Written By David Masters

Get Freelance Writing Clients, The Scientific Way

If I told you there was a scientifically proven way to improve your chances of finding clients, would you try it?

I’ve tried it myself. Whenever I’m looking for work, this is the first method I turn to. Soon, you’ll be using it too.

Most freelancer who are starting out in the first tentative steps of their career have one big question: how do I find clients?

More than anything, they’d like a magical solution.

Which of us wouldn’t like a fairy godmother to appear and grant us the wish of an endless stream of ideal clients who give us fulfilling writing projects that fill us with enthusiasm?

When work comes easily, and it’s enjoyable to do, life is good. While you’re working you’re happy, and when you’ve finished for the day, you’re relaxed enough to enjoy the company of friends and family. That’s the good life.

You don’t need a fairy godmother to make that possible. You’ve got what you need, right now, without a magic wand.

Now, I’m not telling you not to believe in magic. You can believe what you like. Many weird, wonderful and surprising things happen in this world. Goodness knows we need writers who believe in them enough to tell those stories. But I am going to show you a technique that’s been scientifically tested. The only magic you need to make it work is the willpower, determination and courage to give it a try.

I can’t promise that it will work for you. But if you’re laying your stakes on this freelance writing game, then this is your safest bet. It’s the bet most likely to pay off. And when it does, you’ll feel like you’ve hit the jackpot.

To find out what this is all about, we need to turn to a guy with three PhD’s. He’s a clever fella, to say the least.

Back in the early 1970s, Mark Granovetter, then a young academic at Johns Hopkins University, became fascinated with how people who were looking for work found jobs.

As you’d expect, he went out to ask people who’d recently changed their jobs how they discovered the job opportunity. His findings were as he’d guessed they would be.

How was he so sure of what he’d discover?

Before conducting his interviews with job changers, Granovetter investigated how rumors spread.

Rumors can go one of two routes. Route one is up dead-end street. Route two is far and wide.

Here’s route one. If you only tell a rumor to your close friends, which Granovetter calls “strong ties”, the rumor is unlikely to spread far. That’s because people linked by strong ties usually share friends, so the rumor stays within your small circle of friendships.

Now for route two. If you tell the rumor to a few acquaintances, it is likely to spread much further. That’s because “weak ties” are better at spreading information. Each acquaintance you share the rumor with will have a different group of friends who will then spread it further.

Let’s dig a little deeper into how this works.

The strength of your tie with a person is intensified based on how long you’ve known them, the emotional depth of the relationship, how much you confide in the person, and how much you help each other out.

In Granovetter’s own words:

“Whatever is to be diffused can reach a larger number of people and traverse greater social distance when passed through weak ties rather than strong.”

In other words, you are more likely to find new or unexpected information from people you don’t know very well rather than your close friends.

Do you see where this is going yet? Let’s see what happened when Granovetter investigated how people find jobs.

For his research, Granovetter took his clipboard and notepaper and headed to a Boston suburb. Here, he looked for people who’d recently found a new job. He focused on those who had found a job through a contact, rather than an advert.

Of those he interviewed, he found that 17% got jobs from contacts they saw often. 55% found jobs through people they saw occasionally (at least once a year), and 28% found jobs through contacts they saw rarely (less frequently than once per year).

Some of Granovetter’s interviewees even found jobs through chance meetings with people they’d forgotten they even knew.

But it doesn’t stop there. Of the contacts who shared work opportunities with those seeking work, only 40% of them knew about the opportunity from someone they already knew. The other 60% had heard about the opportunity on the grapevine.

Weak ties are how information is spread. That’s what the science says anyway.

What does this mean for freelance writers?

This starts to get really interesting when you compare Granovetter’s findings with the size of the hidden jobs market. According to some estimates, up to 70% of jobs are never advertised. They’re filled by information spreading on the grapevine.

Here’s what that means for freelance writers.

When you’re trawling through job adverts looking for clients, you’re missing out on most of the work that’s out there.

The bulk of the work is hidden. You can only find it by getting your ear onto the grapevine.

How do you get started doing this?

The good news is, forming weak ties is easier than it’s ever been. Granovetter conducted his research back in the 1970s, when forging weak ties meant getting out into the world and talking to people. The age of the internet puts the world at your fingertips. You can make contact with anyone you want to from the comfort of your home office.

Twitter is especially powerful for this. You can follow pretty much anyone, anywhere in the world, in all kinds of industries. Whatever you want to write about, you can connect with people potentially looking for your words.

Google Plus is also an effective tool. Few people use Google Plus regularly. But those that do are dedicated users, looking to meet new people who share similar interests. Search Google Plus Cotfmmunities to find groups of people in your writing niche. You’ll quickly find people who share your passion and want to talk about your interests. Not all of them will become clients. Chances are, only a tiny percentage will express any interest in your work. But you’re there for the ones that do.

On top of social networking, don’t be afraid to ask around. Let your friends and family know you’re in the business of writing, and ask them to tell their friends too. The more people who know about what you’re doing, the easier it will be to find work.

In my experience as a writer, I’ve found work through real-world connections and through people I’ve never met on social media. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can never guess where your next gig will come from. That’s because your weak ties give you access to information and opportunities you can’t see or even imagine right now.

Don’t get discouraged at the first hurdle. If you only tell two or three people, then you’re unlikely to be successful. The key to this strategy is in weak ties, which are effective because you have a lot of them. Even when the going gets tough, and you’re not sure who to reach out to next, persist. There’s someone out there who needs your skills and expertise.

Let me conclude by telling you a short story. When I relaunched my freelance writing career at the end of 2011, I reached out to everyone and anyone I could think of. I tapped old work collegues, family friends, my godparents, anyone I could think of. Where did my first big break come from? Through a blogger I hardly knew, whose blog I had been following since 2008. He hooked me up with someone he knew who needed extra help with their writing.

You never know what’s just around the corner.


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