By Ayelet Weisz
What is the most urgent need for every new freelance writer? Clients.
And finding them isn’t always easy.
They may not have the desire or budget to hire you right at the time you pitch. It ends up being a numbers game — the more potential clients you pitch, the more likely you are to find the right one at the right time.
Recently, I did a lot of research to find good businesses to pitch. I ended up with nearly 500 leads! Here’s how I did it:
- Let prospect news come to you: Set up Google Alerts, and industry news — funding, acquisitions, expansions and other changes — will wait for you when you log in to your inbox.
- Stay curious and keep looking: Check out Google News and search for “Top 10” lists, like the “10 fastest growing pet product companies in 2012.”
- News sites and business magazines: They often feature business news in a variety of industries. Sites of local papers where your niche is most dominant might even have a designated tab just for news about this industry.
- Niche news sites: Working like trade publications, these sites allow you to cut through the distractions more general sites offer. I found one site for my chosen niche that’s more effective than Google Alerts and newspapers combined.
- Low-ranking companies: If they’re on the 20th page of a Google search for their industry, they need your help. That’s how I found my first business client. Plenty of companies are inundated with to-do lists and will gladly pay you to help them up their marketing efforts.
- Watch Google ads: These ads represent companies that are actively looking to grow their client base. Click through and brainstorm ways to help them create a more long-term marketing strategy, like blogging.
- Conferences and contests: They list speakers or judges and participants — plenty of potential clients. To discover even more prospects, find a Twitter hashtag and follow the buzz on social media, or search for forum talks about these events.
- Tap into your network: You never know who the people in your network know, so make sure to share your journey with them. I found that great niche news site because I talked to a friend who shared our conversation with her husband.
- Think beyond your geographical area: Being local might give you an advantage with some prospects, yet there’s no need to limit yourself to one city, state or even one country. Companies everywhere need English copywriting to attract a global audience. I’ve personally written for websites from four continents.
- Look beyond your niche: Look for peripheral industries and organizations. If you initially looked for startups, you also have venture capital firms, computer science schools, branding agencies, business coaches, organizations that promote women and minorities’ participation in the tech industry — and the list goes on.
- Pay attention to your surroundings: From sponsored ads on your Facebook feed to friends who casually mention a business to consumer magazines that profile or mention companies…. opportunities are everywhere.
How I organize my leads
I like using Excel to easily sift through prospects. Unlike Word, Excel will alert you when you’ve already included a prospect in your list. I write down prospects’ names and websites, then divide them into categories (such as niches, industries or locations, depending on my needs).
I also write down where I found them, which is usually somewhere online that contains information I can use to warm up my pitch. Additionally, I leave space for random comments and for tracking responses.
How I pre-qualify leads before I pitch
To save yourself mistake time, pre-qualify prospects. Carol recommended to me only approaching prospects that earn at least $1 million a year, as they’re big enough to have a marketing budget yet small enough that they don’t have a marketing team. When it comes to startups, you can approach companies that raised venture capital funds of $1 million or more.
Check out Manta.com, business sections of newspapers and niche sites to find this information, or simply run a quick search on Google. You can also check companies’ blogs, news or press sections on their sites, as well as their social media accounts.
If you can’t find financial information, see if the company advertises the pricing of its products or services and “guesstimate” whether those prices indicate the possibility of a marketing budget.
Still coming up empty? If you think the prospect and you can be a great match — pitch anyway. Sometimes interest comes from the most unlikely prospects.
How have you found your best clients? Tell us in the comments below.