Hint: It’s better than cold emailing!
· 8 min read
Remember when you were a child and you attended a birthday party where they hung up a piñata filled with goodies? You couldn’t wait to hit that piñata and scatter those glorious goodies at your feet so you could scramble to pick them up, right?
Do you remember how it felt when it was your turn? When everything went dark, you were spun in circles, and then handed that stick?
Cold emailing or pitching for freelance writing clients is a lot like swinging blindly at a piñata.
A lot of gurus will tell you pitching freelance writing clients is a numbers game. In fact, you may have heard the only way is to send out hundreds of pitches every week on the chance you get a response from a client who will want to hire you.
It’s kind of like being blindfolded and spun in circles and then trying to hit the piñata (freelance client) with a stick (your pitch).
But I’ve got a much better solution. Finding freelance clients is not child's play. It’s time to take it seriously.
I’m going to show you my method for finding and pitching freelance writing clients without feeling like you’re blindly swinging in random directions at that piñata.
The first thing you want to do when you’re researching potential freelance writing clients to pitch is to take off your blindfold.
There’s no need to swing blindly.
Don’t bother to cold email random clients who you think might need a writer because they don’t already have a blog. Instead, find clients who are already looking for writers. Clients looking for writers are easy to find on the internet.
You can do a simple Google search, using phrases such as “write for us,” “seeking writers,” or hiring writer,” plus your niche topic or topics. If you’re a fiction writer who wants to find markets looking for writers, use phrases like “call for submissions” or “submission guidelines,” plus your genre in your search.
If you’d rather have a writing project for a corporate client, google something like “copywriter needed,” “hiring content writer,” or “company blogger needed.” Play around with the wording until you get a good list of sites and publications.
So now, your blindfold is off and you have a list of markets or clients who are actively looking for writers, right now.
That’s a good first step. If you pitch clients or markets on this list, you’ll get a better response rate than just randomly cold emailing. This is because they already know they need a writer, you don’t have to convince them they need one.
But even this slightly targeted list might include a lot of places that are actively looking for writers but aren’t willing to pay them. So for these clients, you have to convince them to pay for content and that you are the best writer for that job.
If you pitch to this list, you’ll first need to do some extra work to find out which of the clients on that list are willing to pay for content. Or you may have to send some back and forth emails about pricing and return on investment to convince them to pay you and that you’re the writer they need.
It’s doable but it’s more time-consuming.
So, with this list, you can see the piñata in front of you but you’re still being spun in circles and maybe feeling a little dizzy as you swing.
Let’s take it one step further.
Emailing your best pitch to tons of clients who aren’t actively ready to pay you means you’ll get a lot of crickets. You may get a few responses like “sorry we’re not paying writers right now,” or “we’ll give you a byline and give you exposure to our hundreds or thousands of readers.”
Exposure is good but it’s not going to put food on the table, right?
We need to stop spinning in circles. We’re not going to waste valuable time with back and forth emails trying to convince a client to pay you to write for them. And we’re not going to waste time pitching clients that pay in exposure if what we need is dollars.
Instead, we’re going to find those clients who are actively looking for writers and who are already willing to pay for content because they know it has value to their business.
We’re going to aim in the right direction.
There are a number of different ways you can do this. Most ways are free or low cost, which means you won’t have to shell out money before you get paid. Believe it or not, there are hundreds of people who spend time collecting writing jobs advertised in various places.
If a client is advertising a writing job online, they are willing to pay for content. They already know the value of good content, you don’t have to convince them.
You can subscribe to email lists from sites or freelancers who aggregate writing job listings and they will send them right to your inbox.
Here are some sites that email writing jobs:
(None of the links on this page are affiliate links)
Another way is to find freelance writing clients ready to pay for writers is to check the online job boards, especially those specifically targeted toward writing and writing-related jobs.
Use search filters to find remote or contract jobs, or writing-related jobs if you’re using something like Indeed or another traditional job board.
Here are some writing specific job boards I check frequently:
Got your list of clients looking for writers and willing to pay them? Okay now, the only thing you have to do is convince the client you are the best writer for them. And you can totally do that with a good pitch.
Once you can see the piñata and aim the right direction, you can focus on taking your best swing. Or in our case, making your best pitch. The clients on your new list are looking for writers and are ready to pay them.
Your only job now is to put your best foot forward to convince them you are the writer for the job.
In your pitch, make it really easy for them to say “yes” instead of “no” or “maybe.”
Read over the writing job description or submission guidelines. Compare that to the experience and skills you have. Follow the guidelines or job description to the tiniest detail. These clients are advertising online, which means dozens, even hundreds of responses. But do your homework and you’ll stand out.
Many writers won’t bother to follow the guidelines or will send a template email, which automatically puts them in the trash pile.
For those in the remaining pile, some writers will have not done their research. Don’t be tempted to do that. Take the time to read through back issues of a publication.
Look at the website content, pore through reader comments, and get a feel for who the audience is and what the client is trying to accomplish with their content. Read the job description carefully to get a feel for what the client really wants from a writer.
Then, and only then, should you craft your pitch. Make each pitch customized for the client you are targeting.
The first paragraph of your pitch should briefly explain what your content will do for the client’s business or how it will appeal to their readers. This can be brief and will be based on what you found in your research.
Next, give them several suggested titles or even a brief outline of what your content will include. Provide enough detail in your outline so the client can easily see how this piece will fit in with their existing content or bring a fresh perspective on an otherwise done-to-death topic.
This section can be a couple paragraphs. Use bullet points where it makes sense to increase white space. Make it easy to skim. Be sure to include a rough idea of word count for your piece and make sure it’s aligned with the length of other content on their site or any word count given in the guidelines.
The final section is where you talk about why you’re the best writer for the job. Talk briefly about your writing experience and address any other skills or qualifications the client mentioned in the job description or submission guidelines.
Instead of “I hope you’ll consider my piece,” go with something like “If I hear from you by Friday, I can add this to my schedule for next week.” This lets the client know you’re a busy professional writer with a schedule. It encourages them to respond quickly.
Mention that you’ve included a link to your portfolio or writing samples for their review. Make sure you do this in the way the client asked for. Give the client several ways to contact you, including email address and phone number.
Check And Double Check
- Read your pitch out loud. Check it against the writing job description or guidelines again to make sure you’ve touched on everything.
- Double-check that your subject line includes the topic or title of your piece (or any specific request given by the client) to increase the chance it gets opened.
- Make sure you’ve used the editor’s name in your greeting.
- Ensure your contact information is entered correctly.
Keep Pitching And Follow Up
Now do the same thing for the remainder of the markets or clients on your list. Keep sending out pitches regularly. Treat finding potential paying clients and sending out pitches like your part-time job until your schedule starts filling up.
Follow up once or twice with clients that don’t respond, but don’t be annoying or go into great detail. If submission guidelines or the job description give an estimated time frame for replies, wait the allotted time.
When I follow up, I usually pull up the original email I sent to a potential client, hit forward, and enter the client’s email address. Then say something like, “I’m preparing my schedule for the coming weeks and just wanted to check in to see if you had any questions or would like me to include time for your project.”
If you make this part of your regular routine, your project schedule will begin to fill up and you’ll be scheduling for several weeks or months ahead instead of for the coming week.
Soon freelance writing clients will be scattered at your feet and you can pick and choose the ones you scoop up.