Not knowing how to find clients for content writing can derail even the most determined new writers.
There’s no shortage of freelancers (myself included) who’ve grappled with:
- Flip-flopping between marketing tactics and succumbing to shiny object syndrome,
- Frustration with our woeful incompetence at selling (because we’re doing something new), or
- Battling the fear of self-promotion that messes with our ability to follow through
Struggling with the marketing side of your business can leave you riddled with self-doubt (despite how good you are at what you do!) and undeniably cranks up the procrastination levels.
Yet, to become gainfully self-employed — self-promotion, sales, and sourcing new leads are skills you must practice (and ideally master).
The good thing is, success leaves clues.
And one of the fastest ways to clear your biggest hurdles and catapult your business to the next level (more money? better clients? extra confidence?) is to model the habits, systems, and strategies of other successful writers.
Find clients for content writing: the first step
Going from being a writer to running a writing business requires a massive shift in mindset …
Flexing new skills and implementing what you learn comes with a hefty dose of doubt and indecision.
After all, feeling incapable before we feel capable is why real learning is so difficult.
But all this proves is that savvy self-management (upgrading how you think, feel, and act) is a precursor to building the business you want.
And it’s why today we’re exploring how to upgrade how you operate by:
- Discovering how to quickly change your emotional state to enforce better decisions
- Modeling your peers and mentors so you can bypass ground zero and progress toward your goals faster
Not only will you discover some strategies to find clients faster, but you’ll also learn how to adopt a more bullish mindset (the kind where you aren’t your own worst enemy) that makes all the rest of the work significantly more manageable.
Overriding your inner critic to increase your income
“Your mental and emotional state colors your perception and experience of everything in life.” – Tony Robbins
Tony Robbins’ dedication to helping people access their most powerful, resourceful selves is incredible.
And while his delivery rarely resonates with me (he’s a little too extroversion-y for my tastes), there is no doubt his methods work.
But what does that have to do with finding new clients and boosting your income?
Well, given that fear, procrastination, and perfectionism (when left unchecked) can seriously impact how well your business does, evolving your mindset and reining in your emotions can instantly boost your chances of success and getting discovered as a writer.
That is why I want to share Tony’s simple but mind-blowing framework to help you with that.
State > Story > Strategy: A simple idea that can help you find clients for content writing
The “State, Story, Strategy” heuristic is how Tony Robbins changes people’s lives.
Here’s the three-point summary:
- You can’t make the moves you want with a weak or limited state (think: irritable, frustrated, tired, hangry, anxious).
- Your state influences your story (self-talk becomes enabling or disabling depending on your feelings).
- Your story shapes your strategy (directly affecting how you decide, develop, and execute your best ideas).
In other words, how you feel affects how you think and execute.
- Bad moods make for disabling stories inside our heads.
- Limiting stories keep us from finding the right strategies or, even if we have the right strategies, from executing them.
- Failure to execute or make sound business decisions means progress stalls, and self-doubt ensues!
But, the good thing is, you can make anything happen if you learn to:
- Control your state.
- Change the story you’re telling yourself.
- Create new pathways in your brain to find better strategies for success.
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How to access your most powerful, resourceful self
The next time you’re:
- mulling over a problem,
- choosing which idea to work on first, or
- making any major decision in your life
… before diving into solution mode, remember the State > Story > Strategy framework to avoid making decisions when you’re unfocused, frustrated, or pessimistic about the future.
Instead, use a few of the ideas below to shift into your “best self” mode.
Change your State: What are you feeling?
“I teach many ways to create immediate change in your state, but one of the simplest ways is to change what I call your physiology. You can change the way you think by changing the way you move and breathe.” – Tony Robbins
What you do (or don’t do) has everything to do with your state.
How you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically (even spiritually) affects how you see the world and the possibilities available. And thankfully, it’s within our control.
The fastest way to change your psychological state is to change your physical state first.
It’s incredible how quickly it works.
- Do a set of pushups
- Practice yoga for five minutes
- Perform focused breathwork
- Take a cold plunge
They can all be an (almost instant) catalyst for changing how you feel. And if you’re feeling crappy, doing this before you try to tackle any of your problems is guaranteed to produce a more favorable result.
