[Editor’s Note: While I’m out of the office, please enjoy this rerun of one of WordCount’s greatest hits. I’ll be back next week with new material. — MVR]
A fellow freelancer recently lost a long-time client. That’s hardly noteworthy. For many freelancers, clients come and go all the time. In the years during and after the recession, turnover has been especially high.
For my friend, it was the latest in a string of regular freelancing gigs that had come to an end, either because of budget cuts, reorganizations or other changes to the publications’ operations.
How, he asked, could he drum up more new business?
It’s a question all self-employed writers ask themselves at some point or another, and not always because a client’s going away. Sometimes you burn out on a topic or genre of writing and just want to try something new.
But where to start?
Here are my suggestions for finding new clients when your old ones start running out of gas:
1. Contact editors you’ve worked with before. Ask if they need more writers or know of other opportunities at the publisher they work for. Their publication or website might not be in the market for freelanced articles, but they may have a sister publication that is. Don’t dwell on how long it’s been since you last worked with someone: if you left on good terms, they’ll remember you.
2. Network. While you’re talking to editor acquaintances, ask if they know other editors who might need writers. Put out the word on your social networks – physical and virtual – that you’ve had dates on your calendar open up and are available for additional work. Don’t forget to update your social media profiles. If there are writer groups in your area, go to a meeting, introduce yourself and pass out your business card.
3. Check out the competition. If you covered the auto industry, parenting or sustainability for specific magazines or news sites, contact competitors with a letter of introduction and a handful of story ideas. Let them know you’re experienced in writing about what they cover: it sets you apart from the pack.
4. Go local, or go national. If you’ve written about topics for a national audience, look for local markets that cover the same things. Conversely, if you’ve been writing for local outlets – newspapers, hyperlocal news sites or regional publications – figure out how you can repurpose pitches for a national publication.
5. Start a business. If work isn’t coming to you, create your own. I’ve written previously about 10 business freelancers writers can start, including hyperlocal news sites, training companies, city magazines, industry watchdog newsletters, blog networks and editorial service bureaus.
6. Consider doing brand journalism work. Also known as content marketing or content strategy, brand journalism is being practiced by more companies that want to offer news, how-tos or other helpful information as a way to ingratiate themselves with customers, all the better to sell them things. To find out about opportunities, check out the Custom Content Council. Put yourself in the database at Junta42, a fee-based online matching making service for companies that are running content marketing campaigns and creatives who can do the work, including writers and copywriters.
8. Promote yourself. On LinkedIn, make sure you have recommendations on your profile. Having recommendations fills out your profile, which means you show up higher in the results when editors do searches in the network’s Jobs section.
9. Keep up with who’s moving where and other industry news. Put PaidContent, AdAge, Mediabistro’s Revolving Door, Poynter’s MediaWire and other sites that track the media and advertising business in your blog reader. Read them every day for news of who’s hiring and who’s switched jobs recently – then email those newly-appointed editors or publishers with a LOI and ask if they need writers.
10. Touch base with writer friends. Sometimes writers have an overflow of work that they’re happy to offload to a colleague. Or they might be working for a publication that’s in the market for new writers.
When clients go south, how do you find new ones?