Posts Tagged ‘market your writing’

One Writer’s Success: 2 Paying Gigs With Zero Writing Clips

Posted in Blog on March 27th, 2014 by Carol Tice – 19 Comments

Freelance writer got the gig with no clipsBy Craig Baker

Every writer in history has stood at the starting line, pen and paper at the ready, eager for that big story that is going to launch them into freelance writing success.

But if you don’t have any professional writing clips — published articles — to give an editor when looking for your first writing assignment, it can make you feel a bit like the freshman serving punch at the senior prom. All you want is to get to the other side of that counter.

How do you go from wearing the server’s bowtie to owning your own tux in the world of writing?

Frankly, I don’t know yet. I’d say I’m somewhere in the tux-renting phase of my freelance writing career.

But I can tell you firsthand that clips will only get you so far. The rest is actual hard work.

My first clip came when I was fresh out of college; I sent an 800-word guest opinion to our local afternoon newspaper as it was spiraling down the print news drain into non-existence. Lo-and-behold, it was accepted.

The same paper took another piece from me a month later, though they printed a grievous error in the headline and then promptly went out of business.

Well crap, I thought. There went that.

Resurrecting my writing career

It was three years before I tried again. I opened my ears to what was happening in my city until something struck me as interesting, and then I pounced. It wasn’t a groundbreaking idea, but it was an idea. Specifically, it discussed various ancient Native American artifacts that can be found strewn throughout my hometown.

Though I’d been warned against writing a piece before shopping it around, that is precisely how I tackled the no-clips issue. I went ahead and wrote the article.

I wrote about 1,200 words on the subject (my best guess for the average length of other local articles based on a little cutting and pasting from the web into Word), did some research on query letters, and sent a pretty standard script out to the editors of every local publication I could find.

In my email, I told the editors I had stumbled on a neat little story about artifacts, there was a local organization tied to the information (I had a source), and I had guest opinions published in the extinct newspaper.

I sent the article out with my messages, and tried my best to forget about the whole thing.

Within a few days, two of the maybe ten editors I had queried sent responses, and to my surprise, one of them said yes.

The editor that accepted the piece told me that it was what he called “evergreen” (my first introduction to that industry term for an article that can run at any time because it has no urgent news hook). He would save the article until he needed one for filler.

Not the instant-clip-and-recognition I was hoping for but, six months later, it turned into a $100 paycheck.

The second editor rejected the piece outright but apparently appreciated my writing style enough to assign me an altogether different article for an upcoming issue of her magazine. Score! Two clients came from my one spec article.

Building on my success

As I waited for the rush that came with seeing my work in print, I knew I had also gained:

  • two publications I could continue to pitch, and
  • a stronger bio for pitches — I could say I had work pending with two publications.

Once the articles were published, I was able to use my small portfolio of local samples to land jobs with bigger, higher-paying clients within weeks.

My new clients included a $2,000-plus-royalties contract writing content for a video game development firm and an ongoing writing position with a language learning company for $0.25 per word.

I haven’t stopped since.

Putting in the work

What does all of this mean to you?

Simple: if you don’t have a clip, make one. If you don’t know how, learn more about article writing.

Learn about your target publications. How long are the articles? How long are the paragraphs in those articles? The sentences?

Are the pieces written in the first or third person, generally speaking, or do the writers use the “we” so common to alternative publications? How many sources does each article quote, and on which side of the story’s argument do these sources stand?

Preparing yourself with this sort of basic knowledge before you start writing will make sure that even your unpublished pieces are as close as possible to the real thing, which may just get you a second look from someone that calls the editorial shots. Don’t be afraid to jump in with both feet—you’ll never publish an idea if you don’t send a query.

How did you get your first clips? Tell us in the comments below.

Craig Baker is a freelance writer based in Tucson, Ariz., and shares author advice on his blog, Starting from Scratch. 

 

How to Reel in Great Freelance Writing Clients with a Bait Piece

Posted in Blog on March 13th, 2014 by Carol Tice – 16 Comments

Freelance writers can hook clients with a bait pieceBy James Palmer

There are many ways freelance writers can get new clients, but few are more effective than a bait piece.

Write it once, then post it on your site and it’ll go to work for you all the time to grab new clients.

