If you want to make a living as a writer, this is for you. Why? Because I’m going to show you exactly how I got my first big writing client.
Not only that, I’m going to walk you through the steps that I followed so that you can duplicate my success.
You might find it surprisingly simple. It might even be too simple. But here’s what you need to know: Sometimes simple isn’t always obvious.
It’s not always easy either. But that’s why I wrote this article: To make it as easy as possible to become successful in your writing business.
Now I don’t know about you, but I’m terrified of the telephone. Every time I hear the phone ring, my stomach churns.
I rarely make phone calls to people I don’t know well, that is unless I absolutely have to. And even then, it can take me a full morning to muster up enough courage to follow through with making the call.
When I’ve had jobs that required me to answer the phone, I’ve done so professionally and politely. But when it comes to running my own writing business, it’s something I’d rather not do too often.
I believe one of the reasons for this is that, like many freelance writers, I’m an introvert. Introverts have a rich inner life and spend a lot of time thinking and reflecting. Alone-time is what gives us introverts energy and purpose.
The “brrrng! brrrng!” of the telephone pulls us out of our inner world and back into harsh reality. And, if I’m honest, one of the main reasons I “set up shop” as a freelance writer and copywriter was so that I could avoid using the telephone.
My reasoning behind this was if I could find work online, I’d have no need to make calls with clients. For the most part, that has proven true.
However, there’s one big problem with my fear of the telephone.
I only discovered this problem a significant length of time into my freelance writing career, after I’d spent years earning only a little above the minimum wage. When I discovered this problem and developed the solution, my writing business grew dramatically.
What was the problem I discovered?
Most freelance work comes from talking to your friends and past clients/editors.
I had to find a way of doing this without using the telephone.
Before I go on … I should make it clear that my prejudice against the telephone is entirely my own.
Truth be told, using the phone can be a great way to connect with potential clients. In fact, some freelance writers, such as Peter Bowerman, author of The Well-Fed Writer (AFF), advocates cold calling as the best way of finding clients.
And, to be completely honest, I have landed many clients through the art of cold calling as well.
What can those of us who’d rather not use the telephone do?
Fortunately, I found the solution. And it doesn’t involve wasting time looking for work through online job boards either.
But it does involve sitting at your computer. And it does involve writing.
Of course, the solution I am referring to is email.
If you are like me, and you’ve got a phobia of the telephone, email is perfect for reaching out to other writing friends and past clients/editors.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s better than the telephone. You see, email is non-intrusive. People only need to reply if they want to. And they can write replies in their own time, at their own convenience.
You might wonder why it took me years to discover the power of email.
I’m baffled by it too!
The truth is, I didn’t know just how much work was out there … if only I reached out to my writing friends, and past clients/editors sooner.
Also, I worried that my other non-writing friends would think I was crazy for starting a freelance writing business. It was something I kept to myself. I wanted to prove I could be successful before I told anyone what I was doing.
Although I don’t regret, necessarily, how I started in this profession, I now see that I came at it from the wrong approach. I would have grown my writing business faster if I’d have reached out to my writing friends and past clients/editors early on.
Now, I understand it can be scary when approaching your friends about what you’re doing, or trying to ask your past clients/editors for a referral — which is actually the easiest way to find additional work.
That’s why I’d decided to share the email I used when I reached out to my friends and past clients/editors.
You can use this email as a template for writing your own emails.
Before I show you the email …
Here are few tips to follow when reaching out to your writing friends, and past clients
First, avoid the temptation to be salesy. Just because you’re writing to them about your writing business doesn’t mean you should change who you are.
You’re letting them know about something new that’s happening in your professional life. You’re not trying to sell them anything.
Second, every email you write must be unique. Yes, you can have some sections that you copy and paste or use as a template. But it’s important to personalize each email.
Truth be told, this should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Address the email to the person you’re writing to. And before you say anything about what you’re up to, check in with them and see how they’re doing, and actually show an interest in what is going on in their life.
Third, before you write to anyone, I recommend making sure you’ve at least got some writing samples to show. Publish some blog posts or articles on Medium, or volunteer to help a nonprofit by writing their marketing materials.
You don’t need to link to your writing samples in your email, but you do need them available in case someone replies and asks to see a sample of your work.
Finally, don’t be afraid to slightly promote your services. If you believe the person you’re writing to might be interested in some of your services, then specifically list those services.
At the very least, mention your website, and ask them if they wouldn’t mind taking a look through it and sharing their opinions on it. Be sure to ask this of the people whose opinion you will actually value and appreciate.
Here’s the email. Notice all of the above elements: the personal writing style, the unique opening paragraphs, and the subtle promotion of my writing services.
Happy New Year! How was your Christmas holiday? How is everything at [your organization]?
I wanted to let you know that since leaving [name of organization] I’ve been perfecting the communication skills that you noticed in me and helped me to develop.
Because I enjoyed working on communications so much at [name of organization], I’ve decided to set up a business helping nonprofits and social enterprises with their communications.
My main work is writing copy, such as press releases, newsletters, case studies, fundraising letters, blogs, ebooks, reports, and whitepaper writing. The aim of all of these is to develop visibility, share core messages, and cultivate a wide support network.
You’ll find my new contact details below. If you can spare a couple of minutes, I’d be really grateful if you took a look at my new website, which gives a more detailed description of my writing services. Any feedback you have on my website is very welcome.
Finally, if you hear of anyone in your network who might be interested in my writing services, please share my details with them.
With best wishes,
This is the email that worked for me. As a direct result of emailing my contacts in this way, I was awarded a four-figure writing contract.
Now Over to You
Why don’t you go ahead and do the same? Even if you can only think of five people you could email right now, it could open up opportunities beyond what you believe is possible.
Go ahead and try it. You’ve got nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
Has this article added value to you? Let me know in the comments below!
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William Ballard is one of the most sought-after business and leadership coaches in the world. As founder and CEO of William Ballard Enterprise, his core business development and leadership programs are designed to be a catalyst for entrepreneurs and leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their business, their lives, and the world. To learn more about how to launch a successful writing business, consider subscribing to William’s paid Business Insider newsletter.