How to Land Your First Client as a Freelance Writer
I remember my first time.
It started with an email. The LinkedIn profile I had spent hours upon hours meticulously filling out after quitting my job was finally starting to pay off. The client had stumbled across my profile through a mutual connection, had liked the quality of the linked samples I had provided and was impressed by my work experience. The client wanted to hire me.
“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” I whispered to myself in excitement as I stumbled sleepily from my bed to my new home office to re-read my potential new client’s email on a screen bigger than my iPhone. Work, finally.
And even though I had no experience writing for the automotive industry, and even though I had to Google what a “white paper” was, and even though I had no idea what to charge as a first-time freelancer, I accepted the job without any hesitation.
Three years later, I’m still sleepily stumbling out of bed to my home office in my pajamas, except my home office is in different cities and countries every month and my pajamas are silk couture.
Okay, I’m exaggerating, but my point is this: I’ve been living and learning as a freelance writer for a while now, and I’m here to tell you that you can too. All it takes is that one person to take a chance on you, and bam! you’re on your way.
Follow my advice on how to land your first client as a freelancer, and who knows, in a couple months or years, your pajamas might be silk couture, too.
Step One: Get Certain.
Are you sure you want to do this? Are you 100% positive the life of a freelance writer is the life for you? Can you live with the natural ebb and flow of work and drought? Are you prepared to pull all-nighters in order to produce a quick turn-around piece on a tight deadline? Are you determined to succeed even if it means taking bottom-of-the-barrel gigs in order to build up your portfolio? Are you truly passionate about writing?
If you answered “No” to any of the above questions, you might want to re-think your career choice. Before you set out on this path, it’s important that you are well-versed in what will be required of you, and fully invested in your business — because that’s what you are now. A one-pony business.
Step 2: Make Yourself Visible.
Before you get ahead of yourself and start applying for writing jobs online, do yourself a favor and create an online presence for yourself. Trust me, down the road when a potential employer is asking to see samples of your work, you’re going to be glad you have a cool little URL to send them. Here’s what I’d suggest:
- Put some effort into your LinkedIn profile. Fill it out and bulk it up as honestly as you can. Add links to past publications. Ask past employers or colleagues to write you a recommendation. Don’t be afraid to stand out.
- Create a personal website, an online portfolio, or start a blog. Essentially, create a space online that showcases who you are, what you do, how to contact you, and offers samples of your best work.
- Get on social media. You don’t have to go crazy and sign up for every single social media account there is. But do pick one or two, upload a friendly, professional looking headshot, and write a short bio that tells a little bit about what you do. Add a link to your blog, website or online portfolio.
Step 3: Start With Who You Know.
Now that you’ve branded yourself online, it’s time to start promoting yourself. tell your friends and family what you’re up to. Some of my best clients have been my family members, and some of my most long-term clients are friends of friends.
- Tell your family. Next time you sit down to a family dinner, let everyone around the table know about your new freelance business. Ask them for their support, and to help you spread the word.
- Call, text or email your close friends. Same thing. Send your friends a quick message telling them about your business, what you specialize in, and that you’re looking for work.
- Post to Facebook and LinkedIn. Let the world know! Write a quick note like, “Hey friends and acquaintances, I’ve just launched my freelance writing business and I am officially accepting new clients! Check out my website or DM me for more details. I’d love to help you with all of your writing needs,” and post it on Facebook and LinkedIn. Add a link to your website and voila!
If you do good work, the word will travel fast and both your community and client pool will expand.
Step 4: Learn Where to Look.
It might not happen overnight. And that’s okay. If after sharing your new career with friends and family, you’re still yet to land your first client as a freelance writer, there’s no need to panic. That’s what The Writer’s Job Board is for.
Every day new jobs are added to The Writer’s Job Board, which means every day there are fresh new gigs for the picking. Start applying! You’ve already done all the hard work, and if you’ve followed my advice, you also have a nice professional URL to direct your potential clients to.
Getting your first couple of gigs under your belt is hard work. Don’t let it defeat you. It might mean applying for 50 different jobs in a week and waiting with bated breath to hear back.
Step 5: Know What You Want in a Client
You can admit it. The job opportunities are totally starting to roll in now, right? You’ve done the legwork, you’ve told the world, and you’ve applied for loads of well-suited gigs you found on The Writer’s Job Board.
Now, you have a handful of opportunities and all that’s left for you to land your first client as a freelance writer, is to decide which jobs and which clients are right for you.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Can you do the job that’s being asked of you? Can you do it well? If you’re not sure, it’s probably better to pass on the gig. A bad review is never good for small business, especially when you’re just starting out as a freelance writer.
- Will you enjoy the work? The whole point of being a freelance writer — I think — is that you actually enjoy the work. People don’t become freelance writers because they hate to write; they become freelance writers out of passion. Sure, you’re not going to love every gig you get, but it certainly helps when you do.
- Is this someone you want to work with/for? Is your potential client friendly, fair, agreeable? Do they seem like they would be professional to work with? What is your gut telling you? Listen to it.
You also shouldn’t be afraid to ask your potential client questions. Not only does it show professionalism on your end, but it lets the client know that you take their business seriously.
Some questions to ask your potential client:
- What are they willing to pay you or what is the budget for the project? You’re a writer, you do a job, make sure you’re getting fairly compensated for your work. To figure out your ideal hourly wage, read this.
- What is expected of you? Sure, you might figure that if you applied to be a blogger, you’re expected to write blog posts, but make sure you ask about any other requirements your potential client may have of you. Like, do they also want you to post and publish your articles in WordPress? Do they require you to source images to accompany your blog posts? Make sure you get the full picture.
- What is the deadline? An experienced freelance writer knows the importance of never missing a deadline. Get clear on the timeline upfront and, if possible, over-deliver early.
- Is there an opportunity for growth? Is this a one-off job, or is there an opportunity for continuous work? The best kind of clients are the ones who need you long-term. Not only does it provide you with some financial security and stability, but it means less work for you in the future because you don’t need to spend your time looking for a replacement client.
Once you know the answers to all of the above questions, you’ll be able to make an informed decision and hopefully land your first client as a freelance writer. And the first is always a gateway to the next.
Good luck, writers!