How (and Where!) to Find Your First Freelance Clients
A freelance writer requires but one crucial thing to be successful: CLIENTS!
Heck, when you’re starting out even just one client will do. But where do you find him? Or her?
Editors versus clients
I use the terms ‘editor’ and ‘client’ pretty much interchangeably. ‘Editor’ normally applies to a person who works for a publication. ‘Client’ often refers to a business or individual. But to me, even editors are clients. I keep this mindset to remind myself to deliver great customer service to all my…clients.
If you primarily want to report on newsworthy events for various publications, you’ll be writing mainly for editors. If you prefer to write marketing content, brochures, newsletters and items like that, then you’ll primarily work with clients. Let’s examine where to find these two elusive critters.
Where the editors are
If you pick up your most recent copy of any nursing magazine, you’ll find an area on page two or three that looks like a column bordered by a box. Usually the top of this box has a person’s name and the title ‘Publisher’ or something suitably impressive. This box is called the masthead, and it lists everyone on the publication’s staff. Actually, some of those names probably don’t belong to staff people. Some of those names are freelance writers who contributed to that particular issue of the magazine. I’ll go into more detail about this in a future blog post.
Your job is to look for the person on the masthead whose title is ‘managing editor,’ ‘features editor’ or perhaps even ‘articles editor.’ That is the person you want to contact. And by “contact,” I mean “send a query letter to.” I’ll talk about query letters before the month of June is out, too.
As a nurse, you may feel most comfortable approaching an editor at a nursing magazine. That’s fine, but be sure to flip through the book to make sure the magazine publishes more than studies. You’re not going to make money as a writer of studies.
You want to look for the following types of content:
- Profiles of nurses
- Feature stories
- Local nursing association news
- ‘Department’ stories (often short pieces in the front of the magazine, which is why these stories also are called ‘FOB’ for ‘front of book’)
Just because a magazine runs these types of stories doesn’t mean they accept freelance submissions. You often can find out on the magazine’s website if they take freelance contributions or not. Magazine websites also may include editorial contact information.
Another way to find an editor’s contact information is via LinkedIn. I talked about that a little bit in yesterday’s post on marketing tactics. Use the search box to look up a publication by name (or the publishing company), then look for editors at the publication.
Some of my freelance friends find great success tracking down editors on Twitter. I haven’t done that, but it’s certainly worth a shot.
Finding corporate clients
In my opinion, locating editor contact information is a walk in the park compared to tracking down the right contact person for corporate work. But I prefer corporate work, so this is a path I tread on a frequent basis.
You have a lot of options here, and perhaps that’s the problem. I suggest you start by making a list of the types of companies you’d like to work for. These might include hospitals, solo practitioners, non-profit organizations, insurance companies, healthcare product manufacturers — whatever. Only you know where your interests lie.
Once you have your list in hand, use Google to begin your search for who to contact. The people you’ll work with in corporations may have titles such as:
- Chief Marketing Officer
- Chief Content Officer
- Content Manager
- Content Strategist
- Communications Manager
- Communications Officer
- VP of Communications
- Creative Director
- Marketing Communications Director
- Marketing Communications Associate
- Publications Editor
- Newsletter Editor
- Project Manager
- and a cast of thousands
Truly, the list seems endless. You can see why it can be confusing to figure out which person might be the one to contact.
So here’s a secret: Always aim for the person with the highest-level title. Even if the Vice President of Marketing Communications isn’t the person who wrangles the freelancers, s/he’s sure to know who does. And a good letter of introduction (LOI) won’t go unnoticed by a senior member of the team. It will get passed down the food chain to the right person.
I found a prospect! Now what?
Once you’ve obtained the correct contact information for your chosen editor or company official, you need to let them know you’re available for work. This information is relayed as either a ‘pitch’ (query) or a letter of introduction. I’ll briefly cover these here, but rest assured I’ll go into much greater detail in future posts.
A pitch is something you lob towards an editor. It is a story idea. You craft a great query that spells out your story idea, whom you plan to interview and even how you envision structuring the article. Then you send it to the editor and wait. Frequently the response comes in the form of a rejection (and, yes, I plan to cover how to handle rejection later this month, too). If that happens, you take your fantastic idea and send it to another editor. And wait.
For corporate clients, you need to craft a letter of introduction. A good LOI is concise and what I call “sell-y.” You need to be sure the recipient understands you understand their needs. Make sense? Don’t worry. More detail will be forthcoming.
My friend Jennifer Goforth Gregory offers a great example of a content marketing LOI. Likewise, the great Linda Formichelli at The Renegade Writer offers her inimitable take on the LOI. These examples should help you start crafting your own LOI.
And, by the way, your LOI should be a template. Get the basic LOI down and then just strip in specific details for each target market as needed.
Lather, rinse, repeat
As I said yesterday, marketing is an ongoing effort. Throughout your freelance career, you’ll be in a constant cycle of identifying new potential markets (clients/editors), locating their contact information and sending a pitch or LOI. Take things one step at a time, and before you know it your inbox will be overflowing with assignments from your consistent efforts!
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Wishing you well!
Image via Elliott Clark