There is no doubt that most freelance writers would prefer to work for private clients rather than spending their days working at content mills. Regardless of how well you are treated, how good the pay is and how responsive the site is, most freelancers will do far better with private clients. Regardless of your experience level, private clients don’t have to be completely elusive! It all comes down to how you sell yourself and your skills. The predicament that many freelancers face is how to effectively pursue private clients without having a decent set of references or, in the case of those who write nearly exclusively for content mills, coming up with clips to show their talents off. Ironically, this may not be as difficult as one might think. There are some ways to (a) develop a portfolio and (b) pursue private clients. Now, I’m not suggesting this is going to be easy but it is possible.
Portfolios come first
One of the biggest challenges is coming up with a portfolio that is suitable to share with potential clients. Initially, this might not sound like a big deal but in reality, it’s a very big deal. You have to determine what type of clients you are going after and you will then need to work on samples that will be relevant to that client and to the type of work you wish to pursue. This means if you are interested in doing blog posts, you should create samples that are blog posts, if it’s web content, create appropriate web content and if it’s articles, create articles. Either way, find a way to highlight them. A simple blog is a good place to put blog content and if you have enough basic skills, you can upload PDFs with web content pages to that blog under a heading called “samples”. Articles make great blog posts if they’re not too long.
What kind of clients?
The first thing to remember is if you are going to pursue private clients is to determine what kind of clients you are going after. For example: If you want to hook up with someone who develops websites, you’re likely to get more “website content” work. If you go directly for the “end user” you will seek them out directly. So you need to make a decision: Let’s use a law company as an example — do you want to connect with someone who develops websites for attorneys or do you want to go after the attorneys directly? That is really what it comes down to.
Use your strengths
One of the most foolish moves you can make when seeking out new clients is over-diversification. Simply put: Don’t do it. The reason is simpler than you think: If you spread yourself out across too many fields, you’re going to spend far more time researching than writing which means you are not going to make enough money!
Set your rates
Don’t allow your rates to hold you back. Decide up front on what is acceptable on a high-end and low-end and make the decision to stick with that rate. If you want to offer a package deal (e.g., x number of words or posts for x number of dollars) make sure you have calculated your rates. When you are going after new clients, start at the high-end of your scale and negotiate downward. It’s a lot easier to accept less when you know what the “floor” is. Also, don’t be afraid to offer a “trial” period, just make sure you get it in writing what the trial period will entail and what you will accept for payment.
Pursuing clients online and offline
Finally, the big step will be pursuing clients. Once you have taken all the steps necessary to establish yourself, start setting up a plan to reach out to potential clients. Some possible options include:
- Post a Craigslist advertisement – Craigslist might be one way to find clients and while it’s far from perfect, it’s possible. Use common sense when communicating and set up a “throw-away” email address for inquiries as you are likely to get pounded with spam
- Direct mailing still works – I hate direct mail but a lot of people still depend on mail to pursue leads. Investing in a roll of stamps, a decent ream of paper and an ink cartridge can result in great rewards
- Let people know – don’t keep things to yourself! Share information on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn! Keep in mind, you never know where someone is going to look for a writer!
Don’t give up on content writing sites until you are very well established with private clients. Keep in mind that one client will often lead to another and to another. Make sure you do not over-extend yourself or you will lose those hard won clients too! Chances are you are going to have to constantly nurture new relationships to keep your business going and growing but in the long run, the independence you’ll have will be well worth the effort.