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Finding clients as a freelance writer is one of the most difficult parts of the job. It’s one thing to be a great writer, to study your craft, to learn how to do your job in the best way possible and it’s another thing to actually get people to hire you to do what you know you can do. As a freelancer, you have to depend on your own ability to market yourself to get jobs. At least until the point in which your word-of-mouth advertising and regular clients fill the budget, you’re going to have to hustle a bit.
Finding private clients is really only part of the picture. You will need to set yourself up to be hired before you just start pitching people. Far too often, freelance writers get excited about getting jobs and they just run out there and start applying and pitching.
1. Define Your Niche
Being a freelance writer can involve many different things. Do you write fiction or nonfiction? Do you write magazine articles or web content? The type of writing you do will be very important to how you find the clients you seek. When you want quality clients, willing to pay you good rates and respect you as a professional, you need to expect to put a little work into it.
Sometimes new writers make the very big mistake of accepting anything and everything in order to get paying gigs. This can cause you to earn less, get burned out, and also have a difficult time standing out in any way among the sea of writers also offering the same services.
This is why it is so important to define your niche. Start with a few specific areas that you excel in. Determine what you are best with and stick to it. If you want to change or branch out later, that’s always an option, but in the beginning, don’t try to be a Jack of All Trades.
Narrow down what you do and then advertise yourself for those specific types of writing. You’re not limiting yourself on clients, despite how it might seem. You’re actually giving yourself the opportunity to find more clients that are exactly what you need.
No one ever made it big as a freelance writer by sitting back and hoping work would come to them. Sure, you might get lucky now and then but it won’t be dependable. So let’s take a look at your options.
2. Your Own Website
One of the best places for you to find your own private clients is always going to be your own website. It’s fairly easy and inexpensive these days to set up a site. We recommend you use a self-hosted site with your own domain. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get it going.
There are different content management systems you can use but WordPress is a popular option, for good reason. There are many themes to choose from (paid and free), they can be customized or you can hire a designer to create a custom theme for you, there are many awesome plugins that do everything you need and want like allow social sharing, track metrics and stats, help you with SEO, and more, and it’s easy to create your own pages and posts in their WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor.
If you’ve ever used a free WordPress blog, it’s the same thing but with your own domain and hosting. On this website you can share what you do, samples of your work, testimonials from happy clients, education or courses you have taken, and anything else that would help potential clients get to know you and your writing. This is your own little piece of the web and when you write posts for your blog, you’re also giving examples of the kind of work you can provide to clients.
3. Job Boards
When we talk about job boards, we mean sites like Elance (now merged into ODesk), Freelancer, Guru, and even Craigslist. While you can find jobs on job boards, there are some things to know first. While they can be helpful for a new writer still trying to get jobs and experience, there are also downsides. They often turn into a bidding war, or a money fight against people from other countries where they can live for pennies on our dollar. You may have trouble charging a proper rate on the job boards.
This is not to say you shouldn’t use them at all. You can often find gems of clients hiding in there and you can definitely build up a portfolio this way. Just be sure you are not tempted or pressured into accepting less than your worth simply because you want to “win” a project.
When you take the low pay work, you’ll start a cycle of low pay work that is difficult to break and you’ll find yourself burned out and also unhappy in time. You will also see that it’s common for clients who pay little for your work to not have a lot of respect for you as a professional, either. That said, job boards can give you the opportunity to connect with people who are looking to hire someone who provides your services. They can act as the “go between” until you start pulling in enough jobs on your own without that.
You can also link to your own website while applying for jobs on job boards. This is actually a good way to ensure you have a solid chance at the job and you can charge the rates you desire. When you can show that you are established, it gives you a bit higher weight than writers who are just names on the Internet on a job board.
4. Social Media
There are different ways to find private clients via social media. You can set up social media accounts for your personal brand or writing company and market directly. You can also link your Facebook page to your personal profile and people who are friends with you will see this linked in your Facebook bio. You can run ads (paid) and free promotions. You can market your books, link your articles, or connect with other writers via social media.
Networking is always a great tool to help toward getting jobs. Even if they don’t pan out right now, you might connect with someone who helps you get a writing job in the future. Don’t always chase the quick results.
If you are seeking private clients via social media, the one thing you should never, ever do is spam people. Don’t send unsolicited messages to people or post on their wall advertising what you do. Instead, spend time building relationships and getting to know people so they can learn about what you do.
Now that you know more about how to find private clients as a freelance writer, you can get out there and get to work. Don’t be discouraged if it seems slow at first. The more clients you get and keep happy, the more you will have. This is the kind of business that builds on itself.