It may seem a bit strange that a freelancer, who is running a business, is preparing a resume to present him or herself to a client, much like someone who is applying for a job would do. While freelance writers and other professionals do bill by the word, hour, or project, and don’t get paid a salary like an employee, clients do need to have a way to evaluate whether someone would be a good fit for a particular project.
Preparing a freelance writer resume is something that independent contractors can struggle with. It’s a different exercise than writing a resume for a brick and mortar job, since freelancers are dealing with clients, not employers.
One question freelance writers have is where to find clients. The good news is that potential clients are everywhere. Once you get in the mindset that everyone you meet could be a potential client, you will start to see opportunities for your business that didn’t exist before. Here are some places where you can find freelance work:
Part of being a freelancer is looking for work. Even when we have a full plate, we are aware that our status can change very quickly. Clients run out of work, we decide that it’s time to move on, or we simply experience a dry spell.
Since a phone call or e-mail can change our work schedules (and have an impact on our cash flow) very quickly, getting into the habit of always being on the lookout for new opportunities is important. The “job” of a writer is not just about thinking stuff up; it also involves the functions of running a business, including marketing.
If this part of your business is not something that you always look forward to, let me offer this suggestion: make looking for work a habit. It should be a regular part of your routine in much the same way that showering and brushing your teeth are.
When was the last time that you gave any thought to whether you actually wanted to take a shower or brush your teeth? You don’t – it’s just something you do because you know that if you don’t look after it there will be consequences. The same thing is true when it comes to your freelance writing job search.
Get out your book, calendar or whatever you use for scheduling and block off some time to devote to applying for gigs, writing and sending queries, cold calling or connecting with previous clients. You can set aside time on certain days for different approaches if you like.
The important thing is to make an appointment with yourself for this necessary activity. Once you have it written down, keep the appointment – whether you actually feel like doing the task doesn’t necessarily have to appear on your radar. Just get started, and you are less likely to have a lot of gaps in your freelance writing schedule.
Do you make looking for freelance writing jobs a habit?
Don’t let the title of this post fool you. I’m not suggesting that you become some type of chameleon and develop an entirely different persona at work. (If you have already done so and it’s working for you, carry on, though. Why mess with success?)
I got the idea for the post from watching a medical show on television. I enjoy watching real life ones that show medical professionals as problem solvers. Since I’m always curious about what other people do for a living and why they were drawn to a particular type of work, I pay particular attention to any interviews that are included.
In one episode, an emergency room doctor was explaining why he chose to specialize in that area of medicine. He is the type of person who is interested in dealing with a specific condition, as opposed to providing continuous care to a patient. Dr. Marcus Welby this guy was not, but he was very good at thinking on his feet and dealing with the medical issue in front of him.
Writers are just as varied as people working in any other job category. Some of us write for others because we have to and for ourselves because we can, while others treat this as strictly business. We may write web content, web copy, print copy, white papers, technical manuals or blogs. Some of us are generalists while others have a specific niche that we focus on.
Some writers like to have several (relatively) small projects going, while others would ideally prefer to have a brobdingnag one that will keep them busy for a time. Once they finish it, they focus on the next one.
When you are looking for freelance writing jobs, first consider your work personality. If you are someone who enjoys the relative security of working with a client over the long term, then look for someone who can offer a steady gig (or the potential for a series of projects). If you are someone who gets bogged down working on large projects, move on and apply for something that is a better fit for your freelance work personality.
Knowing yourself well means that you will find it much easier to answer the question that all prospective clients want to ask: why should I hire you?
You’ve been talking to a prospective client about his or her writing needs. So far, everything sounds good. You know you can do the work and give the client what they want, but they haven’t made you an offer. Now what?
In this situation, you do have some options. You can back off and focus on the work you have in front of you right now and give the client some space and hope that when the time comes to hire someone that you will get nod.
You have another option, though, and that is to assert yourself and get the client to make a decision. Even if the answer is No, you have an answer, and in that instance you are free to move on and consider other opportunities. Discussions with clients can get to the point where having an answer either way is less frustrating than waiting for someone to just get on with it.
Giving a client a nudge can be a simple matter of asking if they need anything else from you to make a decision about the project. This is a good tactic if your discussions have been going on for some time and you don’t seem to be getting closer to starting work or finding out that the client has decided to hire someone else.
If you are feeling a bit more bold (or just plain frustrated), you can say something like, “I have some time available to start on this on [X] date, would you like me to go ahead and schedule you in?” Then the client has three choices, Yes, No, or start on [X] date instead. At least you have an answer and you haven’t reduced the likelihood of getting hired at all by saying something like, “Would you make up your mind already?”
What strategies have you used to get a client to make a hiring decision?
