Sian Meades-Williams, creator of the Freelance Writing Jobs newsletter, gave her advice on finding freelance work on the Freelance Corner podcast.
Listen here for her top tips on getting gigs in challenging times:
Since the beginning of the pandemic, securing freelance writing work has been tough. With budgets cut and editors overwhelmed with pitches, it can be really hard to make yourself stand out from the crowd. However, freelancers are no strangers to difficult patches – being resilient is part of the job. So how can freelance writers best use this time to maximise their chances of getting work?
1. Browse job boards (correctly)
There are a number of job platforms that are really useful places for discovering new freelance opportunities. Arts Jobs, run by Arts Council England, allows you to find work at museums and in other cultural capacities. The Dots is also a great place to connect with potential clients.
However, job platforms must be used with caution. Many boards advertise unpaid work alongside the paid gigs, meaning that they can be frustrating to navigate. Art Jobs is helpful in this respect as there is a function allowing you to filter out unpaid work. Make sure you don’t dive too deep down the rabbit hole of getting excited about the client before you realise the job isn’t paid.
2. Newsletters are your friends
If you want to avoid the faff of sifting through endless job adverts that may or may not be what you want, subscribe to a newsletter collating adverts for the types of work you would ideally like to do.
Freelance Writing Jobs offers just this: a weekly email packed with paid, researched freelance work opportunities. This saves freelance writers the frustration of applying for work only to find that the advert has expired. In this period when the number of opportunities for freelance writers can feel bleak, the newsletter is a real burst of optimism in your inbox.
3. Use Twitter to grow your network
Twitter is a fantastic place to not only discover editors that are looking for writers but also to build relationships with editors, opening up opportunities for collaborations in future.
When engaging with an editor, don’t feel you have to stick to the serious stuff. In fact, chatting about a funny topic could be a great icebreaker and set the stage for a pitch later on. When pitching, reminding the editor that you’d been talking a couple of days ago gives your name that familiarity that could help make your work stand out.
However, it’s important to remember here that there is a fine line between reaching out and crossing boundaries. Editors need a break too, so refrain from contacting them too regularly or across multiple social media platforms. Getting that balance right is essential for forming those long-lasting relationships with clients you want to impress.
4. Cold emailing is worth a shot
When researching potential clients, you may spot gaps in a company’s armoury that could really benefit from your help. Even if they haven’t put a call out for freelance writers, reaching out with suggestions of how your services could enhance their business could pay off.
Though it may seem a scary prospect, freelancers need to get used to putting themselves out there. Carefully consider where you can add value to a company before starting a conversation.
5. Research is key
Often, freelancers are so quick to reply to a pitching call that they don’t give an idea the time to breathe. Firing off pitches without proper thought of how you fit into what a client wants will rarely end well. Of course, refraining from this is especially difficult in stressful periods. But it could make all the difference between acceptance and being blanked.
It’s also crucial to remember freelancing 101: make sure to check if the publication you’re pitching to has commissioned something similar recently. If you’re not willing to put in that research at the initial stages, editors may conclude that you wouldn’t put in the effort required for the project to be a success.
6. Do the things you never get time for
If you’re struggling for work right now, use this time to do those tasks that you’ve been putting off for ages and that will help the future you get work. Learn how to enhance your website to attract more relevant clients, explore the various ways LinkedIn allows you to connect with others, update your CV, and take PDFs of previous work for your portfolio.
You should also consider developing ideas for pitches that aren’t time-sensitive or immediate. Take a longer view of the type of work you want to be doing.
7. Think about your USP
Freelancers are in a unique position from which they can carve out their career. To make your work go in the direction you want, think about angles that only you can cover. If you’re looking for journalistic work, what makes you different to staff writers?
It’s also important to move with the goalposts. Consider the current climate and how you can use your skills to meet shifting client demand. Every freelance writer offers something different, so think about what is specific to you and how this fits with what the market wants.