One day a young freelance writer was walking along an ocean pier.
He breathed in the brisk, salty air that tickled his nose, making him aware of all his senses. Realizing he felt a little hungry (he hadn’t had any new gigs lately), he looked around for a morsel to sate his hunger.
Through the air cut the aroma of freshly caught, freshly grilled fish. Not far down the pier, a middle-aged gentleman was handling a pair of tongs, periodically flipping fish on the grill. The young writer approached to see the man’s prices. As he got closer to the vendor, he noticed a sign in front of the vendor’s cart:
1 WORD FOR 1 FISH
“One word for one fish?” the young man thought. Intrigued and hungry, the young man approached.
“Sir, what do you mean by one word for one fish?” the young man asked.
“Exactly what it says.” The man grinned. “Give me just one word and I’ll give you one fish.”
Surprised, the young man gave a word. “How about, ‘Fish’?”
“Not very creative,” the man said, “but it’ll do. Here’s your fish!” He flopped it on a plate and handed it over.
The young man was surprised by how easy his catch was and bit into the delicious fish. He mumbled thanks through a mouthful of steamy fish as he walked away.
The next day, the young man came back in search of more fish. But news of the man’s strange promotion had gone viral–every mother and her uncle wanted a fish for one word. They crowded the vendor’s cart, shouting out their words.
Smiling, the vendor said, “I’m so grateful all of you have come, but I only have so much fish. Only some of you will get to eat today.”
The group crowded even more, shouting out the best words they could think of. Eventually the fish ran out. Not even the young writer had gotten one.
Upset that he hadn’t got his fish for a word, the writer leaned forward against the side of the pier, arms folded. He looked down into the water below, and what did he see? Thousands of fish swimming around, not a care in the world.
“Sir!” the young man shouted to the vendor, “There’s plenty of fish here!”
The vendor didn’t even look over the side. “Yes! But alas, you have no pole.”
Fishing without a Pole
Much of us find ourselves in a similar situation to the young writer. In search of the personal freedom that a life of freelance writing could provide, writers make the leap. But they come across an unfortunate truth–there don’t seem to be enough fish to go around.
For freelancers, it’s not a matter of drive or effort. There are many freelance writers out there willing to offer a word for a fish. Heck, they’d offer a whole lot more than one word. The problem is, they are relying on fish vendors to get them what they need. They go to the fish vendor, or in their case, freelancer networks like Upwork and Fiverr. And what do they find? There isn’t enough fish to go around–at least not from the fish vendor.
So what is a writer to do?
Smart freelancers have multiple channels by which they obtain new freelance clients. You likely have developed your own ways of catching clients. But I want to tell you about a different way, one that you probably have never tried. One that I stumbled upon when trying out a new method for proofreading websites.
Your Brand New Fishing Pole (Complete with Hooks)
I stumbled upon this new method for obtaining freelance writing clients when I was in college. I had been noticing tons of typos on websites and was trying to figure out a good way to proofread websites and get paid to do it. What I came up with was pretty clunky, but revealed an interesting opportunity.
As I perused the internet, I would take screenshots of web pages that had typos on them. I invested in a little electronic writing pad and would electronically “mark up” these screenshots. They looked something like this:
My thought was: “I’ll send these proofreading samples to the owners of these websites, and hopefully they’ll be interested in having me proofread the entire site.”
That’s what I did. And the response I got every single time was, “Oh, we just need to rewrite that anyway.” And then they would add, “Can you rewrite it for me?”
The light bulb went off. Most of these websites that had typos had never hired a writer. These were web developers and business people trying to write websites, and they just didn’t know how. I said yes to their request, and that’s how our relationship started.
This method may not be right for every website (the owner of a website with a single typo might not be so concerned as one that needs a major overhaul). But it’s a quick and easy way to talk to the right person.
Imagine this scenario: you email a company with the subject line “I found a typo on your website.” The person is curious to know what that typo might be. If you drop a picture of the typo right in the email, and the typo is significant enough, it’s likely they’ll pass that on to the person who needs to know about it. And if you played your cards right and included your info, this could be the start of a beautiful relationship.
It’s not a perfect system. But here’s one way you can go about it if you use Chrome as your browser:
- First, download the Full Page Screen Capture Chrome Extension
After you install, you will see a new button in your Google Chrome that looks like a camera.
- When you find a web page with a typo in it, activate the extension by clicking on the extension’s icon. Give it a second to do it’s thing and it will open a new tab. You will have the option to download a PDF or an image. Downloading an image is better because you can include it directly in the body of your email.
- Use an image editor like Paint (Windows) or Preview (Apple) to mark up the image. You can even crop the image if you just want to focus on one part of the page, but I think it’s worth it to do the entire thing.
- Find an email on the website and send it off! If you can’t find an email, try tweeting the picture to the company.
This method is clunky, but like I said, it gets conversations started. It shows initiative and helps you reach out to people that need the help, don’t know they need the help, and aren’t actively looking. Who are you competing against? No one. That’s a whole lot more viable than relying on Upwork or Fiverr, who take 20% of your earnings and are and turning writers away because they’re oversaturated.
Building You a Better Fishing Pole
In order to make this method easier, a couple friends and I began developing our own Google Chrome Extension that will allow you to mark up a website directly within your web browser. Just like in Google Docs where you can go into suggestion mode where any changes you make are visible, you’ll be able to do the same thing with a website. Here’s an example:
This extension makes adding, deleting and changing text easily visible and shareable. Using this extension will make catching fish with typos as hooks much easier. In addition, you’ll be able to collaborate in real-time with clients about the content of their website (just like in Google Docs, but right on the website).
Unlike the young man on the pier, you can get to the fish, because you will have the tools. If you’re interesting in gaining early access to this extension, fill out the form below and we’ll add you to the list!