If you want to become a query-free freelancer, you can't just wait around hoping clients are going to find you. You need to create demand for your work. Today I'm going to share a story about how I not only did that, but how I created demand in a relatively new market by identifying a need and choosing to fill it. Those who have known me for a while know that my most popular service over the last few years has been press release writing, especially for Web-based clients. Here's how that came about, and you can use a similar approach to create demand for your own writing
In the Beginning
I used to run a music PR firm. I worked with clients throughout my local and regional area. It was an incredible experience--it's an area where everyone literally knows everyone else in the local scene, so word can spread fairly easily. We had a few well-known publicists in the area within the indie music scene, so I needed a way to reach out and keep making connections. I knew I needed to increase my visibility if I was going to create greater natural demand for my work (precisely what I hope to help you with here at QFF).
I launched an indie music webzine. I built the site myself (it was terrible--I was brand new to Web publishing at the time). It got off to a decent start, and it wasn't long before I had artists soliciting reviews and interviews on a regular basis for the monthly issues (meaning I was able to make a lot of additions to my network). In turn, it started bringing in a decent amount of work without me having to solicit clients. Yet I knew I needed to keep growing. I turned to a webmaster forum to ask for advice on improving the site.
As I spent time there learning and improving my own site, I noticed discussions cropping up among webmasters. They were interested in press release writing, but didn't understand it (and that's putting it mildly). There was very little demand from that group at the time to actually hire people, but the discussions became more frequent. The few press release writing jobs advertised in the community seemed to be getting picked up by generic Web content writers (the "Sure, I'll write you over-hyped, keyword-stuffed garbage content for $10 and throw it into a press release template" kind of writers).
There was a need for better information. I (very aggressively) started taking part in press release discussions there, trying to educate the market about how to use them appropriately and effectively--how focusing on real coverage and exposure could actually also do more to help their SEO efforts (since they were releasing garbage in the name of SEO).
It didn't take long before the general buzz started to spread with that group about press releases (not just in that community, but all over the Web and the world due to the growth of distribution sites like PRWeb).
Because I stepped into that market, building my visibility and authority status in that community early on, the work started flowing in naturally. In fact, even though my clients come from diverse areas, it still flows in from that target market to this day without any real effort on my part anymore (even though I charge more than 10 times what some other "press release writers" there charge without any credentials). It played a role in my move from music PR to online PR for a wider variety of clients, and even now that I'm solely a full-time writer it doesn't stop. I no longer take on their distribution or full media relations campaigns, but many of those clients still hire me to handle the writing for them. That's what happens when you get your name and experience out there in front of a group of potential clients.
Plenty of Opportunities Still Exist
It's something you can do too. Let's say you're a sales letter writer (great money there if you're good at what you do). It doesn't matter how many other sales letter writers are out there. All that matters is how many competitors are focusing on the same target market in the same places. You may very well find client groups that have a demand for the service, but who aren't being exposed to qualified writers. They're itching to find someone like you, but no one's making it easy enough on them. The forum I talked about earlier is a perfect example--filled with online entrepreneurs who could use a sales letter writer, but not a single writer with solid credentials making a name for themselves there in that specialty area.
Take some time this week and try to identify at least one place where you might be able to find potential clients, but also somewhere not saturated by your competition. If you find a community like that, join it. Start contributing--not advertising, but really contributing. Show your area of expertise by educating your target market. When you teach them what you actually do, and what it can do for them, they'll have a greater appreciation for the work that goes into the project. Not only will you show them that you can handle the job, but you'll show them why you're worth paying a decent rate. Consider it a challenge. See what you can find.