Getting a freelance writing job is nice. Know what’s better? Getting a freelance writing client – and therefore consistent, regular work.
If you feel you’re a good writer who’s doing everything right, but you’re just not getting quality freelance writing clients, this post is for you.
Backed by research
Research conducted by the marketing arm of Software Advice recently revealed exactly what sends off red signals when companies look to hire freelance writers for their online content.
The Managing Editor of the B2B Marketing Mentor blog at Software Advice told me:
“Many marketers are looking for quality freelance writers to help expand their content. However, finding a freelance writer who can match [their] content marketing needs can be challenging, so we decided to come up with a checklist that marketers can use to make sure they hire the right candidate the first time around.”
The research was designed as a checklist for marketing companies so they know what to look for when hiring freelance writers.
I’ve turned it into a checklist to ensure that you’re one of the writers who gets hired.
The 7 reasons writing clients aren’t hiring you:
1.) You don’t know what you’re talking about
OK, so this isn’t exactly how Software Advice worded it, but it amounts to the same.
The experts consulted in their research revealed it’s important that freelance writers online can write authoritatively. Because conveying brand authority is an important part of content marketing, companies are looking to hire freelance writers who are either experts in the field they’re writing about, or at least willing to research and learn.
That’s why it’s important to have a niche (or two) that you focus on, and perhaps even start a blog of your own if you haven’t already. This conveys authority and expertise.
(I cover how to go about establishing both a niche and a blogging strategy in the Complete Freelance Writing Online Course: Beginner to Pro.)
2.) You’re so focused on a particular niche you’re not adaptable
I know, I know – in one breath I’m telling you to be an authority and have a niche, and in the next I’m warning not to focus too much in one area. It’s just one of those things in the freelance writing world that seems to contradict itself – yet is essentially true.
Software Advice’s research indicated that while hiring writers with subject-matter expertise is helpful, it’s not an absolute requirement. Some companies are even seeking out writers who are ‘generalists’ – those who write well about a variety of topics.
Their ability to be adaptable gets them the gig.
Being adaptable also spills over to being able to adopt different writing tones. One manager from an internet marketing company said that adaptability in writing style is a crucial trait when they look to hire freelance writers:
“We… review different writing samples for variance in tone based on the publication or client the writer is representing to make sure they can adapt to fit the style we need.”
So while it’s good to have a niche and be an expert, don’t become so focused on it that you can’t write about anything else… or in any other style or tone.
3. You don’t have a social media following
Yes, this is the sort of thing potential freelance writing clients are looking for these days. If you don’t have much of a following – or at least a presence – on social media and/or your own blog, you may well be overlooked as the best freelance writer for the job.
Writing social media posts is often an integral part of a freelance writer’s content marketing duties. One participant in the research said that she specifically looks for writers who have Google+ profiles and who are members of industry-relevant social media communities.
(I reveal how freelance writers can use Google+ effectively in the freelance writing course too.)
Like it or not, the more shares, Likes, Tweets and +1s you can create, the more likely you’ll be hired as a freelance writer online.
4.) You’re unfamiliar with business and marketing concepts
The analyst who conducted all this research said that the experts she spoke to all agreed that “it’s helpful to hire freelancers who know how to put the ‘marketing’ into content marketing, and who possess some degree of business acumen.”
Which makes sense if you think about it. If you’re writing online content, you’re involved with online marketing essentially.
“A truly professional content marketing freelancer will concern themselves with not only writing a strong piece, but also [with] the promotion of the piece,” one participant said. “[They will] come to the table with ideas to make it perform better, and think through things like formatting, [keyword] optimization and even image selection. Needless to say, it’s much harder to find a content marketing freelancer… than it is to find a great freelance writer.”
Something to think about.
MAJOR RED FLAGS:
5.) You can’t write an email
Shockingly, writers who can’t even write an email pitch are an apparently all-too-common phenomenon. One company that hires freelance writers on a regular basis said this of the emails they receive from writers: “a shocking number of them have egregious spelling and grammar errors. Many others adopt a strange tone, or read like templates.”
Who’d have thought that something this rudimentary – your first ever contact with a potential new freelance writing client – could be where you stumble and fall.
You may have even conceived a well-written email, proofread it and ensured it’s free of grammatical and spelling errors, but the tone of it just reads like you’re crazy, uninterested – or worse – a robot.
(Yep, I cover exactly what to say in your email pitches to clients in my freelance writing course too. Who’d have thought it, right?)
6.) You’re unresponsive
Before you skim over this one because it’s not relevant to you – you’re always on your email, right? – it may be worth reading a little further…
Apparently there are three red flag tell-tale signs that suggest to potential new clients you may become unresponsive later. These include an initial lack of communication on a project, an unwillingness to receive feedback and suggestions, as well as committing the cardinal sin of actually missing a deadline.
“I’ve had people simply drop off the map for days or weeks at a time, with not a single word of explanation,” said Software Advice’s own Victoria Garment. “There are[…]signs to gauge how reliable someone will be from the start, [such as]: Do they sign the contract and send it back within hours? Do they proactively email you updates?”
Poor communication indicates a lack of engagement. This is a huge red flag you’re sending out because most people know that those who aren’t fully engaged will usually be unreliable and go on to let you down.
7.) Your work is unoriginal and inaccurate
I sincerely hope that this isn’t a problem for you, but in the event you start working for a client and fall into this trap, here’s the low-down from their perspective.
A marketing manager at a UK agency says he can usually get a sense for whether a writer is going to work out from the very beginning. Some of the red flags he commonly encounters include an inability to follow project instructions and inaccuracies in areas writers have claimed to be subject-matter experts.
Another problem some companies are apparently facing with writers relates to blatant plagiarism. One company said: “Some of the biggest challenges I’ve faced are writers copying portions of other works. So I’ll often Google some of the more detailed or technical sections to see if any of the content was pulled from other articles.”
Remember, these cautions and observations didn’t begin life as a checklist for you as a freelance writer. This checklist has been sent out to marketing companies and others so that they are aware of what to look out for when hiring freelance writers online.
Please feel free to share this with other freelance writers and get the word out there, and be sure not to raise any of these red flags yourself as you pitch and win new freelance writing clients.
>> Get all your pitching templates, plus step-by-step instructions on how to earn a living from freelance writing online, in the Complete Freelance Writing Online Course: Beginner to Pro.
photo credit: las – initially via Flickr.