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By Jess Lander
One of the greatest parts about being a freelance writer is that you get to choose who you work with. You have the flexibility to work for someone you like, and do work that doesn’t bore you, but inspires you.
Yet finding clients isn’t always easy. You can waste a lot of time--time you don’t get paid for—searching for and pitching clients that aren’t the right fit. Here’s a 3-step guide on how to identify your perfect client, find them, and finally, pitch them in order to seal the deal.
1) Identify The Perfect Client
Rejection is a normal part of freelancing, but you’re going to experience a lot more of it if you’re not approaching the right clients. Before you waste any time, make sure you’re only looking for clients that fit your interests, expertise and skills, and who are likely to hire a freelance writer.
Pinpoint your skills
What kind of freelance writer are you? Depending on your experience, you may specialize in anything from web content, SEO writing and PR to journalism or more serious technical and business writing. Make a list of the skills you have and keep them handy as you’re looking for the perfect client.
Find your niche
Identifying your writing niche can help you narrow down the industries you go searching through for clients. Think about what topics you’ve written about most in the past, what you’re most qualified to write about, or most passionate writing about. Your niche could be anything, including food, tech, fitness, education or finance.
It’s OK to have more than one, but if you focus your writing on just a few industries, you’ll quickly grow into an expert in those fields and will have an easier time attracting clients with a plethora of relevant portfolio work to show.
Once you have your niche(s) and skillset identified, there are two things that will quickly help determine if a client is a good match for you.
Do they need your help?
Keeping your niche and skillset in mind, take some time to browse through their current content, like their website and social media channels, and ask yourself some of the following questions:
You will be able to tell pretty quickly if this potential client could use your help either by filling in some holes or updating their existing content. If they appear to be on top of things, move on in search of someone else. Essentially, you are looking for a gap in the content department of a potential client that only you can fill.
Bonus: For more about how to spot this gap and fill it as quickly as possible, check out our founder, William Ballard's article, "2 Keys to Unlocking The Door to Your Perfect Client", at Be a Freelance Writer.
Do they hire freelancers?
If a business already has an in-house marketing, PR or writing staff, they likely don’t need to hire freelancers, so check the website’s about page, staff directory or bylines first. Websites like LinkedIn and Twitter are also good tools to quickly search for people with job titles at specific companies.
If blog posts do have bylines, do a little research on the writers to determine if they are a freelancer or employee. If the company appears to have multiple freelancers handling their content, they could always be looking for fresh talent.
Most small businesses don't have full-time marketing staff let alone a full-blown out content marketing department, and would be more likely to hire a freelancer instead. However; larger companies will generally be able to pay you more so, like our founder said in the bonus article above, "Don't be afraid to go after the BIG fish".
2) Finding The Perfect Client
Now that you know what you’re looking for in a client, where do you find them?
Look around -- clients are not as far away as you may think!
Take a walk outside in your neighborhood. Are there any local businesses that fit your niche? Sometimes finding the perfect client is as easy as walking into your local coffee shop or dentist office and asking if they need help. They will often be happy to hire a freelance writer that’s also a friendly face and already supports their business.
Leverage your Power Base
It’s all about the art of networking. Don’t be afraid to ask around your network of family, friends and former colleagues to see if they work for a company -- or know someone who does -- that might need your writing services. Most networking experts refer to this as your Power Base, and most of these experts will always tell you, "NEVER NEGLECT YOUR POWER BASE".
Would any of these connections that make up your main power base be willing to lend a favor and provide an introduction? These people already know you, like you, and trust you, so their recommendation can really help you go far.
Search job sites
Before I say anything about these job site and content mills I want to make it perfectly clear...
Here at William Ballard Enterprise, LLC we do NOT really recommend writing for these kinds of sites because we believe writing is a serious profession and writers are worthy of respectable wages and compensation. The majority of the clients that post jobs to these content mills and bid sites usually demand quality work but refuse to give quality pay. It is not something we support and we encourage you to run away from these kinds of sites as fast as you can and as soon as you are able.
With that said, if you are just starting out, and you are in need of samples and pieces to add to your portfolio, this kind of strategy is the most tedious (and competitive), but may be the best way to accumulate some of those pieces.
On many of these websites, you can set job alerts, so that you get notified of only jobs that fit your search criteria (your niche and skillset) via email. Check out job boards specifically for freelancers like Freelancer, Upwork and Freelance Writing Gigs. Have a standard resume and cover letter ready so that you just need to make minor adjustments for each job you apply for.
During your search, you might have several potential clients that could be a good fit, but you don’t necessarily have time to pitch or write for all of them at once. Make a list of potential leads to have in your back pocket for later.
3) Pitching The Perfect Client
You’ve found a potential client that fits your niche and skillset. Now, how do you get the gig?
Find a POC
The first thing to do is identify a POC (point of contact). Who is the right person to pitch to? For a small business, you can usually go straight to the owner, but for a larger company, you’ll want to search for a marketing department head or editor. Get their name and contact information. Sometimes this can take a little digging, but you can usually figure out their email address by copying the company’s email format. Or, simply call and ask.
Send them a brief pitch by email
These days, most people prefer email over cold calling. If you phone a potential client at random, there’s a good chance you will catch them off guard or at a bad time. With email, they have the chance to really think about your pitch when it’s convenient for them.
Make sure your pitch is brief. Introduce yourself (if you haven’t been introduced already), and explain that you’d love to help them reach their goals. Tell them why you believe they could use a freelance writer, how you specifically plan to help them and why you’re the best freelancer for the job.
Don’t include your rates yet. Simply ask them if they’d be interested in discussing this more in person over coffee. If they’re not local enough, suggest a Skype meeting. You’ll always have more success landing a deal face-to-face.
Close the Deal
If the client agrees to meet, come prepared. Do your research beforehand on why they need a freelance writer and what for. Ask them about their goals and then tell them how your writing will enable them to reach them. End the meeting by asking if you can send over a proposal.
This may seem like a long process just to pick up a freelance writing client, but once you go through it a couple of times and find success, it will become second nature.
(© Copyright 2016 William Ballard Enterprise, LLC. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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Certified Content Marketing Specialist -- Jess Lander
Jess is a Freelance Writer and Certified Content Marketing Specialist. She joined the Content Creation Department and Top of The Funnel Content Marketing Team here at William Ballard Enterprise, LLC early June 2016. Jess tried the 9 to 5 life, but realized real quick that it wasn't the life for her.
She is a major asset to our Content Creation Department and brings many cherished and appreciated gifts and talents to the table (The Writer's Round Table, that is...).
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