The Question That Doubled My Freelance Writing Income

Carol Tice

It was 2009, and I was at one of my first in-person networking meetings, hoping to scare up some new freelance writing clients.

As the economy went down, nearly every editor I worked for either got laid off or the publication folded altogether.

The one big copywriting client I had, that was billing $2,000+ a month like clockwork, sacked my editor and decided to hire an agency to develop their content.

I needed to replace a big hunk of revenue, fast.

So I tried networking

So there I was, at an evening get-together hosted by my small-town Chamber of Commerce, drink in hand, trying to figure out this whole networking thing.

I went up to one well-groomed, middle-aged blonde who had on a killer business skirt suit and heels. She looked like she knew what she was doing.

We chatted about her business a while.

Then, she asked me a simple question that changed my life.

Here’s what made my worldview shift

“Who’s your ideal client?” she asked casually.

I knew immediately that this must be a standard networking question.  People you meet networking want to know who you’re looking for, so they can refer you (so that in return, you’ll love and refer them).

The problem was, I’d never really thought about it. I’d had a fairly serendipitous career up the downturn, mostly taking whatever gigs came my way.

Who was my ideal client, anyway?

“I don’t really know,” I stupidly stammered.

But when I went home, I started thinking about it.

I had plenty of experience and clips. Why was I at a tiny-town Chamber meeting, hanging out with solo accountants and people who sold Pampered Chef?

They weren’t my client. I had already written for national magazines and a $1 billion global company.

Aiming higher

From that day on, I set my sights higher. I hopped on the ferry and headed into Seattle.

I tried different networking groups, and paid close attention to what sort of businesses and publications I found there.

Eventually, I found good networking groups, where my ideal clients hung out. I met editors of huge-circulation publications, and editors for top companies’ websites. I got a client that sent me thousands of work over the next several years.

In short order, I replaced my lost income from that fired editor — and much more.

As I hung around better-quality clients, my mindset about earning started to change, too.

When I started, I figured if I was lucky, I could maybe replace my staff-writing income of $50,000-$60,000 a year.

But swimming in that higher-quality pool of clients, I started to see how huge and potentially lucrative the freelance-writing marketplace really is. Some of these larger companies had tons of work they freelanced out.

It made me realize something big:

Freelancers earning potential is unlimited.

I could earn more. I should earn more!

So I set a goal of earning more each year — and made it happen.

Hang out with better-quality clients, and you won’t just find better gigs. It can change your whole outlook on how big you could take this.

Who’s your ideal client, and where do they hang out? Leave a comment and let us know.

 

30 Comments

  1. Kenneth

    Inspiring quest there. What hapρened after? Thanks!

  2. Ruan

    This article really inspired me and I think this is going to be my game-changer too.

    I have not asked myself that question to date and I think the biggest reason for that is inexperience. My name is still fairly unknown within freelance writing, online specifically as my experience comes from local clients in South Africa.

    So who is my ideal client then?

    1. He must have a clear idea of what they want.
    2. He must not be afraid to invest in his business to acquire outstanding quality, both time and money.
    3. He must accept my terms, both in the content creation process as well as when billed.

    For the rest; I’ll need to give it some more thought.

    Anything you would like to add to my list there, Carol?

    Thanks again for the inspiration!

    • Carol Tice

      Sure -is there a particular industry you’d like to target? Focusing on one or two sectors helps you build expertise and makes it easier to get gigs as you go — if they’re all in healthcare, or automotive parts, or aviation, or financial services, or whatever.

  3. Barbara McDowell Whitt

    Carol, you and Judy Dunn have helped me with blogging and for that I am grateful. Years ago I was attending a morning coffee as “the sole representative” of the infants’ and children’s furniture store I worked for. I could go on my own time, before the store opened at 10:00 AM. One morning our event was at a bank across the street. I had learned social skills (among book people) many years prior to that. I knew I was being eavesdropped on by a friend who was the director for the business association that sponsored the event. I said to one of the bankers, “I really like this opportunity to network. To me it’s like a spiritual thing. After all, some of Jesus’s disciples were working their nets when Jesus first approached them.” Beginning with the following month’s newsletter the AM Coffee announcement was called AM Networking.

  4. Laura Roberts

    Good question! I would definitely say my ideal client is one with a clear understanding of what s/he wants, and knows how much she will have to pay for it; someone with experience working with freelancers; someone who is able to communicate clearly what they’re looking for; someone who is not going to constantly make follow-up phone calls or emails to check up on me or clarify points or try to slip in extra work after we’ve already established in a written contract what services I’m providing. In terms of content, if they’re looking for travel or lifestyle pieces, that would be the most ideal of all!

    • Carol Tice

      I like how you put good pay and easy to work with ahead of what topic matter you want. It’s funny how if they’ll pay real rates, and aren’t a micromanager or boundary-pusher, how I could get interested in about any topic to work for them. 😉

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