Leading on from last week’s blog (spot the New Year’s “post weekly” resolution), there’s an area I need to focus on more closely: how do you find freelance writing work? Here’s how I keep the wolf from the door…
Networks and contacts
This is a good way to start out. Hopefully you’ve left any job without burning any bridges (well, perhaps some minor singeing…), and people will be pleased to recommend you, or even farm out a project or two to you.
As your portfolio builds, you’ll start to develop a reputation, and a new business network will grow. However, hopefully you’ll keep your original networks as well, and I still get work from former colleagues, friends and friends-of-friends. I was very lucky – I had a reasonably high-profile tourism job (high-profile isn’t hard to achieve in West Cornwall), and knew a lot of people, including designers.
Design agencies and web designers
Many smaller agencies don’t employ their own copywriters. It’s often easier and more cost-effective for them to have a pool of freelance writers to hand should they be needed. On the whole, agencies and designers like having a professional writer on board, as they know they’ll get quality copy, on time. (Waiting for the client to deliver the copy often stalls a project.)
I work with a few agencies, and a couple of freelance designers, and this is always thoroughly enjoyable work. It’s great when the words, images and design come together, and working with designers is can be a great way learning more about your new trade. Definitely worth a speculative enquiry.
I would add that occasionally you keep a client once the job has finished. For example, the website has gone live, however the customer may want blog posts or newsletters writing in the future. Great stuff. Just tell the original design agency out of courtesy, as they are the ones that initially got you the gig. Always make sure you’re not treading on any toes/breaking any contracts by working for the client solo.
Writing and content agencies
This is another good avenue. On a more practical level, you don’t have to trawl for work, you get paid regularly, and as writers, the people you’re working for actually get what you’re about. The best writing briefs I get are from a content expert, who knows exactly what info I need.
For larger agencies, you often have to complete some form of writing “test” as well as providing your CV and samples of work. The test can be a helpful way in if you’re just starting out and don’t have a massive portfolio to draw on.
Occasionally, some agencies like you to look like you work for them, so be prepared for multiple email addresses. You also may need to sign a contract. Some agencies pay better than others – again, be aware, and a little light Googling is advisable.
Website and blog
Your website is your shop window, and a great chance to showcase your own writing. Have a look at other writers’ websites and see which approaches you like. Make sure you’re aware of the things you’ll be telling your clients that they need: calls to action, organic SEO, headings, perfect proofreading etc etc. Keep your testimonials and portfolio pages up to date (check with clients first).
Your own blog is absolutely key here. As well as providing essential content, it’s a great chance to flex your typing fingers and show off that writing. It lets potential clients know that you’re a good blog writer who understands the importance of keeping your website fresh and up to date. How do clients find you? Think about potential search terms as you’re writing, and I’ve recently been flirting a little with AdWords.
And please, when it comes to your own website, watch your own ego. No one wants to hire Byron to write their flyers.
Has to be done. Even if you’re mostly retweeting at the start, at least you’re Out There. Potential clients are likely to check that you are at least slightly social media savvy. Facebook and Twitter are the minimum.
If you haven’t looked at LinkedIn since you graduated, now’s the time to log back in. Reconnect with people who you think could help you, and keep your profile up to date.
Hopefully there are a few starting points here. All pretty obvious, none too tricky, and nothing anyone can’t try. Keep plenty of irons in the fire, and always look out for new sources of work. I haven’t checked out any of the “find a freelancer” websites yet, although I have friends in similar roles that have. It’s on my To Do list (honest). I’ll feed back.
Writing this today with Six Music on in the background, as ever, and feeling that I should actually be blogging about the beauty of music lyrics. RIP David Bowie, incredible wordsmith.