I can count the clients I’ve met in my decade-long career on one hand. E-mail, phone calls, Skype, GoToMeeting, etc. – there are plenty of ways I and other freelance writers interact with clients, but a large portion of clients tend to be remote. The good news is that you can live anywhere in the world (or even be on vacation anywhere in the world), to interact with clients.
Of course, that’s the good part. The harder part is that you have to land a remote freelance writing job from afar without the benefit of your in-person social skills and sales abilities to earn the job. Here are some of my tried-and-true tips for landing freelance jobs from afar.
1. Network With Your In-Person Contacts
When I started freelancing, a large majority of my clients were people I used to work with at a publishing company. Though they had (literally) moved on, they were working for companies or even had started their own and had writing needs.
Not only can you take on freelance work from your existing contacts, you can also ask for recommendations from your existing clients who may have other friends and contacts needing freelance work. The benefits of this are that your clients can personally vouch for your work, which can give you a major edge. Even though you may never meet these new clients, you’re only one degree of separation from your new client.
2. Reach Out to Clients In Your Specialty
Whether you are a fashion, healthcare, business, finance, tech or other writer, consider what you do best. Once you know what that is, think of clients that are within that specialty – or simply Google those clients. No matter where they are in the country, you can identify the editorial director, marketing person, communications specialist, etc. that would be ideal to contact.
You can also look on key websites for companies that need remote writers. Although the competition will likely be even greater for these jobs, the next few steps will allow you to create a competitive package that no editor should say no to.
3. Do Your Research
When you find an editor’s name to address a cover letter, resume and samples to, take it one step further and do a quick web search of that person (he or she will likely do the same to you). From Twitter to LinkedIn, see what else you can learn. Being from Tennessee, I have gotten a surprising number of jobs from clients who went to school in the state or nearby, yet now live in large cities like Los Angeles or New York. While it’s not always possible, finding out what you may have in common with an editor can help you personalize your application and establish an instant connection, which another writer may not have taken the time to do.
4. Customize, Customize, Customize
Sending out the same resume and cover letter with the publication or company’s name filled in is mistake No. 1 for any writer trying to land a remote freelance writing job. When you can’t meet with a person face-to-face to share what’s unique about you, then the materials the client will be reviewing have to say it for you.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t realize your own unique value proposition. What makes you a great writer? What do your clients tell you about the work you do that encourages you to continue writing? These are important to highlight within the constructs of what a client is asking for.
If you are applying for a remote job posted online, carefully read what the client is asking for, and provide exactly that. Sometimes a client will ask for a 100-word pitch and three samples (and, notice, no resume). Create a little checklist and ensure you send just those things. While it’s great to be creative or incorporate an awesome sample you wrote, it’s most important to customize your e-mail to what the client asked for. Choose samples that are as specific to the job as possible and address why you are a great candidate for the position.
Essentially, you want to present the best overall package for that particular client, within the given constraints of what they asked for. If it’s hard to keep it that simple, you can always mention in the end of your letter that you’d love to share more of the great clips you have if they’d like to see them.
5. Keep Going
Landing remote freelance writing jobs is often a game of percentages. The more places you apply, the more likely you are to land something. In any freelancer’s weekly life, there is often work for your existing clients, negotiating with potential clients and searching for your next great client. Because client’s budgets, needs and personnel often come and go, it’s important that you always keep an eye out for a potentially great client.
When I was about a year into my freelancing career, I had one client that paid about 90 percent of my bills and another that I did occasional work for. My editor for the 90-percent-client wrote me to inform me she was moving to another company – a financial services company, which is definitely not in my writing wheelhouse. I had a month to find enough business to replace the client that comprised a large chunk of my income.
That’s when I learned an important lesson: you have to keep working to have enough of a diverse remote client freelance base so that when one editor transfers or a client isn’t buying new content, you’ll have enough other clients (or clients in the works) to keep the lights on. While it’s certainly hard work and time-consuming to land new clients remotely, keep honing your skills in personalizing and customizing your pitches to them. You’ll not only experience greater stability. – you’ll also experience greater success.