Quick-start Guide to Finding Clients

It’s now three days since I first called the doctor. No return call Monday, and the second I went off to the pharmacy (ironically) yesterday she called. I’m taking meds I know will make me feel deathly sick again, but until she changes things up, I’ve no choice. I’m taking anti-nausea meds, but who knows how effective they are over the lifespan of this prescription? All I know is this stomach is tender to the touch and I’m fed up with being sick. Really. Fed. Up.

A writer friend of mine is looking to ramp up the number of clients he has, and he wondered out loud yesterday how to do it. For starters, he was on the phone to me asking if I knew of any leads. That’s brilliant, actually. Reach within your current circles and you’ll never know what may be there untapped.

So what would you tell a writer who wants to build or expand on client work, or even gain some quick cash avenues? Here’s what I’d say:

Start in your current circle. This is where my friend does it best. He’s good on the phone anyway, and he knows plenty of people. Reaching out to current and past clients and colleagues and asking for referrals is a super way to build out quickly.

Magazine work. Don’t start with the top markets unless you’re used to working with them. Instead, go slightly lower on the food chain and locate those niche magazines or consumer mags most open to freelancers. Get queries out now and move on to the next client potential, which is:

Past clients. What are those people you worked for last year doing now? What can you help with? What is missing from their current lineup of projects that you can suggest?

Crossover client potential. You’ve written enough healthcare articles to fill a book (hmmm….yet another potential). Why not send similar ideas to business or human resources magazines? You simply adjust the focus.

Letters of introduction. Look, if you’re after new clients who pay what you’re worth, put enough work into it to attract them. A good letter of introduction sent to a client you’ve researched is more effective than blanket mailings to random client lists.

Social media. In the past two weeks I’ve had four inquiries about work from Twitter and LinkedIn. Best part – I’ve not had time to go on either one for any length of time, so these came from getting my name attached to the right hashtags or business groups. Send out a few tweets. Tell people you’re available and you’re damn good. Update your LinkedIn status. Interact with clients and win their trust.

Ask for referrals. You’ve pleased enough clients to ask. Just go back to them and say “Thank you again for the trust you’ve placed in my services. Do you know anyone else who may need a writer or editor? Here’s my CV.”

How do you ramp up the client work?

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  • Freelance Content Writer March 7, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    i feel social media is good way to find some clients..and others are good too!

  • Paula March 7, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    You know I love a god LOI, Lori, but the crossovers are one of my favorite strategies. It can take a little creative thinking to make subject A fit magazine Z, but that's also the kind of pitch that's likely to catch an editor's eye.

    Re: LinkedIn status updates. Another writer and I debated it the other day. My friend said she lists all of her projects to show how in demand her services are. I said I don't so that because I don't want clients to think I'm too busy to accept work from them, too.

    Conversely, I'll occasionally change my LinkedIn status to say I'm finally caught up and am open for new assignments – sometimes tossing in a "hint, hint" to keep it light. My friend thinks that's a mistake, and she wouldn't want to give the impression she's in a lull. It's worked for me a couple of times, so I'm sticking with it when appropriate.

    As Lori's noted before, there are no absolutes, but I'd like to hear how other writers feel about these kinds of status updates. Which works for you, which doesn't?

  • Paula March 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Make that a good LOI. Never sent one to the Lord himself.

  • Lori March 7, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Maybe that's a missed opportunity for you, Paula. LOL!!!

    I'm getting a lot of traction off the LOI right now. I just had three potential clients in the last two weeks get in touch. They work well for me in the specialty I'm in. Would they work the same for someone writing for consumer mags? Don't know.

    I'm still a believer in announcing I'm going to be out of the office. They fly out of the woodwork (not literally) the second I think about getting away.

    I've had an opposite reaction to announcing what I'm doing. I have had inquiries from people asking if I'd be able to handle their projects since they're similar.

    You're right, FCW. They're super ways to get in touch and get acquainted with clients.

  • Anne Wayman March 7, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Tickles me how well you teach marketing to writers – and get well, Lady, we need you.

  • Wade Finnegan March 7, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    I'm becoming a big fan of Linkedin. It has the right mix of social and business. I can send an editor a message and not feel like I'm stalking him/her. LOI's work well. I first learned how to write one from Linda Formichelli and I get the best response from a LOI. However, they take some upfront work with research and finding the correct contact. Does anyone keep precise records on which form of marketing works best for them? I don't have a marketing schedule and do this sort of random. I might have identified a problem with my business plan. 🙂

  • Lori March 8, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    You learned from one of the best, Wade. She's amazing. 🙂

    I don't keep records, no. I just know in my head what's working and what's not. I do keep track of every LOI and query I send out, but that's as far as I organize it.

    Anne, maybe today will be better. 🙂