Part of the challenge and the frustration of freelancing full time is finding new clients. The majority of my clients are from word-of-mouth referrals from previous clients, other writers, and people I’ve met through alternative networks.
First tip: Make sure you have a good network of other writers, editors, and graphic designers. These contacts can be a primary source of new jobs. Having a list of other freelancers you can pass along clients to when your own docket is full is a good thing. Down the road, that writer you sent a client to will probably pass a client back to you. Attending writer-focused groups, like the Society for Technical Communication meetings, are great resources for meeting other writers. My contacts through STC have been invaluable for job leads, new clients, and other professional opportunities.
Second tip: Look for leads by going to where your potential subject matter experts hang out. These are the people who could need your services. Networking sites like LinkedIn and MeetUp have groups listed for just about every topic and profession. For example, if your specialty is software documentation, then look for a Meetup group for software developers so you meet the people who will know about upcoming projects requiring a writer. These individuals might not be the people who are capable of hiring a contractor. If a developer is threatened with documentation, you bet the dev will remember your card and will hand it to the manager.
Third tip: Target small companies and startups who might need writing for small or short term jobs. As a freelancer, one of your “valud-add”s is that you can provide services to a company without adding to the personnel overhead. Small businesses, new startups, or even startup think-tanks locally might need your services but can’t afford to have a writer on staff. Research the companies and find out which ones look promising for your own background. For example, in Research Triangle Park, NC, the Triangle Startup Factory provides opportunities for new businesses. Local newspapers carry stories on current crops of companies — plus those who have “graduated” from the program.
You can also find more potential clients using the Chamber of Commerce and other news sources. Be creative. Look for the people who write the type of software (or whatever) that you specialize in. Do your homework on a company before approaching them.