With the unemployment rate at an all-time high, you've got to be realistic and acknowledge that the competition is at its fiercest in the freelance marketplace. Next, plan to set yourself apart. Present yourself well enough and a quality product or service will always be in demand. Consider these 10 tips to kick-start a freelance career.
1. Look in the business section of the local paper (print or online) for the names of people who have been promoted, hired, or rewarded by their companies. Write a brief congratulatory letter (make it personal), and enclose two or more of your business cards (one for the person to keep, and the others to give away). Your business cards should include complete information about what you do. Just the title,“Freelance Writer,” is too vague. List what you can accomplish (newsletters, brochures, ads, blogs, websites), and highlight your main benefits – creativity, proven track record, etc.
2. Scan websites, magazines and newspapers for articles of interest to your current clients or “hot prospects” (people you've talked to, but not worked for). Clip articles and send them with an attached, handwritten note, stating something like, “Hi! Thought you might be interested in this. Please keep me in mind for your future writing needs!” This gives you a reason to remind both clients and prospects about your service. It also keeps your name on their minds. The use of regular mail and a note lends a personal touch, much more effective than sending an interesting tidbit via e-mail.
3. Create an alliance with local graphic designers. Writers sometimes need graphic design work or have the opportunity to refer their clients to artists. And artists frequently need good copy they do not want to supply themselves. Contact graphic designers and ask them about their business before you talk about yours. Let them know that you may have an occasional client who could use their services. Follow up with a personal letter and several of your business cards.
4. Join an organization, such as the Chamber of Commerce or the local advertising club. Face-to-face networking is one of the best ways to get the word out about your business. Put your business cards in your pocket, and always give two or three to each person (one to keep and one or two to share).
5. Volunteer and be active. Get noticed by taking a visible role in committees or events.
6. Call between 5 and 10 people you know -- friends, relatives, co-workers, etc.- and talk to them about what you are doing as a freelancer. Let them know you are available for work if they should happen to hear of anyone who can use you. Sometimes, we think our “inner circle” knows everything about what we do. More often than not, these people have only a limited idea of our actual capabilities. Change those misperceptions today!
7. Start your own newsletter or eZine. Make sure at least 75 percent of the copy is information people can use -- not marketing hype just about you. For example, write articles on “Better Business Writing,” “The Top 10n Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Business Letter,” or “Advertising Copy That Gets Results." Show your expertise throughout the newsletter, then highlight the benefits of your services. Remember to add a call to action (what you want the reader to do next, such as call for a free consultation).
8. Contact a bookstore, and offer to teach a free seminar about writing. Use a recently published book as a resource, and have lots of copies on hand for participants who are interested in purchasing the book. You'll benefit from the free publicity, and the store will benefit from the free promotion of the book.
9. Call five ad agencies, and ask to speak to the creative director. Be ready with a 30-second introductory pitch about your services and how you can benefit the agency. Ask for a meeting to discuss the agency's needs or permission to send a package with some of your writing samples.
10. Get yourself in the newspaper or on local radio or TV. Many media outlets actively seek guests who have something interesting to say. Develop a topic idea that will showcase your talents as a writer and make for a good story or segment. Contact local reporters, radio hosts and TV producers with your ideas.