Written By PollyAnna Brown

How to Find Freelance Writing Clients that Actually Pay

When you think of finding freelancing clients, what happens to you?

If you’re anything like I was at the beginning, your chest clenches, it’s difficult to breathe, and the cold sweats take over, while you attempt to Google freelancing gigs.

The cool thing is, freelancing gigs are easier to get than you think, and it comes from one major mindset shift.

Stop thinking about yourself as a freelancer, and start thinking of yourself as a business owner.

The Mindset Shift

Thinking of yourself as a freelancer can often make you feel as though you’re on a constant search for business. The word has this nomad quality to it, and can make freelancers feel unfocused, often searching for ANY job that will pay them.

I highly encourage you against this line of thinking (which I know can be difficult when money is tight). It’s harder to negotiate profitable rates and stand out against your competition when the drive for cash is the main factor in reaching out for gigs because the ball isn’t in your court. In this situation, the potential client holds all of the cards, and you’re fishing for scraps. This will consistently leave you underpaid, overworked, and passed over for other people who may not actually be better writers, but who have more confidence. 

By thinking of yourself as a business owner, you take back home court advantage. You understand that you offer a service that is beneficial to others, and they would be lucky to work with you. It’s also easier to hone in on the types of businesses, magazines, or other gigs you want to work with or take on. 

Setting Yourself Up To Attract Clients

The first thing you need to do as a business owner is figure out what you want to specialize in.  The jack-of-all-trades doesn’t necessarily make more money or attract more clients. It often confuses the client because they’re looking for someone who specializes in what they’re looking to hire for. That does not mean your specialty is the only thing that you do. You can upsell clients on the backend, once they see the value of your services, and you can also take on other projects that are outside of your specialization. Your specialization simply positions you and gives potential clients clarity around who you are and how you can support them.

Take a company that is looking for a copywriter who specializes in sales, for example. If in your pitch or sales conversation you let the company know that you can do content writing, email marketing, ads writing, website copy, and sales copy, you’re actually communicating that you’re a generalist and not an expert. What works far better to help you land a gig is giving specific results in your area of expertise.

Being able to say things like, “Previous clients have seen a 25% increase in their open and click-through rates since we took over their email marketing,” or, “Our sales pages saw a 75% conversion increase compared to the performance of our clients’ previous sales pages,” gives the potential client insight into the mastery of your work. 

If you haven’t been tracking your results, start today. Make sure you figure out the process you need to follow to get baseline statistics when you bring on a new client, and how to evaluate the statistics as you work together over time. If you don’t have any previous clients, that’s okay too. Start tracking your results from your first client. 

Here’s an example of how this works. I had a client come to me for publicity and marketing support. After working with me on their publicity and marketing plan, they asked about support with their email marketing campaigns. I let them know that was something that we could do together, and we signed an additional contract and retainer for the additional work. 

I did not tell them in the sales conversation that I could do their publicity and marketing, write their copy, handle their content, write their emails, and write their ads. That would’ve been overwhelming for them. I focused on what they needed, which is what I was known to specialize in and what they came to me for, and then upsold them on the back end as they brought up other things that they needed help with. They present the need, then you make the offer.

The second thing for you to do as a business owner is to create content that is specific to your audience and specialty on your social media profiles, website (if you have one), and in media outlets you either have existing bylines in or are willing to pitch and become a contributor for. This will help you become sought out for the work that you do, while building a solid platform for companies to look at. That way, when you’re pitching companies to work with, they can see that you actually know what you’re talking about and that you can genuinely help them. 

Researching & Reaching Out

Building up your platform will help draw clients to you, which will reduce your need to cold pitch (unless you want to). If you do want to pitch companies directly, there is a process to researching and reaching out to potential clients to make sure you’re looking in the right places. You don’t want to blanket pitch every company you see. You want your pitches to be specific to the companies you want to work with.

Here are the things you want to consider before reaching out to companies. 

  • Do you want to focus on service or product based companies?

  • Do you want an ongoing retainer or a one time project contract?

  • How much do you want to be paid for your work?

  • How many clients can you bring on?

  • What kinds of companies or organizations get you excited?

  • What companies are best suited for your skill set?

Once you’ve got the answers to these questions, then you can start looking up companies. One of the best ways I’ve done this is to go to Indeed.com, Glassdoor, or other job posting sites, and conduct a search for your area of expertise. (This a technique that I learned from two different mentors at two different points in my writing career: Jenny Beres (pitching queen and godfather of publicity) and Kimanzi Constable (king of consulting).)

For example, if you wanted to write content marketing for a company, go to a job search site and type in “content writer”. See what comes up. Check out the listing that came up for me: 

Then scroll the listing to see what kind of benefits the company is offering for this position:

Now, you know that this company has a need for your services, they’re actively looking for support, and you know that they’re budgeting for benefits (which is a significant expense for a company). You can also look up the company information to see how much revenue they report per year, if they’re publicly or privately owned, what matters to them, what their latest achievements have been, and who their leadership is. 

