It’s tough to hustle for new work, but writer Louis DeNicola has perfected his sales pitch to build a booming freelance business. He shares six ways fellow freelancers can drum up new business.
It took me a long time to make the jump to full-time freelance writing. I had two steady clients, but I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find more work.
Ironically, I’m now more likely to struggle with my workload than worry about finding a new client. I rarely need to send out cold pitches; I have a steady stream of work that comes from the following six sources.
1. Find Work Through Industry Conferences
Attending a conference can be expensive. The travel costs add up quickly, and—even if the conference is nearby—the price of a ticket is often hundreds or thousands of dollars. But depending on the conference and industry, it may be money well spent.
Connecting with people face to face can be the most effective way to meet new clients. It’s also fun to meet sources and clients in person after emailing back and forth with them for months.
Most conferences also offer professional development opportunities where you can hone your craft and learn about the latest industry news. Use this information to refine your pitches.
For example, you might find out changes to laws that will affect your industry. You can craft pitches in creative and compelling ways to inform companies’ customers of the changes. You could even write a white paper on the changes and send it to your clients and prospective clients. It’s a promotional opportunity that also solidifies your standing as an industry expert.
2. Find Work Through Client Referrals
You’re paid to turn in quality work on time, but as anyone who has hired freelancers can tell you, some fall short. Go beyond meeting the obligations set out in your proposal and remember that it’s difficult to beat a client referral.
I work hard to meet my deadlines, but occasionally something does come up–even freelancers get sick, after all. Communication is key if there’s a delay. Letting the client know they can expect the work two days late, with a valid reason, can be better than turning in a project one day late with no explanation.
3. Find Work Through Fellow Freelancers
At conferences, online, and (if possible) at local events, network with freelancers in your industry. Although you may be competing for work at times, building friendships and professional relationships can lead to new and better work down the road.
If I hear about a new opportunity, but I’m not a great fit or don’t have time for more work, I’ll pass it on to my fellow freelancers. I’ve also had opportunities come my way because of the connections I’ve developed with other writers.
I learn a lot by collaborating with my peers. We speak to each other about which clients we like working with, share productivity tips, and recommend resources for research.
4. Find Work Through Online Job Boards
Depending on your craft, you may be able to find new work on online job boards. Upwork is a large freelance marketplace where you can create a profile and submit proposals for jobs. There are opportunities for freelancers in all sorts of fields, including writers, developers, designers, accountants, and virtual assistants.
You can also look for industry-specific job boards, which can save you time by making it easier to connect with companies looking for your services. For example, TopTal is specifically for designers and software engineers. Cad Crowd is for 3D designers and CAD experts.
I use ClearVoice and Contently, content marketing platforms where freelance writers can create a profile and share their work. On ClearVoice, I get matched to assignments that might be a good fit and can accept the work if I want it. On Contently, I had to wait until a Contently employee reached out and invited me to submit pitches. Both platforms double as an online portfolio. It’s a quick and easy way to show off my work without having to create a website from scratch.
5. Find Work Through LinkedIn
LinkedIn can act as your portfolio and online resume. List relevant previous work experience and highlight your interests and expertise.
LinkedIn is more formal than some of the other social networks. Follow some standard best practices, like picking a professional photograph and sharing primarily business-related links or comments.
You can use LinkedIn to find and message potential clients, but I’ve also found it can be an excellent passive referral source. Spend time optimizing your profile and include links to some of your best work. Try to work in words that potential clients might search for in your summary, job descriptions, and job titles when relevant. You might show up in the search results when someone is looking for a freelancer with your skills.
I get messaged once or twice a month via LinkedIn about potential work opportunities. The jobs aren’t always a good fit, but when that’s the case I try to pass on the lead to someone else.
6. Find Work Through Chance Encounters
You never know who you’re going to meet, which is why it’s important to carry a business card and have a professional elevator speech ready to go.
Never push yourself on people, but if it feels appropriate, don’t shy away from a potential work opportunity. I once wrote copy for a New York City wine shop’s email newsletter, a gig I landed after meeting the owner’s son at a bar.
Whether you’re an experienced freelancer stuck in a rut or you’re testing out the freelance waters, finding new work can be a struggle. The good news is the cold pitch isn’t your only option. Try some (or all) of the tactics I use and new opportunities might come your way soon.
Louis DeNicola is a freelance personal finance writer who specializes in credit, debt, and practical money-saving tips. In addition to being a Grownup, you can find his work on Credit Karma, MSN Money, Cheapism, Business Insider, and Magnify Money.
Any third-party resources or websites referenced above are not under Society of Grownups control. Society of Grownups cannot guarantee and are not responsible for the accuracy of the resources, websites, or any products or services available through such resources or websites.
While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner professional.