Establishing your freelance writing business is exciting. You get to be your own boss, work at home in your pyjamas and call all (well most) of the shots.5 tips to help you establish your freelance writing business Click To Tweet
But once the buzz of setting up your home office has passed, and you’ve unpacked those glossy business cards you’ve just ordered, what happens next?
Where do you get your clients from? It’s one thing to ‘work from home’ and ‘have your own business’, but if you don’t have any copywriting clients, then you won’t be doing much work or business.
When going out on your own, it can take a while until you have regular work flowing in. However, these five top tips will help you on your way.
1. Embrace the small, one-off jobs
Initially, you will probably get small jobs, usually one-off jobs. Take them and treat them with the same care and respect you would if you landed a big job. While they may not pay a lot, they are the ones that you will build your foundation upon. Do your best work, meet the deadline, and give amazing service. All these things will help you to build your brand, and establish good relationships you can call upon in the future.
2. Identify your brand
There are many copywriters out there. Hundreds and hundreds in this country alone. How are you going to compete with them, particularly as a new-comer? The truth is, you can’t. You shouldn’t. Know who you are, what your business is about, what you want to achieve and focus on that. By all means, be aware of what other copywriters are doing, particularly if they have a niche market like you, but run your own business your way. Don’t try to copy anyone else.Take time to identify what kind of writer you want to be, when setting up your freelance business. Click To Tweet
All successful businesses are known for their brand. What is yours? Try to avoid being someone who’ll ‘have a go’ at anything. That will only leave you and your clients confused and unhappy. Identify what your ‘thing’ is — whether it be health writing, SEO copywriting, sales copy, small business writing — and stick to it. Sooner or later, you’ll be known in the right circles as an established writer in your field, and the work will flow a lot easier. Knowing what type of writing you’re going to specialise in, will also ensure you spend your precious time focusing on what aligns with your brand, and ultimately brings in the regular clients.
3. Ask for testimonies or referrals
While you’re establishing your copywriting business (and even as you continue to grow it), ask your clients for a testimony or referral. Referrals obviously lead to more work — YAY! — but testimonies can be a valuable marketing tool you can use in your social media platforms and website, which can also lead to more work.
4. Chase down work
A big part of freelancing is continuing to look for work. Don’t wait for it to find you, because it won’t. You need to chase it. Sometimes you may even need to pitch for it. Very rarely does it land in your lap (unless you have an awesome website with a great sales funnel that turns leads into paying customers….but that’s a whole other ball game).
But where do you find work when you’re just starting out? Here are my top recommendations:
Talk to previous colleagues or employers — My very first client was the employer I worked for before freelancing. Since then, I have had several former work colleagues and managers engage me for work.
Register with an agency — A lot of my work these days comes through my agency, and it is quite lucrative (once you’ve proven yourself as reliable and capable). The only downside is that you may have to pitch for work, which means you’re competing with other freelancers. And sometimes the time you spent on pitching doesn’t result in the job anyway. But keep persisting and continue to deliver excellent service. Sooner or later, the agency will come to see you as one of their best freelancers, and will do their best to get work for you. That’s been my experience at least.
Caution: There are many agencies out there, some of which won’t have your best interests at heart. While I won’t name names, I have found some of these to pay very poorly (e.g. less than half a cent per word), with work often going to the lowest bidder. Despite some of them claiming to be ‘freelancer’ sites, I have been offered ‘work’ that was more suited to someone working in the — ah, em — sex industry. So be very wary of what these agencies offer or promise you.
Cold-call (or email) — Some of my regular clients I picked up by contacting them directly. When I won my first gig writing for Fitness Australia, I checked out the publication and noticed they had a call-out for writers. I contacted them, told them I had already written an article for them (which was via a third party), and said I was available for other work. Turns out they loved what I wrote and then employed me as one of their regular health writers. I picked up other clients by emailing them directly, letting them know what I had to offer. Some of them took me up on that offer.
Network — Networking is an important part of running your own business, but it doesn’t have to be face-to-face all the time. After all, there’s only so many coffee meetings you can go to! Luckily, there are many online business groups where you can network online. I have picked up numerous jobs and clients simply by being part of one of these groups, and responding to another member’s request for a copywriter.
Watch the job ads —Job ads aren’t just for those people looking for work as employees. Often organisations advertise for temporary or contract writers for short-term or casual contracts. Sign up to the leading job agencies, with all the criteria of your dream job. While most of the jobs coming through won’t be what you’re looking for, you may just come across the perfect fit for you.You'll need to spend considerable time and energy chasing down work when you start your freelance copywriting career. Click To Tweet
5. Avoid writing for free
When you start out, some potential clients may ask to see your portfolio. The problem is, you’ve just started freelancing, and you don’t really have a portfolio to share. So how do you get one?
For many writers, they decide to write for free. However, this is an issue that continues to be debate, with some copywriters recommending you do it, and others strongly opposed to the idea.
Personally, I have a lot of problems when it comes to writing for nothing. So many problems that I actually wrote a blog post about the very issue, which you are welcome to read. In a nutshell, writing for free will only make it harder for you to earn a living as a freelance writer. (Once again, read my post 9 problems associated with writing for FREE).
Besides, the time you spend writing for no income, would be better spent on some of the above strategies that may just land you paid work, or developing your own blog, which you can use as part of your portfolio. So, in my opinion, working for free (unless it’s for a charitable cause), isn’t a great strategy to help establish your business.
Freelance writing isn’t for everyone. It can be a hard slog, particularly in the early days. However, if you are committed to making a living freelancing, then persistence and hard work will always pay off.
Best of luck!