I was recently asked the best way to find freelance work with French companies. The London-based freelancer in question wanted to know the secret to breaking into the French copywriting market.
This got me thinking about how I find work and whether cultural differences are at play when hooking new clients.
Before starting though, I’d like to point out that I probably not the best person to make work-related comparisons between the UK and France given that I’ve spent nearly all my working life on the other side of the pond and most of my clients are based in the City of Light, albeit with international clients or subsidiaries.
EASY WAYS TO FIND FREELANCE WORK IN FRANCE:
1.) Get freelance work by…phoning a friend
I’d say that most of my work comes from recommendations. This isn’t particularly French and applies all around the globe: for a client, it’s more reassuring and less risky if your track record has already been validated.
The advantage of being based in France is that I can meet clients personally and attend local events where casual conversations can grow into professional projects. Word of mouth is the watchphrase.
2.) Get freelance work by…asking the audience
I also get quite a lot of work via LinkedIn. Again, being able to see your recommendations and contacts is reassuring and shows who you’ve worked for and if your clients are happy.
This isn’t specifically French and the French version of the site, Viadeo, is far less used. I’ve pretty much left my profile to its own devices for a while now.
3.) Get freelance work by… building a web
My website also brings me new clients and is also a good way to show off my work. The advantage of being an English Copywriter in Paris rather than just another French copywriter is that there is less competition as it’s more of a niche market.
4.) Get freelance work by… getting up close and personal
It goes without saying that being physically in Paris is a big plus and makes it easier to stop by for a chat or interview at a moment’s notice. Many companies like to know that you are close at hand, available for meetings and in the same time zone, even if they rarely actually need to see you face-to-face.
You’ve got a lead? You want to send your CV a French company? Here are a few tips to help you pitch it right.
HOW TO GET PICKED FOR A FREELANCE PROJECT IN FRANCE:
1.) BE A CAMELEON
Match the level of formality used by the other person both in writing and orally. If in doubt, keep it very polite and stick to the “vous”. You can break the ice with a little causal conversation, but don’t get too personal too quickly. The best approach? Wait, see and adapt.
2.) USE THE LINGO
Use your French whenever possible. One of the big advantages of having a French-speaking English copywriter is that the client doesn’t need to worry about communicating in English or translating documents. People working in agencies and start-ups tend to be keener to use their English, but don’t take this for granted.
To give you an idea, I use French in meetings, phone calls and emails more than 90% of the time.
3.) PREPARE FOR AN INQUISITION
Be prepared for detailed questions about your professional experience. French companies aren’t necessarily used to working with freelancers and like to be reassured that you have already worked on the same kind of project in the same sector. So, if you have any relevant experience make sure you mention it. If you don’t, give examples of projects with some similar characteristics (e.g. web, B2B).
You could, of course, try to explain that your writing skills can be applied to any product or topic and that having an outsider’s perspective provides fresh insight, but there are no guarantees that this will work.
4.) OPT FOR AN EASIER TARGET
In general, it is easier to find work with agencies and start-ups than directly with other kinds of company. Agencies are used to working with freelancers and offer the added advantage of dealing with the client for you. Start-ups are also usually more flexible and willing to give you a chance, but may have a limited budget.
5.) DO IT LIKE A PRO
As always, keep it polished and professional. Check punctuation, re-read your replies, print off examples of your work, give your business card, reply promptly and be polite on the phone even when the client is unreasonable.
Basically, make it as easy as possible for the company to work with you!
I hope these insights were helpful and good luck if you’re looking for freelance work.
Have you had any positive or negative experiences working with French companies? Do you think it’s easy being a freelancer in France? I’d love to hear from you!