All of that information arms you with the ability to create a solid pitch to reach out with. You can position yourself by letting them know some of the benefits they’ll receive from hiring a freelancer or third party writer instead of hiring a full team member (e.g. less expenses, finishing projects sooner, etc). Take the time to understand what sets you apart and tell them.

The key here is to make sure you’ve done your homework and show the company that you know them in your pitch. The goal is not to close the sale on email one. It’s to get to the next conversation. If you try to send out a blanket pitch to all of the companies you’re interested in, you’re not likely to get very far. Take the time to be specific and intentional.

Red Flags & Home Runs

When in sales conversations with potential clients, these are some of the things that you want to be careful of: 

  • Clients who want to barter services or talk down your prices. This can keep you in a lack mentality, which can lead to undercharging.

  • Clients who are looking for a way out before they’ve even begun. If someone is asking you about how to end working with you before you’ve begun, run in the other direction.

  • Clients who have a $100,000 problem and are looking for a $100 solution.

  • Clients who refuse to sign contracts.

  • Clients who are continually late to sales conversations.

Here are some signs you’ve got a great potential client: 

  • They’re respectful of your rates and are excited to work with you.

  • They speak about working together long term if all goes well.

  • They show up on time (or they take responsibility for being late).

  • They jive with your personality. The relationship doesn’t feel forced.

  • They ask you what’s next or how they can move forward with you.

Here’s another major secret to earning more money and signing great clients: be the client you desire to work with. If you routinely have sales conversations where you’re thinking of hiring someone, do not ghost them if you don’t want to move forward. Have respectful conversations. Show up on time, and (above all else) pay on time as agreed. These practices can help you significantly when working with clients of your own.

Action Steps

To wrap it up, here are your action steps: 

  1. Choose a specialty

  2. Do a job search for that specialty

  3. Select the 10 companies you most want to work with

  4. Do research on that company

  5. Set your rates

  6. Send the initial pitch to all 10 companies you selected

Take this information and go slay your pitches. 

PollyAnna Brown uses her 10+ years experience in entertainment, communication, and personal development to help business owners and entrepreneurs grow their audience, impact, and income. She is the founder of Storytelling Marketing® and co-owns a Business Growth & Publicity firm where she specializes in profitable publicity™. PollyAnna’s on a mission to help entrepreneurs and business owners leverage their time, make more sales, and create a positive impact using publicity and storytelling. Her work has been seen in Thrive Global, Kindred Spirit Magazine, Wake Up World News, and more. To connect with PollyAnna, check out her LinkedIn here:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/pollyannawrites/

Your Comments:

  1. Catherine Swormstedt says:

    What a helpful article! This is straight-forward advice that is easy for any writer to follow. I am a long-time freelancer and have rarely seen an approach to acquiring clients that is any better than this.

    • Jacob Jans says:

      Catherine – I felt the same way when I first read this. When I got the article from PollyAnna, I was super-excited to publish it.

  2. Morgan says:

    Truly very helpful! I hadn’t considered going this route to find clients but this is definitely something I’ll have to try. Very straight forward and helpful. Thank you!

  3. Obed.B. Mugisha says:

    This is the kind of advice I needed right now. It is true I am comfortable writing about any form of content but I just realized recently that I was not anywhere even after 3 years of writing. After reading this , I choose to settle for my thing SEO content . I want to focus on being the best at this .
    Thank you so much for these great insights.

  4. Donna W. Hill says:

    Thanks for such a clear, informative and interesting article. I haven’t done any freelancing yet (except for the truly free kind), but I’m thinking about it. I used to do presentations about blindness, inclusion, diversity and so on. I wrote for online mags and did a lot of volunteer PR. Then, I wrote a novel, which got a lot of good recommendations from educators, but I’m getting too old to enjoy the travel. Thanks again.

  5. Barbara says:

    jibe, not jive

  6. Christopher Afwande says:

    Am gifted Writer, had been aspiring to write and earn but haven’t find it easier. So passionate about writing. Help me start

  7. Shiva KumarSharma says:

    i have read the article, very much interested to write. Is it open for the freelance writer of the world or not? do help me to start.

  8. Kate Weaver says:

    Thank you for your insight! I’ve been doing a large amount of research on freelance work and what is necessary to be successful in that field. I keep seeing an emphasis on having a good pitch, but would you mind elaborating on that for me? I have no knowledge of how to write a pitch from scratch, and I think starting with that foundation would at least help me get started. Thank you for your time!

  9. Samer Karmo says:

    I would like to thank your great company for the great efforts and the great positive effects on the work life.
    I would like to ask what are the possible opportunity to writers like me , who has no history with published writing. I am Syrian , I have a bachelor of English literature, Aleppo University 2007.
    My native language is Arabic and I can write short stories and novels in both languages.
    Could you support me to pay my writing way to reach the case of full time writing job.
    Thank you in advance for your time and interest.
    Hoping to hear a good news from you soon.

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