How a Freelance Copywriter Thrived on Just Referrals for 9 Years
For Tabitha Tan, raising awareness of her services and over-delivering have gone a long way.
There are many ways of getting freelance clients, but probably everyone’s favourite way is through referrals.
That’s the magic process where clients actively seek you out to engage your services, without you having to lift a finger!
And amazingly, Tabitha Tan has been “super super blessed” to have flourished as a freelance copywriter for 9 years almost purely through referral business. (“I’ve only approached people twice.”)
Tabitha started freelancing on the side while working in a non-profit organisation. A friend from junior college offered her a freelance copywriting gig, which she accepted.
The jobs continued rolling in. In 2018, Tabitha became a full-time freelancer, under the brand name The Write Co, to earn an income after she and her husband moved to London.
Work was lucrative, with Tabitha snagging copywriting projects worth as high as $10,000. Fast-forward to today where Tabitha is back in Singapore and these days, The Write Co has taken a backseat as she focuses on her newly-launched bridal studio.
I chat with Tabitha to find out how she was able to generate so much referral work—without actively asking clients for it.
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Raising awareness of her services
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Ok so, @thewrite.co is OFFICIALLY LIVE! I thought so long about whether to put it off because so many things aren’t ready and when would be a good time to ‘launch it’. And naturally, all that did was create more stress. So I’m choosing to celebrate it instead. 🙌🏼 To celebrate this gorgeous site thanks to @beachsidestudio (she is the best!!), to celebrate being one step closer to building this business and to give myself a pat on the back after countless late and stressful nights of frantically reading copy to @thewanandonlywan and having @shirorage talk me through the many almost-breakdowns. To the rest who have been super supportive and constantly checked in on me and kept me sane, thank you @hweewheet & @laadeelaa. And @midlifecrisisasian for already sharing it even when it wasn’t totally ready. x Yes I know there’s plenty that isn’t ready, I’m still busy planning out the programmes & working on creating content. But we gotta start somewhere so here it is! Like @musicshen wisely said, His 💡 unto my feet, enough to see one step ahead to continually walk in faith. Greatest thanks to God who’s brought me this far and continually provides abundantly and overwhelmingly. Link to the site in bio. 💕
Tabitha believes that it’s important for freelancers to “put it out there” that they are providing certain services.
“You cannot assume that people know what you are doing for a living.”
To make her copywriting services known, Tabitha talks about them on social media (“but not in a very salesy sort of way”). For example, she might share about the projects that she’s currently working on.
This way, if one of her social media friends—even the “random” people whom Tabitha hasn’t talked to in years—chance upon someone’s Facebook post looking for a freelance copywriter, they’ll be reminded of her.
Then, they’ll tag her in the post so the poster can connect with her!
Tabitha likens such self-promotion to doing your own personal branding.
“It’s just important for people to know [what you’re doing] because you never know what doors they may open [for you],” she says.
“You never know who’s linked to who.”
Expanding her network of contacts
Apart from sharing about her services to people already in her network, Tabitha also makes an effort to increase the size of her existing network. Over the years, she has cultivated a casual network of people that she can refer work to and also get referrals from.
In particular, Tabitha recommends getting to know people in trades complementary to yours.
If you’re a copywriter for example, designers, photographers and web developers are great people to know. That’s because their clients may ask for copywriting services, and you stand a good chance of being referred for the job.
So the next question is: how can you grow your network?
Tabitha doesn’t attend networking events, but she has joined a few Telegram networking groups where people share job opportunities.
If she sees a post from someone needing marketing help, she’ll drop them a private message.
Another way she suggests is to attend workshops—not just for what you can learn during them, but also for the people you may meet while you’re there.
Delivering quality service to clients
Before joining in the non-profit organisation, Tabitha spent 2 years honing her marketing and branding expertise at an advertising agency.
She became very skilled at her craft thanks to such work experience,
For example, Tabitha estimates that excluding the time taken for prep work, she can write the copy for an entire website in around an hour. Her turnaround time is also “really fast” so she can usually get back to clients within a week.
And even before any work takes place, Tabitha is able to advise clients on:
- How they should market to their customers
- What kind of copy their website should include
“I think that gives them confidence in me, like credibility-wise, like I know what I’m talking about.”
Given Tabitha’s expertise, her friends know that even if the potential client is “clueless” on what it needs, she will be able to help it achieve its aim—and as a result, they have no problem referring a job to her.
Being genuinely concerned for her clients’ businesses
No matter how much the project is paying her, Tabitha goes above and beyond for every client.
As a copywriter, Tabitha technically doesn’t need to help clients with non-copywriting related tasks such as branding. But she’s always happy to help with “small stuff” like emails and collaterals at no extra charge.
Because of this, Tabitha’s clients know that she is genuinely concerned for their business, and are comfortable referring her to others.
This also applies to prospects who end up not working with Tabitha due to budget constraints.
If Tabitha thinks that she and the prospect are not a good fit budget-wise, she’ll let them know. But she doesn’t just stop there: Tabitha will also refer them to someone more suitable for the job.
Losing the sale might seem like a loss to her, but it’s not.
That’s because sometimes, those prospects will later on meet someone who needs her services. And they’ll recommend her, even though they themselves haven’t worked with her!
Tabitha thinks that this happens because the prospect knows that she wouldn’t try to close them just for the sake of doing so.
“I think that’s what my friends who have referred me also know,” shares Tabitha.
“I’ll only do it if I can and if I’m confident of doing it for you. If not then it’s okay, I’ll help you find someone that can do it for you.
And that’s how even if [prospects have] never worked with me before, they eventually come back when they do need the help.”
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