18 Reasons You’re Not Landing Freelance Writing Clients (And What You Can Do About It)

Face it:

You’ve been trying this whole freelance writing thing for three months, and you haven’t landed a freelance writing client.

Sure, you’ve gotten a project here and there, but nothing recurring and nothing more than a few dollars.

18 Reasons You’re Not Landing Freelance Writing Clients (And What You Can Do About It)

You have no clue why you aren’t landing a client.

You’re pitching, looking for freelance writing jobs and nothing. Not one stinking client to show for it.

What gives? Why is everyone else – you know, the other successful freelance writers – able to write for a living? What’s so different between them and you?

I’ve been freelance writing for over two years, and I know what makes a successful freelance writer. Someone that doesn’t need to hustle 24 hours a day.

Someone who gets work handed to them and one that doesn’t have to worry when they get paid next.

I’ve taught many writers to achieve this success in less time. I can tell with the first strategy call or email whether they will be successful or not.

Here are 18 reasons why you’re not landing any gigs and what you can do about it.

1. Your Pitch Looks Like it Came from a Template

I know. I’ve mentioned on this blog quite a few times that it’s okay to have a template for your pitch. It helps maximize your time when you’re doing this as a side hustle.

Let me preface this by saying it is okay to have a template for your pitches, just don’t make it appear like it’s a cookie-cutter template.

The best way to avoid this is by researching the prospect you want to pitch to. Look online and visit their website. Read their About page and learn about their brand and message.

You can infuse that in your pitch by using the same jargon or vocabulary you see on their site.

You can also have a few different pitch templates so you can rotate them when you’re pitching.

2. Your Pitch Isn’t Personal

Part of my course package is a pitch review. I read pitches from students and give them a critique and help them tweak their pitch so that it can convert more and stand out.

Over the years I’ve checked out a lot of pitches and some pitches just come off as impersonal.

They address themselves as “we” and they don’t share anything about themselves (if they are a great collaborative partner for example) and it’s all about their services in a robust way.

Your pitch has to be personal. Small businesses that want a freelance writer aren’t looking for a company that has a roster of freelance writers; they want a solopreneur that knows their craft and can write wicked copy for them.

If your pitch doesn’t show that passion from you, then you won’t land that gig.

3. You Don’t Have a Follow-Up System in Place

When you send your pitch, do you forget about it? Do you move on to the next pitch and not worry about the pitches you sent? If they respond, that’s great; if they don’t move on.

Well, you’ll have a better chance at landing gigs if you create a follow-up system to every pitch you send out. This means after a set time ( a week, two weeks, or several months depending on whether you pitched a small business or magazine) you email them again and ask if they filled the spot for a content writer.

This email isn’t mean-spirited. It’s just a friendly reminder that you’re still available and to to please reconsider.

Doing this one thing can help you land that client. It’s happened to me, and it’s happened to my students.

4. You Didn’t Negotiate in a Professional Way

Yikes! You have to negotiate? You didn’t sign up for that! Well newbie freelance writer, if you want to land that gig, you need to grow a pair.

Sorry, if that’s a little blunt, but it’s true. I’m an introvert by nature. Large crowds (and even smaller crowds) and events drain me.

I get energized by being by myself and listening to my tunes or even by doing a presentation to a small group. I do thrive off of some people if I do a Facebook live or webinar.

So, for me, emailing, pitching, negotiating and networking is easy peasy. That’s because it’s online and not in front of someone.

When you get a response from your pitch, and they ask you your rate, please don’t say, “What’s your budget?” or “My rate is $50 per 500 words, but whatever works for you.”

Ouch and no. This isn’t how you negotiate.

Another thing to remember is that you are a collaborator, not an employee of the client. You are working with the client to create content for their business.

You can squash any potential freelance writing gig by not being professional in your response.

Instead, when they ask you your rate, tell them. “My typical rate for this type of project is X per 500 words.”

5. You Don’t Have a Website

There are a lot of new freelance writers that email me asking if they NEED a website.

Want to freelance online without a website?! Of course, you need a website. If I want to hire a graphic designer or VA, do you think I’m just going to look in the newspaper? Or ask a blogger friend? Sure, they may tell me some names (word of mouth is a strong marketing tool), but it’s inefficient on your end.

If people can’t find you, they won’t hire you.

After my debacle with content mills and freelance marketplaces, I put up a website and created a services page and blog. I looked at other freelance writer websites and saw some commonalities. From there I learned how to sell my services.

