Updated: Apr 15
At the start of the new year, many freelance writers set a goal to pitch more magazines, get new clients, or try a new niche. Some succeed. Many try, only to get discouraged after a month or two.
We reached out to 29 current freelancers, asking them to share their best actionable tips that can help freelance writers get more work in 2021.
Here’s what they had to say (some tips have been edited for length).
Brittany VanDerBill says: Join Facebook groups that allow editors to post writing opportunities. Make sure you look for groups that have rules stating that all posts about writing gigs must include a rate. This helps ensure you're not wasting your time responding to posts about low-paying work. These groups are also great for those wishing to learn from other writers.
Laura Gariepy says: Make it obvious that you're for hire. It sounds overly simplistic, but if you're like most freelancers, you don't like the idea of self-promotion. The problem is, people can't hire you if they don't know that you're open for business. So proclaim it loud, proud, and often on your website, in your email signature, in your social media posts and bios, and anywhere else you hang out online.
Nia Gyant says: When you need the work, it can be easy (even in subtle ways) to give off self-centered vibes that deter clients. It's much more effective to build your freelance writing business on a genuine interest in helping people. If that interest comes across, you'll start to attract more and better prospects. After all, clients care first and foremost about solving their own problems and reaching their own goals.
Dylan Houlihan says: Focus on customer service and serving your current clients. A lot of freelancers focus a lot of their time on client outreach and searching for new clients. But, as they say, it's always easier to sell to someone who's already bought from you.. That goes for freelancing too. You need to be proactive in offering your current clients new services or even repeat services. Back when I landed my first freelance writing client, I used this exact same technique after the initial project was finished in order to get more work. And all it took was a simple pitch with some ideas on how I could further help the client with her site. Because she already knew my work ethic, she actually thanked me for coming up with some solutions to lighten her workload and rehired me a couple of days later.
Lisa Ann Schreier says: Make yourself stand out from other writers not only by sticking with your core competencies—in my opinion, no more than two–but by offering something unique. I write about timeshare matters. While there are a few others out there, I offer the unique perspective of being a former timeshare salesperson who is now dedicated to educating consumers as well as being a catalyst for positive change in the timeshare industry. I own this admittedly small but important niche.
Rob Swystun says: If you’re struggling to attract new clients, try signing up for a copywriting service that does the searching for you. There are many reputable ones out there and all you have to do is share some portfolio pieces with them or write some sample content for them and they’ll add you to their list of copywriters to suggest work to. These services can be a lifesaver when you’re going through a drought, as many of us do from time to time. And, of course, when you’re done with any client, always put a note in with your invoice asking them to pass your name along to their colleagues and acquaintances who may need writing work.
Sarah Colley says: Develop a network early on, and speak with other copywriters that have been established for a while. I mean, jump on a call with them or a zoom meeting, chat with them on social, share their work. Keep that relationship alive, because in several months, or even years, they could be a major source of leads. Sometimes writers are approached by companies and their schedules are full. They might recommend you, or reach out to you to see if you can take over some of the work. It's great to network.
Chris Anderson says: I often hear from freelance writers who have minimal client reviews talking about how difficult it is to build good reviews on their page because of lack of work, which increases their chances of landing gigs. My advice would be to join a guest posting blog group on Facebook offering for free guest posts in exchange for a good review on your freelance profile. This method builds your reviews to a more favorable position which future clients will see, making them more inclined to offer you work.
Carmen Varner says: If you're struggling to find clients or land new writing gigs, the one thing to remember is that you never know where a potential client or lead will come from. You never know when or how a client will find you. It could be from a very specific niche subject that you tweeted four years ago or it could be a referral from your grandma's online book club. As long as you know that you have put in the effort, do not feel bad. Your energy is not wasted as long as you keep putting yourself out there.
Thomas Hawkins says: Offer to guest post on other websites/blogs in your industry or niche. When doing so, assuming you put forth your best work, you can gain a voice, land networking opportunities, and eventually grow your own site. In doing so, you'll eventually land gigs and find new customers.
Mario Carr says: Don't write for free or under sell your service. You have to make a living. The only time you write something for free is if there's a benefit to you like free promotion that will pay off. Try to get payment upfront. I've wasted a lot of time chasing clients.
Alan MacLachlan says: As someone who has hired a lot of freelance writers, you’d be amazed at how many poor pitches I receive. First, address me by name and show me that you have read and understood my requirements. 95% of the proposals I receive are just templated answers. It doesn’t take that much extra effort to stand out. When you reply or pitch you must demonstrate that you can write about the subject. Use a few keywords or phrases, submit ideas when you contact me. Doing that today will place you in the top 1% and you'll stand a much higher chance of getting the gig.
Amanda Kostro Miller says: If you want to work full time as a freelancer, pitch 5 new clients per workday. Do that consistently for 3 months, and you'll have clients. What to say in a lead-generating pitch? First, lead with enthusiasm. Mention a specific thing about them or their business that you like or are excited by. For example: I saw on your Facebook page that you're doing a really cool giveaway! I signed up for it too because I want to win that Jamaica trip! Next, tell every potential client how you will benefit them. By doing that, they'll see your worth. How will their lives or businesses change by working with you? Answer this question, and you're looking at a long client list.
Yoann Bierling says: A good copywriter should have amazing copywriting to show, and the best way to show that off with your name attached to it is to publish on your website articles that are similar to what you would like to create for clients, and to guest post on other websites, so you can show a full range portfolio to potential clients, which will most likely come by themselves to you as your portfolio grows, your connexions reshare the content you've created, and the guest posts you've written for other website have reached brand new markets that were out of your reach.
