When people find out what we do for a living, and are considering making the leap to self-employment, one of the most common questions we’re asked is “How did you find work?”
That’s one thing we love about working for ourselves though – as much as you might earn less than you currently are working for someone else, you’ll also have the opportunity to earn much, much more. Suddenly your salary isn’t capped.
So how do you get started? I would recommend having at least one client before you quit your full time job, so that you have a bit of a buffer. It also doesn’t hurt to have some savings behind you, so you don’t feel frightened to go without earning for a few months while your business is getting off the ground.
How to make job applications stand out
But you don’t want to send in any regular job application. You want to stand out from the crowd. How do you do this?
I had a brainwave when we made a video for our housesitting profile a couple of years back. We won a few house sitting jobs because of this video, as home owners loved seeing our personality by watching us introduce ourselves over one minute.
This gave me an idea – why not create videos for job applications? Yes, this will certainly take longer than simply sending your CV, but it’ll also help the potential employer screen you quickly. If you make your video ace then you could land yourself a new writing gig in no time.
Click here to see a recent example of mine.
Go beyond the simple quote
Working at a creative content agency for a year before I began working for myself taught me a thing or two about pitching to get new clients. One thing I discovered that really impressed clients putting more effort in to a quote. One way to do this is to send the client a detailed document showing them how you can improve their communication / social media / copywriting.
Include statistics and examples of how you could improve their business. If this client has asked for quotes from a number of companies, and yours is the only one to include a document like this, you will look far more impressive than your competitors.
The client may end up going with you even if you are more expensive – because you would have already proved your worth.
Another way to cement yourself as an expert in your field is to write some e-books on topics related to your business. We’ve done this with our Thought Leadership e-books.
We had them designed by a professional so they stand out, and we send these documents to any clients we are pitching to. They give the client background information on our work and let them feel confident in us.
Here’s a Thought Leadership document we published on how to write a social media strategy.
Don’t underestimate the value of LinkedIn. It can help you win new work if you’re proactive on the platform.
When I say ‘contact people on LinkedIn’ I don’t mean pestering people willy-nilly, or asking to connect with random strangers.
Instead, analyse who is looking at your profile. Are they businesses looking for a copywriter?
Recently I noticed a CEO of a web business specialising in creating content for small companies was looking at my profile. They didn’t ask to connect though. So I dropped them an email and asked them if they were looking for help.
Sure enough they were, and now we’re in talks about working together. The owner of the business told me he looked at more than a dozen copywriters’ profiles and I was the only one who got back to him. It pays to be proactive when it comes to LinkedIn!
Always carry business cards
And I mean always. You never know when you might meet someone who is interested in working with you.
This week, Dave and I were working out in a hotel gym in Vietnam. A camera crew came in and started shooting us on the treadmill. (Of course, I was looking like a supermodel, sweating my butt off with no makeup on… not!)
Anyway, it turns out the guy in charge of creating the film for the hotel owns his own production business and is currently looking for copywriters. We got to talking and he suggested we have a beer with him when we’re in Bangkok soon. This may lead to work… so lucky we had a business card handy!
Don’t be afraid to talk about what you do
Don’t be shy. Tell people what you do for a living. By all means, don’t feel the need to shout it from the rooftops, but be proud (yet modest) when you talk to strangers and view every discussion as a potential pitch.
I estimate 90% of your work will come from people you already know, or who you meet, so sell yourself and your skills when you talk about what you do.
We’ve won work from the most unlikely places. One of our first clients was someone who we stayed with through Airbnb. She asked us what we did, and when we told her she said she was looking for help with her business. She is still a regular client to this day.
Get active online. I connect with like-minded individuals on Google+ and Facebook, and stay active in these groups so people know who I am.
These groups include travel writing, small business, digital nomad and blogging groups. Often companies will enter these groups asking for someone with a specific skills set to help them out.
This can sometimes lead to work. Recently I wrote copy for a client’s Amazon page who found me through a digital nomad group.
Contact everyone you know
“If only I had connections.”
I’ve heard this excuse again and again but I don’t believe it! Everyone has connections, and if you think you don’t, you’re just not thinking thoroughly enough.
The best way to get new work is to reach out to people you already know.
Try this exercise – sit down and write out three lists; friends who work in businesses that involve writing in any form (this could even be a health insurance company!), family members whom you know work for SMEs, and any past colleagues you haven’t connected with recently.
I did this, and soon my list was 40 names long. And that was after I thought I didn’t know anyone!
Next, start contacting these people by reaching out to five names on the list each day. Calling is best. Be friendly, and just let them know that you’re now working for yourself and if there’s any writing work they may need done, whether they might consider working with you. Be casual and don’t be pushy.
Follow up the call a few days later with an email with a few work samples and a link to your website, so that you stay in the forefront of their mind.
I guarantee that you will land at least one new client from this exercise.
Contact your current clients and see if they need work
If you already have clients then you’re in business, so congratulations. But these clients shouldn’t sit idle on your books. I recommend that you remain in regular contact with them, even if they haven’t given you work for a while.
This way, you will be the first person they think of when they do have work.
I do this every couple of weeks with all my clients and I believe it helps me to keep the work. If you are on a retainer with a client, it’s also good business practise to schedule in a regular Skype call so you can get feedback from them.
I have one client who gives me work every single time I email him. I think he just needs reminding that I’m here!
Don’t underestimate the power of meditating on your success. Take five minutes every morning to reflect on what you want to achieve and visualise it happening.
A great way to start is to record a scenario you want to happen, and then listen to the recording each morning. It only has to be a few minutes.
This is often a technique used by sport professionals, but there’s no reason why it can’t work for business too.
Visualise yourself having a conversation with a client. What do they say? Do they give you new work? Are they happy with what you’ve done?
Picture the conversation word-for-word. If you believe it, it will happen! Here’s an article on from Entrepreneur about the power of visualisation.
And there you have it – some tips to help you get new clients and hustle, hustle, hustle!