“The state you’re in when you’re creating will be what the outcome is. The more ease and love you put into it, the more other people will get out of it.” – Brianna Wiest
Conquer the emotion. Conquer the task.
Change your Story about how to find clients for content writing: What are you thinking or telling yourself?
“When someone has the right strategy in front of her, and she still doesn’t succeed, it’s because she’s missing the second key to a breakthrough: the power of story.
“If you’re not taking action and the answer is sitting there in front of you, there’s only one reason: you’ve created a set of beliefs that you’ve tied into a story — a story about why it won’t work, why it can’t work, why it only works for other people.” – Tony Robbins
Changing your physical condition can instantly help you feel more capable, confident, and optimistic.
But if you notice your inner dialogue still focuses on everything that can go wrong, use “the story I’m telling myself” as a prefix to any troubling thoughts.
The story I’m telling myself is that I woke up feeling tired and gross, and now I’ll never do everything on my to-do list. And will ultimately fail at achieving my writing goals this year and disappoint everyone in my life.
Why? Because perspective is everything.
And when you announce to your brain, “Oh yes, this is just something I’m making up. It’s not a fact,” it can help flip the way you feel.
Our emotions erupt from our thoughts about the situation, and we can change how we think.
And if you change how you’re thinking, you can change your response to the situation.
Change your Strategy: What can you do?
Now that you’ve tossed aside the bad mood and the doubt-driven thinking, your next job is to turn your attention to your most pressing problem. And solve it from this more mindful and optimistic state.
Coming up later in this post, I’ve got a Q&A with several excellent professional writers who share their experiences with starting their writing businesses and what they did to build their reputations and drive real results.
But first, I want to share a bonus framework to help you make your next business move with more confidence, clarity, and conviction.
Need to find clients for content writing fast?
Here are five eye-opening questions to help you decide what to do next …
Alex Carter is a masterful negotiator.
She’s also the author of one of my favorite books, Ask for More: 10 Questions to Negotiate Anything.
The premise is that, ultimately, negotiation is how we create our future. And the first negotiation in any situation is the one you have with yourself.
“When you ask the right questions, of yourself and others, you open a window to create value far beyond what you can imagine.”
In her book, Alex shares an incredibly compelling set of questions that can help you shape a new strategy (that perfectly aligns with who you are, what you’re good at, and what you want to achieve).
Note: Today, I’m only sharing the first five questions from her book, as they have the most relevance and can positively impact your path (but I highly recommend you read the whole thing!)
Here are the five questions to ask yourself when you need a new strategy, in this order:
Q1: What’s the problem I want to solve?
If helpful, ask: “What makes me most frustrated or ignites the most fear?” Alex suggests writing it out with all the details and then summarizing it into one sentence.
E.g., I’m not making enough money yet for my freelancing to be my full-time job.
Then, frame your problem as positive and forward-thinking.
E.g., My problem is finding clients and marketing my content writing business.
Then, change it into a question starting with how, what, who, or when.
E.g., How do I find new clients and consistently promote my business? Or perhaps, how do I get more work from existing clients?
Then, turn the problem into a potential solution by picturing what success would look like and rephrasing the question.
E.g., How can I attract high-value clients who value my expertise, trust my judgment, and want to retain my services?
Q2: What do I need …
- from this idea?
- to win more jobs?
- to create more time?
- to get this done?
Identify what you need to solve your problem and list anything that comes to mind. Be honest about both your tangible and intangible needs as they stand today. And be sure to avoid any self-censorship when you’re answering.
Q3. What are my concerns?
Address the barriers of entry, sticking points, and gaps in your knowledge that might distract you from your goal or disrupt your progress. Think about how you feel and what emotions are at the forefront when considering the tasks required to make meaningful progress.
Q4: How have I handled this successfully in the past?
Considering a prior success will make you feel more confident when negotiating your next move. So, list out the steps you’ve taken to solve something similar.
If you can’t think of something you’ve experienced — how has someone else handled it? Envision someone similar to you who has reached the level you want to be at.
(Keep scrolling for some examples from other writers!)
Q5: What’s the first step?
