I found my first clients as a new writer from a dating app. That’s right, an app designed and intended for dating helped me get my start as a professional freelance writer. While dating through an app wasn’t for me, I successfully found professional small business owners who wanted to hire me for my writing skills to write for their business. Thankfully, soon after signing up for the app, I met my now-husband at a motorcycle event that we both attended. After that, I quickly and happily deleted the app and never looked back.
My point with admitting this embarrassing fact about starting my freelance writing career is that you never know where you’ll network and find a client.
As a freelance writer, I have found clients in unexpected places. I’m always open to talking about what I do for a living, and I’m happy to give explanations about my job description and information about my career. Many people find what I do as a full-time job to be strange, obscure, or even confusing. By taking the time to explain what I do, I can establish authority and knowledge, which proves my worth and makes it easier to secure content writing opportunities.
As I stated at the beginning of this article, I have secured a few clients through a dating app. We matched and started messaging back and forth with the typical benign get-to-know-you questions. As soon as I mentioned what I did, the other person began to ask a million questions about my freelance writing business, from pricing to writing samples and the types of content I provide. After several more messages, they asked for a lunch meeting, which I agreed to. We had a contract signed by the end of lunch, and I had a new small business client. I provided high-quality content writing services for one client and his luxury charter yacht business for about a year and the other’s professional real estate photography business for three years.
Social media apps are a great place for connecting with other business owners. However, I’ve found that an aggressive sales approach is never successful for me. Instead, a friendly educational, and conversational approach is much more successful. This low-pressure approach focuses on educating others on what I do, SEO, and the importance of content production. By taking the time to educate, I develop trust, and from there, I build a professional relationship that turns into a long-lasting client relationship.
Another place I have found freelance writing gigs is at motorcycle events. As I walked around the vendor tents, I would speak with the people running them. After speaking for several minutes, I found out that one particular self-employed vendor struggled to get their business established. This led me to explain how they needed to develop a marketing strategy and provide problem-solving suggestions. I helped them gather and utilize testimonials from happy customers, draft social media posts, craft descriptive product descriptions, case studies, write up press releases, and analyze their website for search engine optimization.
When you know what you enjoy writing about, it’s important to become involved in that community. This helps you stay abreast of the innovations, developments, and cultural shifts. Experienced writers know that there’s more to freelance work than just writing. You have to get out there and experience your subject matter.
Online Job Boards
Similar to applying for full and part-time positions, there are job boards for freelancers like Upwork. Specifically, there are boards for professional freelance writers, like ProBlogger. I’ve found them incredibly useful and have found several writing clients this way. They are especially useful for beginners who aren’t sure of what type of writing they want to focus on. It puts tons of freelance jobs at their fingertips. Being a freelancer is an interesting experience because you have the freedom to fire the client just like the client has the authority to fire the writer.
Every so often, I browse the boards, read the listings, and apply for opportunities that sound like a good fit. Sometimes I hear back; sometimes, I don’t. The next step is to do an interview or a short sample writing. The typical next step is paid test writing if they like the submission. If that goes well, you have a new writing gig, and you’re off and rolling.
The first couple of articles are always a learning process for both the client and me. It takes time to get to know each other and settle into a rhythm. Once this phase is over, things are smooth-rolling, and I settle into a routine of providing the requested content.
There’s an art to applying to job boards. With experience, you learn to read between the lines. If no pay rate or range is listed, I won’t apply. A significant number of these listings are paying embarrassingly low, and I’m willing to miss out on the rare fair-paying gig if it means saving myself time and effort from applying to the duds. Some listings ask for significantly more than what a content writer provides. They really want a full-time employee, but they are trying to avoid hiring one. When I read listings, I look for a clearly written ad that includes all of the necessary and relevant information. This is a client who is serious and organized.
Working for a blog mill is an interesting experience. You are a cog in a machine when you work for these companies. The advantage is that they always have a constant demand and workflow. This gives you job security and plenty of opportunity to gain writing experience. The downside is that the pay is painfully low, and you don’t develop a relationship with the client ordering the content. You also won’t develop a reputation because the vast majority of this work is ghostwriting, meaning, no one will know that you are the writer behind the work. If you want to become a successful freelance writer, you’ll need to grow beyond blog mills where you’re a nameless writer churning out guest posts.
Working With People You Know
I avoid working with people I know personally. This is a recipe for disaster. Seriously. Even if things start well and everyone is upfront with their online writing expectations, someone always ends up feeling unhappy. I have had friends, family, and neighbors inquire about hiring me, and I always politely decline. This may be a successful strategy for other people, but I’m a firm believer in keeping my blog writing business and personal life separated. It has allowed me to live a peaceful life and avoid stress in my personal life.
Website Writing Portfolio
I use my website content as if it were a living and evolving resume of my freelance writing skills and services. As a professional freelance writer, having a single resume is virtually impossible. I would have to write a new resume every time I wanted to submit an application for a potential new client. This would be time-consuming and counterproductive. Instead, I can simply regularly update my website landing pages to showcase my content marketing skills. By writing about what I know best, I do more than just say I can produce quality content; I prove it by actually producing great content.
By acting as my own marketing manager, I can choose my own writing projects to work on. This makes me part content manager, blogger, strategist, and content editor. My goal is to produce engaging content in a variety of formats and subject matters for a well-rounded content strategy. Some of the content is similar to creative writing, while others are white papers, copywriting, or technical writing.
While I mainly use my website as a resume, I occasionally secure a client through it. Every piece of content that I write is SEO-friendly, which helps my website perform better in searches. These are clients who find my website through referrals or online search engines. They will reach out about potentially working together. I will agree to their request if I think it’s a good fit. Freelancers need to remember that they are screening and evaluating potential clients just as much as the clients are considering them. To make the most of your skills and time, create a set of criteria that potential clients must meet. This ensures you choose clients who are a good fit and won’t become more costly than expected.
I have never paid for advertising for my writing services as a writer or for AnDel Marketing. I’m not against it; I have just never had the need. I’m sure for some writers; this strategy works well for them. I have found that organic SEO efforts secure engaged clients I enjoy working with. For me, it’s about the enjoyment and passion for what I do and not making a quick buck off someone clicking on an ad.
My caution for other professional freelance writers taking this strategy is that content writing services are a highly competitive field. You can quickly find yourself paying top dollar for specific keywords. At a certain point, the cost of the ad far exceeds your earned profits. You also can’t control who clicks on the ad, so you could easily have clients that aren’t a good fit purchasing your services.
Find Freelance Writing Jobs
As you can see, there are more ways to find writing jobs than endlessly browsing job postings. While job boards have their place, you can do so much more than depending on job alerts. Try networking on LinkedIn with other professional writers, starting your own WordPress website to showcase your writing work, or offering part-time services as a one-man marketing team for startups. Even if you’d prefer to just be a technical writer, learning about the different elements of digital marketing helps you become more skilled at content creation.