How to Pitch & Win Freelance Writing Clients Without a Bullhorn

Evan Jensen | 17 Comments
How to Pitch and Win Clients. MakeaLivingWriting.com

You’re sitting at your computer wrestling with how to pitch an editor.

Maybe you’re anxious about a call with a prospect.

Or you’re frozen, thinking about putting yourself out there on social media, and telling the world, “I’m a freelance writer.”

That ever happen to you?

How to pitch freelance prospects, land assignments, and get paid well is on your mind…A LOT

And that voice inside your head keeps piping up…

  • Maybe you’re not cut out for this.
  • What if they find out you don’t know everything?
  • What do you know about how to pitch this prospect, business, or magazine?
  • If only you were more confident, more social, more outgoing….

If you’ve ever got stuck thinking you don’t know how to pitch or you can’t win at freelancing, because you’re not the loudest person in the room, you’re not alone.

Fortunately, you don’t need a bullhorn to connect with prospects and land well-paid writing assignments. Here’s how to pitch and win as a freelancer, even if you’re an introvert.

Meet Tom Albrighton: The Freelance Introvert

Tom Albrighton: How to Pitch

Tom Albrighton

What would you do if you got laid off from your job in the publishing industry? That’s exactly where Tom Albrighton found himself about 15 years ago.

He decided to put himself out there and give freelancing a try…on his own terms.

Today, he’s carved out a niche as a freelance editor and B2B writer. And he’s the author of The Freelance Introvert: Work the way you want without changing who you are.

Looking for advice on how to pitch and win at freelancing, even if you’re not the loudest person in the room? Check out Tom’s tips and advice from a recent interview inside the Freelance Writers Den.

Q1: Can you be a successful freelance writer, even if you’re an introvert?

Tom: Yeah, for sure. I’ve been freelancing for close to 15 years. Before that I came up through non-fiction book publishing. And I’ve been an introvert my whole life.

I used to be described as shy. But over time, I’ve realized that’s just my character. I’m quite a solitary person. I’m happy on my own. I’m happy working on my own. I think the older I get, the more introverted I’ve become, and that’s just fine.

Q2: What’s helped you the most with how to pitch and win at freelancing?

Tom: Everyone finds their own path to freelance success. I always encourage everybody to explore their own path and not necessarily copy what I’ve done. But some ideas that have worked for me include:

  • Give value. I like to find the clients who suit my service, and really focus on helping them to the best of my abilities.
  • Listen carefully to clients and prospects. It’s important to really listen to what people are saying. And realize you don’t always know what they’re saying the first time around.
    • When you really listen, sometimes you’ll think: “Oh, I can see what they’re getting at now. I could see what they were trying to say or didn’t quite feel they could say.”
    • Plus, being a good listener is just part of who you are, if you’re an introvert.
  • Under promise & overdeliver. How do you do it? I try and keep expectations with freelance writing prospects realistic. Then beat them, rather than building up the expectations and then falling short.

Q3: What’s the different between being a shy writer and introvert freelancer?

Tom: There’s a common misconception that introvert automatically equals shy. But they’re very different.

  • If you’re a shy writer…You feel tense and awkward in company, often when you’re meeting prospects and clients for the first time. And it’s always there.
  • If you’re an introvert freelancer…Shyness, is just a feeling. And it’s not always there. Being an introvert is more of a character trait. I like to characterize it like this:

An EXTROVERT draws energy from other people, feels energized by company, wants to be around people, perhaps feels a bit low and lacking direction when they’re alone.

For an INTROVERT, it’s the other way around. You draw energy from being alone rather than from being in company. You get energy from your alone time. You can handle company if you want to. But you just prefer not to be in company for a lot of the time.

Q4: What are the downsides of being an introvert freelancer?

Tom: Well, I can go literally weeks, maybe months sometimes, without seeing anyone face to face about freelance work. For me, that really boosts my well-being.

