Do you know how to get steady, high-paying clients as a freelance writer?
If that voice inside your head is telling you, “No,” it’s OK.
When I was just starting out as a freelance writer, I didn’t know much about how to find clients or understand why marketing matters so much.
A lot of freelance writers turn to job boards, content mills, and bid sites (that typically pay low rates), thinking it’s a productive way to move up and earn more. But it’s not. There’s a better way.
Instead of waiting around for clients to find me or settling for low-paying work, I created a marketing machine that helped me land contracts with steady, high-paying clients.
I’ve never experienced the famine that so many freelance writers face. And I’ve never used a freelance job site or worked for a content mill.
Want to build your own marketing machine to be a six-figure freelance writer? It’s not that complicated. Here’s how I did it:
Choose a niche with opportunity
If you’re thinking you’re going to hit six figures writing for solopreneurs like yoga instructors, plumbers, or someone who teaches knitting classes, you need to rethink your plan.
These type of clients typically don’t have a big marketing budget or understand the value of copywriting, blogging, and marketing.
Instead, flip the switch on focusing on soloprenuers. Take a closer look at the industries they’re part of.
You’ll discover businesses, manufacturers, and distributors in fitness, plumbing supplies, and textiles, that have lots of opportunity. There are many lucrative niches you can be successful in as a freelance writer.
The niche I decided to focus on when I started out: medicine and healthcare.
Make a list of your dream clients
One you get familiar with your niche, you should know who they key players, influencers, and leading companies in the industry are.
Make a list of prospects in your niche you want to work with. Focus on businesses and other large organizations. They’re most likely to pay you what you’re worth and have a steady need for freelancers.
Here’s where to find these type of clients:
- Online membership directories of professional associations are the easiest way to find great prospects.
- Leading company lists like Forbes Most Innovative Companies
- Industry-based online directories or lists, like U.S. News & World Reports’ lists of best hospitals.
- Other sources include membership directories, LinkedIn, and even keyword searches like “top healthcare companies,” can help you find prospects.
How big of a list do you need to get started?
You need a list of ONE prospect to get started. That’s it.
But the size of your list depends on how much freelance work you need. If you develop a list of about 200 prospects you should get at least a few new clients when you fire up your marketing machine. My original list had about 250 prospects.
Improve your freelance writer profile
You’ll want to reach out to the editors and marketing directors on your dream client list. But before you do that, take a little time to improve your freelance writer profile.
When you introduce yourself for the first time, you want to be positioned as an expert writer in your niche. Here are some things you can do:
- Develop a LinkedIn profile and/or website that focus on the needs of your clients and how you can help them meet their needs. Other marketing tools (e.g., logo and a tagline) should also highlight how you help clients.
- Position yourself as the solution to your clients wants and needs. General client needs include making money, getting more business, and staying on budget and on deadline. Also look for industry-specific needs.
For example, my LinkedIn profile headline looks like this:
This headline highlights two ways that I help clients:
- Engaging their audiences so they can make money, get more business, etc.
- Meeting their deadlines.
Fire up your email marketing machine
Know your niche. Build a list of potential clients. And improve your online profile as a freelance writer. Take care of those prerequisites, and you’re ready to fire up your email marketing machine.
It’s one of the most powerful lead generation tactics you can use to go from zero to six figures as a freelance writer.
Reach out with a letter of introduction
Reach out to each client with a customized direct email that focuses on the client’s needs and how you meet those needs. Use some language and/or values from the client’s website. Your letter of introduction should include:
- A compelling, client-focused subject line with the organization’s name
- A greeting that includes the contact person’s name
- A sentence showing that you understand the organization’s needs
- One or two sentences about your relevant experience and how you can meet the client’s needs
- A link to your website (or your LinkedIn profile if you don’t have a website yet)
- A call to action that says what will happen next (e.g., “Should we schedule a call next week to discuss this?”).
If you’re targeting similar clients, develop a template and then just change some of the language for each prospect. For example, hospitals are one of my target markets. They need to get more business by attracting more patients. (If you need help writing a letter of introduction, check out this resource.)
My generic subject line is: “How ABC Hospital Can Attract More Patients with Targeted Medical Content.” In the body of the email I include a little language from the client’s website. Here’s an example:
How to find email addresses & when to follow up
Finding the right email address can be difficult. Here’s a trick that usually works. Find the organization’s email address format in its Newsroom, and then apply that to your contact person’s name. If you don’t get a response, follow up politely about a week later. Most positive responses come from the follow-up emails.
When I started out back in 1997, I used direct mail (flyers and postcards) because no one was using email for marketing yet. I’ve tried direct mail more recently and direct email works better for me now.
Master the art of the follow-up
Clients rarely need a freelancer when we first reach out to them. Follow up regularly with clients who express interest in your services but haven’t hired you yet—so they think of you first when they need freelance help.
About 50 percent of my interested prospects hired me within a year or so of receiving my direct email, probably because I keep in touch with them regularly. Ways to follow up include:
- Sharing links to relevant resources (blog posts, podcasts, etc.)
- Commenting on news about the organization or the contact person
- Holiday cards
- Once or twice a year, as part of your overall follow-up, email to ask about freelance work.
Marketing for success as a freelance writer
Most of my biggest clients have come from direct email and none of these clients have ever questioned my fees (currently $100 an hour). You too can get steady, high-paying clients if you’re willing to put in the work. Go fire up your marketing machine.