Freelance writing is an attractive option to lots of new writers. It’s relatively easy to get started in and you can earn money quickly. But unlike other types of writing, freelancers rarely get the chance to earn passive income.

Freelancing is active income. And that means you are going to have to hustle. If you aren’t writing, you aren’t earning.

But writing isn’t the only thing you have to do. You also need to hunt down new clients, negotiate rates, and pin down scheduling.

Finding clients is of course at the top of that list. But you have to find the right clients. And this is where a lot of new freelance writers tend to fail.

If you haven’t had much success landing gigs, chances are you are making a few simple, yet common mistakes.

You are Pitching the Wrong Services

Small businesses are some of the best clients for new freelancers. However, if you pitch them the wrong services you will never land a gig. So how do you know which services to pitch? Easy. Look at the areas that business is already focusing on.

Sounds easy enough right? Unfortunately it isn’t. It goes against our natural inclination to help clients by showing what they are missing.

Too many new freelancers (myself included) start by pitching services that they think the business needs.

Here’s an example…

Shirley, is a new freelancer who wants to offer blogging services to local veterinarians. To find her first few clients, she goes to Google, does a quick search, and finds four that she wants to contact. She notices two of the vets already have a blog so she ignores them.

Of the other two vets…

  • one has no blog at all
  • the other has a blog with a few older posts

Shirley emails the last two vets and tells them about her services. However, she never hears back from either of them.

Shirley will never get hired. Do you know why?

Because she contacted the wrong vets.

The vets Shirley contacted have put little or no effort into blogging, which means they do not care about it. Maybe it doesn’t work for their business model, or maybe they just don’t understand how a blog can help their business.

Either way, trying to convince them to invest in something new is like swimming upstream.

Only pitch services to clients who have a clear desire to do what you’re offering. Whether they need the service or not is irrelevant.

Every freelancer, including me has made this mistake. Now that you know, you can avoid it.

Aim Higher

Newbie freelancers tend to aim a little too low in their search for new clients. It’s tough to go after your dream clients so you assume you have to start out at the bottom and work your way up. That isn’t necessarily true though.

There is nothing stopping you from chasing those dream clients but you.

Confidence is a weird thing. It can hold you back from being great if you let it.

You don’t want too much confidence either, because then you’re just some delusional jackass.

Still, newbie freelancers aren’t usually over confident when it comes to pitching new clients. So set your sights a little higher. Reach out to clients one step higher than you think you should. Trust me, it’ll pay off.

Pitch One Market at a Time

Pitching to too many different industries is another common mistake. It is easy to say “I’ll write anything for anyone”, but you don’t want to do that. Clients hire specialists, not generalists.

It’s okay to be multi-passionate—most epic introverts are—but pitching too many different industries at the same time will only hinder you. Stick to one market at a time.

Traditional writing advice says you have narrow down your niche as far as possible. For example, if you want to write about pets, you would want to narrow that down to dogs; then even further to puppies; then even further to AKC registered Boxer puppies.

I’m not sure if I agree with that logic anymore.

Still, lots of people have had success that way. One of the joys of being a freelancer, however, is that you get to write on a lot of different topics. Just don’t approach clients as a generalist.

Make a list of the markets you would like to write for and attack one per day or one per week. This will help cover more ground and keep you from going insane.

Have Something to Show

No matter what you do you gotta have something to show interested clients. It is best to have content related to the type of clients you are pitching, of course. But in the beginning that is a little harder to do.

At the very least, you should have between five and ten samples that potential clients can look through. You won’t always need to show that many, but it is good to have a small selection to choose from so you can cater to each client’s needs.

You can publish on sites like Medium.com if you don’t have a blog yet. Some clients will not hire writers who don’t have their own blog though, so keep that in mind. Other clients might not care at all.

What matters is that you get some sort of sample content published somewhere. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just get something out there.

Need more help? You can get one-on-one coaching with me.