5 Proven Ways To Get More Copywriting Clients In 2020 Than You Can Possibly Handle
Do you ever wonder where all those ‘Billion $$$’ markets hiring writers ‘right now’ vanish to when you set out to find work?
Or … what happens to the companies that were (apparently) just waiting to hire you once you learned the writing skills they needed?
Well … I certainly did.
For a long, long time.
But then one day I realized (after buying and stacking up TONS of premium, super-expensive courses) that there’s NO course or skill that miraculously fills a freelance writer’s client pipeline.
One has to work toward getting great clients.
So no matter how brilliant a freelance copywriter you may be or whatever exclusive writer group you might belong to, you NEED to source work.
You need to go after it.
And not wait around for the best clients to contact you with their most lucrative work.
Now I’m not saying the situation stays like this forever.
Eventually, copywriting clients will reach out to you
But the challenge is to reach this point – the point where your existing or past clients send work your way.
One thing’s for sure – the only way to get there is to establish yourself as a great writer who gets visible results for clients.
But no one can tell how long you’ll take to actually get there.
John, for example, had his first referral (and a stream of referrals) come right from his first email copywriting gig.
But there might be someone else who had to complete at least 35 great projects before securing even a single quality referral.
So it depends.
The point I’m making is this: To put your lead generation on autopilot at some time in the future, you need to pedal hard and fast right now and find enough work that’s needed for it.
And that’s exactly what we’re going to learn in this guide.
This “how to get copywriting clients” guide will give you 5 battle-tested methods that ensure consistent work along with the tools, templates, and step-by-step action plans for each.
These tactics on how to get copywriting clients work… but there’s a caveat
Very few people benefit from educational content or how-to posts like this one. And that’s because even the best and the most action-oriented information doesn’t act upon itself.
It needs execution. Execution that’s almost always intensive, draining, and heavily loaded with rejection.
But the readers who take action – and act consistently – get great results.
So right now … you have a choice: Either be someone who’s reading just another post on getting clients or someone who’s thinking about going to their calendar to set daily and weekly reminders to do the various tactics this post recommends.
If you choose to be the latter, very soon your pipeline will be filled with more clients than you can ever possibly handle.
So here they are… 5 proven ways to get copywriting clients on demand.
1. Send cold pitches
A lot of freelancers balk at the idea of sending cold pitches.
Most freelance gurus too don’t recommend the idea.
They say it’s pushy or salesy.
But I disagree.
In fact, I’ve secured some of my best and highest paying work via cold emails.
And so, I can vouch for the effectiveness of this tactic.
But to succeed with cold emails, you need to first develop the right mindset. Instead of viewing cold emails as a sales tool or a necessary evil in freelancing, you need to look at them as a means for introducing yourself and your services and starting sales conversations with potential, quality clients.
If you still aren’t sure, give this tactic a try and see the results for yourself.
Here’s a simple 3-step process you can follow to get started with this:
Step #1: Create a company profile
Marco Massaro, the founder of Masswerks.com (a UX development agency), has seen some great success with cold emailing. He cold emailed 500 prospects and 14 of them showed interest in working with him.
Eventually, Masswerks landed a $15k consulting project through this campaign. Which Massaro calls a huge win: “ […], we pitched these leads literally out of nowhere and they’ve never heard of my consultancy. Getting 2 qualified leads from a cold email who are a fit and have a budget is a huge win in this type of business.”
In the cold emailing plan he outlines, he recommends starting by writing a target company profile.
He decided that for a company to be a qualified lead for Masswerks, it had to:
- be into technology, SaaS, B2B, B2C, social
- be based in USA, UK or Europe
- have at least $200,000 in funding and no round later than a Series A
- have about 1-20 employees
Likewise, you need to build the profile of your target client.
When I cold email someone, I make sure they:
- Are in my niche: digital marketing/lead generation
- Post a lot of content (and it’s obvious from their website that they believe in content marketing)
- Are either an established company or a well-funded startup
In addition to these, it’s always a good sign if some freelancer already works for them.
You can make your company profile as detailed as you like.
The only caveat is that you have to stick to this profile and not entertain anyone or any firm that doesn’t fit the bill.
Ok – so once you identify the companies who could use your service, the next step is to find out who these companies are.
Step #2: Make a list of prospects
The best places for finding prospects to cold email are business directories. Such directories are great for this purpose because most of them have information about a company’s size and funding.
And these are great indicators of whether a company is big (or small) enough to outsource its content or copy to you.
To start with, check out the following directories for your niche:
Let’s say that you cover the health niche and your target customers are companies into health tech.
Now let’s search for this niche in the above directories.
AngelList alone shows some 44k+ results:
YCombinator, too, shows some great prospects:
And so on.
When you repeat this exercise for all the business directories you can get your hands on, you’ll find many potential leads.
