Freelance writing is an unstable occupation sometimes. We already have to struggle with dividing our time between marketing our skills, writing queries, and seeking out new clientele. Sometimes there’s not enough time; sometimes there’s not enough money.
With the current economy, many freelance writers wonder if it’s time to return to a “steady paycheck.” This has always been my personal “backup plan”, but at the same time, it isn’t very logical. The current economy is creating MORE freelancers, and fewer opportunities for full-time staff positions and W-2 paychecks. Many of my dot-com clients are probably at the unemployment office or working for “the man” right now. Small businesses have tightened their budgets, and are trying to do as much in-house production as possible.
So much for the steady paycheck, right?
Not necessarily. There are hundreds of corporations and government agencies that award large contracts to agencies and groups every year. They don’t hire freelancers because their project needs typically require a mixture of graphic design, desktop publishing, editing, and long-term communication strategies. Corporations and government entities typically have a budget and a regular contract with an agency for marketing, PR, and other communications that MUST get used by the end of the fiscal year, or it will be allocated to another area. This is great for the vendors that they hire; last minute projects are thrown in their laps with bigger-than-anticipated budgets. And usually, they need to outsource to pick up the pace…
So how does a freelancer gain access to these opportunities? The key to success in these areas is a little research and a lot of networking. There are many types of contracts that you, as a freelancer, can join forces and gain access to. Here are three of the most lucrative:
1. Government RFP and RFQ’s
Government Requests for Proposals (RFP) and Requests for Quotes (RFQ) are typically published in the “Public Notices” section of daily newspapers. Honestly, the descriptions of these services are usually vague — if you want to bid on these projects, you’ll need to contact the government entity and ask them for their specifications, then write up a lengthy proposal incorporating all of these specs. This can be time-consuming and complicated. You’ll also have to fill out paperwork to be considered for all future posted projects.
How can you skip these steps and get in on the action? Find your state’s Business Registrar’s office and keep track of who is winning these RFP’s. They typically post a “Notice of Award” for every contract issued on their website. You can also find out information about Federal Agency contracts awarded by visiting their office of procurement’s website.
Keep track of who is winning communications contracts. When you see a project awarded, you can pitch your freelance writing services to the company that won. Congratulate them in your letter, send samples of your writing or your resume, and express interest in that specific contract. You can also offer to help pick up other work while they focus on their new projects. Even if they don’t need you now, be sure to follow up and keep track of
their accomplishments by visiting their website. If the government agency is happy with their work, they’ll most likely be regularly contracted to in the future. If you can establish a repertoire with a government contractor, you’ll have a client relationship you can rely on. (At least until the next election, when the government department heads may change!)
2. Big Corporations
Big corporations either do their work in-house or hire an outside agency to implement their marketing and PR plans. They outsource because these agencies have more resources and good track records. These agencies have an account manager that delegates tasks to regular employees and freelancers.
How do you find them? If you are interested in PR or marketing work such as press release writing, brochure work, etc., check out the corporation’s website and see what contact name is on the press release. If the press release lists an agency, you’ll have a contact name to send your pitch letter to. You can also call the corporation’s procurement office and flat-out ask what company handles their marketing, advertising, or PR work.
If you’re interested in copywriting for a website, you can usually find the name of the web design firm that handles a corporation’s online presence through a search engine. Type in the company`s name (example: Timex) and the words “client list” into a search engine and see what you come up with. Then pitch your services accordingly.
3. Big Web Projects through Online Partnerships
If you’re interested in becoming a service provider on a service- auction website or just breaking into the online industry, but you’re not interested in paying a lot of fees, you may want to consider partnering with a web design firm or programming company that uses these websites for big contracts. You’ll have to approach other independent contractors to do this and establish a good sense of trust. Online partnerships are becoming more popular, and more lucrative, as clients approach online marketplaces as a one-stop- shop. You’ll want to have a signed contract in place and check the client references for anybody you partner with.
Online partnerships can help retain customers; a programming firm can offer your user manual writing skills as part of the software design package and a web design firm can include web content as a part of their web design package. Your skills partnered with another independent contractor can help save the client money and help their projects become seamlessly integrated.
The key to building long-lasting client relationships is the networking and follow-up. Once you’ve introduced yourself, you’ll be able to get a feel for how your services fit in with these partnerships. If you see a big project that you don’t qualify for, you can pass on the description to companies you are interested in partnering in. Most importantly, you’ll be able to have a few professional relationships on hand for when the going gets tough. And you’ll be happy to know that you’ve transformed your competition into powerful allies that may also have the honor of writing your paycheck one day!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melissa Brewer is a full-time freelance writer and author of The Writer’s Online Survival Guide, available at http://www.webwritingbuzz.com. She hosts a website for professional freelance writers and she publishes a free weekly newsletter, The Web Writing Buzz, featuring articles on freelancing, writing jobs and publishing news from around the web.