Published by Yuwanda Black, Site Editor
This morning, I woke up to the following email, which came in over the weekend.
Hope this finds you very well. Sorry to bother you again, but I’m nearly desperate.
I’m about to be laid off a construction job–AGAIN. And the problem is I’m having a heck of a time drumming up writing work. It was really tough even when I was marketing heavily.
I’m re-reading your SEO writing book now and then plan to make another try. All I’ve got going currently is a small editing job. So . . . do you have any suggestions or do you need a writer for your own business or do you know of anyone else in need of a writer? Any and all suggestions will be appreciated.
All the best
That was the inspiration for this post. Before I answer, a couple of things.
I’m not looking to hire any writers. On the rare occasions when I do need someone, I have a few people I turn to consistently because I know their work and don’t have to vet them.
I do use writers for my personal projects, but I look for them in places unaffiliated with my businesses. It’s just a personal preference so as not to blur any lines.
I applaud the fact that this freelancer reached out to me for the possibility of work. One of the easiest ways to land a gig or two quickly is to “work your network.” So always start there first. Hopefully, he’s taken this further and reached out to past clients, other freelancers – and even immediate and extended friends and family.
You’d be amazed by how many people don’t know what you do (yes, even friends and family), and who may be able to use your services and/or recommend you to someone who can.
Editorial tends to be cyclical and we’re right smack dab in the middle of the slow season right now. This makes it a great time to do a lot of backend work like writing samples for new niches you want to target, updating/getting a website, adding/deleting services, putting together a master marketing list, etc.
Just because it’s slow though does not mean you should stop marketing. Keep at it, and I practically guarantee (if your pricing is right and your samples are good) that you’ll get work.
With the above being said, following are the six ways I’d go about finding some work if I was “nearly desperate,” as this freelancer described his situation. Believe me, I can relate. I’ve been there more than a few times in my freelance career.
I list this first because those who swear by it swear by it loudly.
If the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, you can’t get any straighter than this. One freelancer who does this religiously recently commented about her success cold-calling content marketing agencies. She wrote:
Since I started calling in earnest on January 25  — I’ve called a total of 89 agencies and have received — are you ready? — EIGHT new clients all wanting steady work (one-four posts/landing pages, ebook a month), a return of about 9 percent. Phenomenal! And that doesn’t count the “we want to use you soon; call us in two weeks” prospects.
I don’t call every day. My goal is to call at least two days a week, at least, for about an hour a day (which comes to about 4-5 prospects). … Once again, if you want lots of clients quickly, pick up the phone and call agencies. I find them VERY easy to work with.
Years ago, I used cold calling for a bit. It’s not nearly as scary as you might think once you get a few calls under your belt. And, respondents tend to be polite and professional – even when they turn you down.
My script was simple. It basically went something like …
Hi [name of person who answered phone if they gave one]:
My name is Yuwanda Black and an online copywriter. I help companies generate more sales and leads from their blogs and websites. Who can I speak with about sending some writing samples? And oh yeah, I can start right away; just wanted to make that clear.
Nine times out of ten, you’ll either get a name or some type of contact info (eg, email) to send samples. Do this immediately. Then, follow up in a few days if you haven’t heard anything.
It really is that simple. FYI, here’s some insight into how to make cold calling less scary.
I wrote about this over on SeoWritingJobs.com, this blog’s complementary blog, last fall. It was about targeting internet marketers for freelance writing work. They always have to “feed the information beast,” so to speak; hence, they’re always looking for content for some project or other, eg, their newsletters, email campaigns (auto responders), websites/blogs, landing pages, ebooks to sell and/or use as lead generators, etc.
In fact, just a week or so ago I hired a freelancer who advertised on WarriorForum to ghostwrite an ebook for me for a pet project I’m working on. So check it out. If you decide to market your services there, study some of those who are already there if you don’t know what to say.
If you’re a regular reader, you know that back in March I went on a marketing blitz. One of the sites I used a lot was Indeed.com because it’s kind of like job aggregator. It lists jobs from many different sites in one place, so you don’t have to track down leads on a slew of job boards.
Most of the jobs you’ll find on sites like ProBlogger, MediaBistro, FreelanceWritingGigs, etc., are listed on Indeed. And the application process is pretty straightforward, allowing you to apply for a lot of jobs quickly. Some days, I applied for as many as 30 or 40 gigs.
If you use this method, be sure to:
(i) Have a resume/professional profile in Word that you can readily upload.
(ii) Have a form letter that you can customize. In it you want to list things like your niche (if you have one) and type of copy you provide (eg, sales letters, online content, newsletter content, case studies, etc.);
(iii) Rate (if you want). Some freelancers list this; others don’t;
(iv) State when you’re available (immediately is always best);
(v) Link to your website and writing samples; and
(vi) Contact info: List all the ways you can be contacted.
FYI, here’s a list of some of the best job boards for freelance writers. Note: Some are pay-to-view (ie, you have to subscribe to the service). I’ve never done this, but if you feel it would be worth it, feel free. Just do your research and make sure it’s a reputable outlet before plunking down any cash.
This is one of the easiest ways to land freelance writing jobs as a freelance copywriter, as this post highlights, eg:
Chambers of commerce are great ways to meet clients. I’m not a member but I only paid $10 to attend, and walked away with 10 potential new clients.
Here are two posts that contain in-depth info on how to land freelance writing jobs via Chambers of Commerce.
