How to Reel in Great Freelance Writing Clients with a Bait Piece

Carol Tice

Freelance writers can hook clients with a bait pieceBy James Palmer

There are many ways freelance writers can get new clients, but few are more effective than a bait piece.

Write it once, then post it on your site and it’ll go to work for you all the time to grab new clients.

Curious about what a bait piece is, and how to create one? Read on:

What’s a bait piece?

According to copywriter Bob Bly, a bait piece is “an informative booklet, white paper, or special report addressing some aspect of the problem your product or service helps the reader solve.”

In this case, the service is your writing. You are not just a writer, but a problem solver.

Your bait piece could be anything from a white paper or case study to a helpful checklist or video.

Why bait pieces work

A good bait piece is effective for several reasons.

First and foremost, it establishes you as an expert in your prospect’s eyes not just another freelance writer. Many clients think writers are a dime a dozen, but they’ll gladly pay your fees if you approach them as an expert in the problem your writing solves.

Second, a bait piece acts as a sample of your writing, so make sure it looks professional and every word is spelled correctly.

Finally, it builds confidence and trust in you and your services. A strong bait piece makes the client think: “If her free information is this good, just think what her paid services can do for me and my business.”

The bonus? By having a high-quality bait piece, you’ll tend to attract higher-quality clients. Your bait piece can make the difference between dealing with lowballers and getting name-brand businesses in your client stable.

How to create a solid bait piece

If it sounds overwhelming to you to create one of these, trust me, you can do this. My tips:

  • Keep it simple. A short report with an evocative title works best. “10 Tips for…” “7 Secrets to….” Checklists also work well.
  • Solve a problem. A good bait piece tells a client how to solve a problem they have related to your writing niche. Don’t worry that you’re giving away all your secrets for free; the object is to show them that you’re the best person for the job — and convince them to hire you.
  • Make it valuable. Work hard to make your free report really valuable to your client. Study their industry and your competitors to come up with a report your prospect hasn’t seen before.
  • Target it. Depending on your niche, something industry specific, such as “12 Ways Restaurants Can Get More Clients from Social Media” can be much more effective than a generic writing-related topic like “How to Create Web Copy that Sells.”
  • Price it. You can also give your free report high perceived value by putting a price on the title page. Then you can say something like, “Click here to get my FREE report, 10 Facebook Marketing Faux Pas and How to Avoid Them (a $29 value).” You can even sell it elsewhere on your website.
  • Think outside the page. Your bait piece doesn’t have to be words on a page. You could also create a video and make it available for streaming on your website. All you need is PowerPoint, a microphone, and some screen capture software.
  • Make them an offer they can’t refuse. Offer your bait piece in every email you send to prospects with a strong, benefit-rich statement that makes them want it and tells them how to get it quickly and easily.
  • Go hard and soft. When crafting your prospect email, give them a hard and soft offer. Your hard offer is to contact you for more information about you and your services, and can include things like a free consultation, while your soft offer is for the free report. Those who need your help right away will go for your hard offer, while those who don’t need your help right now but might somewhere down the road will respond to your soft offer of the free report.

If you need formatting help to create a white paper or checklist report that looks great, partner with a designer who needs a portfolio piece of the type you’re creating and you can probably do a swap or get a good price.

Got questions about creating a bait piece — or got a bait piece to share? Ask in the comments, or feel free to give us a link to your piece and tell us how you created it.

James Palmer is a freelance content marketing writer, fiction author and independent publisher. He is the author of The Secrets of Six-Figure Freelancing: Make More Money and Have More Fun as a Freelance Writer.


  1. Keri

    Perfect timing! I actually just started working on a “bait piece” this week! Great tips in here; I never would have thought about pricing it.

  2. Sherri

    Great idea! I *think* I can do this…

  3. Matthew Eaton

    Very interesting. This came at a great time for me, I’m mulling over what to do next with my writing. I love fiction, but it isn’t paying the bills. I need to make sure my talent works for me.

