Marketing is mandatory if you want to land freelance writing jobs. This goes for established freelancers and beginners alike. Unless you become so successful that your work is coming to you and you’re overbooked, and I hope you do, you’re marketing for a portion of your ‘office’ hours.
If you’re an established freelancer and find yourself in a marketing rut, clicking through the same job boards a couple days each week, pick a couple of these quick marketing tasks to shake things up. You’ll break out of your slump and land paid writing jobs to boot!
If you’re a beginner and ready to take on assignments, look no further. Once the planning and set-up of your business is done—and this shouldn’t take more than two weeks—the only thing left to do (other than write every day) is market your business, yourself, and your ability because it’s how you land freelance writing jobs. Projects. The go-ahead. Paying work.
Here’s my rule of thumb: The less work on your desk, the more time you spend marketing.
But the best part is that these marketing tasks are double-whammies: they’re effective and they don’t take a lot of time! And what self-employed business owner wants to waste time at work? Not counting the stereotypical procrastination. Which is true in my case.
#1 – Outline An Article Idea For A Specific Publication
Keep a folder on your toolbar of markets that accept unsolicited submissions. You can find these by searching with Google (submission guidelines + your niche subject), keeping wary a eye while you browse the web, or on Paid Write’s market page (there’s also one just for beginners!).
Visit the publication’s website and brainstorm possible pitch ideas. Now outline it! Non-fiction editors especially appreciate a clear vision of your proposed article. You can either include your outline in your pitch or use it to guide your submission email. Either way, be sure to check those submission guidelines so you’re not disqualified before your idea reaches an editor.
Not sure what to look for? I published a pre-pitch checklist for researching prospective publications over on Be A Freelance Blogger that will get you up to speed in no time.
#2 – Cold Pitch A Desirable Client
Just because the client or publication your eyeballing isn’t hiring doesn’t mean they don’t need writers. Sure you’ll get some ‘not at this times’ and ‘I’ll hold onto your emails’ but at least that’s a foot in the door!
This type of marketing is called a Letter of Introduction or LOI and, though easier to customize than a full-blown pitch, I don’t recommend sending out obvious form letters. Editors see right through your ‘I sent this email to twenty other publishers today’ approach. Again, check out my Pre-Pitch Checklist and let that client know you’ve done your research and are truly interested in working with them.
#3 – Follow Job Sites On Social Media
You’re probably already checking your favorite job boards (if not, I have some great recommendations!) but did you know that a number of freelance job sites also have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts where they post positions as they come in?
Two of my favorites include Write Jobs and FWJ on Facebook. Spend some time searching your favorite social media platforms for accounts that share job postings and follow them. Then later, when you’re wasting time scrolling, you may just come across an interesting job and—BAM—you’ve redeemed your productivity!
#4 – Respond To A Job Listing
Speaking of job listings, it only takes 15-20 minutes to respond to one. Make sure you read through the submission requirements, check out the possible client’s website to get a feel, and include a link to your website. Many job ads ask for samples with your response and these are easy enough to link to—I keep a bookmark of clips on my toolbar for quick reference.
But some job listings also give you a writing ‘assignment’. They call it a sample but it is what it is: an on-spec assignment. You’re writing an amazing piece (after all, you’re trying to land a client) with a predetermined work count and they may or may not publish it and they may or may not hire you.
It’s your decision whether you apply for these positions. You choose whether you shovel your time and energy into their assignment. If you do and you write or have written these, save your work in a file on your computer. Mine is labeled repurpose. (I’m looking into the legal rights pertaining to these pieces and will be writing a blog post around it so stay tuned.)
I have two conditions when deciding whether to write a client-specific sample piece: either I REALLY want to work with the company -or- I REALLY need the work.
#5 – Update Your Online Portfolio
You know the portfolio page you created for your professional website? That thing is a living document.
Not only should it be as visually enticing as possible, it should also be updated with new, impressive assignments. Make sure you’re not forgetting to showcase your latest and greatest to prospective clients.
If you write content, include visuals to give your layout a magazine feel. Display screenshots to show off big projects. Email a few editors, past or present, and request a few sentences that describe the positives of working with you. Display these testimonials on your site. Add the logos of publications you’ve worked with. There are lots of quick ways to update and improve your site.
I recently installed a slider on my home page to highlight pieces I’m particularly proud of.
#6 – Bookmark New Target Markets
Remember that bookmark folder I mentioned earlier? Take 15 minutes, maybe a half hour, and Google subjects you’re interested in writing about. Use these results to scout possible markets to pitch. If the site touts submission guidelines, add it to your folder. (Guidelines—and rates—are often listed on the Contact Us page.)
You may or may not choose to pitch them that very moment, but keeping that folder full means less time searching for paying markets later.
#7 – Outline A Saved Story Idea
Only a guess here but I’d bet dollars to ding-dongs you have a stash of article ideas somewhere. Scraps of paper, a notebook, five different notebooks…I’m partial to index cards, but I have no doubt you have some somewhere.
And what’s stopping you from submitting these brilliant scraps of idea? It’s because they’re just that: a scrap. Dig through your archive and see what jumps out at you then brainstorm, mind-map or outline that story idea!
You might not have a market yet but that piece is one step closer to published!
#8 – Enter A Contest
There are frauds out there so be critical. Writing contests that involve a huge entry fee or those that claim you’ve won—along with hundreds of other writers—and you can buy this book with YOUR WRITING in print for a price! These are usually scams.
