If you’ve been freelancing for a while, you know finding work as a freelance writer can be a full-time job in and of itself. You have to find new opportunities and send dozens of pitches, all while making sure your existing projects don’t suffer.
It’s not a surprise veteran freelancers are a rarity.
If you want to make a sustainable living as a freelance writer, you need to work on a process to keep new clients coming in. That way, you can focus on writing and not have to worry about being able to pay the bills or where your next project is coming from.
Today, I’m going to walk you through the process I use to find new work and make sure my schedule is always full. Let’s get right to it!
Why You Need a Client Pipeline
A lot of people think that freelancers just sit around and wait for clients to find them on platforms such as Upwork or Fiverr. That may work for some people but in most cases, the guys making a living freelancing are the ones constantly hunting for work on their own.
At least that’s the way I do it.
In all likelihood, there’s a number in your head that represents how much you’d like to earn each month. There’s also another one that represents how much you really need to cover your expenses.
Ideally, your freelancing income should fall somewhere in between those two figures. That means it needs to be consistent. To achieve that, you need to keep new work coming in, week after week and month after month.
The only way to get there is to either be so incredibly talented that clients magically find you or to be aggressive and methodical when it comes to job hunting.
By methodical, I mean you need a system in place that takes into account the types of clients you want to find and how much work you can handle. That’s what I call a client pipeline.
5 Steps to a Comprehensive Client Pipeline for Freelance Writers
Step #1: Make a List of Your Top Job Sources
Most freelance writers have no idea where to look for work that pays well. Some people make a living on platforms such as Upwork, others are all about cold pitches, and I’m more of a freelance-job-board guy.
Your mileage may also vary a lot depending on what type of writing you do. The first step you need to take is to identify what your top job sources are.
To give you an example, I’ve had a lot of success finding clients between these two free job boards:
The first step in my client pipeline is spending at least two hours every week looking through those websites and making a list of jobs I’m a good fit for.
Step #2: Narrow Down Job Opportunities
At any time, there are dozens of job listings on both of those platforms. It’s impossible to apply to all of them. More importantly, I don’t want to.
What I do is look through all my options and focus on jobs that meet three criteria:
- I have experience in that niche.
- They offer reasonable per word rates or they’re open to negotiation.
- I meet all the requirements for that job.
Items one and two are essential. If I see a gig for a website that needs content about hair extensions, I wouldn’t even consider applying. It may pay handsomely, but sadly, I know next to nothing about hair extensions.
When it comes to requirements, though, employers can be flexible, particularly when it comes to freelance writers. If someone’s asking for five years of experience writing for a specific niche, I say go ahead and apply anyway if you only have two or three.
At this stage, I want you to make a list (yes, another one!) that includes all the job listings that meet your criteria. What I do is rank them, with the ones I’m more interested in at the top.
Once you have that list, it’s time to start pitching.
Step #3: Pitch All the Potential Clients on Your List
We’ve talked a lot about how to write compelling client pitches in the past, so we’re not going to focus on that today.
The important part here is to write a tailored pitch for each potential client. They’re going to be getting a lot of applications, so you want to make sure you stand out right away.
This is the part of the process that takes the longest. Sometimes, I’ll put together a list of potential clients at the start of the week and contact a few of them each day. That way, I don’t end up spending an entire afternoon writing pitches.
You can approach this step however you like. Once your pitches are out the door, it’s time to work on your existing projects while you wait to hear back.
Step #4: Follow Up After a Week (And Revisit Cold Leads)
If you don’t hear back from a potential client after you send a pitch, you have two options, move on, or follow up.
I’m more of a move-on kind of guy. The way I see it, if I’m not getting a response, they probably found someone that’s a better fit for their project – no hard feelings.
I only make one exception to that rule and that is if I get at least one response after pitching.
If the conversation goes cold, I’ll make a note to follow up after one week. It gives the client enough time to think, and if they decide to go in another direction, don’t take it personally!
You’re also going to get a lot of people who might express interest in hiring you at some point down the line.
Go ahead and file those contacts under a ‘cold leads’ list. Then, you can send them a quick email, after at least two or three months, to check if they still need freelance writing services. If you get a second no, that’s as good a time as any to move on!
Step #5: Revisit Each Step Periodically
Finding new clients can be a lot of work, but that’s what you signed up when you decided to become a freelance writer.
If you’re charging decent rates, all that effort that goes into finding new clients will pay off. Once you have an impressive portfolio, finding long-term work relationships becomes much easier. That means you’ll be able to take your foot off the pedal and focus on what you love doing: writing.
Until that happens, you need to hustle.
Even the most talented freelance writers I know need to be aggressive about pursuing new clients. Unless you’re lucky enough to land multiple long-term gigs, chances are you’re going to have a lot of downtime during your ‘productive’ hours.
I’m a big fan of downtime, but only if I know I have enough work on my plate to cover all my expenses and save some money. Otherwise, I’m all about that client pipeline.
The way I do it is, I’ll spend at least a couple of hours every week identifying job opportunities, researching those clients, and sending pitches. Usually, I’ll find at least a handful of new leads per week, some of which will turn into paid work.
Do you have any questions about how to find more work as a freelance writer? Let’s go over them in the comments section below!