Freelance Writing: How to Land Your First Client

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It’s challenging to land your first freelance writing gig, but it’s not impossible. If you’re good at what you do and know how to market your specialties, prospective clients will want to give you a chance. You just must find them — and make sure they can find you.

Figure out what you want to write about
This is the first step for many writers, and you may find it difficult to answer. You might not even know what kind of writing you want to do. That’s okay — it’s normal! The most in-demand writers and those who command the highest rates tend to specialize in a single niche. People like to feel like they’re hiring an expert and are willing to pay more when they can.

If you’re serious about becoming a freelance writer, it’s important to know what type of content you can produce with ease. This will also help you figure out how much you can charge and how much time it will take to complete assignments. Don’t try to be a general writer who writes about everything. You’ll have so much competition, you’ll never stand out, and you won’t be able to charge as much either.

Find out who needs that kind of writing done
Once you know what kind of freelance writing you’d like to do and how much you’d like to make, the next step is finding clients who need your expertise.

Start by researching what kinds of writing exist in your chosen field. If you want to write about animals, find out which types are most popular among readers: Cats? Dogs? Insects? Lizards? Once you know the kinds of work that is already being done in that area — and how much it pays — you can figure out whether there’s room for more of that type of content on the market and decide if it’s worth pursuing.

Consider pitching yourself as unique among writers in your chosen field: “I’m an expert on dog training,” or “I’m a master gardener with expertise in roses,” etc., could help set yourself apart from other freelancers looking for work, but aren’t offering anything different from anyone else who offers up their pitches.

Decide what kind of payment you need
Once you have a list of potential clients, it’s time to decide what kind of payment and contract you need. Do you want to be paid per word or flat rate? Research the field you’re writing in and determine the going rates.

It’s often easier to charge by the project instead of by the hour because it gives clients an idea of what they’ll pay before you start working together. Many freelance writers offer their services for free or for a low fee, but this can hurt your business in the long run. Your clients may expect free work when they return for more or want discounts on future projects because they’ve gotten used to paying less.

Don’t let this happen. Be honest and upfront about your rates from the beginning so that both parties know what they’re getting into before they start working together.

Write a pitch letter or proposal, and make sure it’s personalized
It’s important to make your pitch as personal as possible for each potential client. You want them to feel like you’ve taken the time to consider their situation, their needs, and what they’re looking for from their freelance writer. Use this opportunity to show off your research skills and provide evidence you’ve been paying attention during the application process — this will help set yourself apart from other candidates.

The more details and specifics you include, the more likely your proposal will be successful. Your potential client should have all the information they need to make an educated decision on whether they want to work with you.

Be clear about what you are offering
Your prospective clients should know exactly what they’re getting when they hire a freelancer like you — and don’t overlook the details.  Break everything down into its most basic parts, so there will be no question about the extent of work involved or where things stand in terms of payment.

Include links or references (like blog posts) that show off some of your previous writing samples so that the new client knows what quality they’ll receive if they choose your services over someone else’s (bonus points if those samples were written for other clients or in national publications).

If you don’t already have a blog, start an account on Medium.com and start posting articles in your area of expertise. You can refer clients to your Medium.com account to view your portfolio.

Update Your LinkedIn Profile
Update your LinkedIn profile with the types of writing services you provide (e.g., copywriting, editing, proofreading). This will make it easier for potential clients to find you online. Also, include links to some samples of your work on your profile page so that people can see what they’re getting when they hire you. People may even seek you out on LinkedIn if you craft a compelling bio. Be sure to include a link to your LinkedIn profile in your correspondence to encourage people to visit it and read your samples.

There’s a lot of demand for freelance writing, and it’s your job to seek it out. Use these tips to send our proposals that will give you your first freelance writing job. Then you’ll be on your way.

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