There are countless strategies and places to find freelance jobs, but this week, I received a note that represents a classic example of the wrong way to go about it: soliciting work from other freelancers with whom you have 1) no relationship or 2) no understanding of their businesses. Exhibit A is a pitch I received from out of the blue on LinkedIn:
I saw your profile and wanted to introduce myself.
For 30+ years I’ve been a writer, editor and proofreader for individuals, businesses and government.
Writing has been a life-long passion. For me, it’s never been work. It’s who I am.
Seeing people moved by what I write or how those messages change them and their business means a great deal to me.
I often see businesses struggling with writing to connect with their customers. That doesn’t need to happen.
Would my services be of any benefit to you and the projects you’re working on?
The writer makes several assumptions here, all of which undermine her pitch. Let’s go line by line:
- “I saw your profile…” Who cares? If you want my attention, you need to demonstrate that you actually know something about my business, blog, or books.
- “For 30+ years…” If you actually did know something about my business, you’d realize that we basically have the amount of experience. In other words, I’m not a terribly good prospect.
- “It’s never been work…” First of all, I don’t believe you. Second of all, if this is true, we’re probably not a good match to be friends or colleagues. (Freelancing is work, even if you enjoy it.)
- “Seeing people moved…” Um, OK. I’ll take you at your word.
- “I often see businesses struggling…” Do you realize that you’re basically implying that my writing isn’t connecting with my customers? It’d be insulting, if it weren’t downright hilarious.
- “Would my services be of any benefit…” See previous bullet.
Keep in mind, I am a huge fan of cold calling. It’s not for everyone, but quite honestly it’s what built my business in the early days. But a note like this is *not* a cold call; this is an uncustomized shot in the dark. I’ll even go so far as to say it’s lazy, because there is no indication of even a modicum of research: This email could have been sent to any random freelancer just by changing the “Dear So-and-So” to whom it was addressed. For that matter, this email doesn’t tell me anything concrete about why I should be interested in the individual who sent it.
The bigger picture, however, is something Yo Prinzel brought up in a comment the other day to my post “Writing revisions and doing the right thing”: This business is all about relationships. Repeat: All. About. Relationships.
Indeed, that’s true of any service business, not just freelance writing and editing or graphic design. Our customers aren’t just buying widgets—they’re investing in specific experience, talents, and people, which means I have to deal in known quantities. When it comes to subcontracting, I’ve got hundreds of freelance writers, editors, and designers with whom I’ve worked over the years. Networking can also be virtual: I have contacted people I know as “blog friends” with business opportunities on many occasions, and they have reached out to me, but that’s because we have a relationship built on mutual trust.
Look, I recognize that it can be a tough, competitive market out there, and it’s worthwhile to experiment with different ways of marketing yourself. Reality dictates, though, that results corollate with effort over time. There are no shortcuts to building a network and a client base, regardless of how wonderful your creative skills are.
If the author of that email happens to read this blog post, please accept my apologies for making an example of you, and I hope you can use it in good spirit to hone your approach. In the meantime, I’ll wonder how many of these you shotgunned out there. If it worked to get you a freelance job or two, consider it a victory.
Photo courtesy of penywise.