Are you struggling to find well-paying freelance work and good clients?
Maybe you’re panning for a nugget of gold on a bidding site for writers. Or you’re chipping away in the content mills hoping to find better-paying freelance work. Maybe you’ll strike it rich.
Prospecting this way usually ends up being a huge waste of time. You’ll get a bite. And then discover you’re negotiating with bottom-feeders who want to pay 90 percent less than your asking rates for freelance work.
If that sounds anything like your prospecting experience as a freelance writer, I’ve been there. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can change the way you look for clients.
Identifying and vetting prospects is one of the most important things you need to do as a freelance writer. You need quality clients that respect your skills and pay well. Right?
Want to learn how to find better-quality prospects in less time?
When I started using this prospecting strategy, I booked $4,000 in revenue in just six weeks. Pick up your tools and follow me.
Step 1: Create a simple prospecting tool
If you want to find well-paying freelance work, you need to get organized. But please, don’t buy a list or spend a fortune on special software. The only prospecting tool you really need is a simple spreadsheet with columns for:
- Company name
- Prospect name
- Position in company
- Contact email
- LinkedIn profile
Notes: I’d also suggest adding a column for Notes. You can use this area of the spreadsheet to store information for a customized LOI (letter of introduction), or details from a phone or email conversation with the prospect.
Status: You may also want to create a Status column. Use it to keep track of who you’ve contacted and when. It’s a lot easier to see at-a-glance this way than trying to sift through your inbox.
Step 2: Dig for clients in the right places
Sure, decent companies do sometimes head to Upwork. If your prospect is looking for a freelance writer on Google, they’re bound to stumble across Upwork in the search results. But identifying good prospects on platforms like this among all the junk gigs takes forever. Instead, look for big-name brands and organizations, and up-and-coming startups in your niche. Here are the resources I use to find prospects:
- Crunchbase. Use it to search by industry, funding, company size and more
- Venture Capital Access Online. Use it to search for companies which recently received VC funding
- Inc 5000 (both US and EU). Use it to search the fastest-growing companies in your niche
Every week, I spend up to 30-plus minutes going through these lists. When I find a prospect that has potential, I’ll visit their site and take a few seconds to scan through it. If it still looks promising, I’ll move on to Step 3. If it doesn’t, stop digging and don’t waste any more time on it.
Step 3: Follow the money
Step 2 can help you find potential prospects, but it’s not a guarantee that those companies can pay pro rates for freelance work. Here are a couple of things to look for to find out if a prospect is worth your time:
- Annual revenue or sales data. Companies with $10 million to $100 million in annual sales are far more likely to pay pro rates for freelance work than a mom-and-pop store in your town.
- VC funding. If you want to write for small businesses or start-ups, look for prospects infused with venture capital funding. Lots of start-ups need freelance writers. But too many are run by wannabes full of excuses like,”We can’t afford you because we’re just a startup.” A few minutes of research can help you avoid those prospects.
This step can save you a lot of time. Look for companies that have built enough credibility to attract the attention of venture-capital firms. Look for big businesses and companies in your niche that are growing fast. If the prospect still looks promising, move on to Step 4. If it doesn’t, stop right there and move on.
Step 4: Watch for trust and authority ‘tells’
You’ve verified the prospect has enough financial stability to pay pro rates for freelance work. But there’s a few more things you should look for before you start filling out your spreadsheet and sending LOIs.
Start by asking yourself this question: Is this prospect a respected start-up or established company in your niche? If your answer is “no,” you may want to end the vetting process. If your answer is “yes” look for any red flags on the prospect’s site such as:
- Spelling, grammar and punctuation errors
- Stylistic issues, such as repetition and overly generic content
- Spammy advertising content and a complete lack of benefit-driven copy
- SEO – If it’s at all obvious that a page has been optimised, then it’s spam
- Misuse of industry-specific jargon
If you come across any of these problems, you might think you’re just the perfect writer to improve their copy. But if a company can’t even be bothered to craft half-decent homepage content, then chances are it’s not a worthwhile prospect. If I see any more than one or two (minor) red flags, I move on.
5. Complete the spreadsheet and reach out
If a prospect makes it through Steps 1-4 of the vetting process, takes a few minutes to complete the spreadsheet. Find the right person to contact and reach out with an LOI. Need a little help? Check out these resources:
- 4 Free Email Tools to find Editors & Marketing Managers
- Follow This Freelance Recipe for a Tasty Letter of Introduction
Vet prospects to move up and earn more
If you want to move up and earn more, take a little time vet your prospects. If you’re not doing this now, start. You’ll avoid bottom feeders and low payers, and book more freelance work that pays pro rates.
Charles Owen-Jackson writes about enterprise technology and digital marketing. He also blogs about natural science at Earthly Universe.