I believe that everything happens for a reason, even when those reasons don’t seem to surface for many, many years. For example, I went to school to become a high school teacher, and then I realized that was so not what I was meant to do.

I quit to start a family with my husband only to struggle with infertility. However, during that time, I was offered a position at a local nonprofit as their special events coordinator. From there, I started writing donation letters, editing newsletters and learning a ton about marketing.

In many ways, that opportunity springboarded my freelance career. During my time in the nonprofit industry, I learned several lessons about working with different personalities, what it takes to grow a business and where to find new clients. Overall, I learned some great skills that I continually put into practice as a freelance writer. Here are a few that I hope helps you in your quest for success.

1) Every person you meet could be a new opportunity

Nonprofit leaders believe that each person is a potential donor, so they undoubtedly share the mission of their charity with anyone whose path they cross. In most cases, their nonprofit is also their passion, so they can’t help but share their stories and goals.

As a freelancer, I use that same strategy to a certain extent. I inevitably ask a new acquaintance what they do for a living, and then I share my career. I’ve written for companies ranging from convalescent homes to those in political fundraising, from photographers to wig distributors, I tend to always find something relatable to discuss.

During the following day or two, if we really had a good discussion, I find that person on Facebook or LinkedIn and connect with them. It keeps the relationship going with minimal effort.

2) Be ubiquitous

The bigger your cyber trail and the more work examples you have, the better. One of the hardest things to prove when working through online resources is your credibility. Through having your work published on Tumblr, Articlebase, a personal blog, different client’s websites, etc., you will gain that credibility and increase the number of places potential clients can find you.

Nonprofits go to where people of like mindedness are; freelancers also need to find their audience.

Write for blogs and publications in the industries you’ve targeted as your areas of expertise. Contribute tactical and proven advice that will demonstrate your expertise and knowledge domain. Do this enough times so that the people who frequent the blogs you are contributing to will begin to recognize your name, establishing yourself as a thought leader.

Strategically building a presence on relevant social media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter will broaden your audience and increase your chances of getting noticed. Find specific groups that are relevant to your target audience and start having conversations. The internet has made it very easy to build a presence among potential clients, take advantage of that and make yourself known!

3) Get experience

I got my start as a freelance writer through applying for random jobs on Craigslist. Honestly, I don’t even remember applying for my first job! It was blogging for a medical career college for $15 per blog, one blog per day. I learned how to use WordPress, what SEO was, how to discipline myself to write every day and what tools to use to find information on a topic I knew nothing about.

Once I felt comfortable blogging, I contributed to random sites just to build up my resume and to show the breadth of my work. Five years later, I have a steady flow of clients and make an average of $45 per blog. Nonprofits and freelancers both need to prove that they can deliver results.

For nonprofits, they send out reports of how many people attended an event, how much money was raised, or post pictures of the completed project or event. Freelancers proof of success lies within an increase of followers, likes, and shares within social media, an upturn in click through rates, or more hits on the company’s website. Our job is to get people talking about our client and bring them to the website or storefront so that the company itself can secure the sale.

4) Use any and all available resources

Nonprofit leaders create an incredibly detailed paper trail when they meet new people or hear about an opportunity to promote their cause. They use the internet to research a person, find common ground and arrange for a meeting to make the “ask.” Freelancers need to do the same thing. We need to keep our ears open for potential clients, research what their company is about, and show how we can bring value to promoting their business.

My favorite place for professional networking is LinkedIn, but its benefits are more for staying connected with people you already know or allowing potential clients to find you rather than for finding work in freelance writing (you can find a ton of marketing or copywriting opportunities, but those are more specialized jobs).

CloudPeeps is a great resource you should be tapping for finding new clients and jobs. While it is still young, it has reputable companies posting for freelance opportunities, it’s a great community for tips and networking, and there are real people who are passionate about helping freelancers succeed so you won’t get lost in cyber obscurity.

5) Referrals help build credibility and business

Don’t forget that your clients and other freelancers are also great resources!

One of the clients that I have worked with the most is a freelance online marketing consultant. I met him at my second freelance position and since then, he has hired me for four additional projects. As he floats around working for different startups, he brings me along. Many times, I meet other entrepreneurs through these jobs, connect with them on LinkedIn, and when things get slow, I ask these new connections if they could keep me in mind for future projects. In addition, it’s a small world. Many of these startup founders know each other and tend to have more side projects. Some work out, most of them don’t, but at least the potential is there. Who knows what can happen?

Think about the last time you donated to or volunteered with a nonprofit. How easy did they make it for you to spread the word of their organization? Provide a positive experience as a freelancer and don’t be afraid to ask for referrals! But when you do, have the collateral and information necessary to help your fellow freelancers and clients spread the word about your quality work.

Final thoughts

No one said that being a freelancer is easy, but like fishing you’ve got to know where the fish are if you want to catch one — you need the right kind of bait, and sometimes it’s just a big waiting game. However, if you are in the game long enough you might just catch the job of your dreams.

If you’re having trouble finding clients, sign up for CloudPeeps for access to jobs with startups and mid-sized companies trying to change the world!