I have a friend who “fell” into freelance writing.

“I wasn’t working at the time,” she said, “when I met someone who needed help writing a business proposal.  I told him I could help.  He asked how much I would charge.”  She hadn’t been intending to charge at all; she was willing to help as a favor.  Once she found out he was willing to pay, she asked him to send her a summary of the project.  She quickly went home, taught herself how to write a business proposal, researched freelance writing fees, and began her own home business.

Her initial client referred her to another client.  Who referred her to a business associate.  And it grew from there.

She has never once gone in search of a job.  Most of her clients are local and regularly return for more work.   (No- this person is not me.  I wish it was.) 

This girl is an anomaly.  And someone should probably slap her on principle.  Finding clients generally takes a bit of effort on the part of the writer.  However, if you prove yourself to be an indispensable part of a project, you can bet your client would be happy and willing to refer you to others in need of a dynamite writer. 

Remember, though, that you need to make it clear that you WANT to be referred.  This part is difficult for shy people- and I am most definitely a shy person.  You need to put yourself out there, make your presence known, be friendly for God’s sake, and follow-up with past and potential clients.  There are thankfully some networking tools that make all of this a little easier.  Here they are:

1)  Carry business cards.  Because this is what professionals do.  Design your own on a site like vistaprint.com  It’s rather fun.  Be sure to include your name (duh), phone number, and website address.  Yes, you have a website.  Because that’s what professionals have. 

Carry your business cards with you all of  the time.  Give some to friends and family members, too.  If a friend says they’d rather not promote you to potential business clients, well, maybe she's not really your friend.  (I kid!  Don’t be pushy.  Some people are just not born marketers.)

2)  Have a website.  Your site should contain detailed descriptions of your services, writing samples, client testimonials (when you get some), and your writing fees.  Check out Susan Johnston’s professional site.  And don’t forget to check out her writing blog while you’re at it:  www.urbanmusewriter.com.

3)  Join social networking sites like Linked In and Twitter.  Link up with potential clients at Linked In, which is a site geared toward fostering professional relationships.  (Xing is another business networking site.)  Meet other freelance writers on Twitter.  I even use Twitter to find potential jobs: (Example:  Follow @writersjobs and @GetTecWritiJobs.)

Networking with other freelance writers is a great way to get referrals.  Your freelance writing friend has to turn down a job because he’s got too much going on.  BUT he has a great person to refer said client to…

4)  Keep in touch with past clients.  Send friendly, short e-mails on occasion to make sure they remember you exist and are available to help. Keep all e-mails on file. 

5)  Start a blog.  Don’t forget to link it to your professional website.  Make friends with other bloggers.  Start your own writing community.  Be a helpful friend: send along potential job ideas to your bloggie writing friends.  They will probably return the favor one day.

Freelance writers should plan to reserve time each week dedicated to marketing and networking.  You’ll need to work that time into your budget.  As you gain more clients, this time will increase.  Which makes me think I should sometime write a post about creating a workable business plan.  We’ll get there.   In the meantime, have a terrific 4th of July!  To our English friends- forget I said that!