Your first freelance writing job is the hardest one to get, in my opinion. Once you have one (or a few) gigs under your belt, you can use your past writing experience to propel yourself forward to the next opportunity. How do you approach the task of landing that first gig, then?
Start with what you know, and I don’t necessarily mean the fact that you have been writing for yourself for years. Working on your own projects is not the same thing as taking on client work. Both of them involve writing, but your own work is more of a free-range thing: you are not subject to the same restrictions that are in play when you are taking on work for someone else.
What I’m trying to get to here is that you should take some time to think about your past experiences, including paid work and volunteer work, your hobbies and general interests. All of them can point you in the direction of a niche that you can use to get freelance writing work.
Write down all the topics that come to mind, without editing them. (This can be a tough one; most of us have an internal editor that get in the way.) You should have a lengthy list of ideas when you are done.
Now you have something that you can use when you are apply for freelance writing jobs. I admit that at the beginning of my career, I used the shotgun approach to finding. I applied for anything and everything that I thought I was a good fit for, and it didn’t work out well at all.
When I changed my approach and started targeting gigs that related to my previous experience or a personal interest, it became much easier to get jobs. I wasn’t sending a prospective client a cover letter saying, ” I want to work for you,” I was saying, “I want to work for you because I have experience in or am interested in [X].” My guess is that adding more specific information made me a better candidate.
If you aren’t able to find an entry-level writing gig that reflects your prior work experience or your interests, you can still present yourself as someone the client would like to work with. Tell him or her that you are able to follow instructions to the letter and that you will give the project your best effort. In other words, work with what you have when you are looking for freelance writing jobs.
What approach did you use to land your first freelance writing job? Do you still use the same one or have you changed it over time?
If you have applied for a freelance writing job and didn’t get hired, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should consider that door closed and never contact that prospective client again. There are times when you should consider taking another run at getting hired by a client you would like to work with.
You Feel You Can Present Yourself Better
There are times when we apply for freelance writing jobs and realize afterward that we could have done a better job at presenting ourselves as a good fit for that client. If you sent off your resume and realized later that you haven’t updated it to include your latest experience and accomplishments, you may want to resubmit it.
You Have Gained More Knowledge or Experience
You may also want to reapply for a writing gig if you have developed more knowledge in the relevant subject area or type of writing the client needs. Before contacting the client again, take the time to rework your writer’s resume to draw attention to why you are a good fit for their needs now.
Tell the prospective client that since the last time you were in touch, you have completed/worked on/taken a course in X, Y, Z. Include relevant samples that support the information set out in your resume.
When You Really Want the Gig
If you have set a goal for yourself to work with a particular client and you have been turned down, you may want to reapply in a few months. It’s possible that the client’s needs may have changed and they need to hire more writers or the person who was hired for the gig didn’t work out.
There is a difference between checking in every few months and becoming a pest, though. If you were turned down because the client simply went with another writer, make sure that you have a reason for keeping in touch. When you send an e-mail, include a link to an article or news story you think the client may be interested in and then ask about available work. This step will help you develop a relationship with that person, which keeps you on that client’s radar the next time they need a writer.
Have you ever reapplied for a freelance writing gig after being turned down? Was the second time the charm in getting hired?
September’s here and the days are cool….maybe it doesn’t feel like fall where you live yet, but there is definitely a change in the air. When children start back to school, it’s a sign that the more casual atmosphere of summer is finished and our focus is back on rolling up our sleeves and getting down to business.
What does that mean for freelance writers? Clients are once again focused on projects. Corporate clients who are working with a set budget may be looking to get work assigned and completed before year end.
How do you tap into the freelance writing job market at this time? You start by making a plan. This doesn’t have to be an intimidating process, though. It’s your plan and you can make it as simple or ambitious as you like.
Decide how this endeavor is going to work. Are you going to measure success in dollars taken in, the number of new clients you pick up, or the number of people you approach each week? In order to turn your plan from a simple wish list into a goal, you need to be able to measure how well it’s working for you.
Part of your freelance writing job search should involve flexibility. As you work your plan, if you find that despite your best efforts, you aren’t getting the results you want, go back and make some changes to your plan. If you are actively looking for new clients, it may take some time for the people you are approaching to make the decision to hire you. That doesn’t mean your plan isn’t working; it does mean that it takes time to attract new business.
In the meantime, go through your list of previous clients and make a point of contacting the ones who you haven’t worked with for some time. It’s possible that they are (or soon will be) looking for a writer and by getting in touch first, you make it easy for them to decide to hire you.
If it’s been while since you have worked with someone, make a point of reminding them of what project you worked on when you call or e-mail them. This will help them place you and make it easier for you to ask for more work. When you do make contact, do take a moment to thank the client for their past business. Everyone likes to feel appreciated and this small detail may make the difference between getting a new assignment and hearing, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
What steps are you taking to gear up your freelance writing job search this fall?
Image from sxc.hu