Posts Tagged ‘Marketing 101 for Freelance Writers’

Marketing 101 for Freelance Writers #17: How to Earn More Just From Schmoozing

Posted in Blog on May 4th, 2012 by Carol Tice – 10 Comments

In last week’s installment of Marketing 101, we learned that the most effective way to do nearly any form of marketing is to get a personal introduction to the editor or marketing manager you want to hire you.

Do you know the best way to get more of those personal connections? You need to get out and meet people. Ideally, in person.

Before you start up, I know — you’re shy. You hate parties.

Think of it this way:  You’re going to earn more money just by standing around shooting the breeze with people. Just like those people there on the right, in the picture. There will often be drinks and snacks involved.

That doesn’t look like agony, now does it?

You can do this. And you really want to, because people who do in-person networking, are usually the ones who earn more. It’s just that simple.

Why? The connections you make when you meet people face-to-face are way deeper than those of those Twitter followers you’ve got. Those personal connections will open doors for you and grease those marketing wheels for you, making everything happen easier and faster.

Need a crash course in how to network? Here are the basics:

5 Rules for Networking Success

  1. Know what you’re looking for. Be ready to answer questions about who your ideal client is. People will want to help you, but they can’t if they don’t know what sort of referrals you want.
  2. Have a “me” speech. You should have a short, 90-second speech ready that describes the type of writing you do and are looking for. Practice saying it with a friend until it feels conversational and comfortable.
  3. Ask about them. Writers say they hate networking because they don’t like talking about themselves. But really, you don’t have to say much. Everyone else would love to tell you all about what they do. Ask about their ideal client and how you could help.
  4. Have fun. Smile!  You’re out of your cave and out in the big city having a drink. Project confidence, faking it if necessary. Nobody wants to stay in touch with people who sound desperate and broke.
  5. Follow up. The real networking begins after you go home from the event. You’ve met people — now it’s time to take that stack of business cards and cement those relationships. Connect in social media to stay in touch, send them relevant articles, send them job leads. Meet interesting people for coffee. Keep the conversation going.

Hopefully, I’ve sold you that in-person networking will not kill you, is actually fun when done right, and should be an important part of your marketing effort to grow your writing income.

Once you’ve got that in your head, the next question is where to network. There are many choices.

7 Good Places to Network

  1. Casual networking. Chat up those other moms and dads while you’re watching that soccer game. Do they have a business? Who do they work for that might use freelance copywriters?
  2. Business groups. Check out your local chamber or business association — some are pricey to join while others are quite affordable. Many put on occasional open-house events you can crash. My local chamber puts on a variety of events every month, from casual after-hours get-togethers to sit-down luncheons.
  3. Regional or national events. Hitting a big-time event such as SXSW, BlogWorld, or SOBCON can give you a chance to meet many people at once, and to meet more big guns in your target industry. Yes, it can be a major financial investment to fly to one of these — but my experience has been that if you work this opportunity, you will grow your business many times more than the cost of that plane ticket and hotel.
  4. Pro networking groups. BNI is one of the best-known in this category, and I believe the most expensive. Advantage here: You will be the only freelance writer in the group — they only allow one person per occupation in each local chapter.
  5. Social media in person. My local Linked:Seattle group, for instance, routinely sees more than 500 people turn up at its live events. This is a great way to make deeper connections with those tweeps you hang with online.
  6. Writers groups. You might be staying away because you think these events will just be a bunch of sad, desperate, starving writers crying into their cheap glasses of chardonnay… but it’s not like that. Growing your network of other writers who know your talents can put you in their downline for referrals when those writers get leads they don’t have time for or that aren’t their speed. They’re also great to know for reality-checking prices and snooping around about whether that prospective new client is a nightmare. I’ve gotten several great clients through attending MediaBistro events.
  7. Skype calls. I like to book at least one Skype call a week with someone who might help my business in some way. If you don’t live near a major city, this can be a great way to build connections when it’s hard to appear in person. The phone-company people used to say this, but Skype really is the next best thing to being there.

Which type of networking will be best for you? You won’t know until you get out there, experiment, and meet people.

Need more marketing help? Here’s a place where you can get a bunch…


 

 

 

 

Marketing 101 for Freelance Writers #16: How to Get Prospects Warmed Up

Posted in Blog on April 27th, 2012 by Carol Tice – 3 Comments

One writer recently asked me about how to reach out to trade publications and companies.

Unlike magazines, where you pitch a story idea in a query letter, it’s hard to know what sorts of articles this other kind of prospect would like.

The writing work you want may not even be articles, but web pages or brochures.

A query letter is out

You’ll need to find another way to connect with these kinds of prospects.

“Would it be acceptable to simply write and introduce myself and mention I am a freelance writer?”

Well, yes it would, Virginia. This marketing approach is called a letter of introduction, or LOI.

While the basic premise is fairly simple, writing a successful LOI isn’t all that easy. We all know how many emails we get.

To get a positive response and a writing assignment — rather than a quick trip to the “delete” folder — your LOI needs to be creatively written and compelling. It needs to quickly hook your recipient and convince them you are the writer they should hire.

In other words, you need to warm up your prospects. You need to make a connection with them that makes them feel comfortable hiring you.

How can you do that?

My four best LOI tips

1. Get a referral. Ed Gandia, coauthor of The Wealthy Freelancer,says he gets nearly 70 percent response rates on marketing emails he sends that have a subject line like this:

<Prospect’s friend’s name here> sent me your way

No other method gets as strong of a response, he tells me. So it can really pay to get out and do some old-fashioned, in-person networking to make more connections who might refer you. Or tap your social-media networks to see who might know someone at a company you’re targeting for a reach-out.

