Freelance Guide to Screening Clients

What I’m reading: Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
What I’m listening to: Die Like a Rich Boy by Frightened Rabbit

I really thought this week was going to be slow. It’s June, clients usually disappear until I decide to go on vacation in August….not this June. Currently, I’m working on two large projects that will both stretch into July. Plus, there’s another dormant one that will wrap up, I hope, next week.

While that’s not doing much for my June totals, I’m feeling really good about July’s totals. Really, really good.

Time to market some more, though. Always.

A question I get a lot (as do most of my writer colleagues) is “How do I find clients?”

To which I say you should be asking a different question: How do I find the right clients?

By screening them, of course.

Ideally, you’re going to go first to your regular clients and ask for referrals. Few referrals turn into problem clients. In my opinion, it’s because like attracts like. These people have worked together already in some capacity. There’s a trust relationship established, which is good for you. This referral has already proven their worth with your existing client.

But for those prospects who are entirely new to you, try these steps:

Attract them. The best way to do this is to offer something of value to the type of client you’re trying to attract. A free report, a free webinar, a Twitter chat, or a newsletter aimed at things they’d be interested in. Other ways to attract clients: attend networking events, conferences, and show up on Twitter chats and industry forums (and comment regularly).

Look for similarities. You’ve worked well with that software company in the past. What attributes do they have that made it such a great experience? What companies appear to have those same qualities? Who else is working in that area or in a similar one? Not that you necessarily want to work with competing companies simultaneously (or at all, depending on your own boundaries), but often one company’s culture, management style, or project needs are mirrored in another company. It’s a good place to start, though know that the similarities may not necessarily mean the same type of success.

Find a home for your expertise. You’re all about writing about horticulture. Which and what kind of companies also need your specialized touch? Start through the associations and the magazines. Who’s attending, exhibiting, or advertising?

Qualify them. Ask how often they’ve worked with freelancers, what their immediate and long-term needs are, how they go about deciding to hire a writer, what things could get in the way of your working together, and what their budget range for such projects is.

Writers, how do you go about locating your ideal client?
What do you do differently that’s resulted in quality clients?

About the author




  • Devon Ellington June 16, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    My favorite place to find new clients — who tend to be reliable — is Chamber of Commerce events. They tend to support each other, and give each other business first.

  • Lori Widmer June 16, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    That's very true, Devon. Finding a good Chamber is a great place to network and locate good clients.

    There's a local LinkedIn group that holds networking events. I've missed their first three events, but the next one is coming up, and I'm signing up. These are local professionals and there's a great chance to expand the network with and through these people.

  • Eileen June 16, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    Devon, it sounds like you have found good clients via your Chamber of Commerce. I found with mine, even though in a major metropolitan area, they simply didn't have the budget to hire a copywriter and they required too much education as to the benefits. I'm glad to hear your experience has been otherwise.

    Lori, as you know, I attract clients via direct mail. I hand pick every person I put on my mailing list and use screening criteria. The company must have revenues of at least $20M, with 20 or more employees, for instance. That way, I know they can afford me and are likely to understand the value a copywriter can bring to the table.