Quick! Name your biggest freelancing challenge. For most of you, we’d wager it’s “finding enough work.” In fact, nearly 70 percent of the respondents to the 2017 State of Freelance Writing survey cited that as their No. 1 issue. While the good news is that work is out there, sometimes you just have to be extra resourceful to find it.
We reached out to some successful freelancers to find these six proven ways to find more freelance work. Some might look familiar; some might be fresh. Why not try a new tactic today?
1. Get more work from your current clients.
Without a doubt this is the best way to up your freelance game. Your clients already know you and presumably like you and your work. The best way to get new assignments from trusted clients is to knock their socks off. Every. Single. Time.
We bet you’ve got these basics covered, but we’ll go over them quick, just so you can check you’re meeting every last one.
- Turn in great work. Well, duh, right? But we’re talking really great work…above and beyond. That means if you’re a writer, write to the desired word count–way over can be as troublesome to an editor as way under. Or if you’re a designer, double-check their preferred font. And for any type of freelance work, make sure you’re always turning in your best work if you want to get more of it.
- Be responsive. When a client reaches out with a potential assignment, respond right away. If you’ve accepted an assignment that has a long lead time, check in every now and then so they don’t worry that you’ve gone dark. (And, of course, don’t go dark.) If for some reason you have an unavoidable issue that will cause you to miss a deadline, give them as much notice as possible so they can figure out their next steps.
- Deliver on time. Remember your client has deadlines of their own and likely answers to a boss of their own. Make them look good.
While these elements seem obvious, turns out they are in shorter supply than you would think. Consider an email I recently received from a client that said, “It’s rare to find a writer as reliable as you, which is odd considering how many people want to be freelancers.” Master the basics and the rest will follow.
2. Send snail mail.
When everyone else zigs, you should zag, and real, physical mail is a great example as something that will stand out in a sea of emails. A 2016 survey by InfoTrend (PDF) found that 66 percent of direct mail is opened, and 82 percent of direct mail is read for at least a minute.
“Having a direct response background, it made sense for me to put together a snail mail campaign to attract new clients,” says copywriter Amy Posner. She created a sweet campaign that included a chocolate bar custom-labeled with a marketing message and her picture, accompanied by a short letter that summarized her services and offered a free report.
Then she mailed them in large, hand-addressed padded envelopes, “classic lumpy mail,” she says. Really, who wouldn’t open that? Well, it was enticing for sure: She sent out about 40 packages over the course of a couple of months, landed three clients and generated more than $50,000 in revenue.
3. Focus on a niche.
When people think of niches, they often think of the basics like “tech,” or “consumer,” but interesting–and lucrative!–niches are all around. Freelance writer Lori Ferguson had worked for several academic institutions so colleges and universities were the first places she looked for opportunities when she turned to writing full-time.
“I’m familiar with the educational environment–its landscape and vernacular–and have a large network within that community, so it’s a natural fit for me,” she says. Today, Ferguson works almost exclusively in the education niche, writing profiles and features for alumni magazines across the country.
4. Find work through freelance marketplaces.
You have to be selective, since some of these sites are looking for the lowest bid, but there are good gigs to be found on sites like Upwork and Contently. Writer Danielle Antosz has logged more than 500 hours with Upwork and says that the trick is to use search filters to sort by price and take the time to dig through the jobs to find the gems. “For someone just getting started, the chance to practice pitches and get a foot in the door is priceless,” she notes. In addition, the payment terms help protect both sides.
Another site you might want to check out is LinkedIn ProFinder. Sign up at their marketplace, fill out your profile and you’ll be “open for business.” You’ll get emails when a potential client is looking for the service you offer and then you have the chance to submit a proposal. You have to include a project fee, which can be tricky since you’re bidding against others, but if you’re the perfect fit, professional rates can be found.
Writer Kim Hildenbrand is particularly fascinated by the wide variety of requests for bids –everything from a major corporation needing a blogger to a guy in Eastern Washington wanting a ghostwriter to pen his life story. She recommends being choosy and only going after jobs where you’re a good fit instead of sending proposals for every lead that’s emailed to you. That’s how she found one of her current favorite clients–as a pet lover, she was delighted to respond to a pet food company looking for a writer, and it’s been doggone great ever since.
5. Create and send videos.
Video might have killed the radio star, but it sure helped Lianna Patch nab some new clients. “I’ve started filming raw, unedited 45-second-ish videos at my desk and embedding them in my proposal cover letters,” she says. Nothing fancy…she’ll greet the prospect, mention how genuinely nice it was to hear more about the project, and then tell them what they’ll find inside the proposal.
“I find this slows prospects down and encourages them to go through the proposal in detail,” she says, noting a common freelancer frustration that clients tend to ignore the good stuff and skip straight to the fee section. Also, since the recipient has already hopped on a discovery video call with Patch, it reminds them who she is and that her winning personality would make the project fun, as well as successful.
Wistia’s Soapbox is a quick (and free) way to get started with this tactic.
6. Look around!
Designer Brandy Hurley is proof you don’t have to attend some formal “networking event” to find work. Mom to three kids, she’s built her business largely by being active in the community. Just let conversations come naturally, she advises, whether at your son’s lacrosse game, in the classroom or at a neighborhood gathering.
“I enjoy interacting with people and inevitably the topic will surface about what we do. I am amazed at how often someone will say they have a graphic design or web design need or know someone who does,” she says. Your next best client could be around the corner, literally.