As such, it would make sense to take a proactive approach to finding and retaining freelance clients. It would make sense to scour online job postings for new potential opportunities and it would be prudent to do so on a regular basis. However, I have not applied for a freelance writing gig in over two years. I have not looked on Guru, Craigslist, or Elance for new work. This does not mean that I have not made efforts to get new work. Let me explain.
Reversing the Cat and Mouse Game
The traditional school of thought would lead you to believe that it is up to the business (in this case, me the freelancer) to pursue the client. It is my job to chase down potential projects and that is exactly what I did early on in my professional writing career. I’d look for postings of writing gigs and apply for the ones that interested me, just like how I would apply for a regular job. A resume wasn’t really the norm, but I still had to “sell” myself based on my experience and writing samples. If successful, I’d get the project and proceed accordingly.
Anyone who has ever applied for a job will surely attest that the job application process can be stressful, frustrating, and time-consuming. As such, I also worked to reverse this game of cat and mouse. Rather than being the one doing the chasing, I flipped it around so that I could be the one being chased. I let the clients come to me.
Through a range of somewhat concerted efforts, I have not had the need to apply for any new freelance writing gigs for quite some time. All of my new work either comes from existing clients or from potential customers who approached me first. I am reasonably satisfied with the amount of work (and income) that this tactic has been able to generate. I don’t need to apply for work, because the work comes to me.
Networking, Referrals, and Exposure
So, how does this work find me? The strategy is three-fold and it is heavily interrelated.
First, I try to network with people who may have freelance writing projects for me to consider. Becoming friends with a guy like John Chow and interacting with others online, I have come to know folks like Gary Lee and Tyler Cruz. They’re also Internet entrepreneurs with content-driven sites. Sure enough, they came to know who I am and what I can do. Eventually, they asked if I could write an article or two for them too. Put simply, networking works.
Second, referrals can be a great source of new clients and this is why you should never burn any bridges. Even if someone you meet does not have any work for you, he or she may know someone who does.
Third, as with any other company or brand, freelancers should also work to get their names out there. Let yourself be discovered. Myself, I’ve had people find me through Google searches, links to my website, Twitter, and more. Be known for what you do and what you do best. Marketing, both direct and indirect, can be very effective.
Success Does Not Come Overnight
A certain freelance writing friend of mine from Disappointmentville shook his virtual fist at me when I told him that I hadn’t applied for a gig in over two years. I don’t mean to say this to be boastful or to toot my own horn, but this comfortable position was not created overnight.
The networking benefits don’t materialize over a single Facebook exchange and the brand exposure is a slow, steady process. It takes time, but as with so many other personal or professional accomplishments, it’s been well worth it.