I Spent a Solid Week Applying for Freelance Writing Jobs: Here’s What I Learned that Can Help You Land More of Them (Part III)

In the Part I of this series, we talked about the state of freelancing today, ie, skills required to succeed as a freelance writer; who’s hiring; what they want; and what they’re paying – among a few other things.

In Part II, we discussed how to successfully target a niche and break into it. In this part, we’re going to examine how the numbers are shaking out.

Note: Here’s Part IV of this series.

Freelance Writing Jobs Applied for To Date: Number of Yeses, Nos & Maybes to Date

I missed some days, but I applied for 171 jobs in 14 days. Following is what the response has been.

  • 1 weekly blogging gig for a content marketing company;
  • 1 weekly blogging gig for an internet marketing site;
  • 1 social media and writing gig (for a social media marketing firm), which I turned down. I’ll explain why below;
  • 1 “write any time you want” gig for a content marketing agency;
  • 2 “we don’t need you right now, but will keep your info on file” responses;
  • 1 request for proposal for writing two ebooks per month for an employment site; and
  • 2 “we like your writing style; take our test and we’ll get back to you” (I’m waiting on results for these).

FYI, I said in this post a couple of years ago that if you make 20-30 contacts per day (per week day) you should land 3-4 steady clients in 60 to 90 days.

Persistence DOES Pay Off -- So Keep at It

My results were a bit better than this, so it’s good to know that the numbers are holding up. And never forget, marketing is all about the numbers. If you put your faith in that and hit your numbers, you will land jobs if your rates are competitive and your writing samples are up to par.

Overall, I got a 5.2% response rate; about 1.75% for actual gigs that put money in my pocket every week. And the two jobs I landed are in niches I know very well, so it doesn’t take me that long to knock out posts.

Applying for Freelance Writing Jobs Now vs. 2007 (When I Transitioned to Mainly Online Writing)

Although there is a lot more work out there now than back then, the response rates are lower. In my opinion, response rates are down for a couple of reasons:

(i) SEO content writing was still very new back then. It’s still new to many businesses today, especially small (micro) entrepreneurs. They don’t know what to call it, but they know they need it; and

(ii) Many clients are turning to content marketing agencies. Once they get a website or blog, instead of finding an individual freelance writer to handle their content needs, they’re using these all-in-one social media marketing and content suppliers.

I see their appeal. You can get everything from your weekly blog posts to your social media account management needs handled in one place, usually for one price.

Right now you may be wondering, “So what does this mean for freelance writers? If agencies are getting a lot of the work, does it mean it’ll be harder for the rest of us to get work?”

Why Content Marketing Agencies Mean More Work for Freelance Writers

Au contraire,mon amour,” it means more work for freelance writers in my opinion – work that’s easier to get because it is in such a concentrated environment. Also, these companies need writers from many different niches. So they’re actively seeking freelancers. 

On the flip side of the coin, you have many businesses who don’t like the content agency model. Either they’ve been burned by cheap mills before with bad/low-quality content; or they don’t like/can’t afford the fee structure, or they just prefer the more personal touch an individual freelancer can give them. 

And finally, content marketing is THE way to market online these days. That’s what’s fueled the growth of content marketing agencies. And they’re here to stay. Proof? 

One content marketing company raised $117 million last year, bringing its total capital raise to $157 million. Started in 2007, the company generated more than $200 million in revenue in 2014. Interestingly, about half of that revenue came from mobile devices (a good freelance writing niche to target by the way). 

Interestingly, I had a conversation this morning with an old client from Canada. He’s a realtor specializing in the luxury market, which is kind of tough right now. He’s starting an internet marketing firm to stabilize his income, because he says he sees the need all around him (and he’s, of course, used the services of many of them). 

Digital marketing, internet marketing, online marketing, web-based marketing – these are all names these types of firms operate under. They offer services like SEO writing, social media marketing, website analysis, content management integration, pay-per-click advertising – and a host of other services. It’s a whole new market that’s here to stay – just like search engine optimization and social media.

