When you’re running a freelance writing business, or actually any type of service business, you will get to a point where you want to be a bit more discerning in the type of clients you take on. Sure, when you’re just starting out, you might scramble to get any client who comes your way. But as you gain more experience, confidence, and success, you will realize there are certain types of work you prefer.
One of the reasons you launched your freelance writing business may have had to do with the freedom to choose. Well, this is one area where you absolutely can choose! Yep. You don’t have to take every piece of business that comes your way. Instead, you can focus on doing your best work for clients you enjoy, and on projects that excite you. When you focus your marketing efforts on the clients you do want, you can build a better, stronger — and more enjoyable freelance writing business.
Here is how you find your ideal clients
1. Clearly define who it is you want to work with. When you develop a description of your target client, this can help you market yourself effectively to this client, rather than spread yourself too thin trying to market to any and every person who comes your way. What kind of person or business do you want to do the work for? Define as much as you can about this type of client: Where does the client get her information? Where does she hang out? What makes her need your help? (What is her motivation for hiring?) Is the client in a certain geographic location? Does the client need to earn a certain amount of money, have a certain number of employees, or operate in a certain role?
2. Identify the types of projects you want to do. When you started out as a freelance writer, you might have written any kind of project somebody paid you to do. Now, though, you may choose to specialize or focus on a certain area of work. For instance, when I left my newspaper job to work in my freelance writing business full-time, I took on a range of writing projects, including magazine articles, brochures, websites, books, etc. But as I got more experience and my business grew, I realized I wanted to focus my efforts on book writing. Now, I am a business book ghostwriter in Los Angeles. I help clients from all over the country turn their research, ideas, experiences, and stories into marketable books to build their brands. When you get ready to specialize, identify the two to three types of work you want to do.
3. Focus your marketing. Many freelance writers want to build strong businesses, but they don’t want to market. Well, it’s hard to build a business if you don’t let people know about that business. So once you’ve defined your audience and the work you want to do, create marketing efforts to get in front of those people. You’ll see tons of marketing ideas. Choose the three or four for you. Test and evaluate. Then make adjustments according to the results.
4. Build your personal brand. If you are a solopreneur or service provider building a business around your skills, abilities, or expertise, know that who you are plays into the work you get. So build a personal brand that is aligned with the type of client and work you want to get.
5. Do great work. In the midst of your marketing and other business-building efforts, you can’t forget to do the main thing: the work. And make it great. Each piece of great work you do helps to build your business and makes way for other great work — and dream clients — to come your way.
6. Seek referrals. If you have a dream client and you’ve done great work for this client, ask the client to tell her contacts about you. It can be as simple as asking your client if she knows of others who may need your services or offering a referral incentive such as a credit on a future project for every referral who signs up for a project.
7. Get social proof. Collect testimonials from happy clients. I sometimes collect testimonials, but not always, as there are times when I forget to ask for them when I wrap up a project. The testimonials I have provide social proof to others of the nature and quality of our work. So build it into your project close-out to ask for a testimonial, or ask for them occasionally. Whichever way you do it, just make sure you allow happy clients to share the good news of their experience with you.
8. Go after the clients you want. This is an extension of the point about marketing. Certainly market your business to your target audience using your chosen marketing tools, but if you know of specific people and business you’d love to work with, seek them out! Contact them to see if they need help.
9. Turn away less desirable clients. Yes, it’s true. You can turn down potential clients. If a marginal or less desirable prospect approaches you with a project that doesn’t quite fit or you see from your interaction with the person (or your Internet research of the person) that he won’t be a good fit for your business, don’t be afraid to pass. Passing on a project you know will be a headache or will take you away from the work you truly want to do can open you up to better opportunities.
10. Let prospects know whether you two will be a match. Include a page on your website that lets prospects know what exactly you are looking for in a client. This can be a page on your values. It can be a page on your rates. It can even be a page on how you do business. The point here is to let prospects qualify themselves. If they realize from your website that you two aren’t quite a match, then they can seek out another service provider and save both you and them time.
Making a living writing is not only possible, but it’s tremendously rewarding — especially when you get to work with dream clients on interesting projects. You can build a writing business that brings in a stream of clients and projects you want to work with when you are intentional in your business-building efforts.