Regardless of how you feel about low pay vs. high pay, you can’t deny there are plenty of “easy” writing gigs out there. I call them “easy” because they’re easy to land, easy to write and they pay like clockwork. After time, we have to make a decision: Do we stick with the easy gigs or try and branch out to gigs that are a little tougher to land but pay much better money. Perhaps a mixture of both?
The choice is up to each individual writer. However, if you’re considering a move away from the easy gigs to more lucrative freelance writing opportunities, these suggestions might help.
We’ve talked about cold calling here before, and even cold emailing. There are so many places that hire writers but don’t advertise because they receive word of mouth recommendations or queries via phone or email. For some reason the idea of calling for work terrifies freelancers or makes them feel as if they’re on telemarketing territory. I can tell you the first few times are the hardest. After a while you begin discovering ways to schmooze the receptionist for information or getting past her to the people doing the hiring. Freelancing is all about sales, to be a success, you can’t be shy about selling yourself.
Hint: rather than navigating a phone menu to nowhere or leaving a message that won’t be returned, press “0” to speak with a real live person, or see if you can be put through to human resources or editorial. At the very least, try and get the name of the person who hires freelance writers so you can send him a letter and some samples of your stuff.
Do your friends’ clients have extra work? Are your friends outsourcing during the holidays? Do other bloggers and web masters hire writers? Does your brother’s firm hire freelancers? Does your aunt’s real estate business need someone to write captions for websites and local guides? How will you know if you don’t ask? Everyone has the potential to become a client, even friends, family and neighbors.
Hint: Keep business cards at the ready so you can hand it to potential clients to keep on file.
Take control of your own destiny by establishing your expertise and teaching others. Create ebooks and courses and apply for speaking engagements. These will put you on the radar and get your name out there. It will help to build your brand. It will help you to generate a residual income while between gigs. People looking for expert writers will land upon your courses or blogs and want to hire you to help them out. Those with a true expertise command very high paychecks.
Hint: Give sample copies of ebooks and courses to influential people to review. Their recommendations will help create new readers and new clients.
Network online and off. Build relationships with potential clients, other writers and influential personalities. When folks know your name, they’ll think about you for their projects. They’re more likely to hire someone they trust over someone they don’t know at all.
Hint: It’s all about relationships. Don’t just spam people with your stuff, create conversations. Talk with them. Build trust.
Think Outside the Box
Don’t only count on the job boards. There’s a whole, big world out there and it’s yours for the taking. Think about all the people who can hire writers and plan a strategy for approaching all these people and businesses. See what you can do to make yourself stand out. Why would this company want to hire you, a freelance writer they never heard of, over reaching into their pool of freelancers for writing projects? Don’t send a cover letter and resume. Tailor a creative pitch to show them you’re worth the money.
Hint: Make it your mission to thoroughly research each business before you reach out. What are their strengths and weaknesses? What can you do generate more sales or build up their clientele? How can you build up their products or draw interest to their websites?
What are some of your suggestions for moving away from the easy gigs.
In the educate category, it was suggested to me by a book agent that I get my name out there by attending speaking engagements. But how does one get into that? I am a young, but experienced writer who is published regularly in high-profile places.
Ilija Brajkovic says
My advice to you is: just do it! 🙂 You don’t have to start by speaking in front of 1000 people. Find some small conferences in your niche and offer them to speak. Do it few more times, and as time goes by, you will be recognized as a good speaker and often you will be invited to give a lecture.
That’s how I did it. First I started speaking in front of the students at my university.
On thinking outside the box – it’s hard to completely research a company when you’re replying to a blind ad that only gives basic information. I see a lot of those on craigslist and while some of them may pay well, it’s still very hard to know who you’re researching. The pitch idea is great though if you can get enough information from an ad to construct a solid pitch.
Along those same lines, I have a question: There’s a regional magazine that I’d like to write for. I can’t find their writer’s guidelines ANYWHERE on their site or on their magazine (or in any of the market books). I’ve emailed and asked for their guidelines but have never gotten a reply. Give up or try a different route?
I find the vast majority of writers fall into Hazel’s category. Now that I’m mentoring writers, when I ask them about why they aren’t earning more, it usually boils down to this: They don’t network. They don’t send queries. They don’t market their business. They don’t even take the time to write strong cover letters when they respond to ads on job boards. They’re overwhelmed about where to begin or insecure about putting themselves out there. So there they are, getting $15 an article, and not earning enough to take 2 weeks off at the end of the year to be with family, like I’m doing.
But if you can overcome it and get out there a bit, it can really pay off. Some of the best-visibility clients I have now I got from in-person networking events. If you can’t make a commitment to doing it every day or week even, say once a month you’ll do something more to market your business. It WILL improve your earnings if you target activities that are a good fit for your writing type, and you keep at it.
And there are great clients out there right now — I’ve landed several new ones in the past few weeks. Companies and Web sites are starting to gear up for a big push in ’10 as the economy turns — are you out there finding these clients and helping them lay the groundwork for success next year? The next 2 weeks are a great time to line up work for January.