Now, I do see some consolidation coming – there are just too many of these firms starting up too quick. So in my opinion, there will be some shake out. But will they disappear? No. Not in my opinion. My point – online writing is here to stay, and … 

  • There are googobs of jobs out there, but
  • The competition is stiffer, which means
  • You have to be proactive in going after it; and
  • The best way to do that is to specialize.

How to Succeed as a Freelance Writer in a Content Marketing Agency World

Niche. Niche. Niche. I can’t say it enough. If you specialize, especially in a high-paying niche, you can practically write your own ticket because for the rates that many agencies pay, they’re not going to get consistent, high-quality content.  

Sure, they’ll have some writers with exceptional skills who’ll stay on, but many freelancers cut their teeth in these environments, then move on to find higher-paying, private clients once they’re more comfortable.

Also, clients who sign up with these agencies can be demanding and more often than not, the agency sides with them, not the freelance writer – simply because, that’s who’s paying the fee. So there’s a lot of burnout in this model.

Pros of Writing for Content Marketing Firms

Now to be clear, I’m not knocking these businesses. In fact, there are some definite pros to working with them, namely:

  • They have lots of assignments;
  • They pay regularly;
  • You can build your portfolio;
  • You gain experience working in a digital world; and in some cases
  • You can work as little or as much as you want.

Cons of Writing for Content Marketing Firms

As mentioned above, there are some definite cons to this model as well for freelance writers, ie:

  • You can wind up writing or free because a lot of these agencies give clients the final say as to whether or not your content is accepted;
  • You can waste a lot of time pitching ideas because some of them require you to pitch ideas first, then wait to see if they’re accepted by a client before you write;
  • The pay is lower than if you market for your own jobs; and
  • In many cases, you don’t get a byline (the work is ghostwritten, the rights belong to the agency/client and you can’t use it in your portfolio).

Many freelancers use the hybrid method of working. What I mean by this is they keep a foot in the door at these agencies, using them as fillers for jobs in between marketing for their own higher-paying assignments.

About the Job I Turned Down

It was for a social media marketing firm. I turned the gig down simply because it didn’t pay enough. It entailed sourcing content to post for various clients, then writing short snippets of unique content to along with what you select to post.

I would have accepted it had it just been sourcing the content. I do that all day long for my social media sites and for some client sites. But it was the writing part that made me pause.

Even though they provided search results that matched the topics they want me to write about and they only wanted a couple of sentence of text to go along with that, you had to read through three or four articles to decide on the best one to use, then whip up the sentences.

The job depended on volume, and there was no way I could scale it to anywhere near I’d need it to be for me to earn a decent rate. I counter-offered, but they turned me down. So that was that.

Marketing Pays Off Long After You Stop

In a recent post on SeoWritingJobs.com, a freelancer reveals how a client she cold-called 9 years ago (yes, years!) still sends her work to this day. And consider this … research cited in the article linked to below shows that 63% of people requesting information on your company today will not purchase for at least three months – and 20% will take more than 12 months to buy.

So marketing pays off — even if you don’t hear anything right away. I’ve experienced this first-hand throughout my entrepreneurial career.

Usually what happens is, it’ll seem like you’re marketing in vain; then all of a sudden, you’ll be hit with a deluge of work and you’ll be swamped. Then, you’ll probably stop marketing because you’re so busy, then you pump up your marketing and the cycle starts all over again. This is why so many freelancers live a feast-or-famine existence. I’m guilty of it myself.

Why 8% of Salespeople Get 80% of Sales

I was reading this article, which had some interesting marketing statistics, namely that 8% of salespeople get 80% of sales, and it’s because of the following:

  • 44% of sales people give up after one “no”
  • 22% give up after two “nos”
  • 14% give up after three “nos”
  • 12% give up after four “nos”

Marketing Success by the Numbers -- It Works!What these stats mean is that 92% of sales people give up after four “no’s”, and only 8% cent of sales people ask for the order a fifth time. It’s those 8% who are getting most of the sales.

Are you ready to become an 8 percenter?

