Written By David Masters

What Most Freelancers Won’t Tell You About How They REALLY Get Clients

When I launched my career as a freelance writer over five years ago, I imagined that all successful freelancer writers had a secret.

Why did I imagine this? I was thirsty for work, but could find nowhere to drink. I’d walked to the middle of the desert, looking for an adventure, having been told there were great possibilities over the horizon, and my water bottle had run dry.

There was no oasis in sight.

Successful freelancers, meanwhile – as I understood things – knew exactly where to find the oasis in the desert. They knew a secret location, a well-spring of gigs paying a decent rate. Only they wouldn’t tell me, because the water supply at the oasis is limited. If they shared the location with any Tom, Dick or Harry, the work would quickly run out.

So anyone who had found the oasis was bound to a conspiracy of silence.

What I’ve described is a common problem for freelancer writers who are just starting out, taking their first step into a new career. All around, newbie writers see established pros earning a good living from their writing career. Meanwhile, they can’t find a single client that’s willing to pay.

New writers are left wondering: “What’s the secret of successful freelancers?”

It’s a good question, and we’ll come to an answer in a moment. First, a warning.

The truth is, there’s no risk-free way to be a freelancer, just like there’s no risk-free way to take a hike in the Sahara. Even the most successful freelancers have times when the wonder where next months pay check will come from.

All that said, you can anticipate the dangers. You can go into the desert prepared. You can pack plenty of supplies, and take a map of the terrain with you. You can read the guidebooks of the people who have walked the road before you.

That’s our aim at Freedom With Writing. We’re like a guidebook to the freelance writing pilgrim. We’re here to help you find places to quench your writing thirst, and earn money doing so. We’re here to show you where the common drinking wells are. That way, you can get started right away. What’s more, you’ll have somewhere to go when your throat is parched.

The common well is a special place. I know it’s been a life saver for me in the past, and it was the only place I could find early gigs. But there’s one problem. There’s a lot of competition for the water at the common well. What’s more, if work is openly advertised online, it’s for one of two reasons:

  • The company in question is looking for the best of the best, and has the resources to do so. In this case, it’s worth applying if it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but bear in mind that your chances are slim.
  • It’s work few people actually want. Either because it’s low paid, boring, or highly technical. If it was easy to find a capable writer who wanted the work, they wouldn’t need to advertise online. In this case, you have to ask yourself: do you really want it? Work that’s too easy to find is often a poisoned chalice. Your time and energy are taken away from what you really care about, and the low pay means you’ll struggle to make ends meet.

But when you’re starting out, what else can you do? Is there any way to find more lucrative work?


The full answer to this question brings us back to the secret of successful freelancers.

My assumption when I started out, that somewhere there is a secret location overflowing with well-paid writing gigs, was wrong. Either that, or it’s so damn well hidden that even after a five year writing career, I’ve yet to find it.

However, there is a secret that most freelancer writers have that enables them to find work. The only trouble is, most freelancer writers won’t tell you this secret, because they don’t know it.

Most freelancers won’t tell you how they really get clients, because they don’t really know how they did it. For them, it just happened. Someone in their network approached them with an offer of work, they accepted, and it built up from there.

You’re different. You’re taking a proactive stance to launch a freelance career from scratch. As of yet, no work has fallen into your lap.

So how can you find these hidden streams of work?

The answer is simple, and there are two strands to it.

First, let your friends and family know that you’re in the market for writing work. It takes courage to reach out, but you’ll find most people are happy to help in any way they can. It’s possible that someone in your immediate network will need help with writing tasks, and you might be surprised at who takes up your writing services. But more likely is that you’ll come across a friend-of-a-friend who’s got just the gig for you.

There’s a chance you’ll find nothing, at least not right away. But you’ve let your friends know what you need, and they’ll start looking for it on your behalf. You will have a big group of people, all looking out for opportunities to send your way. And send them they will.

Second, let the wider world know you’re in the market for work. In other words, just start writing. Write and publish your own blog. Reach out to guest post on other blogs. You won’t always get paid for this, but you are doing something far more important than earning a paycheck. You’re building an online footprint. You’re establishing your reputation as a high quality writer. Sooner than you imagine, you’ll find people start emailing you with the message “I’ve read your blog posts, would you be interested in helping me with this?” Opportunities will fall into your lap.

There is no secret place in the desert, or in cyberspace, overflowing with lucrative gigs.

But all freelancers do have a secret. They’ve carved their own well in the desert. They’ve created their own source of drinking water. And that’s far more valuable than being part of a conspiracy.

I only properly discovered this secret when I relaunched my writing business after an 18-month sabbatical. Previously, I’d kept my writing career mostly to myself. I’d scraped by mainly with work I found online. But this time I was starting from scratch, and I needed to earn a good salary. I emailed my friends about my business. Within six weeks, I had more worth than I can handle.

That’s the secret drinking well.

What’s the drinking well called? Word-of-mouth and reputation. Most freelancers won’t tell you this is how they really get clients, because to them, it just feels like clients walk in the door.

Soon enough, it will feel that way to you, too.


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