It's the classic freelance catch 22 — how do I find clients for freelance without a freelance UX writing client?
Even better, how do I compete if I don't have a big-name company to back me up.
This feeling is even more real if you’re also figuring out how to get into UX writing.
Many UX writers and UX writing freelancers dream of having big tech logos, like Google and Meta, on their freelance site. They think having those logos behind them will make them “legit” and make landing clients easier. Maybe this sounds familiar?
Well, I'm here to tell you, this is all made up of a hubbub, unicorn, leprechaun preach.
Yes, it will definitely not hurt you to have a big name company as a past client, but it is in NO WAY a prerequisite to finding success as a freelance UX writer or finding freelance clients.
Big name clients do one thing for you — they show you're credible.
The good news? There are 4 other even more powerful (IMO) ways to show a client you're credible.
- Being hyper-relevant to a niche
- Blogging your expertise
- Showcasing relevant past work
- Showcasing testimonials
Maybe those sound basic. Maybe they sound new-worldly.
But, here's the thing — you could have worked for all the big guys, but if your website is crummy, and you miss the 4 things I mentioned, clients aren't going to come to you. Instead, you’ll be drumming the cold-outreach hustle.
Let me explain…
1. Being hyper-relevant to a niche
Working for Amazon is great and wonderful and all, but working for Amazon doesn't work toward making you relevant.
Startup CEOs and co-founders tell me time and time again they look for freelancers that are relevant to their company. Being relevant to their company isn't just a nice to have — it's a deciding factor.
That's why it's so important for freelance UX writers to pick a defined niche, especially when you're just getting started.
A niche tells a potential client you are an expert not just in UX writing, but in their space. That means you'll have special insights other freelance UX writers without that niche can't bring to the table.
For example, if you're a freelance UX writer for fintech apps, you're hyper-relevant because your niche shows you know how to ask for sensitive information and know a thing or two about regulations fintechs deal with. The startup would have to bring another freelancer up to speed on those things, and the freelancer is supposed to be coming there to save them time.
Also, having a niche lets you build a “playbook.” A playbook is your book of secrets of what works for a niche.
For example, after 5 or 6 fintech clients, you'll get a good grasp of what works and what doesn't work. And other fintech startups will pay top dollar for you to take advantage of what has and hasn't worked for others in their space.
Being niched and relevant outperforms having a big-name logo on your website because that big name is generic and likely not relevant to the 6-month-old seed stage startup that needs your help.
That's the other thing — the idea that big companies are across the board “good” is subjective.
Some people have a bad impression of the work that gets done at the big guys, especially when it comes to pace and being scrappy. A startup would much prefer you've worked for a relevant startup than a big company.
If you haven't picked a niche or don't know how to, start by thinking about what you know a thing or two about. This could be an industry, like insurance, or a passion or hobby of yours, like health and fitness. It could even be a specific area of UX writing, like help centers or design systems.
Pick the one you feel most confident and excited about, and develop your online presence to radiate messaging relevant to your niche.
2. Blog your expertise
Blogging is my secret sauce. I blogged my way to sending $100k proposals for a reason.
By blogging on my UX writing freelance site regularly, I:
- Drove more and more traffic to it
- Showed potentials UX writing clients I'm credible
Clients don't need to know how to write an error message, but they need to know you intimately know how to do that kind of UX writer work.
Blogging positions you as a thought leader, because most freelancers don't invest the time to show off what they know.
If you're not sure what to blog about, I'd recommend blogging about:
- How to do UX writing
- Remote UX writing or being a UX writer freelance style
- Why UX writing matters in your niche
- Strong UX writing opinions you have
- What it's like to work with a freelance UX writer
- How you apply UX writing to your niche and freelance work
Imagine you're a fintech startup CEO — would you rather hire a freelance UX writer who wrote a 1,500-word blog post about how to give users peace of mind when linking their bank account, or someone who was previously Google?
3. Showcase relevant past work
Showing off your past work is an excellent way to show you're credible. It shows you're even more credible if your past work is within your niche.
If you don't have past freelance jobs within your niche at the moment, don't fret. As you land UX writing work within your niche, add those projects to your work samples page on your website. It'll build over time.
Continuing with the fintech example, showing a fintech startup CEO how you successfully increased sign-ups for a Traditional IRA offering if much more powerful than the Microsoft logo sitting on your site.
Consider reaching out to a local non-profit and suggesting a way you can help.
Or find a startup within your niche that has a piece of their product that could be improved. Find a contact on LinkedIn or some other social media site from the startup. Offer to improve it in exchange for being able to put it in your portfolio and maybe even a testimonial (if they're happy with what you did.)
Speaking of testimonials…
4. Showcase testimonials
The great thing about testimonials is they show, not tell.
Showing that a) someone was willing to vouch for you and b) that they had wonderful things to say goes a long, long way.
Again, if it's a testimonial within your niche, that is so, so, so relevant to a potential client in your niche, and is so, so, so powerful.
If you don't have testimonials, you can follow the suggestion in the past work section above.
It's also not too late to reach out to previous co-workers and employers for kind words.
Just say you're building out your freelance business, you look back fondly at your time working together, and would they be open to providing a testimonial.
You could even offer to write it for them to just approve, that way they don't have to fret about what to say.
90% of the time, people are more than willing to support you.
Big companies are just labels. Unless they're relevant to your potential clients, like a designer purse, they're empty on the inside.
Instead of dreaming of Adobe, define your niche, build relevance, and show you're credible through thought leadership.
That's how I grew my business, and I even eventually landed big clients from that. Funny how these things go.
Start today — tomorrow's too late.
Happy UX writing 🖖