This is a guest post by Pooja Lohana
It hurts, right?
You see other freelancers crushing it and commanding top dollar while you’re only dreaming about it.
After all, you’re just as good as them. And you put in a fair deal of effort to source leads.
Naturally, you can’t help thinking. . .
“What else can I do to make a comfortable living from home without having to worry about the next paycheck?”
But here’s the thing:
You’re asking the wrong question.
In fact, you don’t have to do anything more. If anything, you need to stop doing whatever it is that’s sucking up your time – immediately.
Because clearly it’s not working.
I swear by a principle in Neuro Linguistic Programming which goes like this: As you work toward your goals and it doesn’t work, do something else tomorrow. And if that doesn’t work either? Do something else.
It’s like reiterating what Einstein said, isn’t it? The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect different results.
So what should you do?
Here is my go-to list of ideas that always work. You can instantly start applying them. I’ve personally applied each of them to get amazing results – in short, cool clients and great gigs.
Ready? Here we go.
17 Surefire Ways to Make Sure Your Freelance Writing Income Goes through the Roof in 2015
1. Gather clips early on:
It’s a common excuse among new writers: “I can’t find new clients because everyone asks for clips. I don’t have the clips because I don’t have any clients!”
Understandably, it’s a catch 22 problem. But unless you go out there and offer help to someone, you’re never going to produce decent clips.
If necessary, do it for free in exchange of a glowing testimonial or endorsement.
One way is to look for not-for-profit organizations in your area. They are always looking for some help.
My first copyediting work was at my local Writer’s Centre as a volunteer. I got a chance to learn about style guides and how to use them. I honed my attention to detail applying edits to their monthly e-bulletin and magazine.
Did they ask for samples? No. The fact that I showed up and offered free help was enough for me to set my foot in the door in this prestigious organization.
It also depends on how you approach the client and what you’re pitching. There’s a difference between one client hiring you for 300-word blog post and another for full-on white paper. The first may not ask for a clip but the latter will want some solid proof that you can write.
2. Move on from freelancer websites quickly:
Is it OK to start with platforms such as Elance?
I don’t think there’s anything “wrong” with trying these sites.
Do you have better options to act as springboard?
Yes, you do. And you’re going to discover them soon.
But since we are on the topic of Elance and other freelance platforms, I’d like to share my story. Five years ago, Elance gave me my first writing assignment. Agreed, it wasn’t $1 per word gig, but hey, I wasn’t ready for that kind of pressure and commitment then.
I was a new writer and the biggest thing I needed at that time was… wait for it…
Simple, undeniable proof that my writing was sellable.
Back then, I didn’t care where I sold it or for how much. It was a stepping stone. But given a chance to do it all again, I would opt for other options before going on freelance sites.
Surprisingly, Elance is not full of $5 article assignments. I’ve seen gigs at a semi-decent rate of $20 per 300 words. Not great, but not that bad either.
You just have to be smart about it. Daniel DiPiazza tells you how to hack Elance in his post here.
Tip: Once you’ve found a client (or two), move ON. Don’t stick to bidding sites forever.
The competition is too fierce. It will break your back and won’t sustain you for long. Your goal should be to look for less work, more pay.
3. Raise your fees:
If you haven’t raised your fees in last six months to a year, I suggest you take a second look. Simply tell your existing clients that you’ve revised your rates.
You can give them a discount for a month but after that, let them know it’s all going to change.
4. Get out of your shell and meet people:
The freelance lifestyle makes us lazy. We’re so used to living in our safe, comfortable cocoons that we forget there’s a world outside the home-office.
The only way is to force yourself to get out of your shell and meet new people.
The first rule of networking is to offer help. Try a BNI group to get started (and get referrals).
Personally, I like to shortlist events that specifically target my ideal client within an intimate setting. I stay away from huge networking events where people from every industry are thrown together to “speed network”.
It may work for you, but I find smaller groups more interesting because they yield a good ROI. You have more one-on-one time with each person plus it gives you a chance to engage and ask laser-focused questions and qualify prospects.
5. Start your own Meetup group:
If you can’t find a group where your ideal clients hang out, why not start your own?
You can use Meetup.com to create up to three groups for as little as $45 for three months. Keep in mind though, that you start a group to primarily help people.
You spread the word about your service as you help them.
Do Meetup groups work? Yes! I’ve gotten several marketing leads and clients from my groups.
A tip: Start a group that attracts your ideal client type. So, if you’re a copywriter for small business owners, start a group for the latter, not other freelance writers.
6. Offer help first:
Always be helping someone. If you get an email from a prospect, ask them great questions to find out what they need.
You don’t have to worry if they will hire you. Just offer to solve a problem, recommend an article or get on a 10-min Skype call with them.
Even if they don’t hire you, they will appreciate it and remember your favor.
7. Use LinkedIn to source hot leads:
LinkedIn has been my best go-to strategy to source clients. It’s a professional platform (versus a social one) where “pitching business” is not considered intrusion to their privacy, like Facebook.
Tip: Don’t just add fellow freelance writers as connections. Instead, follow your target market closely and build connections.
On that note, I don’t get writers who are so protective of their LinkedIn accounts. This is a professional network and you can’t grow it if you keep rejecting connection invites.
My thumb rule is to accept new connections from people I may not personally know yet because I’m here to build a strong network.
For anyone without a photo or profile? I’m rejecting their invitation straightaway.
I’ve found my top-paying clients by extending help on LinkedIn. Here’s a true story when a LinkedIn email made me more than $7500 (and counting).
