How (Not) to Starve in the Freelancing Jungle: 6 Client Acquisition Tips
The ancient Chinese martial arts masters were truly that, masters. Sages with the wisdom of the Gods. Realizing that we are not the ultimate in knowledge, they decided to learn from nature.
One of their greatest teachers was the majestic tiger. On my quest to become a master in the art of freelancing, I gleaned a lot of wisdom from said tiger.
Wisdom I would love to share with you…
Plan your line of attack
“Tigers are fierce predators with a calculated intelligence that makes them one of the leaders out there in their natural environment.” Tiger’s World.
Be strategic in your planning. Know what you want to achieve and plan towards that.
• Who are your target clients?
• How are you going to reach out to them?
• How much do you plan on earning from your writing?
• Are you planning on being a full time or part time writer?
• How and where will you market yourself?
These questions will help you come up with a strategic line of attack.
Leaders are planners. No one ever gets ahead in life by chance. If they do, they never stay ahead for long.
Work on becoming a leader in your niche; after all, leaders get the lion’s (or should I say, tiger’s) share of the meal.
Freelance writing is a cutthroat world and only those as calculating as the tiger emerge ahead of the pack.
Your biggest enemy at this stage is procrastination. Procrastination can only be overcome by a clear, concise and actionable plan.
Prowl relentlessly for prey
Scour the web for prey. There are many well paying clients in the jungle known as Cyberspace. All you have to do is find them. Successful freelance writers have mastered the art of the prowl.
How should you prowl for clients?
Become one with your client/prey
Put yourself in their shoes and think like them:
i. What do they do? What do they want to achieve?
ii. What separates them from the pack?
iii. Where are they now, where do they want to go?
iv. How can I help them reach that goal?
Having this mindset will give you an idea of where they hang out (and how to push the right buttons).
Businesses are always looking for people who can add value to their organization and products. If you can do that, you will become a well-fed freelance writer.
Morph into a search engine
Comb every area of the web for potential clients. Google companies, blogs and publications that have the potential to turn into a tasty meal. You have to be relentless.
Freelance writing is not a get rich quick scheme. Before your words start feeding you, you have to put in the necessary work.
Zero in on your target
Once you find companies or publications that need your captivating content, it’s time to zero in.
Find the key contact person in that organization. Get their name and email address.
You don’t have to be an FBI agent to do this. There are many online applications that can help you do this. My personal favourite is “Hunter”. It’s free and easy to use.
Some clients are not so obvious to spot. To help you discover an ideal client, know your primary niche(s). Not every business fits into your writing style.
Patiently wait for the right prey
A tiger never eats grass when there is no prey in sight. He will wait for something suitable.
Many a promising writer have ruined themselves by “eating” unsuitable gigs. When the writing is forced, results are typically not your best.
Pick your target well, preferably those that fit into your skill/passion mix. Passion vitalizes the creativity in you, and creativity is what clients pay top dollar for.
Many freelance writers quit before the action starts. They are deterred by the “silent years”; the period before they get a paying gig.
Don’t quit! Be patient.
Do everything you need to do to establish yourself and land a client. Then wait patiently for the fish to nibble.
Your biggest enemy is desperation. Desperation will drive you to slavery (Writing for peanuts). This will lead to burnout and frustration, all on an empty stomach.
Pursue with laser precision
Once you have identified your meal, pursue it. Pursue with dogged determination. If you don’t get the prey, you will starve to death.
Be relentless in your pursuit of clients. Be resolute to get a gig. Clinch a project or die.
This is the pitch stage. Remember the names and email addresses we got when prowling the web? This is where they come in. Use them to pitch clients directly.
Three Ways Of Pursuing Your Prey
Now that you have zeroed in on your target, how and what do you pitch?
#1. Send a letter of interest (L.O.I)
This is basically a letter (email) introducing yourself and your services to the organization.
#2. Pitch an idea
I prefer this to L.O.I, because you actually showcase the value you can add to your client’s business.
#3. Mesmerize them with a complete manuscript
This is only applicable to blogs and publications that accept full manuscripts, so be careful to read the submission guidelines before sending your complete manuscript.
Your pitch should be as polished and enticing as possible. After all, you only have one chance to make a first impression.
The best way to improve your pitching is to practice.
I, personally, wrote mock pitches just to get a hang of it. Another way to hone your pitching skills is to run your pitches, ideas and manuscripts by a mentor. My mentor was and still is an invaluable help in this area.
With each pitch, I gradually become better at communicating who I am and what I have to offer. Pitching is a critical skill to master if writing is going to put a meal on your table.
Your biggest enemy here is rejection. Don’t take it as a personal attack on you or your creativity. The freelance jungle is a savage place to be in, you have to develop a tough skin.
Pounce in a flash
The pounce is an art learnt over time. Skilful tigers go for the neck. Learn and become proficient in the art of sealing the deal quickly before the prey slips away.
Delays can cause a warm prospect to become cold. Do everything in your power to eliminate delays.
This brings us back to our first point, planning. If you plan and structure your freelance writing business well, it will be easy to pounce on and capture warm leads.
Once your pitches get some positive responses, nudge your prey into making the right decision. What better decision can they make after all than hiring you?
How do you ensure you get the deal?
Simple! Impress the client. Show them you are there to add value, not just pocket a buck.
Value is what your clients are looking for because it keeps their cash register ringing. From the cold pitch to the last email between you and your client, each word should draw your potential client closer to signing that ever elusive contract.
Your biggest enemy is mediocrity. Strive for excellence in everything you do.
Preserve part of the kill
Learn to preserve what works for you on every hunt. Every success and failure should be a learning curve. Evaluate regularly and refine your process. What worked today will probably work again tomorrow. It can feed you again.
Do a case study of your processes and systems. This will help you eliminate weaknesses and strengthen and refine that which works.
Repeat what works and eliminate what doesn’t. This is the key to thriving while others are starving.
Strive to learn something everyday that will improve your writing skill and business.
Are you tired of starving in the fierce freelance jungle? If so, don’t take your writing as a hobby.
Tigers that take hunting as a hobby starve to death. It’s time to awaken the tiger in you and go in for the kill. What are you waiting for? The jungle is calling.
Kato is the Chief Content Strategist at bizcontenthub.com. A strong aversion for bland web copy has set him on a crusade to help you increase reader engagement by crafting hypnotic copy that will turn browsers into subscribers. Let’s get people talking about you.