There’s a difference between being a good writer and being a successful freelancer. Freelance writing is a challenging lifestyle that is most often defined by the number of clients that you have rather than merely the quality of your writing.

If you’re a talented writer who is struggling to build your client base, here are a few tips and tricks to help you with outreach, networking, building your portfolio, and so on. These aren’t meant to be overly formulaic. Instead, consider each one and then put your own artistic spin on it.

Start Small and Build from There

The suggestion to “start small” probably doesn’t sound great if you’re already frustrated with your smaller client workload. But this isn’t a reference to the amount of work so much as the place where you look for it.

Freelancing is a career that builds momentum as you go along. Sure, there are lulls from time to time at all stages of a freelance career. But overwhelmingly, diligence, hard work, and consistency will reward you with bigger accounts, higher pay, and better opportunities over time.

However, unless you have a very powerful personal brand already built when you start freelancing, you’re going to need to begin building momentum somewhere. Don’t be afraid to do this by tapping your personal network for potential client opportunities.

This can include family, friends, and professional connections alike. This also doesn’t have to be for high pay. Keep in mind that you’re working for more than just money at this point. You’re investing in your brand and building momentum (more on that further down).

Consider offering to write things in exchange for smaller fees than you would normally accept — or even simply for referrals. Whatever the work, always keep in mind that making a good impression is critical as you try to help your growing freelance career catch fire.

Define “Worth”

Many successful freelance writers suggest charging what you’re worth. They emphasize high rates and encourage you not to shortchange yourself. And that’s all true — once you’ve found success.

However, if you’re trying to build a freelance product and expand your client base, it’s important to also understand that you may have to temporarily compromise on higher pay in exchange for other things of value.

This is why when you work out what you’re worth, you should think of more than just a number. Also, consider any realistic goals and aspirations that you may have in regards to your writing career. If taking certain work can help you work toward those jobs, they may be worth a lower payday in the short term.

In other words, it’s always true that you shouldn’t short-change yourself in your freelance writing. At the same time, it’s equally true that you should add up the genuine value that each client brings. This includes non-monetary compensation, such as expanding your network, giving you quality portfolio pieces, and sharpening your writing skills.

Polish Your Portfolio

A good portfolio is invaluable for a freelancer. In a world where work and client turnover is often rapid-paced, you must create a piece of marketing collateral that can prove your worth in an instant.

This is most often found in your portfolio. This should include testimonials, case studies, and contact information. Of course, the primary items should be samples of your work that:

  • Are diverse and include whatever services you want to offer.
  • Consist of your absolute highest-quality work that puts your best foot forward.
  • Can show off larger publications that you’ve written for.
  • Ideally have your name in the byline.
  • You have permission to share, particularly if it’s ghostwritten.

You can include a brief portfolio on a resume, but more often with writing, it’s worth investing in the time to create a separate portfolio. You can do this with a shareable document, upload them to your social media profiles, or even create a portfolio page on your website.

Clean Up Your Web Presence

Speaking of social media and websites, it’s also important to clean up your web presence. Controlling how you appear online is a crucial part of building an effective network.

The first thing to do is address your social media profiles. Clean up or delete all public profiles that you possess so that you give a polished, professional vibe at all times.

Also, utilize each social profile purposefully, such as:

Along with social media, also consider building your own freelance website. This can give you an online hub to work from. You can use your website to host your portfolio, link to your social accounts, share contact information, and build your personal brand.

Building Your Freelance Career

Once again, as with all things freelance-related, these tips are not meant to be formulaic. Everyone has their own situation and must come up with their own way to find clients. With that said, if you can uniquely apply each of these tips in your circumstances, you can begin to feel out the best way to build your client base.

Don’t get turned off by the “business administration” nature of this part of your freelancing work, either. Working on your portfolio and client base is so much bigger than an administrative task.

It also directly impacts the kind of writing that you compose. As your work acquisition skills improve, you’ll be able to get higher-paying gigs (you’ll be able to write slower and more carefully for the same pay) and you’ll be able to pick and choose who you work with (you’ll be able to write about more topics that you enjoy).

To put it simply, creating a client acquisition strategy is a crucial step in helping your entire freelance career thrive. It helps you build momentum, hone your craft, and build your personal brand. Best of all, if you are patient and steady as you find new clients and polish your portfolio, you’ll ultimately have a much bigger say in what work you do and what pay you receive as an independent contractor.