So… how do I find clients?
Where should I go to look for clients?
My biggest challenge is finding clients.
At the moment, questions and comments like this are, like, 87% of my inbox. The other 13% is the stuff I email myself so that I won’t forget about it. And then I hear that I have new email, and I go to check… and find the email I sent myself.
Anyway, I get it. You want to be a freelance writer, and to make money, you need clients.
So, there’s actually a secret website, and it’s called The Clients are Here.
I couldn’t resist, because I think a lot of people really believe that there IS a site where all the clients are hanging out. That there’s a magic place where I go to find work, and if I would only be kind enough to TELL YOU where that place is, then YOU could ALSO get work.
THERE IS NO MAGIC PLACE.
There is no great secret that you don’t know, no password-protected website that holds the key to nirvana.
What to Do if You Want to Find Clients
Finding clients comes down to some fairly unsexy stuff:
- Figure out what you want to write and who you want to write it for.
- Think about where that person is.
- Pitch that person.
You can buy ALL THE COURSES on the internet, but if you skip these basic steps, you will STILL not have any clients.
I have so many students who don’t believe this until we get on a coaching call. They spend MONTHS spinning their wheels. They tell me they’re going to get started really soon — they just need to figure out the niche piece, and it’s taking a while.
It doesn’t have to take a while.
It comes down to the thing that pops into your head when I say, “What do you want to write?”
And right now, you’re thinking, But Abbi, I can’t make money from the thing I want to write about.
And here’s what I have to say to you:
(And actually, I am an expert.)
Here’s a typical coaching call conversation:
Abbi: So, what do you want to write about?
Student: Well, I want to make money.
Abbi: Right, I get that, but WHAT do you want to write about? Like, if I said, OK, great, do you want to write about ICOs and Bitcoin, would that excite you?
Student: Um… I don’t know? I don’t really know what that is.
Abbi: Right. So, what DO you want to write about?
After another few rounds of this, we eventually get to something like this:
Student: I mean, well, I struggled with infertility for 6 years, but I don’t think I can really make any money from that.
Abbi: Here are 16 ways you can make money by writing about infertility.
Student: [HEAD EXPLODES.]
If you're thinking this sounds a lot like finding your niche, you're right. You can call it whatever you want, but you cannot make good money until you choose your niche. And the moment you STOP trying to find the PROFITABLE niche and START concentrating on what you ACTUALLY WANT to write — well, THAT is the moment when we can figure out where the clients — and the MONEY — are.
I Want to Find Clients, But…
Here are a few of the many (MANY) questions I get when I tell students they need to choose a niche.
If I choose a niche, won't I be missing out on a lot of other potential jobs?
No. If you want to find clients easily and get work that you love doing and that pays you well, you need to know WHICH clients you're looking for. And that means you need to know what you want to write and who you want to write it for.
Could you just tell me what the most profitable niche is? That's the one I want.
Nope. Doesn't work that way. You can make a LOT of money writing about toilet paper, and you can go broke looking for the elusive “most profitable” niche. PICK THE THING YOU WANT TO WRITE ABOUT.
Which of these six potential niches do you think will be the most profitable?
This is a trickier way of asking, “What's the most profitable niche?” and I'm STILL not going to answer. The one you are MOST passionate about is the one you should pursue.
Do you think I should go with this “safer” niche of X, even though I really want to write about Y?
Listen. I'm a writer. I never solve for X or Y, and I don't honestly care WHAT values you substitute for either one in this equation: your niche should always be the thing you really want to write about.
You said that when you first started as a freelance writer, you didn't have a niche!
Ok, that's NOT a question, but I do have an answer for you. It's true, when I first started out, twenty years ago, I didn't have a niche. I didn’t have a college degree. I didn’t have any magazine writing experience, and I had never, ever pitched my services to a company as a freelance writer.
I had just had my first baby, and I was pregnant with my second, so pregnancy and parenting were my primary interests. My main motivation for freelancing was an overwhelming desire to be at home with my baby — and an equally overwhelming desire to only wear sweatpants.
