In Search of Buried Treasure: Five Ways to Expand Your Contacts

Any technical writer working as a contractor knows the importance of self-marketing. Although referrals and agencies are fine ways to secure contracts, finding a new client completely on your own is as exciting as discovering buried treasure.

Just how do you find unadvertised companies in need of technical writers? Here are five less-traveled routes. They may not offer the faster rate of return of conventional job search methods, but each will help you achieve your goals–circulating your name and making new connections for future contracts.

Donate your Skills

Many schools and organizations hold goods and services auctions as fundraisers. A wide range of bidders attends these auctions, some of whom may work for local software companies or own their own business, and who may be interested in technical communication services.

One way to find new contacts is by donating a block of your time to be auctioned off; for example, offer six hours of writing services. You might target your own specialized service, such as web projects. Or, for wider exposure, offer a block of time toward any technical documentation need: company brochures, software instructions, or newsletters.

To post your service at the event, make a small poster or flyer that describes your offering and the terms. Talk to the auction manager to determine exactly how the event is set up. Typically, your poster will either be placed with others on a silent auction display table or included in a booklet where it will be viewed quickly by many auction attendees. Make it eye-catching and highlight the types of services you are willing to provide. Don’t forget to include a stack of business cards with your display.

Because the writing job you ultimately perform may take longer than the time you are donating, this could become a paying venture once your work has exceeded your donation. Be clear up front about your hourly rate for additional time, and consider offering a reduced rate in the spirit of the donation.

Focus on Small Companies

Even though they no longer get the media coverage they once did, don’t ignore start-up companies. These companies normally do not have their own technical writer but still have a relatively enormous need for good documentation. A strong relationship with a fledgling business can be a source of repeat business.

To locate start-up companies, keep your ears open at business gatherings. Pay attention when you hear of someone changing jobs, or someone with a side venture. Expand your scope by searching employment boards or your local newspaper and send them your brochure. Follow up with a phone call to discover where these companies stand in their documentation efforts. During your phone conversation, discuss how they are addressing their documentation needs and perhaps offer a few free recommendations.

Get Your Name Out

Business cards and brochures are not the only way to get your name out there. Either on your own or with an experienced designer, produce a logo that includes your name and contact information and use it in as many ways as possible. A visit to your local copy shop should provide plenty of inspiration: anything from T-shirts to coffee cups to pencils can be emblazoned with your logo. A good initial investment is a bulk order of small notepads bearing your logo. Use the paper for notes you send to anyone