Pitching is exhausting, and any freelancer who tells you differently is lying to themselves to keep a smile on their face. That, or they aren’t pitching correctly. Searching through job boards and scouring social media for potential clients to cold email takes time, and tailoring each pitch to fit each potential client’s needs requires concentration, research, and talent. The thing is, as a freelancer, if you’re not pitching, your monthly income is going to dip. You have to do it, but how many pitches you have to send out a month depends on whether or not you’re making passive connections with clients.
If you market yourself correctly, clients will begin to come to you. The client will be the one doing the digging, and all you have to do is respond to the email. The best part is, if you also have a good portfolio, much of the “selling” has already been done for you. The client has already looked over your experience and decided you look like a good fit for his or her needs. Doesn’t that sound nice?
So how do you get clients to come knocking?
1. Build a Website
This is your marketing holy grail. All other methods mentioned in this list should lead back here.
A website is a space dedicated solely to you, your talents, your services, and your work experience. There are no social media rabbit trails to run down. Visitors learn more about what you can do for them with every click. You can entice them with your home page, sell yourself with your about page, and prove yourself with your portfolio, all in one place.
Pro Tip: Make sure you make your tagline rich with SEO keywords so that you pop up in searches more.
Once you have your website, put that link EVERYWHERE. It better be on all your social media profiles, your blog, your email signature, and in every pitch.
Once it’s built, you only have to update it occasionally to add more to your portfolio and credentials or raise your rates.
(To learn more about attracting clients with a website, read 5 Steps to Create a Stand-Out Freelancer Website.)
2. A Strong LinkedIn Profile
You ought to be advertising your business on all your social media profiles, but LinkedIn is the most direct social media tool. Facebook and Twitter are great for sharing blog posts and business-related articles and for prospecting new clients (especially Twitter), but I have yet to passively earn a client through either of them, at least not directly. Yes, if someone clicks a link to an article that impresses them on Twitter or Facebook, they may move to your website and contact you after that, but LinkedIn allows for more direct contact with clients.
LinkedIn is basically another portfolio. If you aren’t using it as such, you’re missing out. If you already have a website, writing up your LinkedIn profile is a breeze. Just copy your About page into the description. Just remember, any “about” section you create should actually be far more about what you can do for the client than about you, you, you. Next, copy your portfolio items into the “projects” section. Finally, write an article or two on your profile aimed at your target clients to draw in relevant followers who will hopefully become connections.
(If you want more help with your LinkedIn profile, one of my favorite bloggers, Jorden Roper, has a great post on just that.)
One of my long-term editing clients first contacted me out of the blue on LinkedIn. I’m his go-to editor, and he’s come to me for editing work outside the book niche, too. I didn’t even have to send him a resume; my profile was all the credentials he needed. He also recently provided me with a great reference that landed me another massive editing gig.
Pro Tip: LinkedIn can make it difficult to make a connection with people you don’t know. That means any stranger who sends you a connection request put some effort (or money) into it. If you see in their description that they are an author (or whatever title your target clientele falls under), accept that request and send a nice greeting message back (not a pitch, just a “Nice to connect”). If they weren’t already interested in knowing more about your services, that extra effort of making a personable connection is likely to prompt them to do so.
3. Join Good Networks/Associations/Subscription Services
There are tons of writers’ guilds in all sorts of niches out there. Do some googling and find an association like this that has some real pull and reputation behind it. Which guilds pop up first in your searches? Start there. You can even google “best writers’ guilds” etc. After confirming that they are a legit association that legitimate companies pay to be a part of, dive deeper into the perks and services that they provide members. Any paid association should allow you to create a member profile that is available to view for free. That way, you have yet another platform to copy and paste all of your website info into and draw in more clients. If you’re paying, you ought to get some extra perks, too, unless it’s super cheap.
I am a member of Publisher’s Marketplace, which is a very reputable hub for freelancers and companies in the publishing industry. The membership is $25 a month. They send out a newsletter for free and allow anyone to scan their membership pages (meaning authors and publishers without memberships can still easily find you if they are interested in editing or ghostwriting services), but if you buy the membership, you can create your own page, you get access to a better newsletter full of publishing industry knowledge, you can use their “Who represents …?” tool that allows you to easily uncover the agents for books similar to yours, and more. The membership page alone has landed me two editing clients so far, and it’s paid for itself about a hundred times over. I also use their search engine for locating book packagers to pitch. I plan to utilize a lot more of their publishing related perks very soon, while I get the final polish on my YA fantasy novel done.
4. Get Your Resume Out There
Certain job boards allow you to create basic profiles where you can upload your resume. Some popular ones are Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and CareerBuilder. While applying to various jobs in the past, I have uploaded my resume to Indeed and ZipRecruiter. I never thought much of it. It was just a simpler way to apply to the job so that I could move on to my next search a little faster. Well, today, a book packager contacted me about some upcoming ghostwriting projects they have in the works thanks to my Indeed resume (which I updated last week while applying to a job). I still have to actually land the job, but they have shown interest in me, and I didn’t have to locate or cold pitch them.
Now I plan to get back into ZipRecruiter and update the one I posted who knows how long ago. I’m also going to zip on over to CareerBuilder after posting this because with a result like that, I’d be an idiot not to. Free advertising!
5. Use Social Media Correctly
Social media is a fun distraction (sometimes an unhealthy one), but it is also one of today’s biggest marketing tools, whether you like it or not (I really don’t, honestly. But, alas, I must use it). It’s not enough to have your face and business website slapped onto every sort of profile available, though. It’s very easy to either be spammy or completely unnoticed on social media as a business owner. You don’t want either.
(Want to know how to find clients to pitch on Twitter? Read my Dos and Don’ts of Twitter Cold Pitching.)
To stimulate quality interaction that can lead to connections and work, you have to approach your profiles like a website or business blog. You need to be providing your target clients with quality content. Yes, you should be tweeting out and sharing all your blog posts, but you should also be sharing articles you found helpful.
Make sure you’re interacting, too. Send messages when you connect on LinkedIn. Thank people for retweeting. Congratulate your “friends” and connections on accomplishments. Provide help to questions when you can. Join relevant Facebook and LinkedIn groups and actually interact in them.
Honestly, I could probably do better with my profile upkeep and with my level of interaction on platforms like Twitter (Ugh, truth be told, I abhor Twitter, but let’s keep that between us). If you’re a social media maven, step up your game and interact heavily with everyone you connect with. Leave comments on everything, reply to tweets. You’ll get even better passive results because you’ll draw an even more highly engaged and active audience to your profiles. But if you’re more like me and you’d actually rather be writing than tweeting, stick to those basics I’ve mentioned, and you’ll do alright. I’ve grown this blog from the ground up via social media. I’ve had interested job prospects reach out, too. I’ve also made valuable connections with fellow freelancers, including a referral agreement that will potentially earn me 10% even on ghostwriting projects I have to turn down.
As my portfolio has grown and I’ve felt out various marketing paths to take, I’ve been getting more and more unsolicited messages from interested companies and individuals. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t pouring in, but I’ve seen an upswing, especially in the past three months. Best of all, they seem to crop up just when I’m starting to get worried about my client load (a mix of divine intervention and the fact that I circle back to all my known strategies and push hard when this happens, no doubt).
Seeing that unsolicited message from a stranger who wants to pay you to do what you love is an incredible feeling, and I don’t want any of you to miss out on that. The methods I’ve covered take effort on the front end, but once that time is put in, you can walk away and not think about it again, at least not for a good while. You can focus on your current clients and goals, and that unexpected message in your inbox gets to be a happy surprise that reminds you why you work so hard for this every day.