One of the many frustrations a freelance writer has to contend with is drumming up work out of thin air. It would seem that the internet is our oyster, but it’s not as simple as that. If you are surfing for websites that need a little literary TLC, there are still several problems once you have identified potential clients:
1. You need them to read what you send to them. You should try and elicit a brief response from them first, rather than just send an unsolicited email with your work attached. Many people are reluctant to open strange emails for fear they are from a deposed Nigerian King seeking funds to finance their glorious return to power. (I’m still waiting for my receipt from deposed monarch Umbogo III.) Emails with attachments are worse; a sniggering rabble of Trojans may be lurking inside.
2. You have not targeted the client properly. General writing skills are great, but being able to target a niche audience with specialist writing skills is better. Create a writing portfolio that caters to various topics, and be the expert they need you to be right from the off. You won’t BE an expert, but they shouldn’t know that. Personally, I write for several medical publications as Dr Pepper, and offer firearms and general military advice as Sergeant Pepper.
3. They read your email but they don’t need you because they are doing the writing themselves. You beg to differ; they need you. You have targeted their website because their content is crap. Good luck wording that one. All you can do is politely point out their errors and how they may impact customer attitude. In other words, would they themselves be happy buying from a website that appears amateurish simply from its content? You must get this right, though. I recently advised a spelling change to what I thought was a sex website, but, apparently, Dido is a singer.
4. They already use a freelance writer and they take the attitude that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. You beg to differ; it is very broke. Their content is crap. See above.
5. They already use a freelance writer who they know is not very good but, hey, better the devil you know. If you can’t win this one round, go and pick up that application form from McDonald’s.
6. They view you as a very talented chimp being able to use a computer and string words together so they form a coherent sentence (apologies to Bob Newhart and his Infinite Number of Monkeys). Yes, they will employ you, but is it okay if they pay you in peanuts? The answer is noooooooooooo. PayPal does not accept peanuts and neither should you unless you are completely desperate/rubbish. Oh, you are? That’s okay, then.
7. The potential client is just too stupid to know what’s good for them. Or they know but have no intention of making changes for the better. And don’t think such people don’t exist. There is no better example that words can fall on daft ears than the time-proven, beyond-all-reasonable-doubt warnings of disease and death plastered all over cigarette packs that are ignored by millions of people every day. If you are a freelance writer who smokes, that’s entirely your business. But never puzzle over why your eminently sensible missives are being trashed by potential clients, because you are demonstrating the selfsame attitude. And I’m afraid that applies to you non-smoking freelance writers out there, too. Just because you’re looking after your health does not mean you will get more work. Although you will probably live long enough to complete the project if you do get more work.
Now, where did I put my crack pipe?