What if you are bootstrapping it? That’s okay. Starting a website isn’t a lot of money. For under $100 you can get your WordPress site started.

Remember, this is a business, not a hobby. You have to invest in yourself and in your business for it to grow. In the interim, start a Facebook page (if you’re really struggling) and market your business there.

6. You Don’t Have Samples

I beg to differ.

You DO have samples. If you edited your friend’s resumé or made a newsletter for your uncle’s soccer store or wrote for your high school newspaper, you can drum up some samples.

Now, do they translate online? Not all of them. That’s why the best samples are ones you can create on your blog or from a Google Doc!

Create up to three samples and post them on your writer website. It’s that easy. To show prospects you can write, create samples and post them on your website.

7. Your Samples Don’t Show Your Value

Okay. There’s another problem with new freelance writers. They have samples, but they aren’t the right samples.

Why? Because your samples don’t show the value, you have as a writer. A client wants high-value from their writer (especially if they are paying for it).

If you’re still stuck in the $.04/word or $.o6/word range, clients aren’t really hiring you for value. They just want a good rate with good enough content.

Once you get into the $.10-.30+/word range, then you bet your bottom britches clients want top notch content.

If your samples don’t show that, then you’re not going to land high-paying clients.

Over on my writer website, the first couple of samples in my portfolio are high-value ones.

They are from popular and established websites, they are long form, and they pack a lot of examples and industry knowledge.

Those alone helps me convince prospects that I know my digital marketing niche.

Go to your portfolio page and take a good look at your samples. Do they really show how great of a writer you are? Or, is it just filled with all your published posts?

It’s time to pare down your portfolio.

8. You’re Not Confident

I’ve been dancing around this one for a while. A lot of new freelance writers struggle with being confident in their writing ability and marketing ability.

When I first started this whole thing, I had some challenges with my confidence. For me, it was based on the fact that I don’t have a journalism degree or any type of writing degree.

But, you know what? Clients could give a hoot about whether you have impeccable grammar or a degree in English or journalism.

They want to know you can write for their audience and relate their message and brand to them.

They want a professional writer that turns in work on time, can work by themselves, and knows their niche.

Confidence happens when you practice. Right now, I’ve been doing Facebook live sessions. Now, I’ve done webinars before, but Facebook Live’s are different.

A Facebook training in my Writeto1k private Facebook group

They are more personal and engaging, and the feedback is quick.

You’re also on the screen the whole time (mostly) and not referring to your slides.

Can I say I’m not confident at all? I’m anxious, I stumble over my words, and I’m so not polished on these Facebook lives.

But, you know what? I’m still doing them.

I have no idea how that will go. It will be the wild wild west on my Facebook page, and for some reason, freelance writing gets a lot of ridicule than other freelance businesses!

Go figure. But, that’s not stopping me.

And, you should do the same with your freelance writing business.

9. You Have No Idea Where To Find Your Ideal Client

Do you even know who your ideal client is?

Trying to find your ideal client can be a challenge. This is the client that helps you become a writer for a living. This is the client that doesn’t balk at your rate, values your writing and offers a testimonial.

You want that client, but where the heck are they? I can tell you right now; you probably won’t find them on Upwork.

Now, I know there are writers out there that have worked with their ideal clients on that platform, but I’ve had no luck finding any work there, and pitching was terrible on that platform.

To find your ideal client, you need to:

It’s all in your hands freelance writer!

10. You’re Not Spending Time on Your Freelance Biz

Let me guess:

This is a side hustle for you, right? You have a full-time job to go to that sucks up all your time, and then when you’re home, you have a family to tend to.

I get it. I do this as a side hustle too (still do) and it’s hella hard to find time for my client work. My twins no longer nap and the only time I can write is at night.

Now, if this were the case when I first started, it wouldn’t have taken me 6 months to make a living as a freelance writer; it would’ve probably taken much much longer. When you don’t give yourself adequate time to grow your business, don’t expect to have jobs coming to you.

You have to invest in your business, so carve time before going to work or during nap time and at night (sorry The Walking Dead, but I’ll watch when my client work is done!).

11. Your Writing Niche is Too Broad

What’s your niche? Is it gardening? Parenting? Health?

These niches are too broad. Anyone can have those niches, so how do you expect a client to find the perfect health writer? When they find a paleo health writer or medical writer for small businesses.