This final question is important for two main reasons: it builds momentum and enables the next steps to help you find clients for content writing.
As Alex says:
“When facing a negotiation or steering ourselves toward a big and exciting goal, trying to design the whole solution from the outset can feel more overwhelming than productive. And being overwhelmed can lead even the most motivated people to give up prematurely or approach things in a haphazard way.”
To figure out the best first step for you to take, you need to:
- figure out where you want to go,
- what you need,
- what you’re feeling, and
- how you have been successful in the past.
Answering all these questions prepares you to answer this final question and helps you solve your issue.
And now …
Let’s hand the mic over to five amazingly accomplished writers who have taken their content writing businesses to new and incredible heights …
And get a behind-the-scenes look into their self-management, how they found their first clients, and how they fuel their business now.
How five writers catapulted their content writing careers
Gainful self-employment relies heavily on strategically using your time, energy, and attention.
And as Copyblogger CEO Tim Stoddart would say: Do the things that compound.
- Build skills
- Build relationships
- Expand your knowledge
- Invest in high-quality assets
Focusing on those four key strategies can quickly catapult your career if you put in the effort.
But how do you find clients for content writing when you’re just getting started?
Well, I interviewed some awesome writers and had them share their experiences with starting their businesses (what it felt like, what they were thinking, and what they did) PLUS dig into what their businesses look like now!
Here’s who I interviewed:
- Jessica Malnik is a B2B SaaS content strategist and writer. She’s also the founder and host of Remote Work Tribe.
- Kaleigh Moore writes for eCommerce platforms and the SaaS companies that power them. She’s the founder of Content Remix and the host of Freelance Writing Coach podcast.
- Adrienne Barnes is an ex-B2B freelance writer who pivoted to writing for her business at Best Buyer Persona.
- Ashley R. Cummings is a freelance writer for e-commerce, retail, and marketing SaaS companies. She writes a newsletter for content marketers and is CMO at Reading With RIK.
- Kat Boogaard is a freelance writer with bylines in The New York Times, Fast Company, Forbes, Inc., TIME, Mashable, Business Insider, and more. She also writes an excellent newsletter for freelancers.
Ladies, over to you!
How it started …
What did you do in the beginning?
Jessica: “When I was ready to go all-in on writing, I made sure I had a few safety nets including more than 6 months of living expenses saved up, a couple of small freelance writing gigs, and I also negotiated a deal where I moved to part-time with my then-employer. (That amount of money covered my bare-bones living expenses at the time).
“Then, I worked A LOT. I sent cold pitches every single day for the first six months of my business to build up my initial client roster.”
Kaleigh: “I started outsourcing pieces of my daily workflow and diversifying the services I offered to mix things up and free me from time-for-money services.”
Adrienne: “Just kept going. Wrote, published, and promoted even when no one cared or interacted.”
Ashley: “I started slowly by moonlighting and then, when I felt financially ready, I made the leap and haven’t looked back. It took a lot of trial and error, and I’ve spent 13 years developing processes, refining my craft, and networking, and now I’m in a place where I continue to grow each year.”
Kat: “One of the biggest turning points in my writing business was when I totally shifted my perspective on what it meant to be a working writer.
“I stopped chasing the big bylines and glossy publications and switched to content marketing — primarily helping clients produce content for their blogs. As I landed a few opportunities, I found a niche in writing content about the ‘world of work,’ and that’s where I’ve stayed ever since.”
How it’s going now …
What positive or negative feelings do you have about your business at the moment?
Jessica: “Overall, I’m grateful for what I’ve been able to achieve. However, as an entrepreneur, there is always something that I need to improve, change, or do better. The minute you stop improving is when your business is in trouble.”
Kaleigh: “I’m feeling generally uncertain about the economy, but so far, things are going well. I feel less stressed than normal and am taking time to exercise during the day instead of being chained to a desk for eight hours a day, which is a step in the right direction.”
Adrienne: “I’m passionate about helping B2B SaaS companies break through their growth stalls, and I know I can be helpful. Now I’m just in the waiting game, and I’m consistent and persistent enough, so the market has time to respond.”
