How to Approach Agencies for Freelance Work

Freelancer calling prospective client to discuss working with them

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If you're a talented copywriter, art director, or designer, then you've assembled a solid body of work, you have an online portfolio, and you're ready to start bringing in the big bucks. 

There's only one problem. You don't have any clients.

There are several options available to you. The first is to go directly to clients and build relationships that will lead to a steady stream of income. However, the obstacle is that most medium to large businesses already have advertising agencies, while small businesses may not have a lot of big projects.

Don't panic. Your best approach is to target advertising and design agencies directly because they've already done the hard work of assembling a client roster. Now your only obstacle is convincing the agency that you are a qualified, legitimate, and dependable freelancer they can count on. 

Here are four steps you can take to nab those lucrative freelance jobs:

Create Self-Promotion Materials

Create an information packet that details your previous work, your freelance rates, and some writing samples. Mailing this will cost more than a first-class stamp, but it's often worth the cost and, as the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money. Just be sure to address the packet to the Creative Director.

You could also send the packet out electronically, creating a snappy subject line that will get the Creative Director's attention. And, while it's a digital world, the only roadblock to an email campaign is that some people do not like to open attachments from people they don't know. The workaround for that would be to paste your information into the body of the email. Be sure to keep it short. 

You could also send a cover letter through the mail (or digitally) introducing yourself and then telling the Creative Director to contact you to request your complete information packet. If you do that, always include your rates and a line or two touting your successes and talents. 

Be Your Own Market Research Firm

The other thing you can do is mimic the agencies and marketing firms by testing your materials. Let's say you have a hundred agencies you're interested in contacting. Select ten firms and send them your entire information packet. Select another ten and send them a cover letter with just the essential information about you and let them know that they can contact you for work. Select another ten and send them a small card (with even less information) and tell them how they can request your packet.

Run the numbers on the thirty agencies to see which campaign netted the best results, and use that method when approaching the remaining seventy firms.  

Just make sure that whatever kind of outreach you do that you only approach agencies that make sense. For instance, an agency that only handles aeronautical clients needs skilled high-tech writers. If your expertise is beauty, health, and fashion, don't approach them. 

Think Small

Don't be afraid to approach the small agencies. The smaller agencies generally don't have copywriters on staff. You could become their regular copywriter with steady work, and they avoid having to commit to bringing on a full-time employee, with benefits.

Look Within the Industry

You can also find agency prospects by using the Standard Directory of Advertising Agencies. This guide to agencies, contact names, clients they handle, and revenue is updated quarterly. Just be sure you're checking the current edition. Unfortunately, this book costs more than $1,000 but your local library should have a copy in the reference section.