Whether you are a freelance content writer, journalist, copywriter, editor or something in between, we have all been in situations where we could do with more work. The feast or famine nature of being a freelancer is nothing new, but there’s one very simple thing that freelancers often neglect to do. But if you do it regularly, it can turn your business around.
The one thing every freelance writer should be doing (but isn’t)
The way I see it, freelancing is all about energy. Lots of freelance writers end up tired, exhausted and burnt out from the hustle – they are constantly pitching editors and sending out letters of introduction, and that’s not to mention doing the actual writing part of the job.
And I get it.
If you’re anything like me, you see the latest shiny opportunity (“Oh! A new magazine!” or “Oh a new editor!”) and you drop everything and pursue it.
But there’s an answer to our woes of famine and that’s reconnecting with past clients.
The idea behind it is simple. Freelancing takes time and energy. But having longevity in this game means building relationships with editors and clients so that they come to you, thus conserving you energy.
Goodness knows that it’s easy to lose touch with an editor or client – I’ve written for stacks of publications just once or twice and then have never kept in touch with the editor. But I really believe that keeping up contact can benefit you both.
Just last week I emailed a former editor of mine to let her know that I had changed my email address and she got back to me a few days later saying she needed to commission a writer to put together an 800 word article.
While it wasn’t my intention to get work, that interaction last week reinforced to me that it’s always easier to rekindle old relationship than start new ones.
Of course, it’s better to be proactive rather than reactive and not lose touch in the first place.
So whether you’re reconnecting with a former editor or you’re simply keeping in touch, here are my favourite ways of stoking or rekindling your freelance fire.
Some take more effort than others, but I’m sure you’ll agree, they take a lot less effort than crafting a pitch to a new editor or sending out fresh letters of introduction to potential clients and starting a relationship from scratch.
8 ways to reconnect or keep in touch with (former) editors or clients
1. Email them an article of interest. This doesn’t have to be a peer-reviewed, scientific journal article (although it could be) – just something you read and think, “Hmm, this might be interesting to this editor” or “This adds a bit more information to the blog post I wrote about X for this client”.
Just this morning I saw a quirky article that I thought would appeal of one of my editors. I emailed it to him and said, “Did you see this article? I thought it would appeal to you!”
He replied and asked me to write an article about it.
But I want to be clear – when I sent him the article I was not angling for him to commission me a story. I just read an interesting article and wondered if he had seen it.
2. Email them an update of what you’ve been working on. This might seem a bit self congratulatory, but if you’ve had contact with an editor or client where they’ve expressed interest in working with you, but nothing has come of it, or if you’ve worked with them in the past but the contact has dropped off, it can be worth writing a quick email summarising what you’ve been up to. Give them a highlights reel of the stories or projects you’ve been working on and some links.
3. Comment if they’ve changed jobs or you’ve noticed something new. Has a magazine that you used to write for had a facelift? Do they have a new section? Or has an editor you have lost contact with now moved to a different publication? Any change is worth commenting on. Get in touch and say what you’ve noticed or congratulate them on the new move.
4. Wish them well. This is a simple one and such an easy thing to do. Easter? Send an email to wish them a happy Easter. Christmas? Send a card. If they celebrate Chinese New Year then do the same. It’s easy just to drop a line or write a card to wish an editor or client well for a special holiday.
5. Change of details. As you know, I’ve joined the present day and am in the process of getting rid of my Yahoo and Gmail accounts and have recently switched over to the uber-trustworthy Protonmail. I emailed lots of editors and clients who I have lost touch with over the years to let them know of this change and this prompted a couple to get in touch and ask about my availability to take on work.
6. Let them know you have the capacity to take on work. If your aim of reconnecting with former clients or editors is to gain more work, then be upfront about it. Email them and say that you’re in a position to take on work if they are looking for any content to be written. If you’ve branched out and added another speciality to your repertoire or have completed a new course, then mention this – anything that reminds and educates them about your value and expertise.
7. Keep in touch via social media. I recently followed a former editor of mine on Instagram and the next day he got in touch to offer me a piece of work. That’s very good luck, I know (I was simply prompted to follow him because I noticed he had commented on another editor’s post). It’s worth connecting with your editors and clients via the channels where they are most active – whether that be LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
And as a side note – before pitching, I often check an editor’s Twitter or Insta account (if they’re active) to see if it looks like they are in the office. Because I write for a few travel and food publications, this is really worthwhile, as often these editors are on trips or eating out!
8. Meet in person. I know lots of people are loath to do this (and to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever met any of my editors in person), but lots of freelancers swear by meeting up and having a coffee with an editor or client.
As you can see, these are all really simple ideas for keeping in touch with, or rekindling ‘old’ relationships with editors or clients.
I know this sounds a bit woo-woo, but while I’ve had editors offer me work after I’ve done some of the actions above, I must admit, it’s never my primary intention to get work that way.
I do all those things because I want to maintain a good relationship with the people I work with and for. And as a result, it tends to boost my freelance business.
Are there other ways you keep in touch with former editors or clients? How do you rekindle the relationship?