It’s Dr. Freelance’s distinct pleasure to play today’s host for Jennifer Mattern’s March Virtual Blog Tour. Here’s her no-holds-barred take in our ongoing series of guest bloggers answering frequent freelancer questions.
One of the most common questions I receive from new freelance writers is “Where can I find the high paying freelance writing jobs you always talk about?” What they don’t understand at first is that the problem they face is right in their question. They’re looking for the “where,” when there is none.
The right question starts with “How?” Let’s talk about why that’s the case, and what you can do about it.
Why You Should Forget About the “Where”
You see, there’s no magical faerie land brimming with super awesome freelance writing gigs and clients grinning ear to ear just waiting for you to come along so they can hand over wads of cash. Oh, how I wish. That just isn’t how things work.
It’s true. You might find some decent freelance writing jobs on job boards, blog listings, freelance bidding sites, or even social networks. But most high-paying gigs never make it that far. They aren’t advertised (and those that are usually come with greater competition). Why?
The surplus of low priced writers means clients can easily become inundated with unqualified applicants if they dare to say they’re willing to pay professional rates. Suddenly their public gig looks like the “big break” the low-priced writers are waiting for. So those buyers take their bigger budgets elsewhere to save themselves time and headaches.
How to Get Higher Paying Freelance Writing Jobs
“If many of the best freelance writing jobs aren’t advertised publicly, how the heck am I ever going to find them?” you might be thinking. It’s easier than many freelancers expect. In short, you make the gigs come to you.
Here’s how many of the best freelance jobs are really filled:
- The client does an online search for the type of writer they need (such as “business writer” or “health blogger”). Your site appears high in the search results. They check out your site. You wow them with your credentials and portfolio. Your rates suit their budget. They contact you. It’s a good fit. Bam! You just landed the gig.
- The client reaches out to past writers they’ve worked with (even on unrelated projects). If that writer isn’t available or doesn’t feel the project is right for them, the client will frequently ask if they can refer a trusted colleague. That colleague knows you rock and specialize in what the client needs, so they refer you. The client is given your contact information or your website address where they can learn more. You fall instantly in love (professionally speaking), and that awesome gig is yours.
- The client asks for similar referrals from their employees. This is especially true if the employees will work directly with you, and they may have experience with specific freelance writers from a past position they held. Again, your info is passed along and either your conversation or your website will sell your services for you.
- The client asks their competitors who they’ve used. Yes, they really do talk to their competitors in some cases. Remember, their competition is also made up of colleagues. Just like you network with other freelance writers (you do, right?), your clients very likely network with colleagues in their own industry. Some don’t mind using the same freelancers at the same time, and some will pass on info from those they’ve worked with in the past (since not all gigs are ongoing and they don’t always directly compete). And, you guessed it, the client will either contact you or visit your website to review your marketing copy and portfolio. Make them work for you!
You’ll notice some common elements here. Most importantly, there’s your professional website. If you want gigs to come to you, it helps a lot to have one. It gives you a home base with a sales pitch for your services, and it gives you somewhere to showcase your portfolio. Search rankings and referrals get prospects to your site. And it’s up to your site to convert them into leads to contact you directly (if the referral doesn’t have them do that up front).
I know some writers assume this kind of approach takes too long. It doesn’t. It took me only three months after going full-time with my freelance writing before I had so many incoming gigs that I had to set up a waiting list. I know freelancers who have filled their schedule with gigs that came to them even faster than that. Sure, it could take longer. But it doesn’t take long for gigs to start coming in this way (and better-than-advertised gigs at that).
A More Assertive Approach to Landing Better Writing Gigs
Is building a platform and network not quite your style? First, I say “suck it up.” These days it’s almost a necessity, especially if you want to operate online. But beyond these more passive marketing approaches I call “query-free freelancing” are more assertive tactics that can work as well. Here’s my favorite:
Decide who you want to write for. Then pitch them directly.
Yep. That’s all there is to it. If you don’t want to wait for clients to find you and you’re tired of all of the low-paying freelance writing jobs on ad boards and bidding sites, just pitch people and make it happen. Sometimes the best clients don’t even realize they need you until you let them know. Of course you have to be tactful about it if you suggest something like edits to their existing copy (as they might be quite proud of it).
For example, let’s say you’re a tech writer. There are countless projects you could directly pitch to prospects. Maybe you love a new software program but the instruction manual is almost indecipherable. Pitch your services to clean it up or write a new one. Or maybe you notice that same company sells B-to-B software, but they don’t have any white papers on the site. You might pitch them white paper writing services by conveying the value of white papers in making executive-level sales decisions. Or maybe their marketing copy on-site focuses so much on features that they forget to mention benefits to the buyer. You could pitch those web copywriting services, helping them take something technical to a level more buyers would appreciate — because developers and the buying public don’t always think the same things are most important.
The most important thing to remember is that if you want higher paying freelance writing jobs, you need to stop asking “where” they are. Start asking “how” you can get them instead. Maybe then you’ll find the solutions you’re looking for and the gigs that pay you what you’re worth.
Jennifer Mattern is a freelance business writer and professional blogger who writes about freelance writing, social media, and small business. She also publishes e-books for freelance writers and is scheduled to publish her first nonfiction book, The Query-Free Freelancer, next year.
Interested in guest posting? Drop Dr. Freelance a line!