By James Patterson
After nine months of being a freelance writer, I’ve decided that marketing my business is like doing the dishes; I absolutely can’t stand doing it, but I feel so much better when it’s done.
I jumped into freelancing head first back in February, leaving my stifling full-time job to see if I could cut it on my own as a health and wellness writer.
I set up a website, found some steady writing work and had a few decent months, replacing my former Corporate America salary. Things were great for quite a few months, but I fell into a trap of complacency and a bit of neglect at marketing my business due to a busy summer schedule.
When I started to notice my revenue dipping in the fall, I decided it was time to start marketing myself again. I tried the age-old methods of pitching magazines and scouring the job boards, but with zero results.
Thanks to some great advice from Carol, who I hired as my freelancing mentor back in the early summer, I decided to finally take a different approach. I set a goal to try two new freelancing tactics and see if they would work.
Boy, did they ever.
Tactic #1: My existing LinkedIn network. Carol challenged me to contact my LinkedIn connections, whether or not they were an editor or potential client, and pitch myself. If nothing else, it’s good practice, she said. So when I sent out 20 or so LinkedIn messages one day, I didn’t think anything would really come of it.
About a month after my LinkedIn blitz, I got a phone call from a former friend and colleague who’s in sales, now with a different company than when we worked together. Turns out he was in a staff meeting when someone mentioned needing a health writer.
He told me later over the phone his ears perked up because of my LinkedIn message, which I had sent him just a few weeks before. He spoke up, said he had someone he could talk to and BAM, a few weeks later I’m getting steady work from a new client who meets almost every one of Carol’s criteria for lucrative writing clients. I’m about to close the books on my best month of freelancing ever.
Tactic #2: Cold calling. After months of pitching organizations and editors with zero results, I was fed up. I told Carol of my pitching woes, expecting to get at least a measure of sympathy. Instead, Carol gave me a virtual slap upside the head and said, “Email isn’t working. So what? You have a phone, don’t you?”
Reluctantly, I made another goal: To make 20 cold calls to hospitals in my region asking a simple question: “Could you use a freelance writer?”
A funny thing happened. My first phone call was a no. My second phone call was a no. My third phone call was a no.
I was about to give up. For some reason, seeing ‘no’ on a computer screen is much more palatable for me than hearing it over the phone.
But I decided to give it one more try. I picked up the phone and dialed the next number.
That call resulted in a referral to the marketing director for a large Intermountain west hospital chain. As I type this, we’re hammering out details for me to come on board and help lighten the load of their current freelance writer.
Good things happen when you try new approaches. Sometimes, you just have to roll up your sleeves and do the dishes.
It may not be fun for you to get on the phone and hear a few people tell you “no.” It may feel like a waste of time to contact former friends and colleagues. But you really never know under which rock your next client is lurking. Why not turn over every one?
How have you found new clients this year? Leave a comment and describe what’s working for you.
When he’s not obsessing over college basketball, James Patterson is a freelance health writer and public relations consultant at OnPoint Writing and Communications. His past clients include the National Institutes of Health, the President’s Cancer Panel and the National Diabetes Education Program.