In Part II, I talked about how I keep the contact info of all the prospects I reached out to so that I could make contact again in 30 or 60 days. In fact, I reached out to about 20 of my old SEO writing clients from 2007. And you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be following up again soon.

Here’s hoping you follow my lead because it costs much less to keep an existing client than find new ones – a lot less.

Coming Wednesday …

Part IV: How to Brand Yourself as a Freelance Writer. Branded writers can command higher fees right out of the box, so stay tuned for that post, ok?

Talk Back

Now, share your results. How long is it taking you to land clients these days? How many marketing touches do you make per day? 1? 5? 10 or more? Please share in the comments section below. Tell us what you did that worked (and maybe not worked so well).

P.S.: I’m Ready to Start My Freelance Content Writing Career


How to Start a Freelance SEO Writing CareerGet the exact knowledge that pushed my freelance writing career to the next level – allowing me to travel and live abroad, get out of debt and really “live the freelance life.” One freelancer wrote:

Hey Yuwanda,

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!

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    1. A few clarifications: the url to Diana’s website is not an affiliate link. I get nothing if anyone buys her book. When I said 4-5 prospects above, I meant that I end up calling 4-5 prospects a day, not that I get 4-5 solid prospects or clients.

      Jean Henshaw recently posted…Need a Copywriter? Look for these 5 TraitsMy Profile

    2. I don’t specialize in a niche — I just get too bored writing about the same thing over and over.

      I also work exclusively with agencies and — once again — 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). I “should” call every day, but it’s just not possible. Two-three days a week of calling works for me. That’s just two or three hours a week.

      I don’t blog for myself and I don’t have a presence really at all on social media. For finding-clients purposes, they are a waste of time. Or to put it in a nice way: my ROI on blogging/social media? Zero. Calling? 9 percent! Where — oh, where — should I spend my time!? 😉

      If clients want to see how I write (which is what a blog is supposed to show them), I can send them samples.

      Once again, if you want lots of clients quickly, pick up the phone and call agencies. I find them VERY easy to work with. After all, they have to do all the hand-holding and problem-solving with their clients. I just “write” and don’t have the client headaches. Win!.

      They also understand invoices and tend to pay VERY quickly (as in, when I deliver the work). In my experience, working with companies, they don’t pay nearly as quickly as agencies. Double Win!

      Diana Schneidman at http://www.standup8times.com has a book on cold calling. It’s on Amazon. It’s fabulous. She explains the why, the how and even gives a script. It’s how I got my start calling and it’s far, far, far! better than any book I could write on it (I did start, but Diana’s is just SO good!).

      I highly recommend reading Diana’s book and giving cold calling a shot. IT WORKS!

      Jean Henshaw recently posted…Need a Copywriter? Look for these 5 TraitsMy Profile

      • Jean that is FANTASTIC news. Glad to hear that you’ve stuck with the cold calling.

        To a person, every one I know who does this gets results. I did it — years ago. It’s not as hard as most people think, and I find that people were, more often that not, nice. I tend to think of it as editorial people tend to be nice people.

        And FYI, I was wondering what happened to your book. It still doesn’t mean you can’t write one, you know — tailor it for the “creative industry.” Just a thought.

        I’m so glad to hear that things are going well for you. It’s always good to hear from you. Keep up the good work, and if you ever do get around to writing the book (or any other book), let me know. I’ll be glad to give it space here.

        Continued success!

        P.S.: For readers, learn more about the success to be found with cold-calling.

    3. 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. My goal is to replace most of my current clients with those who pay the higher rate, so I can work less and earn more.

      • Joyce that’s awesome!

        Do you specialize in a niche, or not? You don’t have to reveal what niche if you do, I was just curious because of the good rate.

        I started marketing b/c I hadn’t done it in so long and I wanted to get back to practicing what I preach. Also, I was curious to see what the response would be. I learned so much from just “getting out there”. Working so much, you can become insulated (and spoiled when you have regular work).

        So this marketing jaunt has been eye-opening on many levels for me, which is why I’m sharing with you guys.

        Thanks for sharing your experience, and again, congrats! 🙂