I landed a five-figure screenwriting gig without ever having sold a screenplay before.
I landed a similarly lucrative nonfiction writing gig without ever having written a non-fiction book before, or anything longer than a short story.
Regardless of what my mom told me growing up, I’m not special. If I can do it, so can you.
Moral Of The Story: Listen To Lauren
My fiancée Lauren and I have a relationship that’s like a sitcom. A problem arises. She proposes a solution. I go my own way in a bullheaded fashion. My own devices fail. I reluctantly try her way and succeed.
Yes, she is always right. I hope she never reads this admission. Let’s make this our special secret, okay?
Anyway, one day, after years of providing editing services, I wanted to get my feet wet and land a client as a writer, not as an editor. Lauren suggested Upwork.com.
I decided to give it a try. After a few searches, I turned to her in disgust and said something to the effect of “Why the hell would anyone write a 50,000 word book for $100?”
If you’re willing to write a book for $100, and you live in the US, EU, or any other developed country, you’re a fool. Believe me, I told this to Lauren. Over and over again until she got sick of hearing my self-righteous statement. And a couple more times long after she had grown tired of my ranting.
But, Lauren told me to stick with it. Reluctantly, I did.
And I landed a five-figure screenwriting client.
Without having sold or optioned a screenplay at that point.
Five figures certainly beats $100, right?
Full Gordon Gekko Mode
Okay, quick interlude. I know some people are probably annoyed at the money talk. To those people, let me quote British author Samuel Johnson, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”
There is NOTHING ugly about getting large sums of money for your writing. If you want to turn writing into a career, you’re going to need those large sums of money. If writing is just a hobby, that’s fine, but if you want to make writing your primary profession, then you’re going to need to be able to get people to pay you for your work.
And pay you more than $100.
How I Landed My First Client
So, how did I land this client? Let me walk you through the steps:
Step 1 – I applied for the gig.
As Woody Allen said, “80 percent of success is showing up.”
Step 2 – After no response, I sent a follow-up message.
No response does not mean no. No response means you need to do more to convince me.
Step 3 – I steered the prospective client to a phone call.
We established rapport, shared values, and a willingness to learn about the topic.
Step 4 – I sent writing samples.
I sent him a previous screenplay I had written.
Step 5 – I kept sending follow-ups after he went cold.
He agreed to work with me and gave me insights into writing his screenplay, but then went cold for ten months. I kept sending him follow-ups, spaced long apart so as not to annoy, but regularly enough to be assertive. I never was judgmental or passed blame. I’m a professional and I acted the part.
Step 6 – I flew out West to meet with him.
There, I got a chance to further develop the rapport, learn more about the project, and iron out the details. It was a success!
And he wasn’t the only client I landed.
With A Little Help From Your Friends…
Ever hear the old saying, it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know?
Yeah, sometimes that’s true.
I landed another great client as a referral from a friend. She knew that I was looking for writing clients. Another friend of hers was looking for a talented writer.
Yes, sometimes it’s really that easy.
A Whole Bunch Of Other Ways To Land High-Paying Writing Clients
Of course, these aren’t the only ways to land high-paying clients on great writing projects. Here are a few other methods you may want to consider:
- Craigslist. Yes, there are a lot of flakes there, but there are diamonds in the rough.
- Create a website and blog, then hit social media hard. Get yourself out there online. Lots of people do, though. The key is quantity and quality. Provide immense value and provide it as often as you can.
- Develop an expertise. Coupling talent as a writer with a subject expertise puts you ahead of nearly all competition when finding ghostwriting gigs.
- Target business leaders. Use your professional network to find the alpha dogs of the business world. They’re often far too busy to write books on their own, and pay ghostwriters well.
- Make business cards and leave them in well-trafficked areas. Go to affluent neighborhoods and leave business cards behind in coffee shops, libraries, hotel common areas, etc.
Whether through a friend, Upwork.com, Craigslist, a website/blog/social media presence, sharpening up on a skill, targeting your friendly neighborhood CEO, or hitting the rich neighborhoods with a stack of business cards, writers don’t have to be poor (even if it’s fun to joke about).
Now go out and land a high-paying gig and make me proud!
What’s Your Story?
Have you ever landed a high-paying writing gig? How did you do it? Share in the comments below. I’m open to guest posts for compelling and insightful stories about this topic.
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Fighting the good fight with you,