Mickey Gast joins us today to share her secrets in finding clients specific to her niche. Since she’s not about to settle, she uses a few unconventional sources to her advantage, which help her to build her client list and freelancing portfolio.
Thanks for joining us Mickey!
Finding leads as a newbie freelancer is hard.
For freelance writers who are happier pecking away at their keyboard than they are hunting for jobs, finding companies to pitch doesn’t seem like a joyful use of creative time.
When freelancers are looking for jobs, they often turn to job boards, content mills or even Craigslist. But there’s a problem with that.
It’s where everyone else also turns to.
It is a surefire way to find websites that are looking for content, but the competition is so fierce that at the end of the day, it was more of a hassle for me than it was a winning strategy.
So I thought that if I wanted good leads, I would have to think outside of the box. If I wanted great leads, I would have to step so far away from the box, that the box would become an obscure dot to me.
Here are three unconventional sources to finding jobs to pitch, that I’ve personally used to find good leads.
How Angel.co works:
Angel.co is a social platform for startups looking to connect with investors. So what use would a freelance writer like myself get from a website like this? I don’t have a viable startup idea, I’m not a CEO looking for funding and I sure am not an angel investor.
What I am is a person interested in working with startups. A lot of startups bootstrap their business while they raise rounds of funding. A bootstrapped business means outsourcing everything that’s not completely essential to the launch. They can’t outsource coding, but they can, (and often do) outsource writing and content creation.
How Angel.co works for me:
I am a stubborn writer and I’m in love with my niche. I like it so much, in fact, that I would spend my days thinking, reading and writing about it even if I weren’t paid for it.
I use Angel.co to find startups that are launching products in my niche. I then follow the companies on other social networks and decide if they’d be a good fit for me. As a freelance writer, I want to add value to their company, and write informed and positive content about their products.
Based on research that I did on Angel.co, I got in touch with five companies that were launching apps and platforms in my niche. I pitched to all five of them, and it just so happened that one of them was looking for ghostwriters for their blog.
They weren’t looking publicly, and they didn’t post the gig on any job boards. When I approached them, they were just starting to think about it. I got the gig because I pursued them at the right time.
2. Help a Reporter Out (HARO)
How HARO works:
HARO is a website meant to help journalists find sources to interview. Let’s say you’re writing a piece on how to deal with helicopter parents. For this article, you want to interview two helicopter parents and a child psychologist. That’s when you turn to HARO to look for your sources.
How HARO works for me:
I’ve used HARO two ways. First, I use it as a source. It’s a great way to connect with journalists and a great way to get your name out there. I replied to a few requests for sources when I felt I could make a valuable and on-point contribution.
For example, I was quoted in an article about a type of ethnic food that I prepare often, and in another article that had to do with my former profession. However, keep in mind that you are not allowed to spam reporters with unsolicited pitches. When in doubt, always double-check the terms and conditions.
Secondly, I used HARO as my lead research starting point. While I was skimming the requests, I found out about websites that I had no idea existed. Out of curiosity, I visited a website specific to my niche, that I would not have visited had it not been for HARO.
It was a website for active grandparents. I read the website, browsed their archives, and saw their “Write for Us” page. I pitched an idea that had an overlap between my niche (teaching and learning) and their niche (active grandparenting).
Keep in mind that it is unethical to steal story ideas from other writers who are doing research. Use HARO to help other reporters, or to find websites that might work with freelance writers.
3. The “Careers” Page of Companies That You Follow
We all know how career pages work. But why should we bother to look there? Because a lot of the times, companies will not advertise for jobs on a job board.
Sometimes, that’s the company policy. Instead of having to deal with a flood of applications from people who had never heard of them before, some employers prefer to passively look into filling a position with someone who is already a fan of the company.
How career pages worked for me:
There is an educational platform that I like and that I use weekly. I read their blogs. I use their software. I follow their Facebook page. Every now and then, I check the career page on their website.
It just so happened that they had openings for foreign language content contributors. They never advertised those freelancing positions on social media or job boards. The opening was safely hidden on their career page, and I wouldn’t have found it had I not been a fan of the company.
I decided early on that if I wanted to make a living as a freelance writer, I would have to do it on my terms. That means writing for companies that I was interested in, companies that I was already a fan of and companies that would pay a reasonable rate.
While some of these companies are posting on job boards, most of them don’t actively look for freelancers. As I begin my freelance writing career, I’ve decided to look for them. I recommend building your portfolio writing for niches you like; niches that you’re good at and vested in.
What’s your best unconventional freelance writing lead source?
Mickey Gast is a freelance writer, language trainer and European expat based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She spends her days reading, researching and writing about the best ways to study as an adult, techniques for learning and retention, language software and apps, and the connection between learning and personal development. She blogs about learning a foreign language at Panglossity. She also created a course called 15 Strategies to Learn a Foreign Language for Swedish startup Daily Bits Of. Even though tweeting is not technically a foreign language, Mickey does that too.