    Fantastic stuff, printing this up so I can digest it later! Much appreciated!

  4. Amy Dunn Moscoso

    I love this – thanks James. I’m completing my own guide right now, so this is really timely for me. I also think that the pieces are great ways to pitch to clients who need help attracting their own customers.

  5. Lee Nourse

    Expert advice from a veteran copywriter is invaluable. Thanks kindly, I just happened to navigate to this page while checking my inbox this morning. The timing is perfect for me also, as I’m just waiting for my online access to the AWAI copy writing program. I’m starting my new journey and this is a nugget I’ll carry with me and pull out a few steps further down the path, when my website is taking shape. Thanks again!

    • Oludami

      Congrats on your new journey, Lee. You sure are starting great – took the AWAI Accelerated Copywriting Program last year ending. Only stalling at submitting my final samples :(. Great stuff though.

      Thanks, James. Bob Bly calls it “bait piece”, Steve Slaunwhite, etc. call it “buzz piece”, many others call it “lead magnet”. However you decide to call it, it’s very important to create one. Has uncountable benefits.

      I’m in the midst of writing a “special report” and a “cheat sheet” for web copy tune-up. I can’t wait to experience the results when they are done. Thanks more for the “pricing it” tip. But how do you arrive at a specific value? Been thinking about that.


      • James Palmer

        Price can be tricky. Just think about what you would sell it for if you were selling it somewhere else. Also, look around the market for similar products. For example, Bob Bly prices a lot of his e-books and reports at around $29-$39 bucks, a bargain in this see of $497 info products. You’ll also help legitimize said price if you actually do sell it elsewhere on your site or places like Amazon’s Kindle store.

        Good luck!

        • Oludami

          Thanks, James. Wouldn’t want to trust myself on that…guess I’d rather look around in the market.
          Thanks again 🙂

  6. Ilka

    Thanks James!

    I love the idea of a bait piece and am twisting my mind what to do for a while.

    The challenge for me is what you said I your third point, ‘a report your prospect hasn’t seen before’.

    I think this post can help me with my inner search and ‘brainstorming’. If I can think of something I might come back and post it.

    Thanks for the post, Ilka

  7. James Palmer

    Thanks, everyone! I’m glad you found this valuable and timely. The trick is to have something that the client hasn’t seen before and communicates your unique value, but it is totally doable. And it’s also a great project to pitch a potential client. Bait pieces are perfect for coaches, consultants, and other types of freelancers.

    • Carol Tice

      Right on, James — I DID pitch that to one client, and ended up getting $1,500 to create a special report for him, that I know he still uses.

      • James Palmer

        Wow, Carol. That’s a great gig! And a good lesson for every freelancer out there.

  8. Willi Morris

    My new e-book has definitely increased my mailing list as I debuted it along with a good guest post on another authority blog. It definitely works. I hope it can lend me more credibility when it comes to snagging clients. Good post!

    • James Palmer

      Ebooks are an extreme form of bait piece. Good on you for writing one! If it’s an evergreen topic it can draw in clients for years. You can also publish it on Amazon as an ebook, or even make a POD print version to sell or hand out at events. The sky’s the limit!

  9. Darlene Strand

    Do I create a ‘bait piece’ from just resources I have read or Will I be rejected by using my imagination or subject matter that I can feel more easier to write about that cover suggestion on “Camping experience as a pregnant mom, what things I couldn’t do and How did I enjoy my family outing?” In some way appeal to young couples or even older couples. Just an example of many ideas to tap on for an idea to write about that may lead to longer amount of content that can be added as the writing is further created through style, voice, mood, tone and wide range of repetition use of words to give texture and contrast that makes a piece of writing visible, alive, and fun to create!

    • Carol Tice

      Darlene, that depends on the clients you’re trying to reach…but in general, you want to think about information that helps the reader rather than simply relating a personal experience you had. Your proposed piece has “How did I” in it a lot. Try to think up an angle where the headline would have “How YOU can…” in it.

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