This topic might get me in hot water. People can get really heated about the concept of borrowing clients. But I’m going to share the Golden Rules of how to borrow my clients (or anyone else’s) so that you can stay in the Good People Club.
What does it mean to borrow clients?
When I say “borrow clients,” I mean find work in an ethical way, from the portfolios of other writers. This is especially important for newer freelance writers, who don’t yet have lots of contacts.
To be clear: I’m advocating researching clients, not targeting one particular writer.
When you find a writer whose work is along the lines of what you want to write, see where some of their bylines are. Look at where they’ve been able to find work, and then go to those websites (such as business sites or blogs).
Then see if you can find contributor guidelines, and any information about whether or not these sites work with freelancers. The idea is that if someone else is freelancing for them, then perhaps they have room for an additional freelancer.
How to borrow MY clients
I have a free Facebook group, The Ink Well Guild with Ashley Gainer. Every now and then I’ll paste my Contently portfolio link in there. It shows all the different places I’ve written, which clearly all work with freelancers. So you can start pitching them. Or you can at least start looking to see if they have any contributor guidelines.
If they have any, you can get in touch with them. And if not, who knows? You can just investigate. Maybe you’ll find some ideas for places to pitch.
The Golden Rules
If you want to look at the portfolios of other writers, let’s go over how to do this right, and what NOT to do.
1. Share, don’t oust
This rule means that you’re sharing the ideas of places to find work, NOT trying to oust a particular writer from their current job.
“Ousting” is why people who hate this method of finding work criticize it. They think that you, as a new writer, will come up behind an established writer and steal their job. Or they think it’s unfair that the established writer did all the work to vet these potential clients, build that relationship, etc., and then a new whipper snapper can come in, ride those coattails, and get work.
Now, I’ve been replaced by a younger, cheaper writer, and it didn’t feel good! BUT, my ultimate take was that if the new writer wanted to write for a fraction of the rate that I was willing to write for, and if my client wanted to work with someone who’s super green and inexperienced, but cheap, then that’s not my ideal client.
It’s the difference between scarcity mindset and abundance mindset. I want to work with people who want to hire someone expensive and more experienced because that’s what I am. There are people out there who’re going to hire me.
Was it a bummer not to have these blog posts? Yeah. But I replaced it. The same goes for you. You just need to replace it.
If you find that you’re getting replaced frequently, that tells you that maybe there’s something for you to work on. Maybe you need guidance on either client expectation management or your writing. There are always things that can be improved. Or if not, you’re always free to move on.
2. Research multiple freelancers/look for bylines in more than one writer’s portfolio
This second rule helps you keep the first rule.
Look up other freelance writers–either people you’ve heard of or people whose names you see. You can look in my Facebook group, or other groups if you’re in student communities for other writing courses. Look those people up, see where they’re working, go to those websites, and see if there’s one or more names on the blog/site.
One really awesome clue is if you see the same website/organization/whatever, appearing on different people’s portfolios, it’s likely that they work with freelancers. They like freelancers. They’re happy to hear from you.
If you see, for example, that everyone has OptinMonster on their portfolio, maybe that’s where you go next.
I don’t think there’s a problem with that kind of research. I do think there’s a problem with trying to oust the writer who is there and trying to take their work. But pitching an organization that works with or would be open to working with freelancers is not a bad thing. They’re already open to it.
It’s the difference between saying, “Mind if I sit here, too?” versus trying to get someone kicked off the team. It’s “Can I play, too?” versus “You go away, I want to do this now.”
3. Keep trying to find your own clients
The third rule is that you have to keep trying to find your own clients. You’re not going to fill your docket by going through everyone else’s portfolios. You may find some nice clients here and there to pitch, but it’s incredibly valuable to do your own research and find your own clients.
4. Keep building relationships
The final rule will take longer to see results, but will give you the most. Network and build relationships with other writers and people in your niche. Good relationships fast track everything.
If there’s a website that you want to write for, and you’ve discovered (by peeking at other people’s portfolios) someone who’s written for them, it’s 100% okay to ask that person, “I have a pitch for this business. I know that you write for them, and was wondering if you would mind looking at it.” See what they say.
If you’re wary of sending your pitch to someone else, you could say, “I’m pitching this business. I know that you work for them, and was wondering if you had any tips or might be able to make an introduction.” Just see what they say.
Most established writers will at least be willing to hear your ideas and consider making an introduction if you’re proven to them.
I could call up any of my friends right now, and ask them if they know an editor at a website that I want to write for. If they do, they’ll introduce me, because they know me.
I’ve introduced writers to my clients, either because I knew they needed other writers or because I was transitioning out, and offered a few replacements.
But if I’m somebody they don’t know, or I don’t know somebody, I’m going to need solid proof that they can write–and that they’re not a crazy person–BEFORE I refer them to my friend, the blog editor.
With some of my students, I know their work and names. If not, I ask for samples of their work so that I can get to know their abilities, voice, and places they might fit.
But if I have no idea who people are, I’m probably not going to recommend them, because I have a talent pool–my students, who I want to take care of.
Questions on how to borrow my clients?
If you have questions about this or just freelance writing in general, come join us in my free Facebook group, The Ink Well Guild with Ashley Gainer. See you there!