[Updated July 20, 2022]
One of the most common questions I get from writers who are starting to build their copywriting business is “How do you find clients?” More importantly, “How do you find your very first freelance writing client?”
It’s a great question. While many writers shift into the freelance world with experience from full-time jobs (like I did) others don’t have that. Starting a business from scratch can feel daunting, but I’m here to tell you—you got this!
Before I share my tips for getting writing clients, I realize you might be wondering “Who the heck am I and why should you listen to my advice?” Fair question.
I’m a full-time writer & strategist specializing in brand copy and content strategy for service-oriented businesses. I started my own business in 2017, but have been writing professionally since 2010. During that time, I’ve worked with over 75 clients and published hundreds of articles for B2C and B2B brands.
My business was born as a way to travel more, make my own hours and work with brands that inspire me. So far, so good!
When I mentor other writers I always tell them, there’s no one secret method that will instantly score you tons of writing gigs. Building a client base takes time, effort, and the process is different for everyone. You have to try a lot of different strategies to see what works best for you.
Here are three things that have worked for me.
Everyone knows someone who is starting a business, helping their boss with a project, or advancing their side hustle. And people who love you will be more invested in your success. I’m talking about your friends, your old bosses, and even your mom.
I really shied away from this at first because I thought it sounded desperate. It’s not! Once I dropped the fear and began to think of it as a life update, things fell into place. Plus, it’s all in the way you frame it. Choose 5 – 10 primo contacts who you think will know people. Then draft up a simple, friendly email asking for referrals who might be interested in what you have to offer.
Next, draft up a different text for your Facebook feed. Start with something casual like “Hi friends!” Include your business as an exciting announcement and that you’re taking new clients (explain what you do quickly and clearly). Include a pic of you they haven’t seen—not a headshot, but a personal photo that shows off the real you that they know and love.
A few things to note: this is not a direct sales pitch—you’re looking for contacts and referals. Let people know that you’re actively building a web of connections for a potential client roster. Keep it friendly, personal, and thank them! Telling people they’re awesome always seems to help.
Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last 15 years, you’ve seen how online communities are changing the world. When you’re building your freelance writing business, Facebook groups and Slack communities can be amazing resources. Not only for learning more about your craft and networking with other professionals, but also for finding a J-O-B that pays cash money.
Fun fact: One of my first clients came from a Facebook group. That client has resulted in multiple referrals that have helped me scale my business. There are tons of FB groups that function like job boards and Slack groups that have hiring or gig channels for contract work. I don’t use Facebook groups as much anymore because the leads on Slack tend to be much higher quality. But we all have to start somewhere!
Once you’re in, scan the discussion for gigs that appeal to you and respond with a comment and a link to your portfolio, your website, or a link to a relevant sample.
The caveat with any online community is this: Don’t be an a-hole. Basically, this means, don’t just use groups for self-promo. Introduce yourself, provide value when you can, learn from questions, and promote yourself only when relevant or requested.
Ideally, you want clients to come to you, right? That way, you don’t have to wonder where your next client is coming from, and you certainly don’t have to track anyone down.
Building your brand is the best way to make sure clients find you. And once they do find you, what do you want them to know?
Start by asking yourself:
I’m a firm believer that you should never rely on social media alone to build your business. That means you’re going to have to build a website to get this stuff across to people. I’ve hired writers before – and I always prefer to hire the one who has at least some sort of website as opposed to just sending a Google doc with some links on it.
If you’re just starting out, creating a website can be overwhelming. But remember, it can evolve over time – done is better than perfect. Especially if it’s holding you back from just starting.
Once you’ve got a simple website, then you can consider building your presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok…(PS I hang out on LinkedIn if you want to connect!). Or you could start a podcast, publish on Medium or Substack. Build an email list (wish I had done this one sooner). Or whatever platform(s) you want to be known on.
The sooner you build a professional brand, the sooner you’ll be able to start attracting your dream clients and building a more successful business.
I hope this was helpful and best of luck!