you find the clients you want, and have all the work you need.”
Persistence pays off
I followed Carol’s advice and reached out to a senior account manager on LinkedIn at the company. Two days later I received an email from the VP of client services-a person I had never even contacted. This VP had received my email both from the CEO (three months ago) and the senior account manager.
Why so long without a response? They were too busy with other things to respond. And now they were in desperate need of a niche writer with my skills.
When you don’t get a response from a prospect about freelance work, it’s easy to second guess yourself:
- They think I’m a terrible writer
- Nobody is going to hire me
- All their content is probably generated in-house
- What’s the point, might as well go eat worms
It is important to note that the three months of silence could easily have been interpreted as a “no.” But my client was just busy. I saw this prospect as a potential long-term client, and it was worth the effort to keep going until landed an assignment.
The path to well-paid freelance work
If you want to give this approach a try, there’s just a few basic steps to follow.
- Research to identify a list of companies that are in your wheelhouse
- Find the right person to speak with at the company depending on its size. For smaller firms, start with the CEO. For midsize companies, try the director or VP of marketing.
- Create a plan to follow up. Stay in touch with your prospects by sharing a useful article, resource, or tool or mentioning one of their recent wins. Once per week or every other week is probably sufficient.
- Be prepared for silence and be ready to try another individual at that company.
- Don’t take anything personally. Don’t assume silence is a “no.” Don’t give up.
Do you land well-paying freelance work with a single email overnight? No. Some of my best clients have taken more than a year to get in the door. But they’re also long-term, high-paying customers. Be persistent to be successful.
Mitch Bossart is a Minnesota-based product-design and development copywriter.