How to Make Your Writing Biz a Client Magnet

The tips I’ve used to keep potential clients flooding in

FREELANCING | WRITING

By Sharon Hurley Hall

Photo by Neel on Unsplash

Is it possible to start a writing business with no contacts, and still get plenty of writing work? I’m here to tell you it is.

Over the years, I’ve transformed my writing business so that instead of getting small one-off jobs, I get multiple jobs from each of my clients. And, instead of chasing writing gigs, these days they tend to find me. Here’s how that happened.

Laying the Groundwork for Client Referrals

Let me say upfront that I didn’t become a client magnet overnight. But the referrals I get today are a direct reflection of the hard work I have put into providing an excellent service for my clients.

If people are going to recommend you, you have to do good work. And, false modesty aside, I do. My clients say I have a knack for understanding what they want even when they haven’t clearly explained it. I also deliver on time, or even early, and sometimes the work I produce exceeds their expectations.

(That doesn’t mean I always do everything they ask, either. Sometimes I have a different approach to getting the results they want, and I’ll tell them. Sometimes building a relationship of trust sometimes means telling clients what tactics to avoid.)

And another part of laying the groundwork is making sure people can find you. With a portfolio on my site, another on Contently, and an active social media presence, I ensure my past work is out there working for me every day. Here are a few examples of how that’s benefited me.

Freelance Writing Client Success Story #1

This one isn’t a referral, but it illustrates the value of a strong online presence. Someone who wanted a writer was advised to look on Contently, and when they googled, my profile came up.

It turned out that I was doing the kind of writing they wanted, and after a short Zoom call, we agreed on a trial gig. I didn’t have to sell her on my services, because she’d already seen my work. All we had to do was agree on deliverables and compensation.

Freelance Writing Client Success Story #2

This is a composite of approaches I get that start: “I saw your work on…” Over the years, people have seen my work on Crazy Egg, Search Engine People, OptinMonster, Jilt and elsewhere. Once they do, they follow my bio to my site, then contact me to ask about similar work.

Again, by the time that email comes in, they already know the breadth of my writing experience, and if they’ve taken time to visit my site, they also know what I charge. So there’s no need for a hard sell on my part. I’ve acquired a number of long term clients this way.

Freelance Writing Client Success Story #3

I met one of my early clients when he was running a marketing campaign for a UK gift items firm. I had a short term contract with that firm, and moved onto other things when it came to an end. What I didn’t know is that CJ had kept my details. When he needed content to promote his own marketing agency, he got in touch, and we worked together for several years. Again, he already knew my work — see the pattern that’s emerging?

Freelance Writing Client Success Story #4

This next one has a few twists and turns, but I’ll try to keep it short. When I was writing for a travel blog, I got involved with the location independent community and wrote for Location Independent, run by Lea Jovy-Ford.

While writing for Location Independent, I met another member of the community who needed blog content, and wrote for him on and off over a five-year period. And that work also led to content for another site he was managing. Eventually I stopped writing travel content, but the story doesn’t end there.

Lea and I have stayed in touch over the years. I’ve always been a strong supporter of her focus on building community for remote workers. So when Lea co-founded the Beyond School, she got in touch with me. I’ll be teaching anti-racism courses there this year, and maybe some writing business stuff in 2021.

Thinking Strategically about Client Referrals

There are a lot of lessons there, but the big one for me is that working with one client can easily lead to working with another. And it doesn’t usually require much input from me to make that happen.

As a writer, my published work passively markets my skills and helps clients to find me. And my social media presence helps me connect with like-minded people, who perhaps get to know another side of me, for example when I’m ranting on LinkedIn.

I should add that whether I’m talking to clients formally or participating in an online group or forum, I don’t have time or energy to be anything but genuine. Nor do I go into any relationship thinking about what I can get out of it. With clients, I want to get paid but I also want to have fun and deliver value.)

Building Relationships with my Clients

Anyhoo, since the system (let me pretend I had one, OK?) I have is already working for me, the only thing I’ve done is to help it along with some tools. Things I’ve tried include:

  • Connecting with past and current clients on social media, and sharing and commenting on their posts when I feel minded to do so.

  • Requesting LinkedIn recommendations from some of my clients, or asking for testimonials I can use on my website.

  • Encouraging them to refer me to others. (If you don’t ask, you don’t get.)

  • Communicating regularly with clients while working on their job. It never hurts to add the human touch. I once happened to find out a client had a 50th birthday coming up so I sent him birthday wishes.

  • Checking in with them once or twice a year. That includes a “thank you for your business” card which I create in Canva and send at the end of the year.

All of this means that most of the freelance writing work I get is via word of mouth. Plus some clients contact me first for any writing job, and that’s a pretty nice position to be in.

How do you encourage client referrals?

© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2020

Sharon Hurley Hall is an anti-racism writer, a professional B2B writer and blogger, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast. This is an expanded version of an article originally published on Get Paid to Write Online.