Two Easy-Fun Ways Freelance Writers Can Find Great Clients

One of the questions freelance writers ask me most is, “How can I find better-paying clients?” Another one is “Where are all the good-paying clients hiding?” A third one is, “Why can’t I find any good-paying clients?”

I’m sensing a theme here, that people want to know more about how to connect with great clients.

There are many ways to hunt these elusive good clients, but today I want to talk about two of my favorite in-person techniques for connecting with good-paying clients.

That’s right, these methods involve leaving your writing cave, going out, and meeting live humans.

Don’t be scared!

Once you get the hang of it, networking is actually a lot of fun. Or it should be — so remember to have fun with it.

Since I’m headed out to SOBCon next week, in-person networking is on my mind. Here are two techniques that are pretty fail-proof and simple for maximizing your networking time:

1. Eat lunch for two and a half hours

When I used to work big trade shows, I did this all the time. If you’re at an all-day or weekend networking event, there’ll be lunch. Often, there’s a big food court in an exhibition hall where people will wander in and eat at various times.

Start early — I usually go in around 11:15 and eat my own lunch, so that I could talk when others sat down. I keep a little on my plate so it looks like I’m still eating lunch.

Shortly, new people arrive with their lunch.

“Do you mind if I sit here?” they ask. “Of course not — sit right down!” I reply.

They take a bite or two of food, and then I start shmoozing them up, just like you see those two guys in the photo doing at a business event. “Where are you from? How are you enjoying the conference? What does your company do? Interesting…do you use freelance writers at all at your company? Who’d be the best person at your company to talk to about that?”

Often, I could keep sitting there chatting with new prospects until 2 pm. As people finish lunch, new people arrive, and you begin again.

I love this technique because you’ve got a captive audience — they’re chewing. If you do it pleasantly, they won’t become so annoyed they pick up their plate and leave. Everyone’s in a good mood and on a mental ‘break’ while they eat, so it’s a great time to meet people.

If you’re in a scenario where everyone sits down to lunch in one place at the same time, circulate amongst the tables. When you go back for a second roll or dessert, sit back down at a different table, and begin your shmooze-up over again with the new crowd.

2. Host an event

If you’re going to take the trouble of going out to a networking event, you can put in a tiny bit more effort and ensure you meet every single person who attends the event. How? By being the host or co-host.

My writing bud Michelle Goodman is the co-host of our Seattle MediaBistro networking events, and I’m jealous! It is a great gig.

Why? Here’s how hosting helps you meet the largest number of people and be seen in the best possible light:

First, the host gets to stand by the check-in table and greet everyone as they pick up their name tags. You can chat up a lot of people that way.

Next the host gets to make a little speech somewhere in the proceedings to thank everybody for coming, in which you can say a bit about what you do…so anybody the host didn’t connect with on check-in now knows what you look like, and a little about your freelance writing business.

Finally, it’s my experience that when attendees leave a networking event, nearly all of them do one thing: They go over and thank the host for putting it on.

In other words, the host gets to meet basically every single person who attends the event. Those people all come away with the impression that you are a happening coordinator of events as well as a freelance writer.

Networking doesn’t get more effective than this. It’s a big payoff just for setting up a table, printing out a few nametags, and maybe sending a couple promotional emails. This one is a strategy I recommend to all the writers in my mentoring program, who’re looking to ramp up their earnings and — yes, find those better-paying clients.

How do you make in-person networking effective? Leave a comment and add your tips.

Photo: Stock.xchng – LotusHead

  1. Laurie Boris says:

    Funny, when I worked in the corporate world, I schmoozed all the time at trade show and other events, chatting up potential customers. Now, as a freelancer, I need to do it for myself. With book conventions and other events coming up, I’ll have opportunities to practice. Thank you for the tips!
    Laurie Boris recently posted..Why I Won’t Follow You on Twitter

  2. Another strategy related to the long lunch tip was to work in a coffee shop but bring a book as a prop. For instance, if you write case studies, you might set out a book on the topic and as people glance at the book title, they may strike up a conversation based on that.

    I would add that when hosting events, it’s important to be selective about the types of events you host (and have plenty of help so you can schmooze). I hosted Boston Mediabistro events for a year and a half and often there was so much running around behind the scenes making sure things ran smoothly with the venue and making sure people got their name tag that I didn’t have time for good quality schmoozing. And sometimes the people who seek out the host aren’t in a position to hire freelancers (they’re often freelancers themselves if they’re new to the group, they may need a little hand-holding), so that can hinder your ability to talk with prospects.