For those who fear in-person stuff, I’m told the pro level of LinkedIn allows you to send 10 inmails a month — and that they have a 30% response rate, HUGE in the world of direct mail. Yet another great way to find better-paying clients.
Health Mind Spirit News says
What I wonderful blog you have here!
I just discovered it. You have created a wonderful
community here and I can feel your wonderful energy,
and I live all the way down in Melbourne, Australia!
Thanks for starting and keeping it going such a great
resource for writers.
Thank you @Ilija!
Linda Meckler says
I write for a small newspaper in my area. The newspaper is not on the internet yet. They make their money by selling advertising. I would like to write for more newspapers and magazines. I can write on several subjects.
My new book will be out soon Fight Your Medical Insurance Nightmares!! Let me show you how. This book is for everybody if you have medical insurance or not.
It has information everybody needs to know about in order to talk to medical professionals.
I also have a published childrens book Ghost Kids Trilogy for ages 8 to adult. I also have e books on several subjects.
I am also a public speaker and would love to start speaking on my medical insurance book.
I’d love to know more about the book…if you’ve read more than a couple of my posts, you know that health care insurance is huge on my priority list. My oldest daughter had back surgery next year, now I work primarily to pay health bills.
On occasion, I’ve landed good gigs through cold calls – but I always have appropriate clips to share. An example: I received a consumer health magazine through my insurer, and thought the content was up my alley. I’d written some newsletter articles for a local hospital, so had some clips to share. I called the editor (listed on the masthead); he liked my work; and I wound up doing six or seven articles on consumer health issues over the course of about a year – at a fee of $400/article. Not a bad gig at all!
T.W. Anderson says
Personally, I consider cold-calling and cold-e-mailing to be a waste of my time. This is a PERSONAL opinion only! Why? Think about it. How do YOU feel when someone calls you out of the blue that you don’t know (insert random telemarketer here) and tries to sell you something that you don’t really want or aren’t really interested in? 99% of the time you are going to hang up on the telemarketer because you simply don’t care.
Do you read spam e-mails? Nope. I don’t either. I never open those e-mails which claim to offer me some wonderful service that is a myth. I put it in the spam box and move on with my day.
So while it’s true that yes, you can potentially sometimes get someone to respond to a cold-call or a random e-mail, we all know how we feel about telemarketers and spam e-mails offering us services that we don’t want, so can you really expect potential clients to react any differently?
I started my business by writing in specific niches and then went out from there. My resume speaks for itself, and I find work all over the globe. I also write for content sites for a large portion of my work because it eliminates the need for cold calling out of my routine completely. Why query and waste your time waiting for someone to take 6 weeks or longer to get back to you when you could simply be pounding out fluff in between more serious gigs and earning a damn good paycheck?
Depends on the individual, I suppose. I prefer constant feast mode to feast-or-famine.
While no one likes telemarketing, cold calling doesn’t involve calling one’s home either. It’s strictly business to business marketing. Businesses do expect to receive solicitations. Many times the receptionist has instructions for people such as the freelancers who are cold calling for business and will tell them when to call or where to send information. Many businesses are very receptive to freelance writers as long as they’re not annoying. How do I know this? I’ve done plenty of cold calling on my own. Not calling someone’s house, but me, as a business owner, calling another business.
It’s great that your situation works for you, but not every writer wants to go that route and I’m happy to offer suggestions for researching other outlets for their freelance writing.
I’m going to agree with both Deb and T.W.
I pick up most of my work on the phone and a lesser extent via e-mail. Picked up one item yesterday from someone I know personally, but such face-to-face meetings are rarer all the time in the global market.
But my calls are usually at least “semi-warm.” Maybe I haven’t worked for that editor, but I may have worked for the publication in the past. Or I’ve seen job posts in the past that weren’t the right fit, but think I can help out in other areas. Or I’ve talked to the prospect in the past on something else, perhaps unrelated.
I have made a few cold calls, too. But the more one can warm them up, the better the chances are.
Also, T.W. commented recently on rates, and time spent on marketing (and other administrative tasks). If you can work with warm calls and e-mails first, you’ll have a better return and a lower marketing “expense” (time) than if you spend the same amount of time on cold calls. But cold calls are better than watching television for an hour and wondering why the work isn’t coming in.
Further to your point on warm calling, Phil, something else I do is send a package in advance with a nice letter, samples of my writing, contact details and references. Usually I at least try and get the name of the person to send this to first. A week after sending I’ll make my first follow up call.
I’m fighting the “lazy factor” here … I just want it to fall into my lap, as it has in the past! I know how to do this, I just don’t want to…
Susan Rand says
I’d like to know how to find all these “easy gigs” that are easy to write and pay like clockwork?
Ryan @ Milwaukee Condos says
Most of the freelance writing gigs that I’ve gotten have been a direct result of blogging on several of my sites and then building relationships with the online publications that were in my niche. It’s a win win because you can increase your exposure to your own site while also making money using your freelance writing skills.