When you’re just starting out as a freelancer writer, it can feel like everyone you talk to is trying to get something for nothing. The stress over what you should charge is great; you don’t want to price yourself out of jobs because you need money, but you also don’t want to charge so little that you have zero desire to complete the project.

I completely understand. When I was first applying for freelance writing projects, I took a job for $25 per article because I thought it would give me good experience and a byline. I ultimately had zero desire to do the work and regretted taking the job.

So now for the million dollar question: how do you get quality leads? My answers may surprise you.

Find a Niche

Believe it or not, the first thing you should do is find a niche. Now, this can seem counterintuitive because your current goal is to get anyone to pay you, but – trust me – you want to find a niche. It achieves a few things:

  • You gain confidence. Confidence is like the chicken-or-the-egg phenomenon in freelance writing. You need confidence to get projects but you need projects to get confidence. What a niche does is give you a focus for something you know you’re good at. It will change your pitches in a way you might not even recognize.
  • You make yourself more appealing. If you write about insects (hear me out with this metaphor) and you find a job for insect writing, you will instantly be the writer to hire when you pitch that client.
  • You immediately know where to look. Sticking with the insect metaphor, choosing to focus on that niche will help you find the best opportunities. Whether you’re looking on a job board, individual publications, or networking, you will have a clear focus and the recipients of your pitches will feel that focus.

Get Started SOMEWHERE

get high-quality leadsWhen you are first starting out, it’s important to find work wherever you can get it, and that will more than likely be with lower-paying clients. The key is finding the right lower-paying clients.

There are two types of low-paying gigs: the kind with people who are cheap and the kind with people who are in a cheap industry. The key when you’re starting out is finding projects in the latter category.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you write about marketing. A quality “cheap client” would be a small firm that has a minimal budget and could use good content to promote their services. It’s not that they don’t value the service, it’s that they don’t have the money to spend.

A poor “cheap client” would be a successful franchise that sees little value in content marketing. Signs you should run? If the client says something along the lines of, “Yeah, we don’t need that, we’re just looking for …”

Use your gut.

Understand it Takes Time

What you don’t want to hear. Ultimately, there are critical pieces of success you won’t find in a blog about how to be successful. You need to go through the process of working, misfiring, working, misfiring, learning, getting better. The more you do, the more you learn, and the more you make.

The great thing is that all of the misfires teach you invaluable things that shape who you are as a professional and build your confidence as an entrepreneur. Without warning, you will find yourself talking price with a self-assuredness you didn’t know you had and you will recognize you are on your way.

Once the ball gets rolling, it just picks up speed. You will get a big win and, before you know it, you’ll get referrals and then unexpected reach-outs.

The key is not to worry that you aren’t there yet. Getting high quality leads isn’t a formula, it’s a feeling-out process that will work itself out if you have the talent and willpower to push forward and learn as you go.