4 Ways to Find Freelance Clients
In the past few weeks, I’ve had several conversations with up-and-coming journalists who were already at a crossroads in their careers. They were trying to find a way to squeeze freelancing into their full-time jobs or balance it with their part-time jobs.
Of course, it’s ideal to get full-time jobs with benefits when you’re starting out, but journalists who took full-time jobs in search of benefits are facing the looming threat of layoffs. Don’t believe me? Look at the recent Chicago Tribune and the Denver Post staff slashings.
If you need to freelance — whether by choice or by circumstance — you’ll need to know where to find clients. Yes, you can go to job boards or comb through social media feeds. (Of course, my freelance newsletter does that for you.) But for me, I’ve found other strategies to be more lucrative.
Tap into your current network
As 2017 came to a close, I exchanged Twitter direct messages with a friend/former work colleague I had met while completing an internship. This friend, a veteran business journalist, had kindly encouraged me by sending me fellowship openings she had seen. I mentioned to her that I may have to leave journalism entirely if my situation didn’t turn around. At this point in my freelance career, I felt like I wasn’t going to grow my business to a point where I could support myself full-time. Soon after sending that depressingly honest message, I got an email from my friend with a lead on a freelance content marketing gig. I connected with the client after New Year’s and have happily been supplying them with blog posts ever since. I would’ve never found this person by blindly casting a wide net. In short, closed mouths don’t get fed. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Ask your friends, former colleagues, and anyone else within your professional and personal networks if they know of openings or leads.
Share Your Work
Back in summer 2017, I received a Twitter DM from one of my @Freelance_Beat followers, mentioning to me that the publication for which she worked full-time had a need for freelancers. I’m not sure how she found my blog in the first place, but I was grateful for the lead. After pitching one-off pieces that the site loved, my editor offered me a contract writing position for the site, which meant a steady cash flow and a deeper client relationship. Yes, blogs aren’t what they once were, but you can still write one if you’re in need of clips. Consider repurposing your previous college coursework into content. Create an Instagram account to showcase your photo and video skills. Share the work you’ve done for your own blog and/or for other platforms. You never know who’ll be watching.
Network with intention
I hate going to networking events. Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate networking events. I’m such an introvert that I create a guide for fellow quiet people (for the holiday season, but still useful). Borrowing a tip from that guide, check the guest list to see if there’s anyone you’d like to meet. That way, you can prepare conversation topics and give your business cards to people you genuinely want to connect with.
Pitch! Pitch! Pitch!
At the end of the day, all editors want are good story ideas that will resonate with their readers. But an editor is never going to slide into your DMs or email you out of the blue soliciting your ideas until you put yourself out there. If you have a good idea, carefully craft your pitch and go for it. If you’re successful even once, you can always pitch an editor again in the future. Pitch successfully multiple times, and you’ll be better positioned to become a contract writer or columnist.
Where else do you find clients? Give us the details in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.