In December 2020, I logged out of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn—with no idea whether I’d ever log back in again. I was tired of the mental drain of internet scrolling and decided to test once and for all whether I could grow my freelance copywriting business without social media.
Things got off to a scary start. My website traffic cratered. My inbound leads dropped. For three months, from January through March, I stayed afloat mostly by serving my existing clients. In the background, I wondered: Would this innocent experiment spell the end of my freelance business?
It turns out, I just needed a few months to adjust to freelancing without social media. After March, my new marketing tactics began to kick in. Soon, I matched my previous website traffic and even grew my leads. A year from the day I stopped using social media, I had grown my business by more than 50% and doubled my email list.
Here are my favorite tactics for finding freelance clients without social media.
5 tactics to find clients this week
Meet local clients on Bumble Biz
Bumble—yes, the dating app—can help you meet clients. It’s not as awkward as it might sound. Bumble has a business matchmaking service called Bumble Biz. Like the dating app, just swipe right on the folks with whom you want to connect.
I tried the app a few months ago and quickly connected with an agency owner. He’s already hired me for two projects—with one more potentially on the way.
I once sponsored a booth at a small tech event. After two days of chatting with strangers, I left the conference with 40 business cards from people needing writing services. It was way more work than I could handle.
Partner with agencies
I’ve met many agency owners over the years. The best ones have one thing in common: They’re swamped.
You can partner with these agencies to find work (and make their lives easier). Start by tracking down a few mid-sized agencies in your city. Send the founder or creative director a cold email. Keep it simple: “Next time you’re bogged down with a big writing project, I’d love to partner with you.”
Ask for referrals
A referral is the highest form of business complement. But sometimes even your happiest clients won’t connect the dots and realize that you depend on referrals as a freelancer.
So, clue them in. Next time you wrap up a project, email your client: “My business relies heavily on referrals. If you know anyone else looking for a writer, I would love a recommendation or introduction.”
Send cold pitches
More businesses need good writers than there are writers available for hire. That means finding clients is as simple as getting your services in front of enough people. One way to do this is through highly-tailored cold pitches.
Keep in mind: cold pitching is a numbers game. Don’t give up after your tenth email. Keep clicking send. And don’t forget to follow up.
3 tactics to play the long game
Write guest posts
The idea here is to “borrow” another person’s readership. Guest posting on blogs is a good way to bring your expertise to a new audience. You can do this one of two ways:
Pitch article ideas: Come up with a great idea, email your pitch to a relevant editor, and (if they approve) write your article in the style of that blog.
Submit finished articles: Some editors prefer to receive fully-written articles instead of pitches. In that case, write your idea, submit it, and hope for the best.
Rank on Google
What could you accomplish with a $250 billion-dollar company promoting your business? That’s what happens when your website ranks at the top of Google.
Every day, I receive dozens (sometimes hundreds) of site visitors from Google. Here’s my two-sentence SEO advice: Create landing pages based on your expertise + location + niche. For example: “Real estate copywriter Atlanta” or “New Orleans hospitality blogger”.
These days, I don’t have to cold pitch because the vast majority of my leads come directly to me through Google. I’m continually shocked at the quality of leads I’ve been able to get by cultivating my own SEO.
Take speaking opportunities
How many small- to mid-sized interview podcasts and YouTube shows exist in your niche? Pitch all of them. Small shows are relatively easy to pitch and will likely broadcast your conversation to an audience of fifty to a couple of thousand people strong. All you have to do is show up and discuss your expertise.
Another option is speaking at local events. Look for upcoming small events in your city. Find contact information for the organizer and pitch them a presentation that’s too good to turn down.
Find your ideal mix
Most writers aspire to have clients find them. In the beginning, it usually doesn’t work like that. You must do a lot of early promotional legwork to win each project. You’re still proving yourself.
As you produce good work over the years—and use some of the long-term tactics from the second half of this article—you will gradually attract more passive leads.
And I can say from experience: freelancing is way more fun when clients find you.
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