16 Places to Find Freelance Clients Today

What I’m reading: The Able McLaughlins by Margaret Wilson
What’s on the iPod: To the Sea by Jack Johnson

How was the weekend? Ours was busy enough that I was glad to get back to work on Monday. We had an anniversary on Friday, and we were lucky enough to find what has to be the best vegan restaurant in Philadelphia. There are two, and they are both run by the same people. Exquisite food.

Saturday was a barn dance ceilidh (KAY lee) with the St. Andrew’s Society. It was a wonderful time as usual, albeit hot and humid. Sunday was garden time — I spent hours digging weeds.

Yesterday I started (and finished) a quick article for a favorite editor, then worked on two more projects before getting some marketing done.

It’s about this time of year when work dries up a bit. If you’ve been freelancing for a while, you know that by July 4th, the only work that seems to be done is by crickets. Still, you have to work because you have to eat and pay bills.

That situation can make any writer a little desperate, but by no means does it mean you have to run to the content mills and sell your soul for ten bucks an article. Instead, you should be looking not for jobs, but for clients.

Here are a few places to look:

1. Associations. Not only the associations themselves, but also their members may have need for a freelance writer. Look at their list of members (if available — if not, don’t ask as they won’t give it up for free) and their list of sponsors or exhibitors. Draft a personalized letter of introduction and ask for a conversation.

2. Regional publications. Too often we forget about the regional pubs — business magazines, community magazines, even local newspapers all need content. Depending on the population in your area, you could be overlooking a number of potential work sources.

3. Giveaway magazines. Know those home and garden magazines that show up in your mail? Or those magazines the local realtor sends out (sponsors)? The publishers need content for those. A number of years ago, I did a stint with a pool and spa magazine, writing articles that featured their advertisers. It’s not true journalism, but it’s entertainment pieces you get paid to write.

4. Social media. If you’re someone who has built a decent social media presence (meaning you haven’t promoted/pestered the shit out of your followers), you could find some success in tweeting or announcing your availability. Be careful not to overdo it — just a few tweets a week mixed in with many more posts that aren’t about you.

5. Magazine guidelines. Why not find a new source for your ideas? Type “editorial guidelines” into your search engine, browse the results and use your marketing skills to research and target the magazines that appeal to you.

6. Referrals. Your current clients love you. Why not ask them to pass your name along to another client? Ask if they know of anyone else who needs your skills. People are connected with other companies well outside their own. It could be they know someone who’s looking for a writer. I’ve had exactly that happen a few times — most recently two months ago.

7. Current clients. While we’re talking about those clients who love you, why not go back to them today and ask if they’re working on anything? I send emails out to clients when I’m seeing a lull in my upcoming schedule. Something as simple as “How are you? Are you working on anything I can help with?” can net you some immediate work.

8. Marketing firms. Right now, marketing firm employees are scheduling vacations. However, the work is still there. Reach out to marketing firms in your area and introduce yourself. Let them know you’re available for filling in when employees are away, and for small projects as needed.

9. Printers. My printer and I had a great working relationship for a number of years. It started with me writing his copy, then progressed to his referring me whenever a client asked if he could edit their printing job.

10. Online communities/forums. Mind you, these are not places where you should be promoting your business openly or asking for work. Instead, you should be participating in conversations, on Twitter chats, and wherever you can be seen by new and current clients. Only on occasion should you mention your availability. Starting a new thread saying “Hire me” or something equally promotional is a sure way to be ignored or worse, labeled a pest.

11. Your own sale. Who doesn’t love a discount? A good way to get current clients to speed up hiring you or to get the attention of new clients is to offer a discount. Make it a percentage or monetary — whatever appeals. Send the offer via a postcard mailer, tweet it, email it — get creative. Just remember to put an expiration date. The urgency of beating the deadline will work in your favor.

12. Meet-and-greets. Whether it’s the Chamber of Commerce or another local business group, business networking events are happening everywhere. It’s a great way to get in front of new clients for the price of a business card and a cocktail. Can’t locate an event? Try finding an interest on Meetup.com, NetParty.com or Eventbrite.com. Don’t forget to cruise your LinkedIn forums, too. Just remember to treat the event as a greeting and not a sales pitch. Listen openly, share selectively.

13. Your success stories. Everyone wants to be associated with a winner. Statistics suggest that mentioning your recent successes on social media is an effective way to attract new business.

14. Cold calls. We hate them, but they work. If you’ve no time to send out an introductory letter (and you should, if you can), pick up the phone. With your script in hand, introduce yourself and ask if they use outside help from time to time.

15. Advertisements. Be it an online ad or a spot in the local business magazine, let clients know you’re there and you’re available for hire.

16. Under well-defined rocks. Your own marketing strategy should include knowing your intended client. So when you spend that 15 minutes to an hour each day contacting client prospects, you should know as much about them and their business as you can. Before you write that letter of introduction, know that your skills match their needs and if they have content that you can handle without a steep learning curve.

Writers, where you do find your clients? 
Where don’t you look? Why not?

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Comments

  • Cathy Miller June 16, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    Many of my clients are found through LinkedIn (typically reconnecting with someone from my 30 + years of corporate work or a referral). Others are through industry connections. Despite the advice of a self-professed "guru," I tend to not market (or very little) in my own city as this area is famous for low wages.

    Reply
  • Lori Widmer June 16, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Cathy, when you told me that "advice" I was floored. Who in their right mind gives out advice like that? Sure, if it's an area where there's plenty of work and clients willing to pay your rate, go for it. But if not, you've just limited yourself to bargain-basement rates determined by someone who doesn't value you.

    I live in a large metro area. Maybe one of my clients lives here? It's a contact from my magazine days and we've yet to commit it to contract, but geez. Imagine if I'd stuck with just this area? I'd be washing dishes at the local diner. LOL

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  • Paula June 16, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    Ha! If I stuck to that "guru's" advice I'd be earning 20-cents/word from the regional glossy or less than 10-cents/word from the daily newspaper. Babysitters earn more.

    One more place to look: custom content companies. They free magazine from Realtors may well be a custom content publication. So are the magazines you get at a major grocery store if you spend at least $50. I found one client after a store I used to shop at started offering those magazines. I read one and said, "I can write this!" Once I tracked down the company I realized they produce dozens of custom publications in several industries. They might publish magazines, newsletters, web copy, catalogs, all kinds of things. I can't say I write regularly for them, but I've done maybe six of seven things over the last two years. All fun and simple projects (read: no interviews required), and the pay is decent.

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  • Anne Wayman June 16, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    I love 'under well defined rocks!' Ain't that the truth… stumbling over clients is often just a matter of paying attention.

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  • Lori Widmer June 16, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    Paula, thank you. That's what I meant by the "giveaway" magazines.

    Anne, it's my favorite place to find clients. 🙂

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