Ashley: “I am proud of the business I’ve built. I’ve 10xed my income since I started, met many great people, and have more time on my hands to be present with my family and travel. I will say it’s exhausting in a lot of ways though.
“It’s challenging to sit down and write nearly every day for 4–5 hours. I always joke that I do homework for a living and that I write a term paper every day. It’s actually true, and my brain gets overloaded.”
Kat: “I feel fortunate that most of my feelings are pretty positive! I feel like I’ve really zoned in on the clients I most enjoy working with and have also found a work-life balance that works well for me. I think the negative feelings mostly come from trying to keep my balance in check.
“There are a ton of ideas and opportunities that I’d love to pursue, but I simply don’t have the time to do so. That can feel frustrating or even like I’m ‘falling behind,’ but I try to remind myself that it’s a trade-off for the balance I enjoy at the moment.”
What is your self-talk like?
Jessica: “I don’t always give myself time to celebrate wins or reflect on my accomplishments. I also tend to dwell on the negatives or what could be better more than highlighting what is working.”
Kaleigh: “Always pretty poor in general, but I’m working on it! I do feel more confident in my skills, knowledge, and abilities lately, so that brings some new confidence.”
Adrienne: “Whew … that’s a daily rollercoaster. Just today, I had to thank my body/mind for making me nauseous and anxious after pitching myself for conference talks. There are moments of amazement, and gratitude, where I’m my biggest cheerleader, and then moments of awful self-talk where I berate myself.”
Ashley: “Mostly positive. I don’t like to beat myself up for running an awesome business. But, I’m human, and there are days when I wish I were growing faster, doing more, and achieving more.”
Kat: “I try to keep it positive, but I definitely have some moments of impostor syndrome creep in particularly when I see other people creating, launching, or pursuing the things that I’m not prioritizing right now.
“I also think with all of the external factors that are getting a lot of attention right now — economic uncertainty, layoffs, AI, etc. — I have to actively work to keep some of that, ‘You’re not anythin’ special …this is the end for you!” self-talk at bay.”
What are you doing differently to find clients, or what is working well for your content writing now?
Jessica: “There is no such thing as a true solopreneur business. If you want to scale, you need help. So something I started doing more was slowly building up a small team to own tasks that I’m not good at, don’t want to do, or just to give me breathing room.”
Kaleigh: “Saying no more often, not just jumping at any opportunity that comes my way.”
Adrienne: “I’m creating a lot of video content from my podcast Break Through the Stall, writing for my newsletter, and being very intentional and pre-planned in what I create.”
“There’s a strategy behind my content, and it’s making it easier for me to show up in an intentional way every day, while still having space and time to show up in off-the-cuff ways if I want to.”
Ashley: “I try and manage the workload by hiring help — not only in my business but also with life-tasks. For work, I have a VA that helps, research assistants, and an editor that looks at every piece. I also have processes that reduce the amount of time I sit in front of a computer.”
Kat: “I grew my business pretty drastically last year, bringing on a ton of clients and quite a few subcontractors to help me keep that afloat. It was a rewarding experience, both in terms of learning and finances. However, after welcoming my second son, I craved more comfort and predictability.
“I reflected on the times when I felt most ‘in control’ in my writing business and realized it was when I was working completely on my own. I’ve since scaled things back and am focused only on taking on the clients and projects I can serve really well on my own. It’s been an adjustment, but one I’ve felt really good about so far.”
That’s a wrap on how to find clients for content writing, folks!
And whoahhh, we’ve taken a deep dive into self-management today! But I simply cannot help myself. Because it’s So. Freaking. Important.
Self-employment is an emotional roller coaster.
But if you get in the habit of doing the daily work that helps you:
- restore calm,
- sharpen your mindset, and
- reframe your approach to getting the results you want
… you’ll arm yourself with practical strategies to find clients for content writing. You’ll also gain perspective and shift into your “best self” mode — spurring better decisions about where to spend your time, energy, and attention.
Reader Comments (1)
Curt Crowley says
Great tips for overcoming self-doubt and procrastination as a writer! Modeling successful habits, evolving your mindset, and using the State > Story > Strategy framework are all effective ways to boost your chances of success. The Q&A with professional writers is also an insightful read.
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