Why Become a Query-Free Freelancer?

Let's kick things off by explaining what I mean when I say "query-free freelancing."

Basically, you attract freelance writing clients without mailing query letters, without sending email queries, and without cold calling just to pitch an idea and "sell yourself" to a potential client (or editor).

Is Query-Free Freelancing for Everyone?

Absolutely not. There are many types of freelance writers, and there are many approaches to earning a successful living in this lifestyle. In some cases queries may be an absolute necessity (as in getting started in magazine writing--for most writers).

QueryFreeFreelancer.com isn't for those writers. I'm not going to offer you secrets for getting around that process. If you really really really want to write for Better Homes and Gardens, then query them. The platform fairies aren't focused enough to pull specific editors out of the sky (okay--actually they sometimes are, but we'll get to that later).

This website and book-to-be are instead meant to be resources for new and aspiring freelance writers who are discouraged by the idea of sinking a lot of time into querying just in the hopes of getting a gig where they may get paid in a few months. I want to show them that there are other paths to consider, and other ways to attract clients--ways that not only can pay as well (or more) than most magazines but that allow them to work with equally-respectable clients (no teaching you how to write and publish search engine spam here).

The Downside of Query-Free Freelancing

I love being a query-free freelancer. But even I'll admit it's not perfect. Nothing is. In order for you to build an effective network and platform to have clients coming to you, you do have to invest some time and energy (and a little bit of money--not much, really) early on to make that happen. There's no magic pill you can take to make you thinner, so why would you expect there to be one that makes you instantly attractive to a neverending supply of clients?

What Makes it All Worthwhile

"If I have to invest time and 'wait' anyway, why not just query those publications?" you might be wondering. Good question. Here's why:

When people hear "networking" and "writer platforms" they can think it's something that will take a year or even several years to build. If you really put the work in, it doesn't have to take that long. You can have a reasonably steady client stream in just a few months, even if you start from scratch.

Let's look at two scenerios:

  1. You decide to kick off your freelance writing career by querying magazine after magazine until you get a bite.
  2. You decide to pursue writing in other mediums or with different types of clients (which does not necessarily mean a completely different type of writing!), building your client base query-free through networking and building a writer platform.

In the first scenerio, you could easily spend several weeks to several months sending out query letters (receiving rejections along the way), until you land your first assignment.

In the second, you could just as easily spend several weeks to several months devoting that same time to building your network of colleagues and prospective clients in your target market, while building your writing platform (starting a niche blog in your area of expertise, getting a professional site setup, conducting and publishing research, writing e-books or reports or white papers, landing interviews, giving speeches and seminars, etc.). Your platform is about building two things: visibility and demand for your time.

Overall the approaches don't sound terribly different yet, at least as far as the financial return. Let's take a closer look.

When your querying finally pays off and you land an assignment, you'll complete it and you'll be paid (maybe on acceptance, or maybe months down the road on publication--if the piece isn't killed first). What do you do then? You start all over again. (Actually, you'll likely never stop. You'll be querying and pitching continually, even while on other assignments, if you want to keep the income flowing in.) You may be able to get other assignments from the editor you've just worked with. Chances are good you'll want to pursue other publications as well though so you're not relying too heavily on one client.

By the time you've spent a few months building your platform and network, you should have a solid footing in your specialty area. You'll be visible. You'll be (hopefully) recognized as an authority in your area of freelance writing (whether that be technical writing, writing about parenting issues, or anything that's more up your alley). Clients should be able to easily find you through a strong presence you'd been building. They may find you through your blog. Maybe through a search engine. Maybe through one of your interviews. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Who cares? The point is that they found you.

Here's the best part of query-free freelancing though: you don't keep starting over. That's not to say the work stops. Instead you continually build. You'll work to keep your visibility strong. But frankly, the approach can be a lot of fun, and as an added perk some of your platform tools will actually earn money for you on top of your client work. I really can't tell you how great it feels to have clients constantly pursuing you--to be able to pick and choose the gigs you really want instead of waiting to see who will (or won't) choose you from all of those queries you've sent out.

I'll never tell a writer to stop sending queries. They have their place, and it's an approach many writers seem to enjoy. So let's be clear about that--there is absolutely nothing wrong with sending queries! But to be frank, being a query-free freelancer rocks, and even if you don't want to go this route exclusively it never hurts to build your platform and get a taste of it over time when you're suddenly being referred here, there, and everywhere.

There's definitely more to fully understanding the query-free freelancer way of life and business, but that's why we're here! To explore it, play with it, and make it our own.

Profile image for Jennifer Mattern

Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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3 thoughts on “Why Become a Query-Free Freelancer?”

  1. Jenn,
    I have to bear my heart a little and say that I am really unhappy with my current freelance writing career.
    When I discovered the idea of a freelance writer, quite by accident, I could not be happier. I knew this was the career for me.
    However, I have spent the last two years spending money and spending time I cannot and will not get back.
    I do not think I am lazy. Actually, I do get lazy. I get lazy when I feel unmotivated. And querying makes me feel unmotivated.
    Now, don’t get me wrong. Pitching is great. In fact, if I ever sent a damn query letter, it would probably be accepted because I am a damn good salesman (or woman…whatever). I understand that a pitch is part of business. In previous careers, networking and marketing were always my strongest suits. No matter who I worked for in whatever role, they wanted me to network for them and market for them. They wanted me to become the face of their business. Most of all, they were more than happy to show their appreciation, usually by letting me open the jar to a project that had ants in my pants for a while or with a monetary reward.
    I discovered writing for hire and began as a resume writer. It may seem silly, but once the economy went into the crapper, I resigned from my resume writing and disassociated myself from that profession. I didn’t want to look like the equivalent of a war profiteer.
    Then I started writing at eHow and I was amazed at just how much fun it was. I find myself still thinking in terms of how-tos when I get article ideas. I write at Demand Studios now, and I exclusively write business how-to content.
    I may be eighteen (nineteen in August) but I know a whole damn lot about business. I have started multiple businesses and have even managed to sell a sole proprietorship–even if it wasn’t for much I did this at seventeen and I changed the life of a sixteen year-old girl because of it. She is now a first generation college student and works for herself.
    I digress. My point is that I really haven’t ever established myself as a writer of any kind consistently because I have never found the way to work the flavor I want, if that makes any sense. I took a course in freelance writing for over a year that basically taught magazine freelancing. I learned a lot about writing and I became a better writer, but I doubt that I will be a magazine freelancer. It helped me with the stringer gig I acquired (and recently had to drop but that is another story) with my local paper.
    I am very, very eagerly awaiting your ebook, The Query Free Freelancer. I thought that your Web Writer’s Guide was the answer to my freelance writing career, and I will definitely say that it providing invaluable assistance that has kept me hanging in today, but I need to read The Query Free Freelancer ebook.
    I have become addicted to the QFF blog, for one. I check back at this blog a kagillion (that is the official number) times a day.
    I am a huge fan of yours, Jenn. Not only do I learn something about freelance writing from you just about everyday, I admire and respect you as the model of what a freelance writer should aspire to. I know that I want to be as badass as you are.
    I hope you don’t think I am a fanatical weirdo. I just want to let you know that what you try to give back to the freelance writing community is deeply appreciated.
    If you ever decide to a coach a writer, you name the price and I will Paypal you as soon as humanly possible!
    Thanks again,
    – Jessie


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