But don’t contact them right away. First add them to a list.
This list doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Even a simple Google spreadsheet will do.
Just make you include these columns so that you record all the important info:
- Company name
- Contact person
- Contact email (or the URL of the contact page)
- Date of emailing
- Pitch sent
- Reply (If you get a reply, add it to the spreadsheet. This is helpful for following up when a client says they don’t need a service right away but could use your skills in the future.)
- Date of follow up email #1 (+ the message you sent)
- Date of follow up email #2 (+ the message you sent)
- Date of follow up email #3 (+ the message you sent)
- Date of follow up email #4 (+ the message you sent)
- And so on.
Step #3: Pitch your services
Now in the third step, you need to reach out to all the people you’ve shortlisted in the second step.
Here, you need to write a short email and send it to all the shortlisted prospects.
In this email, your focus shouldn’t be on selling your services.
Rather you should find a crisp way to introduce yourself and start a sales conversation.
Just like Massaro does in this email:
Here’s a template you could use:
I’m a [niche] freelance copywriter. Would love to write for [company name] if you have any content needs? I specialize in [content types].
Here are 3 of my best [niche] samples:
Would love to run a few ideas by you. When’s the best time to discuss these?
A cold email lesson I learned the hard way:
When I first started using cold emails for getting work, I’d suggest at least 3 post ideas in my first cold email. These post ideas were curated after carefully going through a potential client’s website and blog.
However, this slowed down my pitching process.
And so I decided that I’ll only suggest post ideas to those prospects who showed interest and emailed back.
While personalization sounds good (and works a lot of times), it’s just not feasible when you want to contact 5 people a day.
So, don’t personalize your pitch beyond a prospect’s name and their company name.
You might make an exception for a special prospect, though.
Ideally, you should contact anywhere between 1 to 5 people each day. Or, set targets like 30/week. There’s no ‘right’ number as such.
Now I can hear you…
And I won’t lie:
Cold emailing sounds and IS very demanding.
But it’s also the fastest means of generating enough work, building a great portfolio, and getting a clientele that passes your name along to their friends and contacts (note from John: I used cold emailing to rapidly generate the cash I needed to go to Richard Branson’s Necker Island. Cold emailing works).
If you’re currently out of work, and if you can commit to doing just one of the things out of these 5 tactics in this post, then please make it this one.
Also, as you can already tell, this is an ongoing exercise. So make sure that you add a certain number of prospects to your list daily and also contact a set number of people each day (or week).
2 tools to turbocharge your cold email campaigns:
1. A CRM tool like Streak: Once your spreadsheet is ready, you can either start sending pitches right away or import this list into a CRM tool like Streak.
The benefit of using a CRM tool is that you can keep track of all your outreach activity without clumsily updating spreadsheets. Also, all your contact information is presented beautifully in your CRM tool and you don’t have to look for it in messy spreadsheets.
Most CRMs are pricey, though. But they do have free or lite plans that can help you when you’re just starting out.
2. An email automation tool: A big part of succeeding with cold emails is sending regular follow-ups, which can be easy to miss. But here’s where an email automation tool like Mailshake can help.
With an email scheduling tool like Mailshake, you can design custom email schedules based on the recipient’s activity.
For example, if you find that a recipient hasn’t opened your pitch email at all, you can send them another email. To someone who has opened your email, you can write a follow-up email that will push them further into the sales cycle.
A lot of CRM tools already offer email and follow up tracking, so you might not need this one if you choose a good CRM tool.
Remember these tools are there to help you, but even a simple spreadsheet with basic manual tracking will also do. So don’t feel overwhelmed and work with simpler tools if that’s what you prefer.
2. Apply on copywriting job boards
Job boards are often daily updated with copywriting gigs. So they’re the best places to find great leads.
But a lot of freelance writers dismiss this idea because they feel that good jobs almost always attract 100s if not 1000s of applications, and so applying is a waste a time.
Now it’s true that a lot of applicants reach out for the same job especially if it pays well. In fact, a lot of these applicants are actually highly qualified and experienced.
But even then, you shouldn’t throw away this option because a lot of people go to job boards to hire.
And trust me if you apply just enough number of times, you’ll get eventually hired.
I’ve secured lots of jobs with job boards. And I’ve had lots of misses too. Especially in my early days when I’d often apply when a vacancy was already filled out.
And even then, I’d get responses like this one:
Eventually when I followed up with some of these people (after a couple of months or so), they were more than willing to hire me because I had already passed a ‘screening’ test.
Here’s another lead I got after more than a year of reaching out about a job ad:
Trust me … this happens more often than you can think.
In fact, a client I’m working for just now came back to me after months of my applying to his job ad.
I know the competition is tight, but it’s really just a numbers game. Like I said before, you’ll end up with lucrative jobs if you just hang around just long enough and send in enough applications.
