In my first six months of freelancing, I landed two clients I was excited about for different reasons. One was a scrappy travel startup, and the other was a well-known technology company.
The startup had an admirable mission and quirky culture. But I quickly found that working for them was challenging. My contact there seemed to thrive on statements like, “I wear a lot of hats in my role”—and they expected me to adopt the same attitude. They pushed back on industry-standard rates because of budget constraints, offering me barter incentives instead.
Meanwhile, working for the tech client was a dream. They had a clearly established marketing team, a dedicated editor for me to collaborate with, and a solidified style guide and brand voice. Even better, they paid me instantly upon the first draft submission.
It was an “aha” moment for me about the types of clients I wanted to pursue moving forward: Corporate, I decided, was the way to go.
The case for going corporate
Maybe it’s not news to some of you that big, corporate brands are coveted clients among freelancers. But if you’d asked me which of the two clients above would have been my favorite before I completed any work for them, I would have said the startup, hands down.
But it turns out that, as a freelancer, I only wanted to wear one hat: Freelance writer, paid on a per-project basis, with two rounds of revisions included in my fees and a reasonable amount of time (usually two business days) to complete requested edits. The startup may have had a fun office culture, but it didn’t matter much to someone like me who worked remotely—especially when they couldn’t afford to pay me in actual dollars.
And I discovered that my rates were often no problem for corporate clients. As I began adding more and bigger companies to my roster, I found they had other benefits, including:
- Established processes for working with freelancers
- More surgical and specific content needs
- Clearer communication channels
Often, structured feedback mechanisms and predictable payment schedules were the norm. I also realized that just because a client is “corporate” doesn’t necessarily mean their culture is dry or their mission insincere. Over the years, I’ve landed work with plenty of brands whose ethos—and, importantly, actions—I can get behind.
6 ways to land corporate clients as a freelancer
It can take a little while to break into creative freelance work for corporate clients, but once you get a foot in the door, every subsequent opportunity gets a little easier to score.
Here are six tips for breaking into this kind of work.
1. Find something to specialize in. I’m not knocking generalists here, and there are a lot of benefits to having more than one niche as a freelance creative. But many corporate clients want to see that you have demonstrable expertise in a certain topic, whether that’s sustainable fashion, fintech, health technology, or podcast writing.
If you want to showcase your specialized services without disqualifying yourself for potential jobs in other fields, consider setting up multiple ways to display your best work. For example, I use Contently as my “generalist” portfolio, and I have a separate Squarespace site set up for my niche (climate tech).
2. Join freelancer marketplaces. Getting an “in” with corporate clients is much easier when a trusted, well-connected entity puts your name in front of brands and advocates on your behalf. That tech client I mentioned above? I found them through Contently, which pairs qualified freelance creatives with major brands like Spotify, PayPal, and JP Morgan Chase looking to supplement their marketing efforts or content teams. To this day, the tech brand is still one of my anchor clients.
As a bonus, some marketplaces like Contently offer a buffer between you and the brand in the form of a Managing Editor, who will be your main point-person for fielding briefs, making edits, and handling client communications. Freelancing platforms also tend to pay contractors faster than the typical client’s accounting department; for writers, Contently usually issues half of a project’s payment upon first draft submission.
3. Present yourself as a professional. They say you should dress for the job you want, and when those jobs are primarily online, that means your digital presence—everything from your portfolio clips to your Zoom profile picture to your email sign-off—should be impeccable. In other words, ditch that “headshot” that’s cropped from a blurry group pic for a more polished image. (It’s somewhat controversial, but you can even use AI for this if you don’t want to pony up for professionally taken photos.)
4. Cold pitch—and seek feedback on rejected pitches. Cold pitching can be a slog at first, but it can also pay off if you get a bite. Again—you’re looking for a foot in the door here. When crafting a cold pitch message, be sure to personalize it to the recipient, highlight how your skills align with their specific needs, and demonstrate your familiarity with the brand or industry. You’ll also want to include a few (but not too many!) links to relevant clips of your published work.
Freelancers with a LinkedIn Premium membership—which costs $29.99 per month after a one-month free trial—can also try sending a respectful, to-the-point, and well-written message to editors, content marketers, or creative directors who might be good gateways to potential opportunities. Premium members get access to LinkedIn’s advanced search feature, which expands the parameters you can use to search for potential contacts—including company size, Fortune 500 rankings, job titles, and even seniority. Members can send up to five InMail messages per month.
5. Tap your network. I know, I know— “networking” is one of those tips that seems to come up in just about every article about freelancing ever written. But cliches exist for a reason. As a freelancer, your network really is everything. These days, there are a lot of places for you to get lures in the water, from Facebook groups for freelance writers and designers to Slack communities to industry-specific forums and virtual meetups.
6. Work with an agency or public relations (PR) firm. Working with agencies or teaming up with PR firms that may also be fielding requests from big brands for content initiatives is another way to tap into a larger pool of potential corporate clients.
Keep in mind, however, that agency work often involves a lot of cooks in the kitchen, which can translate into extra rounds of edits and/or complex communication protocols. Be sure to set expectations clearly and upfront if you’ll be working with a third-party agency or firm in this capacity.
While corporations aren’t always “better” clients than startups or small businesses, they can often be more reliable, lucrative, and structured—and working with them can be a stellar way to add cachet to your portfolio. (Not to mention that diversifying your client base can be both a security measure and a growth strategy!)
Ultimately, the freelance lifestyle is about discovering what aligns with your goals, values, and work-life preferences. The corporate route might not be for everyone, but it’s an avenue well worth exploring for freelancers seeking stability, clarity, and a chance to collaborate with influential brands.
Learn more about getting started on Contently as a freelancer.