Can you find freelance work with staffing agencies?
Definitely. But you need to know what happens behind the scenes when a recruiter is trying to find a writer for their client.
Here’s what usually happens. A staffing agency recruiter posts a contract job for a writer that looks something like this:
“Our client needs a copywriter who’s a natural at writing copy that’s on brand, fun, helpful, and authentic for a major health and beauty company.”
Looks like a good writing gig for a solid client, right? So you fill out a few details online and click send. Hundreds or maybe even thousands of writers do the same thing.
One writer gets the gig, and it’s not you. You never hear back. Sound familiar?
If you want to connect with staffing agencies to find freelance work, there’s something you need to know…that kind of lazy marketing will fail you almost every time.
So what’s the secret to landing freelance work with staffing agencies? We talked to a veteran copywriter and staffing agency recruiter to find out.
Meet creative staffing agency recruiter John Fischer
Long before John Fischer was a staffing agency recruiter, he was a journalist, copywriter and content marketing pro. He’s been on both sides of the fence as a staffer and freelance writer, and worked for some of the largest staffing agencies in the world.
Today he’s a recruiter at Wunderland Group for creatives like freelance copywriters, graphic designers, and content marketing pros. And he regularly connects writers with short-term and long-term contracts for clients.
Want to connect with staffing agencies to land freelance work? Here’s what you need to know.
1. LinkedIn is the Holy Grail of networking for writers
There’s more than one way to find freelance writing clients, but LinkedIn is one of the easiest and fastest ways to grow your network, get referrals, and land assignments.
“Every freelance writer should be on LinkedIn,” says John.” “It’s a powerful tool. Maybe I’ve drank too much LinkedIn Kool-Aid over the years. But if you work the system, you can literally connect to thousands of people who can help you find freelance work. As a recruiter, I basically live on LinkedIn.”
Tip: Interested in a staffing agency gig you saw online? Connect with the recruiter on LinkedIn and start a conversation. If you’re LinkedIn profile needs a little help, check out this resource.
2. A portfolio (even a simple one) raises your writer status
Even if you only have one writing sample, you need a portfolio. It’s one of of the key indicators staffing agencies use to evaluate your skill.
Too busy to create a portfolio? It could cost you big-time.
Here’s an example: One of John’s colleagues is a former magazine editor and publisher with years of experience writing and editing, too. He’s pursuing a freelance work now, but he hasn’t taken the time to create a portfolio.
“It doesn’t seem fair, but he’s kind of dead in the water without a portfolio,” says John. “You need a portfolio. I know it’s not the best way to measure talent, but it’s part of the game if you want staffing agencies to notice you.”
“When you try to stand out among other writers without a portfolio or without sending samples, you’re just not going to be competitive. In a lot of cases, a recruiter won’t even consider you a candidate without one.”
3. Personalized messages jump you to the front of the line
Once you track down a staffing agency recruiter about a contract assignment, there’s a simple way to jump to the front of the line and get noticed.
Take five minutes to learn a few details about the recruiter. LinkedIn is perfect for this. You can find out things like:
- Where they went to college
- How long they’ve been at their current job
- Awards and accomplishments
- Endorsements from people they’ve worked with
- Favorite sports teams, hobbies, or interest groups, or
- Current activity based on LinkedIn posts and updates
Tip: “When you send a recruiter an email or LinkedIn message, mention something like their alma mater or another detail,” says John. “People respond to that. It means a lot that you’d take a little time to personalize your message. Get out of your shell, introduce yourself to recruiters and personalize every message.”
4. Your contact information must be easy to find
In the middle of the popular song “Bad Guy,” by singer Billie Eilish, there’s a hypnotic beat playing while Eilish rides a red go-cart down the street. The she stares directly into the camera and says…Duh!
It seems like common sense that your contact information should be easy to find, but every day staffing agency recruiters run into problems…like the perfect candidate for a contract assignment, only the writer’s contact information is incognito.
Don’t make this mistake, OK?
Tip: “Put your email address and phone number on your LinkedIn page, on your website, in your portfolio,” says John. “There’s nothing worse for a recruiter than finding a great writer for a client, and the writer is hard to contact. Time is of the essence for recruiters. We just won’t call you if your contact information is hard to find, even if you look great on paper.”
5. Every freelancer should know the basics of SEO writing
Contract work for staffing agencies comes in all shapes and sizes:
- There’s short-term project work that might last 3-6 months.
- There’s long-term contract projects where you’ll work on a variety of things.
- And there’s contract-to-hire gigs. But that doesn’t necessarily mean mean you’ll be chained to the 9-5 again (see #7).
Contract and freelance projects may include:
- Request for Proposal (RFP) writing
- Content marketing campaigns
- New product literature and marketing materials
- Long-form sales copy (yes, it still exists)
- Short-form ad copy
- Press releases and PR news
- SEO writing
“There’s a lot of work out there for writers who have the ability to write believable, reader-friendly copy about very dry things,” says John. “…But I think the critical skill every freelancer should learn is SEO writing. More and more companies recognize it’s essential for organic search traffic.”
Tip: Some staffing agencies work with a wide range of clients in different industries. Others focus on serving clients in one specific niche.
For example: Wunderland Group regularly hires creatives for contract work with the heath insurance company Cigna, the diagnostic testing service Quest Diagnostics, and other health and medical-related businesses. But check out staffing agencies in Silicon Valley, and you’ll find more work for tech companies.
6. Picking up the phone is a game-changer
“Maybe it’s old school, but if the name of the game is connecting with people to get more work, pick up the phone,” says John. “It might sound silly, but as a recruiter, that’s the person I’m going to call back 9 times out of 10 and twice on Sunday.”
- But what if you’re a shy freelancer?
- Or you’re worried about sounding stupid?
- Or you’ll forget all the questions you wanted to ask the recruiter?
“Change the way you think about this,” says John. “When you call a recruiter, you’re going to stand out for taking just a few minutes to track them down. Pick up the phone and think, ‘This person might be able to help me.'”
Tip: When staffing agencies get a new contract to find a writer, recruiters usually tap their existing network first…writers they know, writer’s they’ve worked with in the past, writers recommended by people in their network.
7. Staffing agency gigs can be modified for the right freelancer
Curious about connecting with staffing agencies yet to find freelance work?
There’s hundreds of staffing agencies of all types that hire freelance writers. Search the sites for writing jobs, and you’ll uncover a mix of remote and on-site contract writing work.
Maybe you find the perfect writing job in your niche, but it’s hundreds of miles away. Or there’s no way you’re going back to a 9-5. Don’t let that stop you.
- Connect with the recruiter.
- Complete the screening process.
- Submit your portfolio.
- Then pick up the phone, and ask some questions.
“You know, introduce yourself to the recruiter,” says John. “‘I saw this job and sent my portfolio over. Can we talk about it?’ I’ll call that person back every time. You’ve got nothing to lose. If you’re the right fit, we may be able to work something out.”
Check out these staffing agencies that work with freelance writers:
- Artisan Talent
- Creative Circle
- Kelly Services
- Paladin Staffing
- The Creative Group
- 24 Seven
- Vitamin T
- Wunderland Group
Need freelance work? Add staffing agencies to the mix
If you’re ready to level up your marketing efforts to find freelance work, don’t forget about staffing agencies. Connect with recruiters. Let them know what you’re looking for. Ask about remote work or limited office time. And you’ll tap into their network of clients that need writers.
Have you landed freelance work with staffing agencies? Share your tips 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.