    Once I got a cohost, though, I found that I had more time to schmooze and we could take turns checking people in and chatting them up. Although I haven’t landed any clients from hosting, I have become good friends with my cohost, who’s also a freelance writer.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I love your book tip as a conversation starter!

      And I think you’re right — co-hosting probably works better than hosting since you split up the scut work.

  3. Shanik says:

    Made me laugh first, but I got what you mean – It would not only help writing clients, but any business opportunities…!

    • Carol Tice says:

      It’s true — I initially learned these tips working trade shows as a reporter, and used that long lunch to get source interviews. But it can really be used with any sort of goal in mind.

  4. Stephen says:

    Go where your prospects are! ; )

    My specialty is healthcare marketing and writing. Here in Missouri, the Missouri Hospital Association has an annual meeting specifically for hospital-based marketing professionals–THE people I want to talk to.
    The presentations are excellent and the room is filled with prospects who need my services.

    This three-day seminar may seem pricey ($300-$500 for seminar, hotel, etc.), but just one project more than covers my investment … and I have the opportunity for additional work and new clients. Love it! Btw this is held at a nice resort on Lake of the Ozarks with wineries, shopping & great eats close by. This makes my tax deductible marketing expense all the more attractive. Good luck to all!

    Stephen

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hey — I’m headed off to SOBCon next week, which is a $900 admission ticket before hotel or anything. But it’s a chance to meet Chris Garrett, Chris Brogan, Chris Guillebeau, and MANY other influentials in blogging…I think it’ll be worth every dime.

      And as you point out, you’re not exactly suffering while staying at a hotel and eating their food… :-)

  5. Barbara says:

    Hello – Just want to comment that “schmoozing them up” is a phrase that sounds manipulative and (hence) negative to me. I see, though, that it’s accepted phraseology by other commenters. Good article, though! :-)

    • Carol Tice says:

      As a Jew, I believe I am licensed to use that phrase, which I don’t think of as necessarily negative.

      Looks like the Free Dictionary defines it as: To converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection.

      Seems accurate to my usage.

  6. Linda Abbit says:

    Meetup.com is a great resource to find local networking groups on just about every topic under the sun. Some are more business-oriented and others are more casual & hobby-oriented. You need to attend various ones (and some groups a few times) to figure out which ones would be best for your networking purposes.
    Linda Abbit recently posted..Sorry Charlie Sheen- This is What Winning Looks Like

  7. The first tip on ‘Eating lunch for two and half hours’ is something I’ve actually experienced a couple of times. Thrice a year I attend Fashion Accessories shows in New York City as a freelance vendor for foreign companies.

    People from all over the world attend this show. During lunch breaks, it’s common to see groups of people seating together asking such questions as ‘How’s is the show’? ‘Are you an exhibitor or buyer’? Though I’ve posed as a copywriter in that setting nor anywhere else, but I see the tip you gave as a very potent way for a serious writer to schmooze and network with some of these companies in need of good writers.

    I never gave it a thought until I read your post. I love it!
    Ebuka Okonkwo recently posted..Network Marketing- Why I Regret Recruiting My Friends And Family

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks Ebuka — I liked your linked post, too. I’m using one product right now that seems to be more about hard-selling me to affiliate sell it than it is about making the product work right! I’m holding off plugging it to anyone until I road-test it a bit more and see if it really works well.

      Sitting on your butt eating, and finding gigs — it’s never gonna get any better than that!

  8. Hi Carol, thanks for the mention. I’ll second some of what Susan said. It certainly helps to co-host an event with a pal or colleague so you do have _some_ time to play party host (as opposed to just hired hand). And it’s true that everyone wants to talk to you because you’re the host. But it’s also true that the majority of folks seeking out the mediabistro hosts are those with questions like, “How do I get started as a freelancer?” rather than “What’s your rate? I want to hire you.” Still, the visibility — and the fact that hosting means you never have to feel like a wallflower — are fantastic. It was a great thing to do when I was launching my freelancing book a couple years ago.
    michelle goodman recently posted..Ask the cubicle expat- Help! My star client has begun making unreasonable demands on my time!

  1. [...] have a location-based LI group that isn’t meeting live, consider starting a live event and serving as host.The groups. You don’t necessarily find gigs in groups, but the writer groups on LI are one of [...]

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