One of the questions that I get asked the most and see on writing forums all the time is “where do you find clients?”
I’ve talked about this before, discussing ways to start making money right away as a writer.
But something I keep seeing even more of recently is this: “I got my first client! The pay is terrible, but it’ll be a professional piece for my portfolio!”
It’s awesome that you got your first paying client, but you have to get out of the mentality of doing something for low to no money just for your “portfolio.”
I am a full-time professional writer and editor, and I do not have a portfolio. I have writing samples and links I can send people, and even PDFs.
Instead of focusing on needing pieces for a professional portfolio and spending the time and energy even making a portfolio, start with having a couple of articles completely written, edited, and finished. Even if you’re just posting them on your blog, or your Medium page, or holding on to them as PDFs.
Write a couple of samples. That is IT. Once you have a couple articles, you can use those as samples when marketing yourself to new clients.
Things that are a waste of time before you have any clients: a professional website, a fancy portfolio, a marketing budget, and professional headshots.
I spent exactly $0 before getting my first 4 clients.
I spent $0 before getting the next several clients after that. In fact, the first money spent on being a writer was getting a new laptop once it was clear that I could make money as a writer. And I only got a new laptop because I was using my husband’s computer and he wanted it back.
Marketing and a professional website are useless at first because no one is searching for you or knows who you are. Don’t spend your time (or money) on that yet. Eventually, you’ll want a website, I’m not saying it’s useless! You just don’t need it to get started.
Respond to ads on Craigslist and Reddit. Give them your writing samples. Same goes for reaching out to people on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or other social media.
Here is a message I was sending:
“Hi, I’m Jyssica and I am a professional writer and editor! I am located in NYC and am available for new projects immediately. My 10 years of sales experience means I write well-suited-for-marketing copy and can work with you to create website or ad copy, blogs, and more. I also edit books! I noticed your website’s blog has not been updated in 6 months. Would you be interested in a couple of blog posts? I can provide writing samples. When are you available to talk?”
Bam. I have introduced myself, given an example of why I am an expert, identified a specific area I can help them with, offered writing samples, and asked to set up a call.
Sales 101. Identify a specific need and offer a solution.
I sent variations of that message directly to businesses over social media, especially LinkedIn and Instagram, and got a good response rate. Most people answered, “what are your rates?”
My response was ALWAYS that the rate depends on their needs, as I can charge per word, per project, or monthly rates, and they depended on the scope of the work and their budget. My next sentence was always “Do you have 15 minutes today to talk? I can get an idea of your needs and we can discuss prices.”
By giving people individual attention and focusing on their needs, I found new clients quickly. And for free.
Don’t undervalue yourself just to make $10. Spend an extra few days finding clients and marketing yourself and make more money.
Market yourself. Most writers don’t make their salary from content mills. Instead of signing up for a content mill and calling it done, do that as only one tiny part of an overall strategy for finding clients.
Making money as a freelance writer is absolutely possible, and it can be a sustainable career choice. But if you decide not to market yourself or try to find clients, you will find that it will be a much slower process to making a decent living.
I’m not just throwing words around for no reason. This strategy worked for me.
I was making just about the same salary from when I was in corporate sales by my fourth month of being a freelance writer.
Photo Credit: http://bsnscb.com/money-wallpapers.html