Freelance blogging didn’t sound like this much effort when you first considered it.
You’re working hard — probably harder than you need to — but damn, those top-dollar clients are an elusive bunch. Most of the time, you think yourself lucky if you can find clients who have a budget and no major psychological issues.
I’ve got a solution for this problem. One you might never have tried before.
Ever think of borrowing my clients? They pay pretty good.
Seriously, borrow my clients. Go ahead.
Is something wrong? You look kinda confused. [No, I’m not watching you through the magical powers of the internet. I’m just imagining the expression on your face right now.]
OK, let me show you how this works so you can start borrowing high-paying clients from me ASAP.
Crack open your dream client directory
Back in January, Craig Martin left me a blog comment about his difficulty finding clients who respect his expertise and value his writing skills.
What he really wanted, though, was a way to pre-qualify clients — to know who would pay a professional rate and who wouldn’t, before he wasted time negotiating with the “wouldn’t” category.
So here’s what I told him:
Find another freelance writer who’s getting gigs you’d like (you can do that by checking the bylines on the publications you’d like to work for, or by looking around on LinkedIn).
Then Google up that writer’s website and see if you can find any mention of their rates. If you can see they charge at least as much as you want to charge, that’s awesome, but a lot of writers don’t publish guideline rates.
Next, go through their portfolio and note down the publications they’ve worked for. Then research and send queries to a few of those publications. They’re prequalified to (a) accept freelance contributions and (b) pay a rate that’s worthwhile to a pro freelance writer.
Judging by Craig’s reply and the number of emails I got about this one comment, I’m pretty sure this is a tactic most freelance bloggers have never tried.
I know at least one other blogger has thought of it, though, because JR John pitched us a similar idea in the first official Pitchfest. He suggested using the testimonials on another freelance blogger’s website as a source of pre-qualified leads.
And then the comments section exploded. Not literally, but it got pretty hot in there. We had a long discussion about the ethics of “stealing” another freelance blogger’s clients, plus other ethical and practical questions about this tactic.
So. Let me show you how I do it. And then you can do it with my clients. Deal?
Step 1: Find the right freelance bloggers
Like I said to Craig, the idea is to identify freelance bloggers who are already writing the kind of posts you want to write for the kind of pay you’d like to earn. So look in any or all of these places:
- web search results for phrases like “freelance fashion blogger” or “freelance science blogger”
- LinkedIn search results for phrases like “freelance blogger” or “blogger for hire”
- author bylines on the blogs you’d like to write for
What you need is a blogger who’s either at the same level as you in their freelance career, or a level or two higher. Not impossibly far above you, but high enough to indicate they have clients you’d probably want to work with.
Step 2: Pick their ripest clients
When you’ve chosen at least one freelance blogger to use as your client-hunting role model, check out their website to see if they publish their rates. If they do, make sure their rates are at least as high as yours! Borrowing lower-paying clients would be pointless.
Now poke around the blogger’s portfolio, their testimonials, the client logos displayed on their website, and their “Experience” section on LinkedIn. Google the clients you see there; check them out a bit more. Analyse their blogs, research their revenues, look them up in business directories or on consumer review websites.
Found one you like the look of? The ripest leads for you are the ones that:
- you’ve noticed on more than one successful freelance blogger’s resume
- you’ve seen publish the types of posts you’d like to write
- you’ve identified as lacking at least one valuable thing you can deliver
Step 3: Borrow responsibly
The actual borrowing is straightforward. You simply contact that lead to introduce yourself and let them know what you’d like to do for them.
Now we get into those ethical questions, like:
- Is this fair to the blogger whose clients you’re borrowing?
- Should you explain where you found the lead when you contact them?
- Is it OK to name the blogger whose career history you mined to come up with this lead?
- How do you mention them without being misleading about your non-existent relationship with that other blogger?
Here’s how I see it:
If the other blogger no longer works with that client, it’s totally fair. As Jessi Stanley commented, “it’s really no different from checking out and befriending/following other people’s Facebook friends or Twitter followers.”
If the other blogger still works with that client, don’t set out to steal the gig! You’re not aiming to replace the other blogger, but to join them. So feel free to send that lead a query or letter of introduction, but keep it classy and stick to what you have to offer. (Think “I see your true colours“, not “Don’t cha wish ur girlfriend was hot like me?“)
Yes, you can mention how you discovered the lead. But you don’t have to. It’s totally your call. Same applies to whether you mention the blogger’s name or not. I’ve always mentioned it, as in “I’ve been reading Blogger X’s posts on your blog” or “I started reading your blog via a link on Blogger X’s website”.
As for making sure you don’t imply a relationship or endorsement that doesn’t exist, look at the two easy phrases I just gave as examples. Neither one implies a friendship or professional relationship with the other blogger. Keep it simple and honest to avoid any misunderstandings.
Borrow by introduction
A few times, early on in my freelance career, I noticed a good-looking client in another blogger’s portfolio and followed up by contacting the blogger rather than the client.
I asked for a moment of their time to reply to my email and let me know what the client was like to work for. If they said the client was good, I emailed again and simply asked, “Would you mind introducing me? I’d love to write for this company/person but I’m afraid an email from me will get lost in their inbox because they’ve never heard of me.”
Wanna know how often that tactic worked to get me a personal intro to the editor or marketing manager I needed?
So far, it’s never failed. To be fair, I haven’t done it often, but when I did it was 100% successful.
Most freelance bloggers are kind, generous bundles of awesome. Some of my best clients have been referred or introduced by other bloggers, either because I asked or because my blogger friends thought of me when they heard there was a gig up for grabs.
Connecting with your fellow freelance bloggers isn’t gonna happen by itself, so send a short, friendly email or tweet to some of the bloggers you’ve researched and see how happy most of us are to respond.
P.S. If you’re finding it hard to hunt out really good clients — the kind who respect you, trust your judgement and pay you handsomely for your work — check out The Freelance Blogger’s Client Hunting Masterclass. We’re getting started next week.