Curious about what a bait piece is, and how to create one? Read on:

What’s a bait piece?

According to copywriter Bob Bly, a bait piece is “an informative booklet, white paper, or special report addressing some aspect of the problem your product or service helps the reader solve.”

In this case, the service is your writing. You are not just a writer, but a problem solver.

Your bait piece could be anything from a white paper or case study to a helpful checklist or video.

Why bait pieces work

A good bait piece is effective for several reasons.

First and foremost, it establishes you as an expert in your prospect’s eyes not just another freelance writer. Many clients think writers are a dime a dozen, but they’ll gladly pay your fees if you approach them as an expert in the problem your writing solves.

Second, a bait piece acts as a sample of your writing, so make sure it looks professional and every word is spelled correctly.

Finally, it builds confidence and trust in you and your services. A strong bait piece makes the client think: “If her free information is this good, just think what her paid services can do for me and my business.”

The bonus? By having a high-quality bait piece, you’ll tend to attract higher-quality clients. Your bait piece can make the difference between dealing with lowballers and getting name-brand businesses in your client stable.

How to create a solid bait piece

If it sounds overwhelming to you to create one of these, trust me, you can do this. My tips:

  • Keep it simple. A short report with an evocative title works best. “10 Tips for…” “7 Secrets to….” Checklists also work well.
  • Solve a problem. A good bait piece tells a client how to solve a problem they have related to your writing niche. Don’t worry that you’re giving away all your secrets for free; the object is to show them that you’re the best person for the job — and convince them to hire you.
  • Make it valuable. Work hard to make your free report really valuable to your client. Study their industry and your competitors to come up with a report your prospect hasn’t seen before.
  • Target it. Depending on your niche, something industry specific, such as “12 Ways Restaurants Can Get More Clients from Social Media” can be much more effective than a generic writing-related topic like “How to Create Web Copy that Sells.”
  • Price it. You can also give your free report high perceived value by putting a price on the title page. Then you can say something like, “Click here to get my FREE report, 10 Facebook Marketing Faux Pas and How to Avoid Them (a $29 value).” You can even sell it elsewhere on your website.
  • Think outside the page. Your bait piece doesn’t have to be words on a page. You could also create a video and make it available for streaming on your website. All you need is PowerPoint, a microphone, and some screen capture software.
  • Make them an offer they can’t refuse. Offer your bait piece in every email you send to prospects with a strong, benefit-rich statement that makes them want it and tells them how to get it quickly and easily.
  • Go hard and soft. When crafting your prospect email, give them a hard and soft offer. Your hard offer is to contact you for more information about you and your services, and can include things like a free consultation, while your soft offer is for the free report. Those who need your help right away will go for your hard offer, while those who don’t need your help right now but might somewhere down the road will respond to your soft offer of the free report.

If you need formatting help to create a white paper or checklist report that looks great, partner with a designer who needs a portfolio piece of the type you’re creating and you can probably do a swap or get a good price.

Got questions about creating a bait piece — or got a bait piece to share? Ask in the comments, or feel free to give us a link to your piece and tell us how you created it.

James Palmer is a freelance content marketing writer, fiction author and independent publisher. He is the author of The Secrets of Six-Figure Freelancing: Make More Money and Have More Fun as a Freelance Writer.

How I Landed 2 Writing Clients and $1,000+ in Just 7 Emails

Posted in Blog on February 13th, 2014 by Carol Tice – 28 Comments

Marketing emails can get clients for freelance writersBy Jessica Leigh Brown

Have you ever needed to scare up a few new freelance writing clients? That was me in early January.

To spread the word, I decided to email all my past freelance writing clients, along with prospective clients I’d already connected with.

I’m relatively new to freelancing, so that meant sending a grand total of seven emails.

But those seven messages landed me two new clients and four article assignments — a total of $1,050 in freelance writing gigs — over the next month. I also got responses from a few more clients, saying they’ll probably have work for me later.

What to say

Did I make some kind of amazing sales pitch in these emails? No, I’m terrible at sales pitches.

In essence, all I said to each client was “Happy new year!” — and “Here’s my schedule for the next month or two. I have some availability between X and X, so if you need help with a project, let me know.”

That’s it — just touching base. So why did these messages meet with such success?

