How do you prospect for potential clients? Or perhaps the more targeted question is, “Do you prospect for potential clients?” It is my experience that far too many freelance writers wait for referrals or “word of mouth” connections to get projects and assignments. If you’re happy with your results, don’t read today’s post because my intention today is to talk to those of you who struggle to find great projects that you choose and love doing. If that’s you, read on…

First, I want to give a little background on how the idea for this post came about. A week and a half ago I took on a new client. I have to admit that the client came to me through an unexpected referral from a former client. Although I rarely take on copywriting and advertising or marketing projects anymore, this one was different. Two highly competent technology guys are coming together to form a partnership after each has been an independent contractor for at least a dozen years. Both have been enjoying filled-to-the-max schedules thanks to referrals—a seemingly enviable position that was, in fact, the biggest problem. Here’s why:

  1. They were taking projects they didn’t really want or didn’t find challenging.
  2. Potential clients were compelled to ask for discounts because it was a referral from someone who said, “He works for himself so he can find a way to fit your budget.” In other words, each contractor was being devalued because he worked for himself. (Sound familiar?)

Rather than asking me to simply write copy for a website, I was engaged to help them give their new company an identity that clearly reflects their vision.

So what does that have to do with you?

Well, in order for them to stop taking a hodgepodge of projects that are simply tossed their way and start uncovering projects that will be targeted, challenging and lucrative, they need to do exactly what we as writers need to do: selective prospecting. And one of the best ways to prospect for clients you want is to use trigger tactics.

Simply put, a “triggering” event is something that happens to a company or organization that would indicate a high likelihood of their being in need of your services. So the prospecting tactic is to uncover these events and act on them. For example:

  • A corporate merger or expansion means there will be new advertising messages, brochures, direct mail and marketing efforts being put forth by the newly combined companies. The internal marketing department will be turning to freelancers for additional help.
  • A nonprofit organization receives new funding. New funding means expanded efforts and that will likely include a boost in marketing expenditures. Why shouldn’t you be the freelancer who helps ramp up those efforts?
  • An announcement that a PR firm just acquired a huge account is practically an invitation for freelance writers to reach out to offer help—either with the new client or to help pick up the slack for existing clients when internal resources are reassigned to the new account.

New product launches, a change in ownership, legislation and regulatory requirements—all sorts of events change the direction of a company or organization’s advertising and marketing efforts. And that means new opportunities for you.

Where to Find Trigger Events

Trigger events are all around us. They are local, regional, national and international. We just need to keep our ears and eyes open to uncover the opportunities.  Look for them in:

  • The business and community pages of your local newspapers
  • Industry publications and business or city magazines
  • Financial news websites
  • Association websites and publications

Whom to Contact and How

In all cases, search for a marketing director to be your first point of contact. Find that person’s name either on the website or by calling the company directly and getting contact information from the receptionist. Once you have a name, decide how best to make contact, such as:

  • Pick up the phone and make a cold call to introduce yourself and the reason for your call.
  • If you have an email address for the contact person, write a personal and succinct email to introduce yourself and explain how you can be of service.
  • Send a personal letter of introduction with an emphasis on your ability to help clients put their best foot forward in messages they send to their various audiences.

In all cases, be sure to mention the news item or announcement that led you to making an inquiry. This gives you an edge by personalizing your message specifically to the organization and demonstrating that you did your “homework” to uncover relevant information rather than sending a generalized letter that is clearly directed to no one in particular.

When you use trigger tactics to find new clients: (1) You are viewed as a professional because you take the initiative, (2) It increases your chances of getting your hourly rate without negotiation, and (3) control of your writing career is in your hands, not at the mercy of job ads, freelance postings or referrals.