Joining a Chamber is one of the best things you can do for your career as a freelance writer because you get to know the business leaders in your area – and many of them know next to nothing about marketing online – which makes them such an easy target for services like online writing and social media account management.
Facebook and Twitter are useless for finding freelance writing jobs — in my opinion. But LinkedIn – now there’s a social media site that can be very useful for writing gigs — if you know how to use it right.
According to a post on Make a Living Writing about using LinkedIn to find writing gigs, this is the kind of response you can expect when you send a LinkedIn InMail. Proof?
It appears that sending a paid-level InMail on LI has a response rate of 30 percent and up. In fact, InMail does so well that LI now guarantees you’ll get a response — or they give you another InMail message to send free. Sort of a no-lose proposition. Apparently there’s a real novelty factor at this point in time to sending these, so people often will get back to you. Target your dream prospective clients, write your pitch, and then fire away on LI.
Note: You have to be a premium member to send InMail to members who are not among your “first connections.”
Here’s a post that list some great info – including criteria to look for (copy/pasted below) – when sourcing companies on LinkedIn.
- The company has a marketing department, which indicates some sophistication in their marketing strategy (plus a marketing budget). Specifically, they have someone on staff whose title is marketing director, brand manager, content manager, or any variations of that.
- Their marketing people interact in content-related groups (content marketing, copywriting, inbound marketing, and so on). They might also post or tweet a lot with content-related hashtags.
- Their website shows signs of investment in content: a blog, white papers, downloadable resources or other content assets.
- They’re a digital/marketing/advertising agency. As such, their need for content is great and never-ending.
- They write for, advertise or are featured inChief Content Officer
LinkedIn is all about business – not socializing – and that’s why it’s such a great, go-to source to find work.
I used to eschew sites like Upwork (formerly Elance-oDesk), but they’ve come a long way. I think they offer more quality gigs than they used to, and many freelancers make their entire living just using these types of sites.
One is freelancer Laura Pennington, who guest posts here frequently. In her post, $2k+ in Four Days on Upwork: True Story, she writes:
This is probably my favorite thing about sites like Upwork. When things are a little slow, or when you’re looking to expand your workload into a new type of writing, putting a little elbow grease in your marketing there can pay off tremendously.
I’ve heard this from quite a few freelancers over the years, which has changed my view of the sites. Now, are there still a lot of low-paying gigs on sites like this? For sure. But, as Laura explains in her post, if you know who and how to reach out to companies, you can avoid these gigs and hone in on the ones that pay well.
Email marketing … as you know if you stop by here often, I’m a great believer in email marketing. It’s how I get almost all of my clients. It’s easy to do, and it’s free.
When I first started doing online/SEO writing in 2007, the response rates were higher because this type of writing was still so new and marketing outlets like social media weren’t nearly as popular as they are now. But, it’s still effective, as my results show from the recent marketing blitz I went on.
Another freelancer shared her success with email marketing in the comments section of this post, writing:
I just started marketing again after not doing any for several months. No, I’m not in desperate need of work – I have plenty of clients. What I’m marketing for is higher-paying work.
I’ve set a goal of not looking for jobs below $50 per 500 words. So, far I’ve sent out about 10 or so proposals or emails and I found one client who pays $70 per 500 words.
So email – though old school – still works really well.
FYI, in the SEO writing ebook, I list some of the effective emails I’ve used for prospecting.
I know this is a lot of information to digest. If I were you, I’d spend one to three days on each tactic before moving on to the next one. Why?
It gives you a chance to get comfortable with what each one calls for and get all of your marketing materials for it in place (eg, calling scripts, resume/professional profile, writing samples, learning to maneuver the dashboards, etc.).
Then, when you come back to a particular marketing method, you’ll be all set to go.
One thing this freelancer said kind of stuck out to me. He wrote that he was trying to drum up work and that it was really tough even when he was marketing heavily.
Was … past tense.
If you’re going to be serious about making a living as a freelance writer, it can’t be a “stop-and-go” career; ie, put it on the back burner when you have something else going on, then pick it up again when you don’t. If you operate this way, you’ll forever be starting over, which can be frustrating.
So even if you work a full-time job, be sure to keep marketing for gigs if you want to someday transition to freelancing full-time. Sure, you’ll most likely be exhausted, but you’ll be pulling in extra cash and you’ll be able to make the transition that much sooner.
By the way, here’s one of the best posts I’ve ever read on how to start a freelance career while working full-time.
With any kind of marketing you do, you have to remain consistent. Don’t quit after a week, or month or two and think, “Well, this doesn’t work.”
I’ve said this before in other posts, but sometimes, I’ve had clients contact me years later. They save my marketing email (I know because when they contact me it’s usually in response to the initial email I sent and it’ll have the date) and get in touch when they need my services.
So never think that you’re marketing in vain. You’re not. Usually, when you’re marketing – especially from a place of desperation – it can seem that nobody out there needs your services. It’s not true; they do. They just might not need them “right now.”
But if you market consistently – not just when you need work – you’ll make the time between gigs (dry spells — and we all have them) much shorter. Hope this helps.
P.S.: I’m always looking for great content for this site. Have some freelance advice, tips and/or a success story to share? Submit a guest post.
I hope all is well! I just wanted to let you know that this month marked the first month that my writing income surpassed that of my day job.
Thanks to your help and inspiration, I have more work than I know what to do with and have successfully landed a number of clients that give me recurring work. Thanks again for your advice!
SEO writing changed the trajectory of my freelance writing career. It can do the same for you!
Posted on June 20, 2016
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