Make it personal

When I originally thought of sending emails to past and prospective clients, I posted a question in the Freelance Writer’s Den to see if anyone else had tried this method.

A few other writers had, and everyone urged me to go ahead — but to make each email personalized instead of mass-mailing my holiday greetings.

Writing personalized emails is always a better way to get gigs. Addressing a prospect by name shows that you’re willing to make an effort to write for their publication or business — and that you’re not just a spam-bot, sending out thousands upon thousands of identical emails.

In each of my touch-base emails, I reminded the prospect of the last time we’d talked. For example, “Last time we chatted, I’d expressed interest in writing for your publication, X.”

Making that link helps the communication feel like you’re picking up an old conversation, rather than starting cold.

Make it timely

The holidays are a great time to send your clients well-wishes — and update them on those gaps you want to fill in your work calendar. But you could send touch-base emails at any time of year.

The best time to send out touch-base emails is several weeks before you have a looming gap in your schedule. That way, clients have time to consult their own schedules, plan ahead, and — hopefully — give you assignments to help fill yours.

Make it short

Let’s face it: We’re writers. We like to play with words, and sometimes that means we’re long-winded.

While vivid descriptions and in-depth analyses might be needed in your writing projects (depending on the type of gigs you take), it’s better to avoid them in touch-base emails.

Instead, go for brevity and clarity. Just a few lines will do the job.

Here’s an example based on one of my New Year’s emails:

Subject: Happy new year, and January availability

Hi Once-or-Future-Client,

Just wanted to take a moment to wish you a happy new year! Hope 2014 is off to a great start for you and yours.

Last time we communicated, I’d expressed interest in writing for [Your Publication]. I’m arranging my freelance schedule for the next month or two, and wondered if you need help with any upcoming projects? I will be fully booked from X to X, but have some availability in [month].

Let me know. Thanks, and have a wonderful week!

Best,
Jessica Brown

Give it a try

My two new clients are a trade journal editor who’s given me article assignments for two magazines she edits, and a custom publisher that produces travel-related web content.

Not bad for a quick hit of painless marketing. If you’re running low on work, I challenge you to give touch-base emailing a try. It just might yield some lucrative new freelance writing gigs.

Jessica Leigh Brown is a freelance journalist who loves telling stories. Currently, she writes for trade journals, websites, magazines, and a business college’s alumni publication.

Ron Burgundy’s Classy Marketing Tips for Authors and Freelancers

Posted in Blog on December 22nd, 2013 by Carol Tice – 23 Comments
Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy in Anchorman 2

Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy

Writers, if you’ve been hibernating to stave off the cold weather, you may not be aware that comedian Will Ferrell has a new movie out.

And not just any movie — the sequel to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. The kicker: this solidly successful comedy was released way back in 2004.

Sounds like a marketing nightmare, hm? Long-forgotten comedy set in the long-dead world of ’70s TV news gets a sequel nearly a decade later.

It also sounds a lot like the scenario of many journalists I hear from who want to get back into freelance writing after a decade off to raise kids. Or authors who want to self-publish a book, but let their blog go dark for years and never network while they write it.

Can you jump-start your career and grab attention for your writing, even after a long lull? Ferrell has proved you can — if you are willing to market your wares like a coke-crazed gerbil.

Thanks to an exhaustive, highly creative marketing effort, awareness of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues was sky-high before the movie opened earlier this week. A Google search on the movie title gets 293 million results.

How can you apply Anchorman 2 marketing techniques to your own freelance writing career, or use them to promote your book?