To start using this tactic, follow this simple 3-step process:
Step #1: Add a folder to your bookmarks bar and call it ‘job boards’
To this folder, add as many high-quality writing/copywriting job boards as you can find. Here are 10 that you can start with:
- The ProBlogger Job Board
- The Writer’s Job Board
- Freelance Writing Job Board
(Some of these job boards might be geared more toward freelance bloggers, but people who hire freelance bloggers might very well be interested in hiring freelance copywriters as well. So you might want to add these as prospects for your future cold emailing campaigns.)
In addition to these, also add social networks to your job boards. I secured a gig at one of the top WordPress blogs just because I noticed a tweet from the editor about the open writer position.
Step#2: Write a standard application
Having an application handy will save you hours as you scale your application process.
I’ve been using the same script forever, and it has worked great for me. I’m sharing it below. You can make it your own with just a little tweaking.
I’m [first name] and I’m a freelance writer specializing in [niche].
Just stumbled across your [Job Board] listing – looks right up my alley.
Here are 3 of my [niche] samples you should check out:
I typically charge [cost/1000-word post or rate per word].
Please let me know if you like my work. Would love to run some [content type] ideas by you.
Since you’re a copywriter, you might want to include a link to a rate card rather than sharing a flat rate directly.
And maybe while closing, instead of the suggestion I gave, you might want to say something like: Would love to send over a questionnaire to understand your copy needs better.
As you can see my pitch email isn’t overly salesly or anything. I keep it simple because I want the client to focus on just my work. And because I only apply to jobs where I’m a good fit, this simple pitch does the trick for me.
But hey! You’re a copywriter … you know how to write persuasive stuff that will sell your services, right?
So get creative. Write a couple of templates and see what gets you the most responses.
Step #3: Set aside 15 min every week day for just applying to job boards
The thing with job boards is that to get some real good work from them, you need to pitch consistently. Which means you need to add pitching to your daily schedule; Mon through Fri.
But thanks to the quick access right from your bookmarks bar and a ready-to-use application template, 15 minutes are actually enough for checking out all the job boards and applying right away to all the good jobs as you come across them.
Keep in mind:
Even if you don’t get hired immediately, you might still come on a client’s radar for future, more suitable projects. So don’t miss out on this chance to get introduced to a potential client!
3. Do guest posting
When it comes to inbound marketing, guest posting is the only tactic I recommend for freelance writers. This is something I’ve found good success with.
When I was just starting out as a freelance writer, I pitched Kissmetrics for a guest post. At that time, I hadn’t yet chosen a niche for myself, so I chose a topic I enjoyed: Email Marketing.
Soon I heard back and was commissioned the guest post.
The day my guest post got published, I had a bunch of people enquiring about my writing services, thanks to the shiny author bio I got in the end:
I think I roughly got 3 clients from that post.
Which is huge because all the 3 clients stayed with me for a long time and supported my income goals. And at that time I was a total newbie with ZERO writing samples in the marketing niche.
Not only did the post generate a lot of ongoing work for me when it got posted, but it also helped me consistently convert a lot of leads. For a long time, I used this post as a sample in my job applications. Potential clients saw this guest post as a sign of my good writing skills because that’s how you get a leading blog to let you guest post, right?
If I were to do the post now, I’d write a better author bio.
For example, I’d certainly mention my niche by saying: “Disha Sharma is a B2B writer specializing in the sales and lead generation niche. If you need contact around these, check out her portfolio.”
This rewritten bio makes a much better hiring case than the one I actually used.
A MISTAKE that will kill your guest post campaign:
You know most of the guest posting advice out there says that finding a guest post target is as easy-peasy as Googling “niche + guest post”.
Well, actually this works, but as a freelance copywriter, your guest post goals are different.
You don’t want to break into an established blog’s audience to drive traffic back to your blog. Instead, you want to get noticed by potential customers.
So if you do:
“Copywriting + write for us”
You’ll get a lot of blogs that will get you to write for them, but these blogs only reach copywriters like yourself. And not to clients who might hire you.
Of course, unless those are blogs like Copyblogger or Copy Hackers or even The McMethod that have huge entrepreneurial audiences as well.
Instead, you need to look for blogs that your clients read (and not your peers).
For instance, let’s say that you specialize in writing product copy. So what are the blogs you should write on?
The ones that your peers read (like other copywriting blogs)
The blogs that your potential customers read (like the Shopify or BigCommerce blogs that all your potential clients check out all the time)
Only the second option makes sense.
So think about what your goals are and then choose the target blogs accordingly.
Also, keep your topic very close to your service.
To take forward the product description copywriter example, instead of writing on “How to market your online store”, write a post on “How to write SEO-friendly product descriptions (that sell like crazy)”
This way, when the thousands of readers read your bio, they’ll immediately contact you about writing their product descriptions.
