A freelance writing career is a fun, flexible and rewarding career for any writer, and it also has the potential to be quite lucrative. It takes a lot of hard work though and is not without its challenges.
The biggest challenge for any aspiring freelance writer is undoubtedly landing that first client. We’re not talking about content mills or the occasional business editing gig, but the client that values your skills as a writer and pays you well to create content you’re passionate about.
It’s sometimes assumed that once you achieve a certain level of skill, you’ll have no problem finding clients. That’s not always the case and even experienced writers can get into dry spells where new client deals are scarce.
There is no one single trick to landing quality clients, but a whole combination of writing skills, networking and taking initiative to consider. Here, we’ll take you through five crucial components of scoring your first freelance writing client.
A freelance proposal is important because it establishes the goals and guidelines of specific task and sets the tone (professionalism and efficiency) for the rest of the project. It acts as a road map, detailing your role, timeline and cost. It’s an easily digestible document for someone who isn’t used to working with freelancers, or a refreshing display of organization for someone who is.
Before you send out a freelance writing proposal, you really have to know yourself and what you’re offering. You should have a solid list of your skills, experience and past work that you’re excited to share going in. From that, you’ll create a stunning proposal to WOW your clients, but not necessarily on the first try.
Quality over quantity is important in this case and a great proposal should be short and sweet, and showcase the goals of the project on no more than two pages (preferably one, if you can fit the necessities).
Don’t get discouraged if it takes you a while to create your first proposal and don’t underestimate the time and effort it takes to really nail it down. Once you’ve created a really amazing proposal, you can use it as a template from here on. It may take some time to begin with but it’ll only benefit you in the long run.
It’s not about you; it’s about them.
Most clients don’t really care what you can do; they care what you can do for them. Writing a freelance writing proposal and related emails is much easier when you’re armed with sufficient research and will maximize your potential of getting the job.
The first thing to do is find out where your potential client hangs out online. Read through the About page on their website, check out a few of their latest blog articles, click through their Twitter, etc. Familiarize yourself as best you can with their online practices.
Reading through their articles and social media accounts will also give you an idea of their writing style – are the posts heavily linked? Are they mostly long form or short form? Are they accompanied by beautiful photos or stock images? Every piece of information you can gather will help you in the long run.
Take it a step further and find your point of contact online, the person you’ll be sending the proposal to. This can be the founder of the company or the editor in chief. Look them up on LinkedIn and Twitter, take note of their bio and the kind of things they post or repost and you’ll be able to tailor your proposal to their unique style.
This is perhaps the most important step in writing an effective freelance writing proposal. After all, if you don’t know what your client needs, how will you offer it to them? It’s likely that every client you approach will have different needs, so you’ll have to figure out what they are before you leverage a proposal.
Being a good listener is a rare commodity in this digital age and will set you apart from the rest. Take the time to engage in active listening and research, to really understand what your client wants and needs from the project. Although you might think that asking questions makes you seem like a novice, it actually shows attentiveness, so don’t be afraid to really dig deep.
Make sure to read the job description thoroughly and carefully, read directions and go above and beyond. Comb the job description for any minute details like “make sure to use the word ‘tacos’,” which many clients include to weed out writers who can’t follow directions.
To really understand your client, try to put yourself in their shoes. What kind of problems might they run into and how can you help fix them?
Relationships are everything when it comes to landing clients. You only get one first impression and in your reach out email, a few hundred words needs to knock their socks off. Showing personality, skills and experience is crucial to standing out from the rest, but it needs to be put together in such a way that you’re providing meaningful value to the client rather than just listing your skills and experience.
Format is also important. How does your client like to digest content? A freelance proposal should be visually striking, and your client will decide whether it is or isn’t in the first 5 seconds of looking at it. You can write it in a Word Doc, the body of an email or use an online proposal software like Proposify or Bidsketch, but it needs to look sharp. If you want to craft your own proposal, pick up Ryan Robinson’s free template right here.
Be personal in the email and show you’ve done your research. Address the recipient by name, reference a recently posted article or tweet and explain why you thought it was important and even include a relevant compliment or observation about the company.
Potential clients are eager to know if you’ve worked on a project similar to the one they’re offering and how you did. Show them examples of any relevant work you’re proud of and explain how it ties into their project and why it’ll help you do a great job. Be personable and address each of their requirements confidently without sounding arrogant.
Following up is crucial for freelance writers to gain new clients, grow your business and make money. However, there is an art to providing value in a follow up email without seeming too pushy and annoying your potential clients is the last thing you want to do. On the other hand, following up shows that you want something badly enough to put in the time and effort to do so.
If you send out a really great proposal and don’t hear anything back, it’s less likely that you’re a terrible writer doomed for failure and more likely that your person of contact is just really busy and hasn’t had the time to get back to you yet.
Jump back on their radar with a polite follow up, something like;
Good Morning (Name),
Last week I sent you a proposal for (project) and just wanted to follow-up to see if it’s something you might be interested in. I’d love to chat about the project more in detail when you’re available.
Let me know if you have any questions.
(Your brilliant new writer)
It shows that you’re interested, flexible and organized.
It’s important to take timing into consideration as well. You don’t want the client to forget about your or the bid to expire before you have the chance to follow up. If you don’t hear anything back, don’t wait too long to send out that second email. A week is a good rule of thumb after sending the initial email.
Scoring freelance writing clients takes a certain amount of finesse. It also takes quite a bit of time and effort, but hopefully in the end it’ll pay off. Freelancing in the digital age is all about relationships, and you should be working just as hard to maintain them as you are on the proposal. Respond to emails in a timely manner, be friendly and personable, and ask if there’s anything else you can do for them. You’ll be appreciated.
A bang on proposal is also pretty crucial, and it’ll probably take you a few tries before you get it exactly right. But once you’ve crafted an awesome proposal, you’ll never go back and you can say hello to new clients that are excited to have you on board, appreciate your work and pay you accordingly.
Want more? Join Ariana Orland in her class, Becoming a Successful Freelancer right here on CreativeLive.