  • Start early. Anchorman 2 marketing began 20 months before the movie’s release, with Ferrell appearing in character on Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show in March 2012. Besides planting seeds of early interest, starting early allows you more time to think up and execute on marketing ideas prior to launch (or premiere) day.
  • Be funny. We can’t all pull this part off, and obviously Ferrell is one of those people who’s funny just getting out of bed. But any writer can stand out by putting a humorous twist on how they promote themselves. There’s way too much seriousness in the literary world.
  • Have a theme. Anchorman 2 moves the Burgundy store forward to the ’80s, so the marketing milked this era’s cultural awfulness at every opportunity. Hokey ’80s songs feature prominently in the marketing, including a hilarious overdub of “Ride Like the Wind” with Ferrell as Burgundy adding his self-involved thoughts, and the whole cast singing “Afternoon Delight” at the movie’s Sydney premiere a few weeks back. Underlying message: The ’80s were stupid — and this movie will give you a chance to laugh about that.
  • Be different. It’s clear that at some early point, Ferrell and the movie’s marketing team sat down and looked at what other comedies were doing for marketing — and then decided to do many other things instead. There’s not nearly enough of this thoughtful zagging among authors and freelance writers. Is everyone else having book signings at bookstores? Maybe yours would work better in a bar, an art museum, or on a ferry.
  • Be available. Ferrell & Co. popped up on interview after interview, in all imaginable media. As someone who books guests for Freelance Writers Den meetings, I can tell you it’s amazing how many authors can’t even be bothered to return phone calls about interviews, much less show up and do them.
  • Take it to extremes. What would be an insane amount of effort that no one else would do to promote a movie? Something that will really drop some jaws and get people talking? How about writing an entire faux biography. OK, your average writer probably couldn’t get that excerpted by The New Yorker blog…but you get the idea. Ask yourself how much you care about the success of that new ebook…and then put some real creative energy behind promoting it.
  • Work hard. Ferrell didn’t do the minimum or phone it in on any of the movie’s marketing commitments. Dodge was a marketing partner for the movie, so Ferrell didn’t just make a Dodge Durango movie-tie in ad — he made 70 versions of the Dodge ad. Imagine what would happen if every business day for a month, you sent a big prospect an email pitch, or maybe mailed them a candy bar with a note. Bet you’d get a meeting, at least.
  • Get friends to help. In Ferrell’s case, he tapped some newscaster friends for a hilarious faux tribute video that is my personal fave Anchorman marketing piece. Takeaway here: stop trying to get all the marketing done alone and start thinking about who you could partner with, trade guest posts with, and otherwise get to leverage you some more eyeballs for your ebook/freelance referral network/blog/writing project of the moment.
  • Gamify. Creating animated games is the hot new way to get consumers to engage with your brand. For Anchorman 2, there’s a Scotchy Scotch Toss game (the name plays off Ron’s favorite drink). Yes, we’re not all game designers, but the technology to do this sort of thing is getting cheaper and easier all the time. Also, that’s what outsourcing is for.
  • Be everywhere. That means 3-D world, social-media world, blogosphere, you name it. Burgundy took over a newscast in North Dakota, wandered a Los Angeles street in full Burgundy suit regalia with a 40-ounce and a box of doughnuts, and got Newseum in Washington, D.C., to put on an Anchorman-themed exhibit. Almost goes without saying that he grabbed an @RonBurgundy Twitter handle and started chatting.
    For writers, the equivalent could be a blog guest-post tour, where dozens of blog posts will go up at once, coupled with some live interviews, appearances, or podcasts. As readers see you in multiple places, they form the impression, “Hey — this writer’s book must be the shizz” and go buy it. (You can watch Gary Vaynerchuk doing this right now with his new book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.)
  • Be newsworthy. To sum up, Ferrell created a marketing tsunami that became a story in itself. This is a time-honored way to create extra buzz for just about anything. Everybody loves to dissect marketing campaigns and while they’re at it, they’ll just happen to mention your thing, too.

Warning: If you become this kind of marketing machine, it will not please everyone.

A solid backlash was forming as the campaign went into the final week. For every blogger posting a roundup of their favorite Anchorman-related publicity stunts, there was a snarky post claiming overkill and boredom. Film.com dubbed Anchorman 2 “The most marketed movie of all time“…and not in a good way.

Only time will tell whether this marketing blitz paid off…and of course, that’s partly dependent on whether Anchorman 2 turns out to be a good movie. No amount of marketing can make a smash hit out of an unfunny comedy.

But one thing’s for sure — without creative marketing, this 9-years-in-the-making sequel probably would have gone nowhere at all. Just like most self-published books, and most freelance writing careers do, because the writers involved are not marketing their wares.

I’d say if the choice is the usual — little or no marketing — or a blitz, erring on the side of too much marketing is a good policy for writers to follow.

What’s your biggest marketing success? Knock back a scotchy scotch, stay classy, and then tell us in the comments.