Whether you’re starting your freelance writing career while still working your 9-5 or you’ve already left, the process of finding your first writing client can be overwhelming.
I remember almost being paralyzed with fear at the thought of even cold emailing a business or getting rejected. Heck, I didn’t even know what cold emailing was much less where to start my search for clients.
Now that I’m a seasoned veteran to the process, I still find some aspects of finding the right clients stressful, but it certainly gets better over time. Read on to learn more about how to find clients for your freelance writing business without having to resort to content mills such as Fiverr and Upwork.
Why You Need to Avoid Content Mills
Like many newbie writers, I was desperate to get any amount of money for my writing. But I didn’t know how to find clients as a fledgling freelance writer.
I wanted, no NEEDED to work from home because of my health issues and immersed myself in researching how to find writing jobs. I kept coming across a man named Danny Marguiles who was probably one of the few writers to make six figures on Upwork.
I even found my first client on Upwork because I knew that it was an excellent place to start for writers with no experience. The man was really awesome, and I learned a lot from him and his wife. BUT and it’s a big but, I was literally making $8 for 800-1,000-word articles in a variety of dreadfully dull topics. Imagine how many articles it takes to reach the income necessary to pay your bills.
No matter how much I read that Danny wrote on creating a good profile on Upwork and drafting proposals, it didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t going to reach even four figures anytime soon. I’m not downing Marguiles at all. He provided helpful information, found a way to be prosperous, and get paid what he was worth on the platform.
Jorden Makelle of Creative Revolt was someone I found to be incredibly helpful in my journey, and she preaches about staying away from Upwork and getting paid mad money to write blog articles. She has some posts that articulate just how dreadful Upwork is, even if you are a success.
I wrote about my experience with content mills in hopes that I could save new writers like you from wasting your time.
When you start a freelance writing business the goal is to get high-paying clients. All too often, people who start working for content mills find themselves burnt out and stressed to the max with cheap-ass clients. Those cheap ass clients try to squeeze every drop out of the measly amount of money that they pay you for writing their content.
These are certainly not ideal clients. They have no appreciation for a good writer; they want the cheapest service possible and think that gives them the right to edits and any extra work they can nickel out of you.
Worse yet, it’s Upwork’s strict rating system that makes writers afraid to say no to these clients for fear they’ll get a bad rating, which lowers their chances of finding any clients on the platform. Plus, Upwork takes a whopping 20 percent of every project you complete.
That means I was actually only making $6.40 for each article that I wrote. It was total bullshit. So, I quickly found my way out of that mess.
Why Do So Many People Give Up On Their Dreams to Go Back to a 9-5
I want to address something I hear often. Some people say, no matter how desperate you are, stand your ground and don’t take jobs for less money than you deserve. Let me tell you; there will be lean times during your freelance career. Just when you think you’re going strong you may lose your client and have difficulties finding new ones.
I run a small business and I’m not married, so I rely on my income alone. There were times that I had to take less than desirable jobs to make ends meet and I didn’t have the option of going back to a 9-5 with my health issues. It was horrible, and I worked twice as hard to make up for the reduced pay.
In turn, this took up so much of my time that it was difficult to find time to look for new clients that paid better. In short, it was quite frustrating and traumatizing. It was like I was in a never-ending loop, destined to work my fingers to the bone until I died.
Many freelance writers give up on their dream job for several reasons:
- They’re afraid to ask for more money with old clients, and the feeling of not being expert enough keeps them from charging new clients higher prices.
- Months without regular pay scares them.
- They burn out from all of the writing
- Clients don’t pay their invoices on time
- New writers don’t understand that they are running a legitimate business and lack the knowledge to do so properly.
Things You Need to Set in Place Before You Look for Prospective Clients
There are some things you need to set up first that affect how you find clients for your freelance writing business. The first thing you need to do is pick a profitable niche. You can choose your niche based on what you already know or on something that you want to learn. Do some Google searches to ensure that there is an audience for your niche, what their problems are, and the solutions to help them.
You can also niche down to certain types of writing projects such as white papers, case studies, e-books, etc. For instance, I write blog articles for the security and law enforcement industries.
If you want to write for the health and fitness niche, immerse yourself in that industry. Network in that niche by reading content such as blogs and leave comments.
When you start to make yourself known in the industry and position yourself as an authority and expert, it’s like magic. People start recognizing you and doors open up. You may even see opportunities where blogs in your niche offer people the chance to guest post. It’s a chance to network with people in your niche and start growing your business.
The next thing you need is a professional website. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you need somewhere to send prospective clients to, and it shows them that you’re a serious writer. It also establishes your authority and is a place to house your portfolio so they can get a feel for your writing.
A website is also critical for marketing your writing services.
Then you need to create a portfolio. But how do you do that if your brand spanking new to writing for a living? There are a couple of ways you can do this.
You can research dream companies that you’d like to work for and offer to write a free article for them to demonstrate your ability and use in your portfolio. This method is really the only time that I would advise you to work for free because the reward is enormous.
You can also see if you have anything from your current job or past jobs that would work as samples for your portfolio. Another solution is to create pieces for your portfolio.
You can create projects for companies in your niche to use as examples, just don’t claim that you’ve done work from them if you haven’t. Again, prospective clients really just want to see that you can write well and speak the language of your chosen industry.
Also, find out where your dream clients hang out on social media. Are they active in Facebook groups or are they on LinkedIn? LinkedIn is an excellent place to find clients because many businesses interact there. Just about every niche is represented on LinkedIn. We’ll talk more about this later.
How to Find Clients the Easy Way in the Beginning
Now we’ll delve into the meaty part; how to find your first client!
