If you have transitioned from a company job to a freelance lifestyle, you suddenly lose the support of public relations and marketing departments – teams that were dedicated to raising awareness of your work within an organization. These departments handled the business of contacting prospective clients, reaching out into industry communities, and having extended conversations about a company’s products and services. As a freelancer, these outreach tasks and responsibilities now fall to you. Many new writers struggle with approaching strangers, which can greatly hamper their ability to pick up contract jobs, find information resources, and meet new mentors.
Contact Your Heroes
Entrepreneur Tim Ferriss issued a challenge to students at Princeton University, asking them to contact business leaders, celebrities, and other prominent individuals. These communications might include trade-related questions or a request for future interviews. This exercise served students build their confidence and even form friendships with their heroes. You can apply this same exercise to your life. Make a list of the authors you admire the most and reach out to them!
Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr get single voices in touch with massive audiences. However, these communication blasts aren’t necessarily the best thing for your freelance business, especially if no one is engaging with you. Sometimes you just need to break through shyness barriers and contact influential people within your field. Social media makes this particularly simple, allowing you to direct message or tweet at prolific and highly regarded experts. Casual email dialogues with influential people can develop into great interview features, mentorship opportunities, and better careers.
Transforming Your Pitches
Some freelance writers wait passively for jobs to come across their table, when in reality, the best gigs are obtained by aggressively contacting new publications, companies, and influential people. The next time your work is a bit light, start a list of possible article topics that you would love to write. The more passionate you are, the better, since your interest will shine through in the language of your pitch. Once you’ve got a few solid article topics, create a list of publications that might print this type of article. Don’t just include websites and blogs- go big and search for high-profile magazines and academic journals.
Once you finish writing out these pitches, send them to multiple contacts at each publication. It doesn’t matter if they’re strangers – you want to maximize exposure. Most publications will list editorial email addresses on their “About” or “Staff” pages. If your pitch fits several different topic sections, be sure to email each of these editors. While one editor might disregard your email or pitch, another editor might find value in it. Pitch often and hard. Breaking down your shyness barriers while pitching can dramatically increase your chances for approval. A positive pitching mindset can even raise your confidence in other aspects of life, helping you take new financial risks, sell your home, travel to new places, and embrace change.
Bringing Value To Your Connections
Freelance writers can get into tricky territory if they rely on their contacts too much for writing jobs, without offering any kind of benefit to their contacts. Professional relationships should be mutually beneficial for all parties involved – not just you. Once you start a one-on-one conversation with a writing contact via social media or email, take some time to learn more about them.
For example, if you are speaking with an editor, learn more about their interests, their role within the publication, and their goals. You might discover ways to make your editors’ lives easier by making slight changes to your articles. If your contacts are also seeking freelance gigs in certain industries, make sure to pass on relevant leads when you hear about them. Your contacts will come to value your professional relationship as one that is both useful and personally enriching.
Reaching out and talking to strangers can be one of the most difficult parts of a freelancer’s life. We often become isolated in our remote offices, without a way to mingle with industry professionals. Breaking down your shyness barriers, contacting your heroes, and pitching aggressively can open up wonderful new writing opportunities and help you find great new mentors.