One of the biggest hurdles for a new freelance writer is finding clients. There are several ways to build a client list including:
- Cold Mail Campaigns
- Your Website
- Guest Posting
- Content Mills
- Social Media
These are all viable methods that will deliver clients to you in one way or another. The value and return on each one is highly variable.
You could send out 100 cold mails and get 1 client, but that includes a great deal of time and effort in creating an email campaign and sourcing leads.
Or you could write exclusively on one of the popular content mills, but that’s not a good return based on the volume of work you produce for minimal pay.
Why not use your content mill connections to source leads?
Content Mill Networking
If you’re reading this post you’re probably already working for content mills. I’ve used a couple different content mills a lot so I can attest to the crummy pay for great work involved.
At some point you have to break free from the slave labor!
But when you’re starting out and you don’t have a client base or you can’t source clients any other way content mills are one way to at least get some work. By no means the best way either.
If you focus on building a network rather than simply using cold mailing, social media, and other methods just to find a job you can quickly start to turn the tide on your freelance career.
You have to have an overarching goal when you’re a freelancer. Being disorganized and posting random “For Hire” tweets or sending a host of emais to various companies just isn’t time well spent.
I found this out the hard way! In the process of working for a few clients on a content mill site I’ll leave unnamed I had an idea.
Ask those clients to work them directly!
How To Build The Content Mill Network
This is what I did:
Put in the Work
Put some time in if you haven’t already. Provide great content ahead of the deadline with something extra every time. Build trust with those clients. Even though you’re not making much treat them like you’re thankful for the work.
After you feel like you’ve built a good relationship with a client crank out the next assignment with the best work you can provide and return it well before the deadline.
You’re looking for them to respond with gratitude. Like “Wow, thanks for getting that in early,” or “this is really good work!”
Throw a Pitch
After a comment like that throw a pitch out at them. You want to give them a very brief proposal asking the client to either:
- Consider letting you work for them directly
- Or, pass your contact info on to someone that will consider hiring you.
One of my pitches went like this after the client thanked me for a great job.
“You’re welcome! By the way I’ve been working for you for over a month and I’ve always given you the highest quality work ahead of schedule. I enjoy working with you and was wondering if you would consider allowing me to work directly for you?”
Bam! That was it. The response I got was to the tune of “Yes we’d definitely consider giving you direct work. Here’s the email address for ___________ who handles hiring our freelance writers. I already mention your name to him and he is expecting an email from you. Good luck!”
It’s that simple folks!
Networking Is Trust-Working
The key to this method is that you really need to have built a certain level of trust with the client. That’s why you have to spend time writing great stuff and turning it in early.
The worst part is that it takes time. But I have found it to be a highly lucrative method of sourcing leads for clients that have a high probability of offering well paying work.
Why? It’s about trust. The client knows you and has had some experience with you and your work.
Networking is the art of making valuable connections with individuals that will share your contact info with their trusted friends or colleagues.
Getting into a large agency where you get top pay for your best work has nothing to do with luck or a great portfolio in my experience. Does that work sometimes? Of course, but don’t rely on your portfolio to get into the write persons hands.
Find a connection that will hand your portfolio to that hiring manager with there respect as your credential!
Ask The Client to Share Your Contact Info
One other tactic to use is asking the client you’ve built trust with to share your contact info with their connections.
I have been told by clients that they can’t offer work outside the content mill, or they don’t have more work, or other miscellaneous reasons why.
You still have the opportunity to request they a.) Keep your contact info for when they need direct work or b.) pass it on to other connections they have who might be interested in your writing.
No matter how you package it the process of building a client base is hard work. I found marketing myself far more difficult than my hardest article or copy assignment.
Most experienced freelancers will tell you that you should spend approximately 60% or more of your time marketing yourself and looking for more work.
I wholeheartedly agree. Finding work is the slowest and most frustrating part of being a freelance writer.
When you don’t get a contract after a few weeks of hardcore cold mailing you start to question your ability as a writer! You’ll go through all sorts of emotions from worthlessness to despondency.
I encourage you to hold out! Just keep working at finding your next client. Use all the other lead tactics but try focusing on networking. Every connection you make can connect you to someone else. That one contact might be your next $500 copy job!
Feel free to reach out to me if you need help with anything or are looking to network. I’d love to chat with you,share connections, and support you in your freelance career.
Travis is a freelance writer specializing in content writing, content management, and copywriting. He also runs BodhiTreeDigital.com which offers agency level Buddhist and other spiritual businesses full content solution services.