The riches are in the niches writers!

When you can hone your niche, clients will magically be able to find you and hire you on the spot. It’s that simple and that quick. How do you hone your niche?

Look at your expertise and knowledge or look what you like to write about.

For me, I enjoy writing about content marketing and email marketing on social media. From there, make a new title for your business. I like to go by a B2B professional writer.

12. You Avoid Social Media (Like the Plague!)

Oh no, don’t tell me you don’t have a Twitter profile or at least a LinkedIn profile?

If you want to get paid as a freelance writer online, you need to be on social media. This is another way to show your credibility as an online writer. It’s free to use, and it’s easy to create a profile. Remember that these profiles are business ones.

If you already have social media profiles, you can use them for your business (just remove pictures that don’t align with your biz) or create new profiles.

Since I didn’t have a Twitter or LinkedIn profile before I started freelance writing, I just created new profiles. Make sure you also show your face.

Even if you are a private person, you should still show some personal features of you. Some writers choose to use an avatar. This is fine, but having a real headshot helps with trusting you more.

13. You Don’t Network

I have an email list of almost 4,000 subscribers, and it’s such a personal relationship I share with my subscribers.

And, when I hear from a subscriber tell me they don’t normally reply to newsletters or even attempt to email writers, I feel a little sad.

Networking is such a pivotal part to the long-term success of your business. Without networking, you’re facing this journey all alone.

Networking was what helped me with getting my gig on OptinMonster as well as writing for influences in my industry.

It also helped me raise my rate and appear more credible since I had social proof from a network of entrepreneurs that I could write.

So, how do you network?

  • Share other people’s work
  • Comment on blogs you want to write for
  • Email other freelance writers 🙂
  • Follow other writers and small businesses

14. You Don’t Try Other Ways to Find Clients

I know.

You are already having a tough time landing ANY work, so it’s not worth it to try something new. And heck, you may not even know of other ways (or how to use other ways) to land clients.

It took me a while to learn about cold pitching and warm pitching, but now that I acquired those skills, it’s easy for me to find and land work.

I also learned how to find clients on social media too!

If you can’t find work on Upwork, then try freelance writing job boards. If that doesn’t pan out, start looking at cold and warm pitching.

15. You Don’t Have a Pitching Process

Do you feel like your sending pitches with no rhyme or reason? You pick a job board here, you cold pitch a company there, and then wait a bit before you do it again.

It’s important to have a pitching process that can help streamline your acquisition process. This means having a process when you pitch and knowing when to pitch, where you’ll pitch and creating a follow-up sequence.

16. You’re Stuck Writing For Pennies

I hear ya.

Freelance marketplaces or content mills don’t value us as writers. They want the most amount of content for the least amount of money. They care less about the content and what you provide overall. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but this is what I found.

You waste your time trying to find these low-ball offers and then don’t have time to really try to land some profitable gigs. It’s time to switch that around and find a new way to find jobs.

To start getting more higher-paying clients:

17. You’re Not Taking Any Action

You’re probably overwhelmed by this all, right? Suddenly, there’s just too much information, and you have analysis paralysis.

I so get you. I get sometimes stuck if I read too much of one thing or watch videos of one topic. It’s best not to get sucked into reading or watching one more thing.

Learn to block all that social noise and focus on what’s important: creating a sustaining and profitable freelance writing business so you can make a living from it.

Then, take action.  Write a pitch, start a blog, hob knob with influencers, leave blog comments, etc..

Try to do one thing a day to get you closer to landing a client (My 6 day free course is a good start).

18. You Had a Misconception That It Was Easy

Some new freelance writers think it’s easy to land clients. They think if they have a blog or a degree in creative writing, that clients will come knocking on their door so to speak.

This type of freelance writer will find it extremely hard to land any profitable gig. They will hold out and not be any flexible with their writing or expectations.

If you think it’s easy, change that mindset now. Know that you have to work from the ground up to be profitable. It won’t be handed to you that easily. I know it may be hard for some, but the sooner you learn that you have to work hard, the quicker you’ll be at attracting the right client for you.

Wrapping it Up

There are many reasons why you may not be landing a freelance writing client or a profitable client. I know at the beginning of my journey, I made a lot of mistakes. I had to learn from them and it took me longer to where I am today.

I hope you find yourself in one of these reasons and use the tips to help you change and start getting a client!

Let me know in the comments why you think you’re not landing any (or profitable) clients.

