When I first started out as a freelance content writer, I almost didn’t make it. My lack of freelance marketing focus was largely to blame.
But there were other reasons I nearly starved, too.
I quit my day job before I had steady clients. My portfolio was slim. And my savings? Ahem, what savings?
I also had bad habits. I squandered way too much of my time on freelance marketing strategies that didn’t work. If you’re nodding your head, I totally understand.
Fortunately, I realized that if I was going to survive, I needed a better freelance marketing menu of strategies to find clients that were already hungry and ready to hire me.
Worried about how you’re going to find great clients? I know I was.
To turn my freelance marketing famine around, I had to figure out better ways to reach out and make connections. These four tactics will help you find clients eager to throw you some work:
1. Find low-hanging fruit
Carol’s advice for newbies is the best I’ve seen. She says to try for “low-hanging fruit.”
Note, this does not mean writing for shady content mills.
It means taking an honest look at yourself, and asking: “What level of experience do I have?”, “What expertise can I offer?”, “What I am I interested in?”
These questions will point you toward companies that are ready for you.
And, once you distill your answers into a succinct paragraph— you suddenly have a compelling pitch for your services.
Here’s how my pitch went:
I come from a medical sales background. Spent a lot of time roving hospital floors and scrubbing in for surgeries. These days I help hospitals, nonprofits, and manufacturers talk to their patients, donors, and customers.
It doesn’t look like much, does it? Just a few sentences.
But when you point those sentences at the right person, the results can be magical.
I used that passage, verbatim, to land two clients through LinkedIn. One of them awarded me a contract worth $20,000.
All thanks to the low-hanging fruit strategy!
2. Look in your own backyard
When I was first trying to raise clients, I cast my net too wide. From my little nook in Omaha, I was cold-calling clients as far afield as LA, Boston, and even Hong Kong.
The reaction was muted, at best.
But a little tweak to my approach changed everything. Instead of long-distance, I started calling LOCAL clients, and letting them know I was in the neighborhood. As in:
“I’m a LOCAL freelance content writer, and I was just wondering…
Suddenly, prospects were inviting me out to coffee. One local PR consultant gave me a $500 project, less than 24 hours after I called her.
People have a primal reaction to the word ‘LOCAL’. It makes clients feel you’re more reliable, or at least more accountable. It’s a nice way to build a little bit of trust.
So if your cold calls are too cold, try making them a little closer to home!
3. Develop a nose for chaos
The hungriest clients are usually — but not always — just a little desperate. They need to push out a lot of content in a hurry. That’s where you come in.
But how can you identify these needy companies?
The signs are there, if you know where to look.
Identify prospect websites that need help
Your ideal customer should have a polished web-presence with strong branding — but it should look a little thin. Maybe they have a blog that hasn’t been updated since 2014. Or maybe their ‘Resources’ section has just two articles on it.
Show clients like this that you can beef up their content operations. You can flesh out their blogs, polish their thought-pieces, or even produce new types of content, like white-papers. That will get them excited!
Check out who’s hiring, and look for companies in distress
Obviously, if they have an ad out for a full-time writer, that’s a good sign. But there are subtler signals, too.
If a company’s looking for a “Marketing Manager”, for example, that’s an invitation for you to shoot them a line. Why? Because if they’re looking for a ‘Manager’, it means they’re struggling to delegate work. Their operations are in disarray. And you can pitch in.
LinkedIn is perfect for this. Using their ‘Jobs’ search engine, I found a local company looking for a ‘Content Manager.’ I found their VP of marketing, and shot her an InMail:
Saw you’re looking for a Content Manager. Well… I’m not that.
But the fact that you’re looking tells me there’s work to be done.
A little about me…
And then I launched into the spiel I mentioned above.
The results from that message? The best client I’ve ever had. To date, I’ve earned more than $60,000 of work from them — not bad for a one-off LinkedIn message.
4. Capitalize on moments of ambition
On the opposite side of the spectrum, ambitious companies need you, too.
These are your up-and-comers, your firms on the verge of the big-time. They can take a little detective work to spot.
My favorite resource: Crunchbase.
It lets you sort companies by when they last received a funding round.
A recent cash-injection is a great sign for you. Observe this screen-shot:
Look at that list. Pick a company that matches your answers from step one.
And then imagine the impact when you introduce yourself with something like:
Hey I saw you guys got funded last week — congratulations!
That kind of ‘Hello’ shows that you’re savvy and that you’re paying attention to them. A great first impression. It’s gotten me hired more than once.
Freelance marketing to find hungry clients
If you want to avoid the famine I was in, be proactive and make the most of the time you spend on freelance marketing. Finding hungry clients is the best way to avoid going hungry yourself. Put yourself out there, and you’ll make connections, start landing more contracts, and feast on success.
Matt Seidholz is a freelance healthcare content writer from Omaha, Nebraska.