Start, of course, by contacting prospects, and keep doing so until they respond or until it’s clear that they are not going to respond. Remember that any response at all is better than none! If prospects ask you for more information about your background or tell you that they’re not hiring freelancers now but will consider you when they do, that’s a decent start. It’s vital to stay in touch with these people. If a prospect says that his organization isn’t currently hiring new freelancers, contact him again sometime in the next one to three months. (Some people would probably recommend a more aggressive timeline, but if an organization isn’t hiring freelancers this week, they probably won’t be hiring next week, either. Allow some time for the organization’s needs to change.)
When you contact the prospect again, demonstrate that you have a real interest in the organization. (If you are not genuinely interested in the organization, or at least in the work you’d be hired to do, perhaps you should target a different organization.) If you see an article in the newspaper or in an industry publication about the organization, mention it. You might also mention that you’ve been following the organization on Facebook or Twitter and enjoyed items in its feed.
And here’s where the helping part comes in.
- If you’ve read or watched something that might be of interest to the prospective client, tell him or her about it. The prospect may already know about it, but it never hurts to show that you care about the same things he or she does.
What else can you offer a prospect?
- Additional services. Many freelancers don’t do just one thing. I consider myself a copyeditor and proofreader of books, but I’ve also written for a trade magazine and a number of newsletters. My first love is editing, but if you’d like me to write an article for you, I’ll do it!
- Referrals to excellent freelancers in other fields. If you’re a copyeditor and the prospective client isn’t currently hiring editors, mention that you know a skilled and reliable copy writer, book designer, or photographer—whoever you know and trust to do good work for the client.
- A discounted rate for your first assignment. In truth, I’m on the fence about this. I have not yet done this, but I haven’t ruled it out entirely, either. Some freelancers might even offer to do a small amount of work for free to prove themselves to the client. I don’t believe in this. Solid clients—the kind who pay well, and who will keep offering you work—will pay you for all of the work you do.
We all know that giving doesn't always lead to receiving, but it's worth a try. If nothing else, you've shared a bit of your professional knowledge with another person--and that's a good thing.
How have you gone above and beyond to show prospects or clients that you care about their business? Have your efforts yielded new clients or more work?