Every week, I meet writers who are taking their first plunge into freelance marketing. Maybe they’ve grown tired of applying for UpWork gigs they don’t get, scanning Craigslist ads for hours, or of getting $10 a post from a content mill.
To me, this is an exciting moment, when writers realize they’re in business — and running a business means you do proactive marketing. Passively trolling online ads that are each going to get 1,000 responses isn’t your ticket to high earnings.
This is all good, but often, when you first start active marketing, it can be discouraging. Early results may not be stellar. There’s a decent bit to know to win at pitching your writing services.
While some writers make phone calls or do in-person networking, the majority send marketing or pitch emails. For publications, we send queries.
And most of these pitches don’t get results. Why? Here are my top five probable reasons freelance marketing is ineffective, based on my experience reviewing hundreds of pitch letters over the years:
You probably write emails every day. But emails that make sales? That’s not so easy — and that’s good news for freelance writers looking for lucrative writing opportunities.
In a recent interview for the Litmus.com blog, Ann Handley (bestselling author of Everybody Writes), spoke about how hard is it to write an email.
In fact, it’s one of the most difficult tasks in marketing.
I couldn’t agree more.
In my experience, companies struggle every day to craft effective emails that engage their audiences, generate leads, and bring in the business.
To them, success is just a click away. But so is failure.
A few years ago I made a shocking discovery.
I took a long, hard look at how I was using my time — and I was thoroughly ashamed.
This was the breakdown:
- Market research on prospective clients: 20%
- Marketing to prospects (cold-calls, emails, social media, blogging, website): 20%
- Project research: 40%
- Writing: 20%
Notice anything amazing about this?
I only spent 20% of my time doing the thing I loved best…the thing I was supposed to be making money from: WRITING. I spent the other 80% preparing to make money (i.e. research and marketing).
Of course, without marketing and research we couldn’t write great copy or get high-paying clients.
But think about this: Your writing is the only thing of any real value, in terms of income generated.
That simple thought led me to a really big idea. An idea that boosted my income by $24,000 a year.
Here’s how it works…
When you start a new freelance writing gig, are you full of hope? I know I am.
This gig is going to be great. We’re sure of it.
This is the sample that’s going to really take the portfolio up a notch. It’s a game-changer. Exciting!
Then, things start to happen, and often, writers go straight down the emotional drain.
For instance, take this recent comment from a Freelance Writers Den member (I’ve condensed it here):
This past October, I found a new copywriting client. They had already gone through two sub-par writers, so they were wary of hiring another freelance writer.
I did a paid trial piece using the voice I saw on their blog.
It turns out they didn’t like their voice and wanted to go in a different direction. They asked me how I saw myself “fitting in” — a clear sign of doubt.
So I asked for a meeting. Drawing on my background as a slam poet, I paid attention to the way the client spoke and asked questions about their desired voice. The client left the meeting hopeful and satisfied. I won their trust, and I did it using slam poetry.