How to Get More (Ideal) Work as a Freelance Writer

If there’s one question I get asked more than any other, it’s this: How do I reach my target audience and get them to hire me?
So that’s what we’re covering today.
The approach I’m outlining below is applicable to almost any niche and for any type of freelance work. If you want the long-form version, you can read it here. Otherwise, I’m doing the shortened version below.
Let’s get to it.
1. Guest posting: Get in front of your target audience
In order for people to hire you, they first need to know A) you exist and B) that you know your stuff.
So how do you do that?
Step 1: Find out where your audience goes for information.
Step 2: Get published there.
Sites seen as authority-builders (both niche-specific blogs and large publications) are often looking for guest contributors. But they only accept the best pitches from people who have something new and interesting to say.
That’s why you need to come up with an interesting angle for your article, and then pitch it in a way that addresses the needs/goals of the publication. Your pitch should include a 1-3 sentence summary and a few bullet points on why the audience would care about reading it.
But where do you send your clever pitch?
Two main options here (most of the time).
Option 1: Go through the site’s guest contributor process if it’s outlined on the site.
Option 2: Build relationships with the editors/content managers you want to work with via Twitter. In my experience, a personal connection always seems to be more effective.
Note: Befriending on Twitter doesn’t mean following them and then immediately DMing them your pitch. It means getting to know them, interacting with them, and making steps toward a real, human connection. Try to approach it in a non-slimy way.
2. Make friends with people in your niche.
Paul Jarvis and I talked about this on the Creative Class podcast in depth, but here’s the gist of things: Having freelancer friends who do similar work means creating more opportunities for collaboration.
As a single person, you can only handle so much work. When you get too busy, it’s good to have someone you trust and that does similar work to hand that off to. On the flip side, these friends can be the people you reach out to when things get slow on your end of things to see if they need extra help (or know someone who does.)
PLUS: Data shows that 81% of freelancers refer work to each other. It makes sense: Are you more likely to hand a project off to a complete stranger, or to someone you know and talk to regularly? The latter, every time. It’s a win-win.
More on this topic here.
3. Get face time with your ideal clients at in-person events.
Even if you’re introverted, it’s important to get occasional in-person events on your schedule. There’s just no perfect substitute for the opportunities that come from being in the same place (IRL) as a bunch of people working in your niche.
Relevant conferences, meetups, and special events are worth checking out—but make sure you leave time while you’re there for introducing yourself to people you want to meet. It’s scary to go up to a stranger and say, “Hi, I’m ____ and I do _____, nice to meet you”, but in my experience, it’s always worth doing.
What to look for at in-person events:

  • You’ve seen people you want to meet talking about going
  • It’s a niche-specific event, not a generalized, mass-gathering
  • It’s within your budget

If you’re really brave, you might even consider applying to speak at some of these events. Again, with your pitch, bring something unique to the table and be sure to tie in why it’s relevant to the audience and what they can expect to walk away with from your session. This is a great way for you to get in front of a large audience and to start building your authority on the topic you know best.
Most freelancers (and small business owners, too) will tell you that the bulk of their business comes via referrals.

Why, tho? Because it puts you in the fast lane to conversion. If a friend tells you something is good, you believe it (unless your friend is a psycho, right?)
So to get referrals, you need to:

  1. Ask for them from past/current clients and your freelancer friends
  2. Be specific about what type of work you want referred
  3. Ask for a testimonial, while they’re at it (if they were happy with your project)

So many people forget/don’t want to ask for referrals. But you need to. Consistently.
Do the Work
Especially when you’re getting started with a new business, the whole “finding the right clients and then getting them to hire you” thing is scary—and hard. But following these steps should point you in the right direction. It worked for me, and it’s worked for others, too.
Put in the work, and you can make it happen.
Questions about pitching? Finding your niche? Email me and I’ll help you however I can.

This article originally appeared in my newsletter, A Cup of Copy. Sign up and get these free tips sent right to your inbox every other Wednesday.