But there are some downsides of becoming too introverted as a freelance writer:

  • You get too much of what you want. You have to sit with your own thoughts and problems too much. It’s how a lot of freelancers start to second-guess how to pitch, how to get clients, how earn more. You should be talking to other people, but you just don’t. And that can turn into a brooding, downward spiral. But if you’re part of a community like the Freelance Writers Den, you don’t have to work alone.
  • You avoid marketing and reaching out. You know you need to do some outward-facing tasks, but you don’t. For example: Read the guidelines for a prospect on how to pitch an idea, and then do it. Market yourself. Get on the phone and deal with clients. If you don’t put yourself out there, you won’t have a freelance writing business.
  • You’re used to a boss telling you what to do: You might hate your boss or your colleagues at a day job, bu they’re telling you what to do and shaping your reality from day to day. As a freelancer, you need to be self-directed. You’re running a one-person business. The buck stops with you. You’ve got to keep the whole show on the road, and that can be challenging for introverts.

Q5: What are some strengths of being an introvert freelance writer?

Tom: It’s a character trait. So this isn’t true for everybody, but introverts tend to be independent and self-motivated. You:

  • Don’t need to draw energy from others.
  • Have the skills and discipline to set your own targets and goals, and motivate yourself.
  • Don’t get pulled out of shape easily.
  • Listen very carefully to what people say, remember it, and you act on it.
  • Have the ability to focus.
  • Value long-term client relationships, over short-terms ones.

These are some of the things that make introverts great freelancers.

Q6: What marketing strategies do you recommend to get freelance work?

Tom: You have to choose a sustainable marketing activity. You can’t approach it with a spring-clean mentality, do one massive splurge, and get it out of the way. Think about it like this:

Marketing is the generation of future cashflow.

If you want to get serious about how to pitch and land clients, you need to choose a freelance marketing activity you’ll actually do every day or every couple of days.

It needs to be sustainable, and something you enjoy. The marketing you do right now is setting your reality 6 to 12 months down the line.

Here’s three strategies I recommend:

  • Post on LinkedIn to get leads & referrals. I’m talking about the shorter LinkedIn posts rather than really long articles. So 1,300 characters is the limit. It’s probably about 200 words. I’ve seen a lot of writers get business this way. And you don’t have to post anything super original, super creative. Just share your reality, your thoughts about being a freelance writer.
  • Find & pitch an ideal client. If you’re a bit more old-school like me, find an ideal client and send a pitch. Keep it manageable. Pick a firm or an organization that you’ve always wanted to work for, and just write them a really, really good pitch letter.
  • Practice your elevator speech. This can really help you when a prospect says: “Tell me about yourself.” (That’s kind of a trigger for introverts. When I hear that, I immediately think: Oh, I don’t want to talk about myself. I don’t want to reveal anything to you.). So instead of freaking out, take some time right now to write your personal pitch. That way you’ve got a response when prospect or client asks.

You don’t need a bullhorn to be a freelance writer

If you’re an introvert freelance writer, you’ve got a lot going for you. Embrace it. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. It’s a strength that can help you move up, earn more, and land great clients…in your own way. It’s not a limitation. Look at it this way, and you’ll be fine.

Need help landing freelance writing gigs? Let’s discuss in the comments.

Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultra-marathon.

Grow Your Writing Income. FreelanceWritersDen.com

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17 comments on “How to Pitch & Win Freelance Writing Clients Without a Bullhorn

  1. Eric Novinson on

    That’s good advice, I’ve been posting about my freelance work more often and it’s getting better engagement now. It’s easier to do than going to a trade show or another event in person. And I’ve seen it work really well for other writers when their posts go viral.

    Reply
  2. Ben on

    Terrific info!! I am also an introvert, and am very uncomfortable with face-to-face interviews! I was sent home from my day-job last March (for Covid) and I love it.

    Tom and I are obviously very similar in personality.

    Reply
  3. Sasha Kildare on

    Excellent, doable marketing strategies. Good point about not only establishing consistency with marketing but pursuing a strategy you enjoy doing, which makes it much easier to sustain the marketing.

    Also, this is a good reminder, “The marketing you do right now is setting your reality 6 to 12 months down the line.”

    Reply
    • Carol Tice on

      That is SO true! This time of year, I turn to my coaching students and say, ‘This is about your last chance to book revenue in 2020!’ Marketing takes time to pay off, be on it NOW, don’t wait until a project ends and then begin.

