You've probably seen or heard this before. Freelance Writer A is having a discussion with new Freelance Writer B. The newer freelancer talks about how they're struggling to find decent paying freelance writing jobs on job boards and classified sites, and even when they do find one there's too much competition there. Writer A tells them to hang in there because there really are high paying freelance writing jobs -- they're just looking for them in the wrong places.
Writer B asks where the high paying gigs are then if not on the job boards. Writer A explains that you have to either build a platform, a strong referral network, or directly pitch prospects you'd like to work for. Writer B says something to the effect of "No, I mean where are the high paying freelance writing jobs." Unfortunately it doesn't sink in that there's no magical place where all of the high paying freelance writing clients congregate.
In the end it comes down to this: you need to make your own freelance writing opportunities. Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas to get you going:
- Set up a professional website right away if you don't have one. It's extremely important to maintain visibility these days, and a lot of high paying freelance writing clients don't advertise for writers -- they search for portfolios of writers that might be a good fit. You need that search engine presence if you want to land those gigs.
- Ask colleagues if they know anyone hiring. Just don't be obnoxious about it. Another way to handle it is to simply remind them what you specialize in and let them know you're taking on new clients now if they happen to come across something that would suit you well, but that they couldn't take on personally. Writers refer work to each other all the time. But if they don't think of you, you won't get the jobs.
- Ask existing clients for referrals. If you have one or more decent clients and you simply want more, ask them for referrals. They might be well-networked within their industry or niche and be able to point you to others who are hiring. After all it's in their interest too. If you give up on your writing work because you can't make ends meet, you won't be there to handle their work anymore either.
- Use job search sites in a different way. Forget about looking for gigs for freelance writers. Instead look for job ads hiring editors (often full-time). If you read the job requirements they very often say a part of the editor's job is managing a team of freelance writers. Yet these same companies seem to rarely advertise for the writers themselves. But now that you know they hire freelancers, you can pitch them on your own. Even if they're not hiring immediately, they might keep you in mind if an opening comes up down the road.
- Look a bit broader. While it's smart to know your target market and stick to them with your marketing efforts, some freelancers look a bit too narrowly. For example, if you're a Web content writer you might not think to look beyond the Web itself for your clients -- like in webmaster communities. (Hint: while some bigger budget clients do hang out there, many do not. They don't have the time.) Take a broader approach. Perhaps that means conducting a more general search for existing sites in your niche or industry. If you feel you can help them improve their Web content, pitch them your ideas. Or maybe it means you'll look to small local businesses that either don't have a Web presence yet or that have a very limited one. You probably wouldn't come across them easily online, but if they're interested and just waiting for the right help to come along, that could be you.
While I'm certainly in favor of a more passive query-free freelancing approach, for most people that would be an end goal rather than a starting point. There are times when you do have to get aggressive and make your own freelance writing opportunities.
How do you make your own freelance writing opportunities when the job market seems to dry up? Share your tips and stories in the comments.