A Freelancer’s Four Most Profitable Words

Most of the freelance writing and editing work I receive comes through word-of-mouth and personal connections. Every few months, I’ll hit pot luck with a gig through Craig’s List or another job Web site and really hit it off with the client. But most of the time, I get to know my clients before they become my clients.

The four most profitable words in my freelance career:

“Do you hire freelancers?”

Who do I ask?

1. Since I often do marketing work as well as writing magazine articles, blogging and writing Web content, I often ask people at PR firms who pitch stories to me if they ever hire freelancers. Many do.

2. If I hit it off with an interview subject who owns their own business and has their own Web site, I ask if they are looking for anyone to write for them.

3. And of course, I sometimes make cold-calls or e-mails to interesting trade magazines asking: “Do you hire freelancers?” Trade magazines often don’t have their writers’ guidelines posted online or listed in writer’s markets and sometimes you can’t tell by studying the masthead if they ever work with freelancers.

By asking this question in a cold call, I save myself the trouble of constructing a query, or even outlining my qualifications, only to hear, “Sorry, we do all our writing in-house.”

By asking interview subjects, I am targeting specific clients based on a rapport we’ve already developed. Since my gut instincts about people are pretty spot-on, this minimizes my chances of getting one of those “problem clients” we all dread.

If a PR agent is pitching me a story, chances are they are already familiar with my work and they like what they see. I have nothing to lose by asking if they’d like to work with me in a different capacity.

Sometimes, the people I ask aren’t hiring right now, but they will keep it in the back of their minds. Other times, they didn’t know they were looking for freelance help, but when I plant the idea in their mind, they grab it! Sometimes, you achieve that serendipitous moment when, indeed, a person is seeking freelance help, and there you appear, right in front of them!

Like so much freelancing advice, this, too, boils down to the JHS (Just Hit Send) philosophy.

“Do you hire freelancers?” Just. Ask.