      Mass-producing marketing — challenging yourself to do 100 pieces of marketing in a month or two — I think is also a huge plus. Because once you see the volume you need to mass-product this in, you stop getting all over-involved in any single one pitch and whether it gets a response. Helps you put your head down and do a LOT of marketing, and get many incoming leads. Glad this post helped you!

      Reply
  4. Linda H on

    Wow, after reading this I realize I’m really an introvert not an extrovert like people have told me all my life. And as an introvert, I AM happy within myself and my skin. This is a great article for me.

    The tips given are also great ones. I’ll jot a few down to remember, but I can do the things Tom suggests. Even remember when I was pondering how to tackle a writing project and thought I needed to call someone. For a second I hesitated, then I drew on my news reporting background and called the person. Had a GREAT converstion that gave me a ton of information I used repeatedly. Been remembering that now, and LOIs aren’t so scary.

    Great post, thanks Evan for posting it, and thanks to Tom for providing the information.

    Reply
    • Angie Mansfield on

      Hi, Deborah – There are so many variables there. What’s your niche? What experience do you have? Are you pitching businesses (for things like blog posts, case studies, white papers, etc.) or magazines? Strongly recommend you join the Freelance Writers Den if you haven’t already – we have a lot of resources for brand-new freelancers to learn how things work.

      Reply
      • Carol Tice on

        Right on, Angie! Deborah, we have a foundational training in the Den called Story Idea Lab, where me and Linda Formichelli share how we had multiple ideas every week for 20 years apiece.

        Who we pitch is easy — marketing managers, if it’s blogging or other business content… publications editors otherwise. Research and find contacts online.

        I find the biggest obstacle for writers is that many don’t understand that having ideas IS YOUR JOB. It’s the #1 way you turn this into a living. By having lots and lots of ideas, constantly generating more ideas.

        The days when writers could sit back and ‘get assigned’ by their favorite magazine editor are mostly over. Editorial staffs have been cut to the bone, editors are super-stressed, and turning to writers for the ideas and great articles they need. The more you can fill that need, the more assignments you get.

        I like to say, ideas are the coin of the realm, in freelance writing. Hope this inspires you to start becoming an idea machine! It’ll make a big difference to your career.

        Reply
        • amanda wynant on

          That is SO true Linda. One client used to send me articles to write around once a month or so. They paid well, so I wanted more work from them. One day I got the courage to pitch a few ideas to the editor- instead of waiting for her to throw me an assignment. She seemed thrilled that I took the initiative. Now I turn in an idea list whenever I’m about to run out of assignments and she normally approves my pitches and I work through them at my pace. That group has also assigned me e-books and other projects. I think it’s mostly because they saw that I could generate ideas and that I really care about their website and mission.

          Reply
          • Carol Tice on

            Generating ideas is THE way to explode your income, as a freelance writer, Amanda! Whether you’re pitching blog post ideas or white paper or ebook topics or articles or whatever.

            The people who have the ideas get more assignments!

    • Ben on

      I feel the same way! I feel my best solution is to try to get some pro-bono work, but I don’t have a clue as to who to approach for THAT either!

      Reply
  5. amanda wynant on

    I am a working freelance writer. But I’m not always familiar with the lingo. Is a freelance editor someone who edits content for other people? I love writing, but I truly shine at editing and making other people’s work more polished. What kinds of rates do people charge to edit content (ebooks, books, articles, etc.)?

    Reply
    • Carol Tice on

      Amanda, my experience coaching writers interested in editing, for 12 years now, is that editing is both more competitive and lower paying than writing. Don’t ask me why, but it is. And yes, freelance editors edit for companies, publications, websites or blogs. $35 an hour seems like a strong rate there, where $50 an hour is what we consider a realistic bottom rate for even new freelance writers.

      Editing is harder to get because you can’t show samples in the same way you can a writer portfolio… it’s very relationship-based. Networking and having a big network is critical. AND… your competition is what seems like 1 million laid-off major consumer-magazine editors with deep rolodexes and top-notch credits and experience. So I think it’s tough.

      Wish I had good news there!

      Reply
      • Eric Novinson on

        Maybe it’s because when you’re just editing you don’t have to come up with new ideas for posts. So it may be easier than writing for some people. And there’s software like Grammarly that can automate some of the work.

        Reply

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