When I look back at where I’ve made the most money in my freelance writing career, without a doubt it is from clients who came to me via word-of-mouth referrals from my friends or family, colleagues from past jobs, other communications professionals, or other clients. I’ve had multi-year contracts with clients who found me through my husband, through volunteer work, and through other writers I befriended through the blogosphere. I’m pressed to come up with even one really well-paid gig that I might have landed from a job board or advertising.
So how do you make word-of-mouth referrals work for you?
Do great work. Give people more than they expect. They’ll be so thrilled they will naturally tell others about you.
Be clear about what you do. Don’t describe yourself as a freelance writer. Instead, say you write websites or newsletters or fundraising materials, or whatever it is you want to be hired to produce.
Let people know you are available. Without appearing desperate, casually mention to friends and other clients that you have a little time in your schedule for new projects if they know anyone who needs some help with (fill in the blank with what you produce).
Network with other writers and creative types. If you give good referrals, you’ll get good referrals. It’s one of those ying-yang things. I have friends in the freelance communications and marketing worlds who don’t know anything about nonprofits and when they are offered those jobs, they send them my way. I often refer work to other writers, graphic designers, and consultants when the potential job just isn’t right for me.
Tell some good stories. When you are in social situations, have some good work-related stories to tell about challenges that a client faced and that you helped solve. It’s a great way to educate people about what you do without sounding like a walking brochure.