Are you desperate to get more freelance writing gigs?
Well, today I want to talk about how to bust out of the feast-or-famine trap and earn more freelancing. You do this by laying the groundwork now for a thriving business in the fall and on into 2017.
No, it’s not too early to think about next year! In many ways, it’s the perfect time.
The less desperate you seem when you present yourself to clients, the more likely it is you’ll be able to line up some great-paying freelance work. You seem busy and successful, instead of broke and pathetic.
Thinking way ahead also allows you to research prospects more carefully. It takes the pressure off and lets you take time to research the size of their annual revenue, or the types of articles they publish, to see if they’re a good fit for you.
If you need to, continue marketing for more immediate gigs. But reserve some time for pursuing your long game.
When you inquire about opportunities for the coming year, that telegraphs to prospects that you must be booked up until then. Why, you’re marketing six months out! That’s a pro move.
What can you say to prospects now to pave the way to better earnings late this year or early next?
Here are four questions that can start a conversation with prospects, position you as a pro — and help you land some juicy freelance gigs:
1. Is your 2017 editorial calendar available yet?
Most national publications work out their editorial calendar pretty far in advance. Their plan for next year will start circulating around the office pretty soon.
They may not post it online until late fall, but if you ask, you might get your hands on it much sooner. If it’s not ready now, find out when it will be — then check back in when it’s supposed to be released.
Getting a copy of the editorial calendar earlier gives you more time to think, research, pre-interview, and develop story ideas that fit themes your target publication will explore in the coming year. You’ve got time to look up how they did last year’s special section on vacation getaways or bathroom hardware, and figure out how to bring them a fresh slant.
It’s a great way to get a jump on the competition and stand out with more well-thought-out ideas.
2. Are you planning your 2017 marketing calendar now?
The bigger the company or publication, the farther ahead they tend to work. Offer to help (a little). If you can be part of the conversation about upcoming issue themes or marketing campaigns, it puts you top of mind when it’s time to execute on those plans.
Offer to take a quick coffee or Skype call and give them a few insights and ideas on what’s hot in content marketing, or how you could contribute to their fall/winter efforts. They’ll remember you when it’s time to start making those assignments.
Keep these sort of free-tip sessions to 15 minutes or so — leave them wanting more expertise from you, so you get hired, rather than milked for information and then discarded.
After you touch base, stay on their radar. If you discussed case studies in your call and then you complete one for another client, send it over. Email them an interesting article on their industry, ask about a controversy in the sector, retweet their posts — anything that keeps your name in front of your prospect without being obnoxiously salesy.
3. Has your new fiscal year started?
If you target medium-sized to larger companies for writing work, know that quite a few of the biggies have a fiscal year that ends June 30, rather than December 31. That means come July 1, they’re into a fresh pot of marketing money. (For publicly held companies, you can check the financial releases on their website or use the SEC site Edgar to learn when their year ends.)
Projects that have been stalled or postponed may suddenly get kicked back into high gear right after 4th of July weekend. Plans are laid for how the marketing budget will be spent in the fall and winter.
Check in now, and you may find you’ve hit a gusher of possible projects, due to your good timing.
4. Will you have writing needs 3-6 months from now?
This is a catch-all way to market ahead, whether the company is cracking a new budget now, knows their exact 2017 plans yet, or not. It shows you’re a businessperson who’s thinking ahead. Connect with business owners who think the same way, and they’ll feel you’re their type of writer.
A typical script might go like this:
I wanted to check in to see if you have upcoming writing needs for this fall or winter. I’m fully booked until then (yes, say that even if you aren’t), but I’m looking for a few new clients who need (your type of writing project here) for the end of the year. Let me know if it would make sense to get together and and make a plan for meeting your future projects.
These are all great questions to ask quality prospects — even while you continue to market for immediate gigs. Go after better prospects with a long-term view, and in just a few months you could turn your whole income picture around.
What’s your plan for booking freelance work for 2017? Leave a comment and tell us your approach.