Today I have some freelance insight from Susan @ Mother’s Who Launch. Be Sure to visit her site after reading the post to get her #1 tip for freelance writers and see her actual cover letter that landed her a position at the Huffington Post!
I have a secret about my freelance career. I’m incredibly impatient and want to see results yesterday. For awhile, I thought this was a big character flaw that meant I would never have the focus or longevity to actually grow my career to any kind of sustainable level. I watched other freelance writers and social media consultants dutifully paying their dues and slowly making real progress. So naturally I decided to freak myself out and panic. What if I got left behind? What if my time passed and I was still stuck piecing together random work with no real rewards?
I knew I had to do something besides jump from project to project and chase those shiny objects that seemed to signal success. So i started throwing some serious focus behind that impatience to make it work to my advantage and hammered out a strategy that actually worked. Within months of implementing my new system, I got published in The LA Times, The Boston Globe and landed a contract to start updating and creating original content for travel guidebooks.
Here’s how I did it:
Fine Tune Your Skillset
Narrow down your skills to a list of desirable assets that offer results. For example, if you’re a project manager, niche it down as far as possible. Are you amazing at project managing local businesses run by founders with no time to grow their revenue? Then say exactly that, and illustrate how that impacts someone’s bottom line. “I help small businesses manage their projects so they have more time to focus on growing their revenue.”
But what if you’re a dabbler? I’m a generalist writer and creative Jill-of-All Trades, so fine tuning what I can actually do is nearly impossible. So instead, I came up with an elevator speech. “I specialize working with small business and travel sites, but have done just about everything. Tell me more about your project so I can figure out how I can help you best.”
Look for Something Unique
Let me save you a lot of time. Quit sitting around paying dues and writing or working for peanuts. Unless it’s a stepping stone, you just don’t need to do this. Instead, look at what makes you unique. Alexa tapped into personal finance for single Moms and showed us how she dug herself out of a low paying career. That’s pretty unique.
If you truly think you have nothing unique to say, then ask your friends. What do they always ask you about? What do you seem to know that no one else does? My first major freelance writing project was for The LA Times about renting rooms in your home to airline pilots who were based in one city, but lived in another. I pitched it as a real estate piece to earn more in a shaky economy. How did I come up with the idea? Simple. My Dad and brother are commercial pilots and I grew up with this phenomenon. Meanwhile, my friends always wanted to know what a “crash pad” was and why my Dad spent the night at one every few weeks before an early morning flight.
Get Laser Focused About Your Positioning
It’s generally better if you have a focused niche and skillset, but it’s not a dealbreaker. There was a period of time that I devalued myself and skillset and that lead to some major career self-esteem issues. I thought that jumping from project to project and different industries meant I was flakey. Over time, I realized it just meant that I’m versatile.When I finally started to own it, my freelance career soared.
I leveraged that versatility as a unique selling point for myself. I’ve worked on so many different things, that I can now look over my cover letters and pick out the assets that would most help the company I want to work with. For example, I wrote a ton of random pieces when trying to get up and running as a freelance writer. So I used that as a selling point to get into content marketing for businesses. Once they saw I could write on anything from travel to termite control, they were happy to hire me to write about topics I could quickly research and easily adapt to their audience’s voice.
Craft an Awesome Sample
If you want to win big in freelancing, then you have to create highly relevant samples. A lot of people skip this step because it takes time to do it and get right. But what’s the alternative? You wind up sending a client a cold email and just talk about your laundry list of skills. Meanwhile, a more successful freelancer sends over samples or her previous work. Who do you think they’re going to hire? The person who is just talking about the work she can do, or actually showing the work she can do?
This really works. And you may be shocked to discover you can beat out hundreds of other applicants by creating quality, relevant samples. I’ve hired many freelancers for various clients and projects, and only a small handful are worth considering. Many were budding freelancers who happened to take the time to really nail their cover letters and samples.
Create a Confidence Booster
Waiting around until you’re confident enough to pitch a big client? Then you better get comfortable, because you’re going to be waiting around forever. Confidence doesn’t just crash down upon you in an epiphany. Instead, it grows and flourishes through repeat, strategic action. But there are ways you can trick yourself into having more confidence.
Create your own confidence booster with a quick win strategy. That might mean testing the waters with a smaller market or a guest post on a blog first. Just make sure you don’t wallow there waiting to be “good enough” to do something bigger. You can also make your own confidence boosting playlist to work to, read over your credentials, and envision yourself winning the next gig.
Take a Big Leap (And Don’t Ever Look Back)
At some point, you have to leap off that cliff you’re hovering on and trust you’ll land on your feet. There’s really no way around it. So put together your best freelance pitch, create an awesome sample, tap into your confidence booster and jump. The sooner you do this, the sooner you can see what’s working and what doesn’t. Otherwise where will you be this time next year? Reading more articles about someone else’s success and wondering why that can’t be you?
Refine, Rinse and Repeat
So you’ve done everything on this list and are getting some nibbles and landing work. That’s great! But you’re not done yet. You still need to see what’s working, where you’re getting the most responses, and refine your whole process. If you’re not seeing much traction, then take a look at your approach. Maybe your positioning needs tweaking. Maybe you’re looking at the wrong freelance clients. Maybe you’re holding yourself back and your cover letters sound like they’re written by a robot.
Whatever the reason, you won’t know unless you refine, rinse and repeat the process. Think of growing your freelance career as one big A/B test. Keep track of the different things you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and the results you’re getting. Then pick which strategy seems to be working the best. The rest will fall into place.
Sign-up at MothersWhoLaunch.com and get Susan’s super simple (yet completely underrated) #1 tip for landing big freelance clients before you’re ready – plus her cover letter that landed a blogging position on the Huffington Post.