If you are new to freelance writing, where do you find your first client? That depends on your situation. Your options will be different, depending on whether you are transitioning to freelancing from a full-time job that involves writing or you are starting your business up from scratch.
Contact Former Colleagues
Tap into your network of people you know to find potential clients. If you are transitioning to freelancing from full-time employment, your former employer may have a project or two to send your way.
Contact former co-workers who have moved on to other companies. Tell them about your new business and ask who you should contact at the new company to talk to about your services.
Check Out Job Listings
Simply because you haven’t landed your first client (yet), it doesn’t mean that you can’t check out job listings. There are clients who will consider people who are new to freelancing. You aren’t required to provide samples that you have been paid to produce when you are applying for a gig. You can provide a link to a blog post or send in a Word document of something you have prepared as a dummy so that you will have an example to show to clients.
If you decide to apply for a job you have found on Craigslist, Problogger or another board, be sure to follow the instructions to the letter. Failure to follow the instructions properly is a sure way to have your application rejected from the outset.
You also have the option of getting work from bidding sites like odesk.com and elance.com. There is always a variety of gigs posted, and be sure to read the details carefully before agreeing to work for a client. Many of the gigs posted here are on the low end, but there are some higher-paying ones if you are prepared to be patient and spend some time looking through the listings.
Join Your Local Chamber of Commerce
Your Local Chamber of Commerce will put you in contact with business owners and it’s a great way to make connections to people who can hire you for freelance writing gigs. Make a point of attending meetings, and always have a supply of business cards on hand to pass out. Tell people you meet about what you do, and be sure to ask them about their businesses as well.
Contact Site Owners Directly
In the freelancing world, many of the job opportunities are hidden. You will find that the better gigs are not advertised and that you will have to find them on your own.
Start by figuring out what kinds of topics you would like to write about. Once you know what kind of writing you want to do, you can start figuring out what kinds of businesses would be likely to need your services. Make a list of companies and contact each one.
If you’re looking for a first client, you may want to reach out to your prospects by e-mail explaining that you are a freelance writer and exactly what types of services you provide. You’ll want to review the business’ website first to make sure that you are making the right pitch. Contact the marketing manager to ask whether there are any projects that he or she is interested in outsourcing.
To find the name of the right person to reach out to, you can call the company directly. Ask for the name of the person in charge of the marketing or communications department. In some cases, the Human Resources Department may be able to help you find the right person to contact.
You could also try cold calling some local businesses to tell them about your business and to see whether they work with freelancers. If they do, you may need to schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss the project in more detail. Some potential clients may ask you for a rate sheet, and you should have something prepared to forward to them by mail as a follow-up after your initial conversation that sets out how much you charge for articles, blog posts, etc.
Getting your first client is an exciting part of freelancing. Once you break that barrier, you’ll feel much more confident about getting your next one, and the one after that.
Here are some more resources about landing your first freelance writing gig: