7 Tips on How — Not Where — to Find Writing Clients

Female writer on client video chat, working from home office

It happened again the other day. An aspiring writer, Tim was his name, told me how he’s interested in writing White Papers.

And then he popped the same old question, “So … where do you find White Paper clients?”

Ask any novelist and they’ll tell you they hate the question, “Where do you get your ideas?”

Ask any doctor and they’ll tell you they hate going to a party and getting asked for medical advice.

As for me, I hate the question, “Where do you find clients?”

And I know why. It’s the wrong question.

Believe me. I’d love to give you the secret GPS coordinates for the Happy Hunting Grounds for White Paper Clients, the lodge where dozens of clients stand around the polished bar under the watchful eye of the stuffed moose head, wishing a writer would show up so they could shower them with work.

But it just doesn’t work like that.

The proper question is not “where” but “how.” How do you find clients?

Funny, no one has ever asked me that.

So here are seven tips to help answer the proper question. Hope that helps, Tim!

Tip #1: Learn your craft.

Does any actor land the very first movie role they ever audition for?

More often, they wait tables while they take acting classes and build up their skills in small productions.

Why would writers be any different?

You’ve got to pay your dues, learn your craft, and practice writing every single day. Even if no one is paying you.

It’s profoundly unrealistic to expect to earn thousands of dollars for something you’ve only dreamed about and dabbled at.

Who’s going to pay you? Would you hire you?

Need some prompts to get started? Pick an object and describe it. Tell a story about something that happened to you. Write down your dreams every morning.

Then craft this raw material into a post for your blog. If you don’t have a blog yet, start one.

Even better, find a company doing a poor job of explaining themselves, and see if you can do any better.

Tip #2: Realize you’re starting a business.

I first heard this from my buddy and mentor Steve Slaunwhite, “Finding clients for a writer is the same as finding customers for any other business. So writers have to do the same things any other business does to get the word out.”

Yep, writing for money is a business.

Now, in the writing business we’re blessed with low overhead. All we basically need is a laptop, an internet connection, and a phone.

But don’t be mistaken. Just because it looks easy, you’re still starting a business.

You’ll still face all the same challenges, risks, and pressures as any other small business.

Tip #3: Know your clients.

Pssssttt … don’t tell anyone, but I’m about to spill the beans.

The person who most often hires me to write White Papers is Caroline, a marketing executive in a medium-sized B2B software company in Chicago. Her company sells to other fast-moving sectors like automotive and e-commerce.

Her main problem is standing out from a crowd of competitors.

Caroline is 40 years old, smart and ambitious, with a strong marketing background and a competitive drive. But no one in-house and none of her agencies understand how to create an effective White Paper. So she comes to me for help.

You should look up Caroline. She’s great.

But you may have trouble finding her, because she’s only a persona: a composite character that represents a typical market segment.

Caroline and hundreds of thousands of others like her are the prospects who need White Papers the most.

Tip #4: Pick 3 marketing tactics to focus on.

There are two basic approaches to marketing.

  1. You call them, aka outbound marketing aka the megaphone aka “push.” If you tell enough people, some small number will be looking for someone like you.
  2. They call you, aka inbound marketing aka content marketing aka the magnet aka “pull.” If you create great content, you will impress a lot of prospects, and some small number will be looking for someone like you.

All successful companies do some of each. You should too.

So here’s what you do. Look at the lists below and pick three marketing tactics that you commit to do. At least one has to come from each column.

Outbound marketing Inbound marketing
Advertising (Google AdWords) Blog
Cold calls Buzz piece/White Paper
Conferences Guest blogs
Direct mail Industry forums, posts, and comments
Email Newsletters
Networking Seeking recommendations, referrals, and testimonials
Social Media → LinkedIn Social Media → LinkedIn
Trade Shows Website/SEO

Match your choices to your own interests and personality. If you love to yack on the phone, call up potential prospects and yack. Just don’t waste their time.

If that notion makes you want to hide under the covers, choose something else.

Hint: Facebook doesn’t count as a marketing tactic. It may feel like networking and reaching out to prospects, but it’s not. Not for White Papers anyway. LinkedIn, maybe. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, not so much.

Tip #5: Play the numbers.

Don’t despair if you send out 30 emails and don’t get a nibble.

You may have to send out hundreds of emails and phone calls and everything else before you land a client.

If cold-calling is one of your tactics, don’t make one call in the morning, go to voicemail and leave a message, and think you’re done for the day.

Oh no no. Keep calling. It’s a numbers game. Get the numbers working in your favor.

Same for every other tactic.

Tip #6: Do such a fantastic job your client tells everyone about you.

Once you land a client, treat them like gold. Put your heart and soul into the project.

Do such a fantastic job that your client either (a) wants to hire you full-time or (b) wants to put you on retainer so you have no time left to work for any of their competitors.

Of course, the best result is (c) your client tells everyone they know about you, and gives you a recommendation on LinkedIn that you copy over to your website.

And then (d) comes back to you often with further work.

Tip #7: Be so easy to work with your client tells everyone about you.

Similar to Tip #6. Don’t be a prima donna. Be pleasant, agreeable, positive. Have a few laughs with your client.

Take it from me, Caroline has a great sense of humor.

And by the way, these tips work for any kind of writing project, not just White Papers.

But page for page, writing white papers is one of the highest-paying projects for copywriters, fetching between $5,000 and $8,000 for five to 12 pages of writing on average … and they don’t involve any selling! If you want to learn ONE writing skill that can bring you a lifetime of professional pay and infinitely interesting writing assignments … you need to check out our new training program How to Become a Professional White Paper Writer today.

Do you have any questions about getting started as a White Paper writer? Let us know in the comments.

How to Become a Professional White Paper Writer

How to Become a Professional White Paper Writer: Earn Big Pay for Papers that Bring in Quality Leads for your Clients

White papers are the most overlooked projects in the writing world, despite paying upward of $8,000! These formulaic reports are needed by hundreds of thousands of companies in every industry, with 91% of them calling white papers “one of the two most influential marketing tools” in their arsenal. Learn to write them and earn a “professional-level” income as a writer right out of the gate. Learn More »

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Published: August 7, 2020

3 Responses to “7 Tips on How — Not Where — to Find Writing Clients”

  1. What a superb article, Graham. Tell it as it is.

    I like your no-nonsense approach to every thing you advise upon and the generosity of that advice.

    Thanks for high-lighting the choices each of have, and the reminder that we must learn about our prospect and make him or her the centre of our attention. As you say, the how and not the where.

    Nick Fielden

  2. Whew, the day is saved. TIP #4 answers the "Where" question!

    Guest (Alex)

  3. Thanks for sharing your buyer persona in tip #3.

    Caroline needs writers. Writers need to understand her, get into her head, eind out what keeps her up at night.

    And when the writer makes contact, she'll say, "Here's someone who gets me."

    Then all that's left is to wow her with a superbly written white paper.

    Frank Mitchell

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