And how to!
One of my students emailed me a few weeks ago asking for help. She’d been trying to get new clients and increase her freelancing income for a while, she said, with little success.
I asked her the same question I ask anyone who tells me they’re not getting enough work as a freelancer or not making the income they desire: How frequently are you marketing?
A couple of times a week, she replied.
Do I even need to spell it out or is it obvious to anyone who’s reading this what the problem is here?
“Don’t even bother with anything else until you’re marketing at least five times a day, five days a week,” I said to her. “THEN, if you’re still not getting any traction, call me and I’ll show you how to fix it.”
Here’s the deal, people: If you don’t tell people you exist, they have no way of giving you work.
Clients do not magically find you. YOU have to go out and look for them. YOU have to show them how you can provide value to them. YOU have to offer them stories so irresistible they can’t NOT buy them.
YOU are the one trying to sell something here—an idea or a service. And therefore, you have to learn to market.
I hate to be harsh, but it really is that simple.
I talk to dozens of freelancers a week and it always comes down to this: They’re not marketing enough. Therefore, they’re not earning enough. It’s a direct correlation. Change one variable (the marketing), and the other automatically changes, too.
Let me be straight with you: If you’re not making the income you want from freelancing, it is not the market’s fault, it is not the industry’s fault, it is not because of a recession, and it is not because there are no longer any good clients left in the world. In fact, many freelancers are doing incredibly well.
If you’re not making the income you want from freelancing, it is most likely a lack of sufficient marketing.
The good news is that this is a fixable issue and if you decide to put in the work, you can turn the situation around very quickly.
Here’s why you’re not making the freelancing income you want and some quick and easy ways to fix the situation.
1. You’re not marketing at least five times a day, every day
If you’re a new freelancer with little to no work, you simply have no excuse to not put every hour of freelancing time into marketing. That is all you should do all day, every day, for as many hours as you can afford to. In between the marketing, write essays and humor pieces and work on that novel, but all that has to come after the marketing, not instead of it.
If you want to make any kind of living with freelancing, you need to learn to get clients. And in order to get clients, you have to not only learn to market, but learn how to market well, and learn how to market frequently.
If you write for publications, here’s a blog post on how I sent out five pitches a day during the early years of my career.
If you’re looking for content marketing and blogging clients, here’s a list of 21 ways to find them.
2. You’re relying on websites such as Upwork and Fiverr
If you’re relying on these sorts of freelancer websites to get work, let’s be honest, you’re missing out big time. Not only because you’re competing with other freelancers on price but because prestigious clients, such as The New York Times and Microsoft, aren’t hiring freelancers off Upwork.
If you want to build a career that involves writing for national publications, doing content marketing for big brands, or making a good hourly rate, ditch the websites and start reaching out to editors and content managers directly.
3. You haven’t yet mastered the art of a good pitch
Knowing how to write a good pitch or Letter of Introduction is one of the most basic tools in a professional writer’s arsenal. If you don’t yet have that, stop everything else and fix that first.
Handily, I’ve written a lot about pitching on this website. Here are a few posts to start you off:
And here’s on writing excellent Letters of Introduction:
4. You’re not building relationships
What do you do when you get a rejection on a pitch? Move on to the next publication on your list? That’s what I used to do.
Now I do something better: I take the pitch that’s come back rejected and send it to another publication. Additionally, I send the editor who just rejected me another pitch. That way, I keep the conversation going, my name top of mind, and pitches always in circulation.
Most people see rejections as a big fat NO. Instead, if you can learn to look at rejections as the start of a conversation and the building of a relationship, you’ll approach them differently and use them as stepping stones to acceptances.
When an editor rejects your pitch, don’t wait forever to send another idea. Use the rejection as a conversation starter and pitch again as soon as you can.
5. You’re inconsistent
Most writers pitch. But in my experience, only 1% of new writers will pitch with any kind of consistency. Therefore, it is those 1% of writers who don’t struggle to make a consistent income.
The remaining 99% have excuses. They got busy with the work that came from earlier marketing. They don’t have any new ideas. They’re tired of the constant pitching. They thought it would be easier than this. You know how it goes.
If you’re not seeing the results in your income that you want, create a consistent pitching and marketing schedule. It doesn’t matter how you do your marketing, just that you do it. Once you’re more established, have regular clients, and are making the money you want, you can afford to cut down on your marketing.
Until then, pitch away.
6. You’re wasting time on useless tasks
Ever spent a day checking email, puttering about on Facebook, updating your blog, creating graphics for social media images, and basically wiling away your time doing work that doesn’t translate to new work or meeting current deadlines?
Yeah. Don’t ask me how I know.
See, when you fill up your day with mindless minutiae, you get to the end and have no energy left for the more important tasks. That is why it is essential that you do the writing and the marketing first and then move on to other things, such as email and networking on Facebook.
7. You don’t believe you can
Finally, let me just say: You will never achieve anything you don’t believe you can achieve. I frequently share tips on how to increase your income or be more prolific in our weekly newsletter and there are always those one or two people who cannot fathom how a six-figure income can be made without working 80-hour weeks or that there are authors who routinely write 5,000 words a day. They not only question it, they vehemently insist it can’t be done. And for them, it can’t. Because they don’t believe it’s possible.
If you think it’s impossible, it will be. If you think it’s possible, it will be. That’s the way it works.
Change your mindset, get into the habit of marketing daily, and reach for higher standards and higher goals. The income you want will inevitably follow.
And if you want my help in getting there faster, check out my book The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Making Six Figures, in which I lay out a step-by-step strategy for $100k years.
Natasha Khullar Relph
Founder and Editor, The Wordling
Natasha Khullar Relph is an award-winning journalist and author with bylines in The New York Times, TIME CNN, BBC, ABC News, Ms. Marie Claire, Vogue, and more.
She is the founder of The Wordling, a weekly business newsletter for journalists, authors, and content creators.
Natasha has mentored over 1,000 writers, helping them break into dream publications and build six-figure careers. She is the author of Shut Up and Write: The No-Nonsense, No B.S. Guide to Getting Words on the Page and several other books.
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