That’s right, I said Indeed. Most other experienced writers won’t suggest Indeed, but when you’re beginning it’s a great place to look. In fact, most of my first long-term clients came from Indeed!
They were also better-paying then content mills. Don’t get me wrong; there are many low paying writing jobs on Indeed. However, you have the control when looking for jobs here, and no one takes a percentage of your profits.
I ended up leaving the people paying me the ridiculous $8 for each article for a much better paying job that I found on Indeed, or so I thought at the time. It was not much, $.05 per word.
The Upwork people had the nerve to tell me that I would never make more than that. They said that people didn’t pay more than that for writing, and I don’t think the woman believed me. Trust me you can and will make much more than $.05 a word.
I have to say, though, that it’s a pretty good feeling to get any money for doing something that you love. I remember the giddy excitement of sitting down at my computer knowing that I was getting paid to work from home doing my dream job.
The nice thing about Indeed is you can do multiple searches and set alerts so that you get daily notifications about jobs you’re looking for. Use remote, work from home, and other phrases like that to find location-independent writing jobs that let you write from anywhere.
Magazines, other publications, and business in all niches advertise on there. So, that’s an excellent place to look. You may need to search through a lot of unwanted jobs, but you’ll find some diamonds in the rough.
I learned a lot about how to find clients on LinkedIn over time. LinkedIn is a powerful social media platform for finding excellent clients who pay well. You’ll want to set up a professional profile that explains exactly what you do and has keywords related to your niche so that people can find you. Here’s mine for example.
When you send connection requests to people, send a personal message instead of the general connection request, and you have a better chance of people connecting with you. I worked really hard doing this, and it paid off. Over time I continue to get more connections because people see that I am friends with other people that they know.
You can use the advanced search and find the people who hire writers at companies you’re targeting.
Click on the search bar and then select people underneath it. Then choose all filters to perform an advanced search. When you scroll down, you can search for specific businesses, or at the bottom, you can search by position such as content marketing manager or CEO. This method is a fantastic way to find potential clients, AND your point of contact’s email is usually on their profile.
Then you send a friendly, professional cold email to your prospects. Well, it’s more like a lukewarm email because you’ve already connected with them. Make it short because no one wants to read a soliloquy. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Vetted Job Boards
I say vetted because you want to make sure they are job boards with legitimate freelance writing jobs. I have to say this is one of the best ways to get work while you’re learning how to find clients as a newbie.
Most good job boards try to vet companies and jobs to ensure that they aren’t a scam, and believe me; you’ll run into one eventually. You have to do your due diligence and research companies and jobs if they sound fishy.
These people prey on individuals who are desperate to work from home. I ran across one that offered to give you all new equipment but wanted you to cash a check at your bank and immediately wire the money to them. The result is that you get in trouble with your bank and are out $1,000.
It’s essentially a fraudulent check, which is why they want you to cash it so fast. They want you to be able to cash the check and send them the money before the bank finds out it’s not good a couple of days later. So, just be careful, and if your gut instinct tells you something is wrong, there probably is.
Problogger has a great job board. I’ve actually found jobs here. The Freelance Writers Den also post writing projects. Carol Tice runs the Freelance Writers Den. It only opens a couple times of year, but it also includes classes and information on how to get better clients and become a better writer.
I keep hearing more about MediaBistro, so I decided to add it. I’ve personally never used it, but some reputable people recommend it, and it’s more than a job board. It also has helpful information for writers. WritersWeekly is another great job board, and it also includes information for writers that is useful and entertaining.
ClearVoice is another powerful platform to find clients on. Although recently bought by Fiverr, I haven’t seen any negative changes, and the company wants ClearVoice to continue to provide higher-end content. The platform connects agencies and brands with freelance writers, so it’s a win-win situation.
ClearVoice provides content to some major brands, and the pay is excellent for most projects. I don’t think that any are below $.10 a word. Payment is per project. Once you set up your profile and resume, you’ll receive emails when opportunities become available. You can reject opportunities or say that you’re interested in them, but that doesn’t mean that you get the job.
The downside is actually getting writing opportunities that you’re picked for. I don’t get many opportunities because I don’t think my clients look for writers here. When I do say that I want to be in the pool of optional writers that the client picks from, I’m rarely chosen because my background doesn’t match the topic.
Don’t let this deter you. I have many niche portfolio samples that don’t match as well with what clients want. It’s a great place to find freelance writing jobs.
ClearVoice’s goal is to deliver writers better opportunities with less hassle. The platform can help you grow your business and lets you personalize your portfolio. It even finds new content that you’ve written, which makes adding material easy.
In the End
I fully support people getting paid what they’re worth to write and not settling on being a starving writer. But, I’m also of the philosophy that experience is invaluable and helps you to continually up your rates. Even the jobs that didn’t pay well taught me a lot about internet writing and freelancing.
Now, that doesn’t mean you need to take bullshit jobs making no money just for experience when you’re learning how to find clients. That’s why you have me. I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt, and slept in it. I want to make your freelance writing journey much easier. I want you to succeed with such a quickness that you get whiplash!
You’re going to be savvier than I was at first, stumbling around in the dark. I have your back, and I’ll do everything I can to put you in the right position so that you don’t have to worry about where your next paycheck is coming from.
Just remember that you’ll have doubts and have to push past fears on this journey. Failures pave the road to success, and some of the most successful entrepreneurs say that they fail regularly. Failures aren’t really failures; they’re learning experiences.
Here are some more great places to find freelance writing jobs for beginners that pay well.
Related: Freelance Writing for Beginners: The Essential Resources You Need to Start a Successful Freelance Writing Business