I was interested in technology, although I certainly had no formal background or training in anything tech-related.
I read a book — one book — about working for businesses as a freelance writer.
I had never heard of “choosing a niche” — so I didn’t bother to pick one.
I wrote press releases about semiconductors, articles about breastfeeding, and courses about the laws concerning insider trading.
Doing all of those different things meant that I was constantly learning new things. I was always a beginner.
It took me years to realize that by always having a learning curve, I was significantly limiting my income. When I started turning down work that didn’t interest me, I took a big step in the right direction, but it was a long time before I finally wised up and niched down.
By turning down the work that didn’t interest me, I opened up time in my schedule — and my life — to find the work that I did like. The work that made me feel excited. The work that earned me real money.
Back in 1873 when I was getting started (it may not actually have been in 1873, it all blurs together after a while), there were no blogs on the Interwebs. Heck, there was no WiFiI. We had to use our Internet while tethered to the wall, like animals. So I didn't have the luxury of reading hundreds of posts about choosing a niche.
Do you know WHY there are hundreds of posts about choosing a niche? Because it's REALLY, REALLY important, and you absolutely have to do it if you want to find clients.
I Can't Find Clients Until…
On a daily basis, people send me emails like this one:
I want to find clients. So I’m going to build my website and create 946 samples on all the things I know how to write about. Do you think that’s a good plan?
Nope. No, I don’t. Here’s why. It’s a really bad idea to start spending money on a website when you don’t actually have income.
Freelance writing is about EARNING money, right? If you spend a couple hundred bucks to build a website, HOW exactly will that help you MAKE money?
Here is a better plan.
- Go to LinkedIn and fill out your profile.
- Connect with people who need help with writing the thing you want to write about.
- Pitch those people.
The reason you don’t like this plan is because it, like all the other plans that end in you making money, require you to actually go out and pitch people for work.
Do you know who makes money in freelance writing? People who go out and pitch for work.
The people who spend all their time building websites — and, yes, buying courses — and never go out and pitch… do NOT make money.
If you want to find clients, you have to figure out what you want to write, determine who needs that writing, and go ask that person for writing work.
I Can't Find Clients Who Will Pay Well
If you can't find clients who will pay you want you want to earn, you need to consider several things.
1. Is your ask reasonable?
If you want to write essays about your personal parenting experience for mom blogs and other online sites, you can expect to earn $25 – $250 for your work. So if you're hoping to get $800, no, your ask is not reasonable, and you will continually be disappointed.
You can write about parenting, and even use your personal parenting experience, but if you think carefully about WHO you want to write it for, you can find the higher-paying options. For example, you can pitch a parenting essay to a print magazine that pays $400-$1000 for such work. Or you can target pediatric practices or diaper or formula manufacturers who need that kind of content and have actual budgets to pay for it.
You can take your passion for writing about parenting and pitch articles on specific topics to magazines. Heck, you could go to major companies and ask them if they’re interested in providing practical advice to the parents who work for them.
You don’t think that’s a thing? THINK AGAIN.
2. Are you clear on what you want to write and who it's for?
Yep, we're back to that again. If your version of looking for clients amounts to waiting for someone to offer you a high-paying writing job, have a nice time.
You MUST put in the time to figure out what you want to write and who you want to write it for so that you can then TARGET that person and GET SOME WORK.
3. Are you consistent in your efforts?
The only way to have consistent work is to make a consistent effort to GET that work. When you have solid business habits in place, you start each day by looking for work. This lets you build a consistent flow of clients who will pay you what you are worth, and allow you to turn down work that does not meet your standards.
If you wait until you don't have work to start looking for clients, you will find yourself saying yes to things you don't want to do, projects that don't pay well, clients that don't respect you, because you will need them more than they need you. If you put in the time DAILY to look for work, you'll be able to choose the projects you want, the clients you want, the PRICES you want.