With that said, there are some amazing contests out there that can boost a beginner’s career (just imagine how nice that would look in your emails), enhance an already impressive resume, and look amazing on your website! Freelance Writing dot com has a contest page, as does The Writer and New Pages.
#9 – Pitch A Guest Post
Hit the mound and pitch a guest post to a blog that relates to your niche. If you’re writing for businesses, pitch something that solidifies your authority. For example, if you write the restaurant or hospitality industry, pitch to a market that would be interested in 10 Ways A Copy Marketer Can Bring In Hungry Customers. You automatically become an industry expert in selling with your words, whether it’s menu descriptions or mailings, by giving your target market tips on hiring their own writers.
If your niche is a subject, pitch big and small.
Small: Blogs you know you’re qualified to write for that will help you build a portfolio and (preferably) earn you some income!
Big: Websites you daydream about. Those ones that seeing your post in all its glory, right there on their page, would bring a tear to your eye—and some happy to your dance.
Again, be sure to research your market! This is every editor’s number one boogaboo!
#10 – Register With A Freelance Directory
I’ll be honest, I have yet to delve into the market of directories. I have a few accounts with sites like Indeed but no real listings. Here’s why you shouldn’t be like me: Listing yourself as a writer for hire on directories means clients come to you!
Just imagine an editor or company head sitting at their desk with ‘hire a writer’ on their to-do list. Where do lots of them go to find writers? You guessed it: Directories!
While I obviously can’t make any personal recommendations, FREELANCERSUNION, a professional organization I trust, includes a listing in their directory with membership. If anyone has a raving review of a directory, drop it in the comments! I’m sure we’d all love to know!
And don’t discount LinkedIn. If used properly you can land work there as well.
Just beware, there’s a fine line between content mill and directory. The difference? A middle man who sets rates and charges big fees. Be your own income advocate and don’t sell yourself short.
#11 – Add A ‘Hire Me’ Tab To Your Website
It seems simple but this quick marketing idea gets results! Already have one on your professional site that isn’t buried on a drop-down? Add this menu item to your blogs, too!
Make it as easy as possible for clients to hire you—and make it clear that you’re for hire. Sometimes advertising this little tidbit of handy information is the difference between landing gigs and writing with no results.
#12 – Market Your Services To Local Businesses
If you haven’t tapped into your local markets yet, you’re missing out! There are newspapers (big and small), regional magazines, destination guides, reviews, menus, brochures, and radio ad scripts to be written. The only difference between these writing gigs and the ones on the jobs boards are that, for these, you market yourself locally.
Introverts tread lightly; these assignments typically require some degree of face time.
#13 – Hit The Newsstand
One great place to find those local and regional writing gigs is your local news stand—and those freebie racks at the grocery store, coffee shop, and microbrewery. Make an effort to pick up copies of publications you’d like to write for.
You can extend this into a trip to the bookstore, or newsstand, to look for pitch-able print publications. You can also Google for newspapers that serve outlying areas near your home. You’d be surprised how many villages within 30 minutes of me have small presses.
#14 – Drop By, Call Or Email Your Local Newspaper
Speaking of local newspapers, send over an email, call their office or stop by to ask about writing on a freelance basis. I landed my first two, regular gigs this way.
I recently wrote an article about a marketing graduate who delivered donuts to his desired companies with his resume inside. That might work here, you never know. Just be ready, as a reporter, to talk to people, attend meetings, and bring along your camera for accompanying images!
#15 – Spend A Day Handing Out Business Cards
If you want to land local gigs you have to hit the pavement. Make a list of places you can hand out your business cards. Think print shops, graphic design companies, small publishers, newspaper offices. If you’d like, email them a week before so your appearance isn’t a cold contact. Bring along a hard copy of your resume and a few samples pieces.
For print shops, leave a stack with the proprietor. Explain that you’re a freelance writer living-in-the-area or born-and-raised and you’d like to leave some cards for possible clients with writing needs.
With possible clients, offer to talk over their content needs—and if they say no thank you, it’s no big deal. You were only there to drop off your business card.
#16 – Offer Your Services In Support Of Something You Care About
Once I became secure and stable in my freelance writing career, I began to set loftier career goals. One of these is to make a difference with my writing. This decision now guides my marketing as I strive more and more to work with clients who are making the world a better place. For me, this meant writing for Devourable as an animal advocate.
I was fortunate that this was also a paid gig, but you don’t have to wait for a lucrative arrangement. You can offer your services pro bono, whether you’re a new writer or not. What do you think needs to be heard to make our world a better place? What ideas do you want to persuade your audience to consider?
#17 – Tell Social Media You’re A Writer For Hire
So you’ve told everyone that visits your professional website. And all your blog readers. Of course, you could walk around with a Writer for Hire t-shirt and hand out business cards at the Saturday night bonfire but chances are, you know a lot more people than you think you do.
If I told everyone I see that I’m a hirable writer, it’d be all of six people. But I have social media that spans through decades of friends. Friends I don’t talk to, friends from high-school, past coworkers, friends I truly miss seeing, and some people I’ve met digitally and professionally.
The point is, make sure you’re utilizing your available reach. A quick social media post about how you’re marketing for a new client can prompt people to step forward. While you’re at it, make sure your ‘occupation’ status reflects your current freelance status.