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Build Your Pipeline for a Steady Stream of Clients

Build Your Pipeline for a Steady Stream of Clients

November 4, 2021 | By Jen Phillips April | No Comments

In 2010, I sat at a conference table and received a manila envelope. That layoff catapulted me into my freelance writing career.

After spending most of the winter feeling sorry for myself, I finally got my act together. I realized I needed a way to find clients. But how?

It turns out that’s one of the most asked questions in the freelance world.

“How do you find clients?”

Sales and marketing types call it “lead generation” or a “pipeline.” In other words, who have you connected with who might need your writing services in the coming months?

And you might even have a lead that comes back to you much later… I’ve heard of writers who’ve landed new clients three or four YEARS after connecting with someone.

Maybe that person didn’t need a writer at the time. Perhaps they changed jobs and are now Head of Content at a place that uses a lot of freelancers.

Because you keep “showing up” in their world, they remember you and reach out.

This brings us to the “pipeline.”

How do you build your pipeline for your writing business? First, let’s define the term.


What’s a Pipeline?

Imagine turning on a faucet and water pouring out. In a way, you want that for your workflow too. It’s a painful experience to realize you’ve completed all your projects and have nothing on the horizon.

Yet, when you plant seeds with those who “might” need your services down the road and nurture them along the way, some will sprout, and some will grow into a lovely fruit-bearing tree.

When you’re new to freelance writing, you’ll spend a lot of time planting seeds. But don’t forget to continue planting! If you’re consistent about it, you’ll eventually spend more time on paying projects.

A successful freelance writing business is like gardening. Except instead of planting seeds in the spring and having your entire harvest in a span of a few weeks, you want to plant year-round.

Like gardening, it takes planning and preparation. This is a good thing! You can define the types of projects you want to work on and connect with the kinds of people who use those types of projects.

Then, when they decide to bring on an additional freelancer, you’re there.

That’s a pipeline.


Why It Matters

Sure, you can peruse the job boards and social media sites for clients every day. And, if you don’t have a lot of work lined up, it’s not a bad way to find clients. Some of those clients can even turn into ongoing work.

But it’s not really a process you can rely on because you have no control over it, and it takes a lot of time to land new projects. Which means you’re earning less overall.

However, let’s say you’ve been running a freelance business for a few years, and you’ve been smart about your lead generation. You participate in regular industry events, so you have some relationships. You’ve got regular clients, so you’re not always scrambling to fill your calendar, and you’ve got referrals coming in.

If you sense a lull coming up or simply want to pick up some extra cash, you can reach out to past and present clients to see if they need help.

If you’re always planting seeds, you’ll build a pipeline. Your seed planting might come in the form of outreach, pitching to industry publications, and networking within industry events.

When you make yourself visible, more people know what you do and who you do it for, leading to other opportunities.


How It Can Pay Off for Years to Come

In 2021, my business is in a very different place than it was even three years ago. Sure, my skills improved, but it has more to do with setting parameters on my business and being deliberate about my pipeline.

By only looking for ongoing opportunities, I maintain a more consistent workload. If a client pauses or drops off, I could have a gap, but I’m always mindful of that possibility and never stop planting seeds. I also have inquiries and referrals every week.

When it comes to my pipeline, I created templates to reach out to people and ask if they use freelance writers. I track my outreach on a spreadsheet and follow up with people.

There’s a statistic that says 80% of sales are made after the fifth follow-up. After all, before a company hires a freelance writer, they’ve made business decisions that they need a certain type of content and want to outsource it.

When they’re ready, you want them to remember the seeds you’ve planted. You can check out this other article on the art of follow-up.


How Do You Start to Build Your Pipeline?

First, you need to identify what you do for whom. I know that people agonize over this. I did too, but picking something (for now) really is the easiest way to make progress.

Whether it’s accounting or cybersecurity, or something else you know about, you need a focus. Then, with your industry in mind and a sample or two, you can reach out to content managers and directors of marketing with clear communications.

You can also let your friends and family know what you’re doing. You never know who’s looking for a freelance writer!

Track who you talk to and when on a spreadsheet. And, by “talking to,” I mean an email, message, whatever makes sense for your relationship with the person.

Focus on things in your control. You CAN control sending five introduction emails or calls a day (or a week). But not if someone gets back to you or if you land a client.

You can also control crafting a target list of your perfect (for now) clients:

  • Industry
  • Size of company
  • Evidence they currently use the types of content or copy you offer


Next, find a way to connect with the marketing team. Networking events, outreach, publishing articles in trade journals. There are lots of ways to connect with potential clients.

The goal is to start a conversation. Find out more about them and their needs. Add them to your spreadsheet. Connect on social media if it seems logical. Follow the company on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Keep planting seeds and build a healthy pipeline. It’s worth it! Over time you’ll be able to project how much work you have coming up in the next month or three.

If you have a moment, drop a note below and let us know the next step you’ll take in building your pipeline!


About the Author

Jen Phillips April

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