On first glance, Instagram might not seem that useful for freelance writers. We’re all about words and IG is all about images, right? Well, yes and no. I’ve found that Instagram offers me a chance to connect with the people behind the images. And I’ve had offers of work from editors via Instagram and I’ve also used it to find work. Let me tell you how.
How to use Instagram as a freelance writer
I want to say, straight up, that I don’t have a strategy for using Instagram.
But despite not having a strategy, I’ve had a fair bit of work come my way through the platform.
Not as much as via LinkedIn, but enough to make me think that this is a platform freelancers should be capitalising on.
My use of Instagram is pretty sporadic in terms of posting content, although I’m on it each day.
Unlike Twitter, which is commonly seen as the best platform for writers, I reckon IG is the undiscovered hero.
1. Other social media platforms are noisy
There are pros and cons to each social media platform.
For me, even though I’m fairly active on Twitter, I use Social Jukebox to schedule lots of my content because I don’t want to be on the platform 24/7.
I find Twitter way too ‘noisy’ to be on for too long, and while I know loads of editors put callouts for pitches here, I subscribe to Sonia Weiser’s excellent Opportunities of the Week newsletter, which lists heaps of calls for pitches from editors on Twitter, so I can keep my finger on the pitching pulse.
Instagram on the other hand, seems much calmer.
I feel like I can find an editor or a PR on Instagram, follow them and it’s likely that they will follow me back.
On Twitter, I feel like that rarely happens.
Instagram isn’t as fast moving as Twitter, so your likes, comments or shares aren’t going to disappear as quickly.
And this means you have a chance to make a real connection with editors and clients.
2. Instagram is a repository of potential corporate clients
It may seem a bit weird to think about looking for clients on Instagram, but hear me out.
We all know content is king and that lots of agencies, companies, NGOs, universities (etc) are using social media to find an audience by publishing content.
The beauty of Instagram is that there are lots of ways to search for and find potential clients.
How to find clients on Instagram
Just say you are a health freelance writer and you are looking for clients.
You might have a particular interest in (or experience in) writing about nutrition.
The first thing I would do is type in nutrition into the search bar (as below)
Then I would look at the list of companies, bloggers and hashtags and take a look at their credentials.
The first result that came up was nutritiondarling, so I would click through and look at her IG account.
I’d look at the number of followers (the more followers tends to mean the more of an audience and potentially more of a need for a freelance writer) and click through to her website.
Then I’d look to see what kind of content she creates – does she have a blog? Is it updated regularly? If not, there may be a chance for you to get in touch with an excellent LOI and see if you can help out.
If she sells products, there may be an opportunity for you to write product descriptions, help with content strategy – whatever it is.
So, can you see that this is another possible way to find clients?
The second result is NutritionFacts.org, which says it is “the only non-commercial, non-profit, science-based website to provide constant free video updates on the latest in evidence-based nutrition.”
Again, I’d look at the number of followers (it’s a pretty good indicator of whether someone is legitimate and if they are putting time, effort and money into their marketing efforts) and click through to the website.
Yes, it may not be a perfect fit because they are making video updates, but they may need someone to transcribe the videos or to create blog posts to accompany the visual content.
Then rinse and repeat.
You’re looking for opportunities where you can help them achieve their goals.
You can send them an email, a DM or simply start commenting on their posts (obviously in a non-spammy way), as a way of introducing yourself.
3. Lots of editors are on Instagram
When I first joined up to Instagram (and I was not an early adopter – my first post was in April 2015), I had no idea what I was doing.
My profile was private, which meant I had to approve people to follow me and I mostly posted pictures of my baking and random life snapshots.
Once I started travel writing, I allowed anyone to follow me, I started using hashtags and realised the potential of the platform.
I started following the editors I wrote for and the editors I wanted to write for.
Many times I could see that editors were away on trips, so I wouldn’t pitch them.
When Instagram stories were introduced, I got a snapshot into the lives of some editors and PRs.
This all sounds very voyeuristic, I know.
But as a freelancer, we’re often starving for information about what editors want or which companies need freelancers, and I found that you could often glean that information from Instagram.
Mostly, though I found that I really liked the editors I was writing for – I got a sneak peek into their lives, their dogs, their partners, their holidays and it was like seeing what friends were up to.
So even though I haven’t applied a particular strategy with Instagram, I’ve managed to form strong relationships on the platform with editors.
If I like what they have posted, or if I have something to say, then I say it.
But I never force it.
I want to be as genuine and (urgh, I know) authentic as possible.
And I think editors (and everyone else) can sniff out if you’re simply commenting or liking because you want them to commission you.
So has work come my way from editors?
I’ve had editors reach out to commission me (either via Instagram or after seeing a post on IG) at least 10 times.
Below is an example of what happened after I posted an IG story of a new hotel opening I attended.
You can see that the editor has asked me to rework the story because they knew that I was already commissioned to write about the hotel opening for someone else.
I had two different angles that I could write about for the two publications, so it was a win-win.
It meant that I made more money and as you can imagine, the PRs from the hotel were happy that I got two commissions from the one event.
I’ve also found that editors who don’t reply to my emails, will reply to my comments on their IG stories.
And I’ve had some great conversations with editors via DM on Instagram.
I’ve found that you often get access to editors on IG that you don’t get via email.
4. No, you don’t have to stop posting pics of your food
My experience is that as long as your bio is solid (a headshot, a clear description of what you do and a link to your portfolio (I use linktree so that people can see a selection of articles rather than just one), you don’t have to stop posting what you love.
It’s really about being authentic (sorry, there’s that word again).
I’ve met editors on press trips who have commented on my baking, when I didn’t know that they followed me or when they’ve never ‘liked’ a post of mine.
So don’t think that just because editors or clients are silent on Instagram that they’re not seeing what you’re doing.
So post away – but be aware that the pics you are presenting are reaching a wide audience.
I never thought I’d say it, but I love Instagram.
And I really do think it’s underrated by freelance writers. I’ve really only started to think of Instagram as an important part of my ‘marketing’ strategy, so I’m excited to see what happens in the next 12 – 18 months on the platform.
Do you use Instagram professionally? Do you have other tips on how to use it?