8. Quit lurking on Craigslist:
I don’t care what you’ve heard, but please stop wasting time on Craigslist. I’ve known horrific stories of Craigslist addiction.
Instead, hunt for jobs at ProBlogger job board.
Peruse press release distribution websites such as PRWeb to read about the latest in your target market and approach the companies that you can help.
Here’s a post that explains how to use PR websites to find new clients in five simple steps.
9. Try Facebook ads:
With Facebook sending you fewer organic visitors by each day, ads are a good option. Facebook ads don’t cost a fortune – you can budget yourself for $10 and have an ad spend $1 per day for ten days.
Or you can have two days at $5 each. The most important part is the image and how well you target.
10. Learn about ghostwriting:
Ghostwriting pays more than a freelance post. You’re essentially giving up your byline in exchange for more income.
And the practice isn’t just limited to books. Several Fortune 1000 companies want fresh content for their blog. Pitch them and see if you can become their ghostblogger.
11. Always be following-up (ABF):
This is how you can win gigs that are in limbo. Sometimes, all it takes is a gentle push to remind your client how important that piece of copy is for their business.
As a thumb rule, I follow up at least three times with a gap of 4─5 days between two follow-ups. At times I’ll also use a tracking plugin like Streak for Gmail to get notified when a prospect has opened my email. It helps me decide on when to follow up next.
12. Reach out to your old clients:
The following-up tactic isn’t just limited to assignments that are stuck in limbo. You can always reach out to your old clients and check in with them to see if they need your help.
I first heard of this tactic from Bamidele Onibalusi of Writersincharge. It sounds simple but you never know when a simple email can generate thousands of dollars worth of work.
Remember, out of sight is out of mind. I like to keep in touch with my past clients and email them every 8 months to a year. Most people will reply; at times they will hire you for a new project or refer you to a friend.
13. Know where your clients come from:
Following the Pareto principle, about 80% of your income will come from 20% of your top-paying clients. But do you know where these top-paying clients come from?
It could be via social media, referrals, in-person networking, or a Letter of Introduction (LOI) you sent out last year.
This weekend, set aside an hour to create a simple spreadsheet listing your client’s name and how they found you. Highlight sources that have brought you the most lucrative gigs so far.
For example, in my case, the top two sources are LOIs and LinkedIn.
With this information, I can jump on LinkedIn or compose a new LOI to source new clients. The idea is to milk these sources in order to boost your income.
14. Ask for upfront percentage of fees:
Upfront payments are a standard and safe way to make sure you’re paid for your efforts. I like to charge anywhere between 25% and 50% depending on the size of the job.
You can also add a kill fees clause in your contract in case your client cancels the project mid-way.
15. Repurpose content:
Should you use the same piece of research you’ve done for one client for another? This is a gray area and opinions differ.
According to Contently, if you did an interview with someone and they seem to know a lot more than you can cover in one piece with one angle, you can repurpose the extra research for a second piece, but to be safe, always ask permission from the original editor first.
On the other hand, you can always rinse and repeat a concept and write for multiple sources. For example, I’ve written extensively on the role of visual marketing in boosting small business – although the concept is the same, I’ve pitched this idea from many different angles to major marketing blogs such as MarketingProfs and JeffBullas, which they all have happily accepted.
Repurposing can get you more bang for your buck. But make sure your pieces aren’t too similar and that all parties involved are OK with it.
16. Use Twitter to source clients:
Twitter hashtags can be super-helpful to find writing projects. Punch in the right keywords for the service you offer, for example #ghostblogging or #copywritingjobs. Voila!
But there’s more to Twitter than meets the eye.
Let’s say I want to write about copywriting. I punch in the kyword and this is what I find:
By doing this I find out who’s tweeting about copywriting and I can add them to my prospect list.
I follow this person on Twitter. More likely than not, they will also have a website that can be found by going on their profile.
Now you can do the bare-minimum. Go, leave a comment, and get a relationship going.
As a next step, you can look for them on LinkedIn. Or, take a direct approach and send a message via their web contact page or an email LOI telling how you can help.
I’ve used that approach many times and the worst that could happen is you form a new connection with someone.
17. Start a blog with a catchy lead magnet:
This is where you slowly cross the bridge between a freelancer and an entrepreneur.
Have you got a website or blog? Imagine what happens to all those wonderful leads that visit your website, consume your content and . . . leave.
What if you could capture their details and interact with them in a more personable manner?
A lead magnet is a freebie you offer in exchange for signing up on a blog. Here’s a great example of Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks as a lead magnet.
But how does it help you boost your income? In the marketing world, there’s a saying “The money is in the list”. Your email list consists of warm leads – people who have already said “yes” to you before – and therefore it’s much easier to sell them.
Studies show that an existing customer is much more likely to buy from you again. If you can sell a $7 ebook to your list, they will be 60% ─ 70% more inclined to buy a more expensive product from you next time.
Of course you need to have a platform, a lead magnet and a nurtured list for this to happen.
Overall, it’s a neat way to prepare for passive income in the years to come.
There you go – 17 ways to boost your freelance writing business. Which one’s your favorite? Or did I make a whoopsie and leave it out?
Pooja has been featured on Firepole, JeffBullas, MarketingProfs, Hongkiat and other major blogs of the world. She teaches aspiring writers how to become self-employed, create wealth and live better lives by launching their online writing biz. Steal her free mini-course to make your first $1000 (and more) writing at home.