All that said, I must also add that guest posts aren’t as effective for getting traffic or leads as they used to be. But just imagine how nice it would be if you only got a single retainer client for life. Maybe even a great part time offer you can’t refuse?
So do give guest posts a try.
Again, start a Google spreadsheet and add at least one guest post target to it each week. As I said earlier, focus on blogs that your target readers read, and not your peers.
Try to get around 5-6 guest posts under your name. This won’t just bring you a lot of leads but is also enough to build your credibility as a content creator/copywriter.
4. Tie up with agencies or other service providers
A lot of freelance writers dismiss the option of working with design and development (or digital marketing) agencies or partnering with independent service providers who offer these services. That’s because they assume that these opportunities don’t pay well.
A thing that they don’t quite get is that there are all kinds of agencies and service providers that cater to all kinds of customers. Besides, most of these that have full pipelines usually charge a good fee for their services.
And all of these are excellent business partners. They usually have surplus work that they can send your way or even sign you up as a content partner.
Even here, you’ll follow a similar process to the one you followed when approaching cold prospects:
Step #1: Make a list of website design/development/digital marketing/branding agencies you can partner with.
To search for such service providers, start with a basic Google search. Just remember to start by searching for local partnership opportunities.
I’ve found that agencies are a lot more willing to partner with you if you can check into the office once in a while. So start your search locally.
City + Website design agency
City + Best website designer
And so on.
Don’t reach out to anyone just yet. The first step is to add a ton of many potential partners to your list.
Step #2: Write a short email introducing yourself and your services
Once your list of potential partners is ready, it’s time to send an email.
Here’s a simple template you could use:
Looks like you’re doing some great work! Just wanted to let you know that I’m a freelance copywriter and would love to team up with you and take care of the copy part of your projects.
You can check out my work here [link].
Let me know if you’ve any project you need a hand with?
Step #3: Pitch away!
Again, just like cold emails, give yourself a daily or weekly target of the number of prospects you’ll approach. This too is a numbers game. The more people you approach, the better chances you have of getting more business.
Just like the cold emailing tactic, this is an ongoing exercise. So, every week day, you should try to add at least 1 potential partner to your spreadsheet.
5. Speak at conferences (or at least attend them)
Niche conferences are always buzzing with potential clients. So if you need work, grab a few contact cards and rush to the best industry events you can attend.
(Related: how to get clients at conferences)
But to make the most of this exercise, research about the people who’re attending, speaking at, or sponsoring these events because if you do a little research, it will be a lot of easier to approach these people, say hello, and tell them what you do and learn more about what they need.
Also, when you’re ready, you can even apply to speak at these events.
Doing so won’t just generate a lot of queries for your business but will also position you as an authority figure in your niche.
Once you get some clients – start asking for referrals
Once you have a handful of clients (or at least 1 awesome client), you can ask for a referral.
This is the easiest way of getting the best paying clients.
All you need to do is send an email and ask your client to refer you to some of their contacts who could use your services.
Here’s a simple script you could send:
Hey [client name],
I’m looking to add another client and was wondering if you know someone who could use my service?
I know you’re busy, but I’d really appreciate if you make the time for this.
I don’t normally add anything else to this email because when you share a great working relationship with a client, you can be upfront about a well-deserved request like this one.
Most clients happily oblige.
To maximize this method, check out your client’s LinkedIn contacts and mention 2-3 contacts who you think could be solid leads for your copywriting business.
Here’s what to do next
To start with, focus on the easier tactics like applying on job sites, reaching out to cold prospects, and creating partnership opportunities.
So set aside 15 minutes each day for browsing through job boards and applying to relevant ads.
Next, block time each day to find at least one prospect to add to your cold pitch list. Every week, schedule about 2 hours to send cold emails to these prospects.
After cold prospects, keep 10 minutes each day for finding a few partnership opportunities. Add them to your potential partner’s list. Again, just like cold prospects, reach out to them.
Then focus on the higher level tactics like guest blogging and speaking at conferences.
To avoid getting demoralized, set targets you can control:
For example, instead of keeping the goal of “Getting hired by 2 clients by the end of the month“, set it to: “Approach 30 potential clients this month“.
This way, you can focus on what’s important – your daily prospecting ritual. And not the hiring possibilities that can be swayed by so many external factors.
So there you have ’em. The only 5 ways you’ll ever need to generate more business than you can handle.
I could have easily made this list into a 50-ways to get clients or something, but most of them would have been filler ideas like ‘start a newsletter’ and that kind of stuff.
The tactics I’ve shared are the only ones that I’ve used to find work. They’ve worked for me despite the fact that I’m not even a native English-speaker.
And these tactics have consistently worked for me. I sincerely hope that they’ll work for you as well. Thanks to these tactics, I’ve got the chance to work with some of the best clients from all parts of the world.