When I was a newspaper reporter, ideas for articles were always popping into my head. Stories were all around me. An acquaintance mentioned her niece was joining the Peace Corps. I was told about a long-standing small business shuttering its doors. Someone mentioned two high school valedictorians lived in the same house — 30 years apart. “Oooh, that’s a story idea! Can I interview them?” I would ask.
My passion for news and for my community meant I was always hearing people’s stories around me and wanting to share them with others. Now, as a small business owner and independent writer and editor, I see potential clients and projects all around me. But I don’t mean in the used car salesman way, looking for someone to pay me at every turn. But when I see a small nonprofit struggling with social media, I know I could help them. When I learn about an association magazine in a niche that intrigues me, I know it would be fun to write feature articles for them.
I’ve realized that my passion for writing, editing and social media opens the door for fascinating conversations and potential partnerships. Getting new freelance clients is not about in-your-face marketing or asking people directly to hire you. It’s about making connections and sharing your passion about your expertise.
Here are three ways I’ve discovered help lead to new connections and clients:
1. Network in person. Because I am a social media advocate, you might think I only network through Twitter and LinkedIn. Not so. I find that Networking is Not a Dirty Word. People like to hire people they have met in person and whom they like. They are also more apt to remember people they’ve met in person.
Get involved in local and national organizations — and not just those in your field. If writers only talk to writers, they might feel inspired and improve their writing, but that’s not where the clients are. If you enjoy writing website content and helping small businesses, join your local chamber of commerce or a service club. But you can’t just join and hand out business cards. You need to get involved in their activities and make friends.
Joining groups in your field is also important. You might find clients, but you might also impress others who will refer you or send work your way when they’re too busy. I’m been active in Association Media & Publishing for approximately 10 years. I’ve made good, true friends, and people know I’m not always trying to sell them something. I’m there for the camaraderie, inspiration and education — and if the freelance gigs follow, great.
2. Invest in unique business cards. Don’t underestimate the power of a business card, especially in the Washington, D.C., area. My business cards are glossy and have bright orange lettering, which frequently causes people to tell me how much they like them and how they stand out. I also have several different “backs” on my business cards. Some are quotes about writing, while others are social media tips, facts or how-to lists. I try to hand out the appropriate business card to each person. Those who inquire about my writing will receive cards with writing quotes on them. Those who ask about blogs will see stats about blog reach, and those who wonder if Facebook is still relevant will learn that 71% of U.S. adults online use Facebook.
3. Update your LinkedIn profile. Don’t make your LinkedIn profile a carbon copy of your resume. Take time to write a summary that explains what you offer and what you’re passionate about, using keywords that potential clients might search for. Also, use keywords in your “professional headline.” Don’t be one of the thousands who say only “freelance writer.” What’s your niche? What’s your expertise? Do you specialize in writing website content, blog posts or for association magazines? Do you write in the fields of business, health, the environment? Be clear, thinking again of keywords people search for.
Having recommendations on your LinkedIn page can also be beneficial. It’s great when people spontaneously write these for you, but in many cases, you’ll need to ask. Reach out to a mix of previous bosses, clients and colleagues to ask if they’ll log in and write you a recommendation. (I’m working on this now.) And write recommendations for those you’ve worked for and worked with, and they might return the favor.
There are so many new ways to make connections in our digital and global world. What have you discovered works for you?