New writers are delighted to get that first paying customer. I still have a copy of the first check I ever received for writing, $7.89. In my mind, that check took my writing from being a hobby, to being a career. Seven bucks made me legitimate - a professional writer.
So I strung together numerous other one-time assignments for a variety of clients. But I soon learned trolling for work all the time wasn't a very relaxing, dependable or efficient way to generate income.
Twenty years ago, I got lucky and saw an ad searching for a freelance newsletter writer. The assignment would be needed every two weeks. So I put all my talent and energy into that cover letter and even created a mock-up of what the newsletter might look like if I was selected. Complete with eight pages of fresh copy relating to the topic - customer service.
I impressed the publisher, got the gig and landed a regular bi-weekly freelance paycheck that lasted six years. Over those years, the publisher had me write five different titles, pushing over $300,000 in writing paychecks to me. That income allowed me to create an amazing new life.
One good client rocked my world. And one good client can do the same for you. If you're going to market for clients anyway, why not target clients who have reoccurring work? I suggest the following prospects:
Newsletter Publishers. They publish daily, weekly, bi-weekly and/or monthly. If they have one title, they might have many other titles. And they need them written on a regular basis. Thanks to your prior employment and experience, you may already be an authority on one of their topics.
Ad Agencies. They have multiple clients with multiple assignments that occur 24/7/365. They need everything from sales letters to press releases to website copy to executive speeches to award nominations to ghost-written articles from their client "experts." Agencies love to have freelancers they can count on to delight their clients.
Trade Magazines. Publishers of one magazine, often have many others that focus on different industries. Once they trust your work, you could end up writing for them all. Regularly. The best place to start is with a publication that writes for an industry you already understand from working in it yourself.
Why do I suggest these three types of clients? They pay extremely well for the content they buy. Because they are business-to-business and business-to-consumer firms, their return on investment is higher, so they can pay more. And, they have many reoccurring projects that need to be completed. Your past employment experience in their topics or industries gives you an advantage over other writers. You'll have a comfort level writing about what you already know. Once you're in and prove yourself, you'll gain dependable, predictable freelance income. You'll also gain fantastic clips, interesting experiences and fascinating new learning as your assignments expand to new areas.
With one good client, you retain all the liberty of freelancing but gain the dependable income you used to get from a job and salary. It truly is the best of both worlds. And it's out there waiting for you if you just expand your goals to land that one good client.
READER QUESTION: What would you say are the most important things a beginner should do if they want to get into this market?
My advice to beginners is to take some time to evaluate your knowledge, skills and experience so you have a list of "value" you can provide to others. Now look at this list and highlight the items you enjoy the most. These skills and likes are your best topics/areas/industries for creating income through writing. You have to start somewhere, so try to start with topics you know and enjoy.
Now brainstorm the types of people and companies and publications who would be interested in learning what you already know. The question is, "Who needs the value I can create?" Now search the Internet to narrow this list to specific firms you can research and then target with a pitch letter. You help your chances significantly if you have a strong resume, good clips and a website.
If you are brand spanking new with no clips or writing experience, highlight the skills you DO have. Past employment. Past volunteering. Hobbies. This knowledge can be applied to any writing assignment. Then take action and Do - Experience - Adjust.
Success in anything is a process. Just keep stretching yourself outside your comfort zone. Take the first step today and the next one reveals itself. Do something every day to advance your dream. Without the self-discipline of forcing yourself to take action, you never grow and advance. This is another reason to select topics and industries that really light you up.
Read everything you can about writing and read the types of materials you hope to get paid to write. Undergo self-study from people who are already doing what you want to do. Just find a target company or publication and READ the products they publish. (Their website and sales materials are products too). They paid someone to write those materials so they are good cheat-sheets to study for your own training.
If it seems difficult, it is only because it is new to you. Difficulty is the gate that keeps the riff-raff out of anything worth doing. If you can dream it, you can achieve it. It's your life, you can create whatever you desire. You can become a go-getter, or by failing to act, become a no-getter and a regretter.
DO - Experience - Adjust. That's the formula for succeeding at anything.