By Hannah Glenn
Freelance client prospecting may be the closest occupation to fishing. You have to know your stuff before you jump into that rickety little rowboat. Be sure your vessel is sea-worthy (or at least lake-worthy), with no holes, leaks or weak spots. If there is one, you should learn how to patch it up. In writing, knowing what you’re capable of, what services you offer and at what rates is the basic integral structure of your prospecting ventures.
From there, you have to be prepared with equipment: hooks, lures, fishing wire, a sun hat and boondoggles (which may or may not be essential, but is always fun to say). Imagine how that fishing trip would go without those tools– you wiggling a single finger into the still water, hoping that some particularly dumb fish would mistake it for a worm. In freelancing terms these tools include confidence in your writing skills, a knowledge of how much you have to make in order to survive and an understanding of how to leverage opportunities into projects.
A fisherman knows which lures and wires are best for particular fish in particular bodies of water. As a freelancer you must educate yourself in your craft and field. Seek information and dig deep to find the good stuff: listen to podcasts, read books, read blogs and practice writing as much as possible.
Then it’s time to cast your fishing rod into the brimming sea of potential and wait. Prospecting and fishing require persistence, patience and, most importantly, knowing when it’s worth hauling a find into the boat or when it’s better to let it go.
When you’re reaching out, statistically you’ll get little back. It can be tempting to think any tinge of interest has to turn into a new client. Sometimes you’ll feel a little nibble on the line and get excited. But as you reel it in the resistance disappears and it slips away. This can happen when you send that proposal and never hear back, or get an inquiry, but never a second email.
Sometimes you’ll reel it all the way up and be disappointed when it turns out to be a rotten, waterlogged boot. These are the freelance offers that you can spot right away as rancid abuses of your skills and you have no issue plunking back into the water and watching disappear beneath the little ripples it creates.
But then there are the tough ones when you bring up a pretty good-looking fish. This can be tricky. Is too small? Is the flesh of this fish too bitter or acidic? In freelancing, will this potential client pay you enough? Do you click on a personal level? Are you truly able to meet their needs as a writer in terms of content expertise, time commitments and workload?
It may be a hard decision to make, but sometimes you have to feel that warm prospect (or cold fish) in your hands, un-hook the lip of that catch, and let it go peacefully on its way. You don’t want to fill your cooler with fish you can’t really use and have nowhere to stow that big fish that would be more than happy to nestle into your ice chest.
Be respectful of what your potential clients need and be respectful of what you need. Know that not every nibble is meant to be a catch and that there truly are millions of other fish; some of which are ready and waiting to form a mutually beneficial relationship with a writer like yourself. Not the fish but… you know what I mean.
How do you tell a nibble from a catch?
Hannah Glenn is a freelance content and copywriter, a life-lover, food-lover and nutrition nerd in LA. She thrives on insightful perspectives and values music, talk radio and silence each in its own turn. Check out her website HannahGlennWriter.com, her food blog Hollywood Snacktress and follow her on Twitter.
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