Hi I'm Elna and I'm a freelance writer and mom blogger. I help people just like you become a profitable freelance writer. Within 6 months of starting my freelance writing business from scratch I was able to earn a full-time living as a part-time freelance writer while taking care of my twin toddlers. Check out my free email course Get Paid to Write Online and learn the steps you need to take to be a freelance writer.

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13 Comments

So…overwhelmed…like what’s the criteria for an “expert?” I have the guts for it, quit my job to do this because its been my dream since I could hold a crayon but…what if none if this feels like it fits me? The writing and niche aspects, yes, but business and marketing? Not so much, I like telling stories and using words to illuminate even the smallest, darkest corners of human nature and our collective struggle. I feel like I’ve been through a dozen of your and others’ lists on places to find work but nothing feels like it’d work for me…but how do you write a novel without income? Without a foundation? Let alone get it published…I’m just hoping I’m not alone in this feeling and fear.Reply to CWP
Hi! Being an expert means knowing the industry you’re writing about. You know the up-to-date information and industry jargon (like list building for my niche – digital marketing). So start writing blog posts in your niche topic to gain experience as well as guest post. Remember that business writing – what freelance writers do – is not the same as personal narrative entries. While there are SOME writing jobs that want your narrative (travel writing for example), it’s the exception not the norm. As writing a novel…well do you want to be a freelance writer or an author? If an author I suggest you check out some writing blogs that cater to new authors. I have a list I wrote on my other blog here: https://twinsmommy.com/writing-blogs/Reply to Elna
Hi, Elna You have been more helpful than I possibly express, and I saw this list and got super excited. Unfortunately, I have been doing this for three months and have only had two clients, to add insult to injury I am not falling into any of these pitfalls. At my last count, I am at 150 cold pitches, warm pitches, and Upwork proposals. Is there anything else I could be doing wrong? Thanks, -KitReply to Kit
Hi Kit, Make sure you are marketing yourself every day. This might mean guest posting a lot, pitching a lot (not just cold pitching; try other sources) and connecting with influences on social media. It’s only been three months and you landed 2 gigs! That’s amazing! Be proud of that!Reply to Elna
The last tip made me laugh, I’ll admit it. The reason I say that is because I had that same misconception for about a month and a half into my career as a freelancer. It’s crazy what we believe when we first start out into this crazy thing called freelance writing. I now see the truth of the matter and am learning to go all out into things, no matter how difficult I find the task. I’ve been guest posting like crazy, trying to get myself out there. I’m batching a bunch of posts in the next few days to send out to those sites wanting already-written content. You won’t believe how much my website analytics has changed since beginning to guest post. If that doesn’t convince a new writer to join the guest posting world, I don’t know what will!Reply to Lisa
I’m having trouble even guest posting. How did you find them?Reply to Monica
Try the lessons in the course. I give you a lot of resources!Reply to Elna
Lisa, That’s great news! So glad you are getting out there and taking action. Good luck!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, Great tips as always! Thanks for sharing these reasons why freelancer writers aren’t landing clients. I think the one that hurts most is #8, not being confident. If we aren’t confident about our skills and our work, it will be hard to make a pitch when we ourselves aren’t sure if we can do the job or not. Thanks for sharing. You know I’m passing this along! CoriReply to Cori
Hey Elna, Just to elaborate on the networking thing a bit, I see it all the time just what a big difference it can make. For instance, Yellowpages is a regular client of mine, because they often send me to local businesses to interview and write about local businesses. It makes a huge difference because even though my client isn’t the person I’m interviewing, I get business owners ask for more info about my freelance writing business sometimes too! As a result, I’d add that in-person networking can help too!Reply to Rosemary
Hi Rosemary, That’s a perfect example of how strong networking can be to help boost your freelance writing business! Thanks for sharing your story!Reply to Elna
Great info! I’m mostly dealing with insecurity. This affects a lot of other points you mention, like raising your rate, negotiating and networking. I have the imposter syndrome 😉Reply to Nanouk
Hi Nanouk! Sorry to hear about that. Imposter syndrome did find me in the beginning and pops its head every now and then. But, I have to remember I have paying clients and none of them contend what I write! AS for insecurity, try to think that the client is just looking for a good writer. Most negotiations are done via email so you can stew on your response, research and then reply. Once you land your first client, it literally becomes 1,000 times easier and you’ll be 1,000 times more confident! Good luck!Reply to Elna