Most freelance writers have probably browsed job boards or market listings looking for clients. But those advertised jobs don't usually represent the best opportunities available to you.
While what I normally suggest is building a writer platform to help clients come to you (what I often refer to as "query-free freelancing"), today I want to look at some more proactive, but a bit unconventional, ways you can find freelance writing jobs
1. Search for advertised editing jobs (full-time or freelance) that mention editors have to work with freelancers.
In this case you still use job boards, but you don't directly look for freelance writing gigs. Instead search for companies hiring editors (use the major job search sites for this, like Indeed or Monster).
When you find job listings for editors, read the descriptions. You'll often see job duties listed there, including managing a team of freelancers. When you see that, you know that publication or business works with freelance writers. Add them to your pitch list if they're a good fit.
2. Build a prospect list from older job ads.
Some freelancers won't respond to any ad more than a few days old. Doing that is like leaving money on the table. You could be dismissing ideal clients before you even talk to them.
The next time an older job ad appeals to you but you figure they've already filled the spot, reach out anyway. Send them a letter of introduction and a link to your portfolio. Tell them you saw the ad and if they're ever looking for someone for a similar position, you'd love to be considered. And tell them why you'd be a great fit.
I can tell you from experience in hiring positions (both in a traditional job and in helping some of my own clients in recruiting other freelancers), sometimes gigs just don't get filled. Clients get bombarded by unqualified applicants all the time, and sometimes they don't hear from a real gem right away. The gig could still be open. Or you might even stand out more by contacting them after the flood of other applicants.
Worst case, you make a new contact, add the prospect to your list, and follow up with them at a later time.
3. Find prospects in PR media directories.
This is a tip I've shared before on the blog, but it's such an effective option I have to include it again here.
Writers often turn to market directories (like the one on this site) when they want to pitch publications. But even the largest market directories for writers don't come close to the media directories PR professionals use. And if you're able to get your hands on one you'll have access to markets most other freelance writers aren't pitching yet.
Read the post linked above for more information on using media directories to find freelance writing jobs, including links to some free options you can try.
4. Offer incentives for referrals.
If you aren't getting many referrals from past clients, remember to ask for them. The issue isn't necessarily that your clients don't want to refer you to others. It just slips their mind.
You can take this a step further by offering incentives for referrals. For example, you might give existing clients a 10% discount on their next order if they refer another client who hires you. While I'm less a fan of this idea, some freelancers also offer a commission for referrals from colleagues so people in their network have an incentive to send leads their way.
5. Get featured in others' email newsletters.
Guest posting on blogs is still all the rage, but why not seek exposure in others' email newsletters too? I'm not talking about newsletters from other writers here, but instead newsletters your ideal clients read.
One option is to purchase advertising in those newsletters. If you don't want to spend money, consider offering guest content for the newsletter (just read their back issues first to see if they allow that).
This content shouldn't be directly self-promotional, but rather it should position you as an expert in front of your prospects (tips, industry insight, and tutorials can all work). The idea is to get your name in front of the eyes of potential clients. And an inbox is a great place to do that.
6. Use products to promote your services.
Here's another tip I've shared here in the past: use products, such as reports and e-books, to promote your services. I shared the story before about a very short guide I wrote over a weekend that led to around $4k in direct sales and thousands more in freelance gigs. You can do the same.
In my case, I initially charged for the guide, but after about a year and a half I made it a free report and it continued to bring in clients (you can still get it in the Resources section here to see how simple it was -- the guide on press release writing).
You can go either way with this. Charging for the report gives you a nice entry point for people who aren't 100% convinced they want to part with more money to hire you yet (while still placing value on what you have to teach). A free report could be particularly helpful if you're hoping to build an email list of prospects.
What matters most is that your report or e-book gives prospects actionable information. That could be anything from industry insight from a survey you conducted to a tutorial teaching prospects how to do something you ultimately hope they'll hire you for (read the previous post to find out why this strategy works).
7. Use Twitter lists to build a prospect list.
Twitter can also be a great tool for finding freelance writing gigs. And that goes well beyond job announcements you find in your feed or via search. Instead of tweets themselves, turn your attention to Twitter lists.
What you'll find are countless industry or niche-specific lists full of potential clients. And someone else already did the work of assembling those lists for you.
For example, let's say you write about technology and you'd like to pitch tech blogs. You'd want to find Twitter lists other users have put together featuring those blogs.
How do you find these lists? If you're familiar with a few big names in your niche or industry, visit their profile and see what lists they've been on. That should give you at least a few lists to start with.
Need more? Unfortunately Twitter seems to have removed the "Timelines" filter from their on-site search which used to let you search for lists. And several third party sites set up to search Twitter lists have shut down or stopped working.
Thankfully, nothing keeps Google down. You can search for Twitter lists using a custom Google search (a trick I learned from this Onsharp.com post). The idea is to have Google search only Twitter.com, for items with "lists" in the page's URL. Here's how you would format your search if you were looking for lists of technology bloggers.
site:twitter.com inurl:lists <technology bloggers>
The results are lists full of technology bloggers who might be great prospects for your freelance query or guest post pitch.
I can't say this enough: most of the best freelance writing jobs are never publicly advertised. You need to either attract clients to you through your platform or you need to get more creative about lead gathering. Hopefully these tips give you some new ideas to play with in building a bigger and better prospect list for the new year.
Do you have other unconventional tips for finding freelance writing gigs? I hope you'll share them in the blog comments.