Yker Valerio says: Freelancing marketplaces are useful but can become useless when the market is too crowded. To deal with cannibalization, I check my most significant relationships every month and always find someone I can help with my writing. Most of my friends and family know someone who is starting a new business or struggling to keep their old business alive. I have found consistent copywriting, content marketing, and blogging clients through my friends and family. My piece of advice is to use no more than 25 minutes a day to freelance marketplaces and 1 hour a week talking with friends, family members, and former clients.
Ben Baker says: Awesome pictures will sell a mediocre story. Bad pictures are better than nothing, but won't sell a mediocre story. Learn to use a camera. Learn to frame shots. Learn to observe the background. Learn Photoshop.
Lisa Banks says: Never underestimate your current clients. When you go above and beyond to make sure you fulfill any pitch requirements and ask questions about important things, it builds up trust in the relationship. This makes you the preferred freelancer over all others, and your clients will end up working with you more closely over time.
Martin Soto says: Find and talk to other freelance writers in your niche through LinkedIn or email. By talking to other freelancers, you can share the clients you do work for and figure out the right person you need to talk to in a company to start working for them. Ironically, I learned this method from another freelance writer who used this exact method with me. It's always good to start off with small talk and open-ended questions. Freelancing can be lonely sometimes, so it's always great to make new friends with similar interests and lifestyles. You can find freelance writers like yourself through LinkedIn or use Google and look for company blog posts that look like they were written by a freelance writer.
Anna Rider says: Stop making prospective clients work so hard. I recently got a pitch from a guest poster. Her pitch was long-winded. I didn’t like her pitch idea and she didn’t include any others. Then she asked me to tell her all the requirements I need her to fulfill for her to write for me. From her pitch idea, I wondered if she had even read my site and whether she understood what kind of articles I publish. So, remember to write a very clear pitch that includes why you’re qualified, offer several pitch ideas (keep them short), and make it super obvious that you’re a reader of the publication (you can mention your favorite series or why the pitch ideas will help the readers).
Ron Blake says: Hustle. Start doing it today. Simply take chances. Contact editors of smaller publications (print and digital) everywhere. Ask if you can write for them. Make it specific to their genre. Build an amazing foundation. I'm gay so I went to lots of LGBT magazines. Or write Letters to the Editor for publications with something local that impacts their readers. Just hustle. Heck; pick up the phone and call them. Leave a voicemail. Make it human. Connect a name and a voice. Hustle. I promise you. It works. Start right now.
Dave Oscar says: Widen your scope of writing. By this I mean, if you are only focused on a specific niche and you feel you can only write well in that area and no other one, you should try and get out of your comfort zone and push yourself to learn to write for other niches. Competition for freelance writing is going up by the day. If you direct your focus on only one freelance website and it is not working out too well for you, you should seriously consider getting on a second one and balance the two.
Aida Grigoryan says: Have an optimized, professional-looking page on LinkedIn. Don't waste your time on freelance websites. I have found most of my clients via LinkedIn. That's where employers spend their time and try to hire quality candidates. And that's where an optimized profile with recommendations and a link to a portfolio comes in handy.
Shiv Gupta says: Be steady with your greatest skills and leverage all profile sections to back up your skills. Be concise and sincere in your language. Make your profile about your clients. How can you help them?
Peter Thaleikis says: Invest the time to write for yourself. You can leave these notes or braindumps unpublished if you prefer. The gain comes from flexing your mental muscle and allowing yourself to develop a piece of content to your liking, without any requirements. If you desire, you can opt to publish these pieces too. A simple blog, newsletter, or even Twitter work well for this.
Milan Knežević says: The most important thing is to keep writing! Our livelihoods are dependent on it. What is your writing process? Do you write an outline first? Do you write first thing in the morning? Or after dinner? Get up early and write on the subway. Write when you're on the bus. Write at work. For me, it's the thought of writing that makes me want to get in my office and write. The only way you’re going to get clients or book writing is if you keep working. Don’t waste time complaining about the tough business world, whether you’re a full-time or freelance writer. Keep writing, keep following in your passion, and keep doing the job that makes you happy.
Yvonne Villasenor says: Cold pitch like crazy! Write or acquire three samples of your work and start looking for businesses/websites/publications within your niche. Read their web copy and check out their blog. If you feel your writing would be a great fit, contact them and introduce yourself, share how you came across their website, explain why your writing might benefit them and link to your three relevant samples. The more you cold pitch, the greater your chances of getting a response. The best part? You'll likely get paid at a higher rate compared to what you'll find on job boards. It may be nerve-racking at first, but it'll definitely be worth it!
Vans Pat says: Pitch to potential employers even if they aren't hiring. If you can write a comprehensive story or a thoroughly researched article, you can definitely write a short and effective pitch. Write to local business owners and convince them how your talent can boost their sales. Send an email to your favorite Youtuber and tell them how your writing can put more substance to their content. As a writer, this is a job you are naturally good at. Put it to good use.
Melanie Musson says: If you’re part of a social media group, create a post asking if anyone has any writing leads. The group doesn’t have to be writing-related; in fact, it’s almost better if it’s not. You’d be surprised by how many connections people have and how many other group members write for places that are looking for more writers.
Alana Armstrong says: Use keyword searches on Twitter to find publications that are looking for freelance writers. Or, subscribe to a newsletter where a fellow freelance writer does the legwork for you. I find Sonia Weiser’s “Opportunities of the Week” newsletter very helpful, frequent and worth the nominal cost. She has options for those who can’t afford the normal subscription cost, and she has resources for WOC, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ freelance writers.
Have your own freelance tip to share? Tell us in the comments!
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