Whether you have a passion project you’re desperate to bring to life or want to make some extra beer (or Merlot) money each month, freelancing is a great creative outlet and salary supplement.
But to build up steady, sustainable work—and make it worth your extracurricular time—you need to tell your network what you’re up to.
If you feel a little uneasy about broadcasting your side gig to everyone you know when you still have a day job, first check your full-time job contract and review your company’s policies about freelancing. Many companies don’t have firm legal rules around side gigging, and if they do, it’s usually limited to a noncompete (i.e., you can’t use your side gig to steal clients or potential clients from your employer).
Once you’re in the clear, make a list of the contacts you want to tell about your project. And remember while not everyone in your network will need the services you’re offering, there’s a good chance they know other people who do.
When you write your email, you want to make sure to include all the relevant details, so that you avoid an influx of follow-up emails and people who receive it can easily forward it on to other contacts they know. Start by answering these four questions:
1. Who Do You Want to Work With?
The beauty of freelancing—especially when it’s a side gig—is that you get to choose who you work with.
Don’t be afraid to be specific; the clearer you are about who you want to help—for example, women entrepreneurs looking for copywriting or comedians looking for website redesigns—the more easily your community will be able to pass people your way.
2. What Projects Are You Really Interested in Working On?
If you’re a copywriter, what kind of copywriting do you focus on? Websites? Social media content? Marketing materials?
Again, the more specifics you can offer, the more your community will be able to help you find the right work. For example, if you want to design websites for comedians, do you work in WordPress or Squarespace? Do you only want to take on full redesigns, or are you up for smaller design projects, like creating logos?
3. What’s Your Pricing?
If you’ve already figured out how much you want to charge (including whether you’ll charge an hourly rate or by the project), that’s another helpful piece of information for your network to consider or pass along to people who might be interested in working with you.
However, if you haven’t decided on a pricing structure or want the flexibility to talk to potential clients before setting a firm price, leave this out.
4. How Do You Want These People to Help You?
The how is the most important part of your email. You may think it feels pushy; however, your network will be less likely to help if they’re not sure how to do it. So, give people a clear takeaway action, such as, “I’d love to be a resource to you if you’re looking for help writing website copy for your business (or side gig)!”
Now, put it all together. Here’s an example:
Hi family and friends,
Hope you’re doing well. As I’ve mentioned to a few of you, I’ve started freelance copywriting as a side gig. Many of you know how much I love to write, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while, so I’m excited to start taking on some fun projects. As I get started in this venture, I’d love your help!
I’m specifically interested in helping women entrepreneurs write website copy, marketing materials, and social media posts.
If you know any women entrepreneurs who might be looking for some copywriting help, I’d be grateful for an email introduction. Also, if any of you are starting your own entrepreneurial endeavors, I’d love to hear more about your project and explore ways I might be able to help.
I appreciate your support and look forward to connecting with you soon!
All the best,
And if, once you’ve checked in with your company’s policies, you find you need to be a little more discreet in communicating your side gig, you can include a line in your email indicating that you’re only reaching out to a handful of people and would be grateful if the recipients kept the news under their hat—except, of course, to anyone who might need your services.
Then, by all means, spread the word.