2. Do your homework. Another way to create a ‘warm’ connection is to research the company or publication you’re targeting. Then, in your LOI, you can mention something you noticed — an interesting article, or maybe the lack of case studies or a strong “About” page on their website.

3. Target relevant niches. Your best bet is to send LOIs to publications or industries where you can show some similar work experience — or, barring that, some relevant life experience. For instance, I’ve been able to get a lot of gigs writing legal content because I was once a legal secretary. Ditto for insurance, which my dad sold, so I sort of grew up around that industry and had at least a vague idea how it works. Of course, the ideal is if you can show similar writing work and talk about the results you got for a previous client in their niche.

4. Copy their style. Take a look at the writing style this prospect uses, and then hand it right back to them in the style of your query. Soak up their tone — is it casual? Snarky? Businesslike? — and then use it in your LOI.

Need help with your LOI? Get tips on the forums in here…

 

Marketing 101 for Freelance Writers #12: The Quick Way to Hit a Ton of Prospects

Posted in Blog on March 16th, 2012 by Carol Tice – 22 Comments

old-fashioned telephone

Does it take you all day to write one prospecting email? Does writing a query letter to a magazine take you a week?

If doing written marketing triggers your perfection-itis gene and slows your marketing effort to crawl, know that there is a faster way.

You could contact scores of prospective clients, cut to the chase, and find out if they might use a freelance writer like you — all in a single day.

This marketing method I’m about to tell you about scares the heck out of a lot of writers. But I rarely meet a writer who’s devoted any serious time to it who hasn’t gotten at least one good client.

Strap yourself in, writers. Today, we talk cold calling.

Yes — cold calling involves having to introduce yourself to total strangers dozens of times a day, and explain that you’re a freelance writer.

But here’s the magic:

When you develop your own lead list of quality prospects and then proactively call the companies you’d love to write for, you are swimming in the right pool — the one with good-paying clients. As opposed to responding to Craigslist ads that 1 million other writers are reading, too.

Effective cold calling relies on just a few basic points:

  1. Develop a great list
  2. Find the appropriate contact
  3. Write a simple script
  4. Have a strong call to action

1. How to develop your list

I went over resources for developing a prospect call list a few weeks back in this series, so you can review on that link if necessary. Remember to look at how big prospects are — bigger is better. Bigger means bigger marketing budgets, and a better shot at ongoing writing assignments for you. Whatever size clients you’ve got now, start targeting the next rung up the ladder.

Once you’ve committed to building a list, keep your eyes peeled anytime you’re reading your daily paper’s business section, watching TV news, or scanning local magazines. Everything you read is a potential source for finding great businesses you might pitch.

My tip is to concentrate on a particular industry or two in developing your list, and on your city or region for starters. Otherwise, you’re likely to be overwhelmed thinking about all the possible clients you could call. Try those, and if nothing pans out, then move on to another industry or region.

2. How to find contacts

Once you have your list, you need to identify the right person at that company to talk to — depending on the situation, usually a publications editor, online/social media manager, or marketing manager. How can you get these names?

  • Try a Google search on “marketing manager + Company Name” or something similar
  • Search on LinkedIn using similar parameters
  • Call up the company and simply ask for the appropriate contact: “Who is the marketing manager who would hire freelancers?”
  • Ask your network if anyone has worked with the company and knows a contact

3. A sample script

The thrill of cold calling is you’re not spending hours researching each prospect. Once you’ve identified your people, you want to go right ahead and call. Peter Bowerman goes into tons more detail on this in his Well-Fed Writer book, but to sum up, say something along the lines of:

  1. Hello — I’m an experienced freelance writer specializing in [your niche here].
  2. I really like what your company is doing, and I’m wondering if you ever work with freelance writers.

That’s about it! If you happen to have noticed something interesting about their current marketing effort, you can mention it inbetween lines 1 and 2 there.

If they say, “Actually, we do use freelance writers,” that’s your chance to chat them up and find out what sort of needs they have. What projects might be coming up? If you have relevant experience, talk it up.

4. Call to action

If the prospect expresses at least some mild interest, you need to end your call with an action item they should do next — something that will keep this budding relationship alive.

My pal Linda Formichelli likes to close with, “May I send you my clips?” This is a low-commitment, non-scary question that prospects can easily say “yes” to without committing to much.

The bonus benefit

The more you say to people, “I’m a freelance writer,” the more you will get your head around the idea that you really are. It’s a bit mystical, but the more you say that out loud, the more you will believe it, and the more you will take your freelancing seriously.

Need more marketing help? Here’s a place where you can get a bunch…


 

Marketing 101 for Freelance Writers #11: Here’s Where the Good-Paying Clients are Hiding

Posted in Blog on March 2nd, 2012 by Carol Tice – 20 Comments

Have you wondered if all the great-paying writing clients are hiding out together under a rock somewhere?

Writers constantly tell me they’ve looked and looked at those online job ads, but they can only find the $5-a-post gigs.

That happens because most of the really good writing gigs are never advertised.

To find them, you’ll have to understand how these prospects think, and why they need writers. Then, you’ll have to go out and proactively locate and contact these prospects.

That right there is the difference between low-paid writers and well-fed ones.

Inside the mind of a great writing prospect

The good jobs begin when an editor or marketing manager is sitting at their desk, amidst piles of overflowing workload. They work at a major publication, custom publisher, company, or nonprofit. They are thinking something like this:

The stable of freelance writers I have now leaves something to be desired. These writers don’t turn things in on time. They’re less than brilliant.

OR

One of my staff writers just quit, and I don’t know how I’m going to get my stuff written by deadline. I can’t overload the other staffers, or they’ll quit, too.

AND

I wish I could find some new writers. But I don’t have any time to look. I definitely don’t have time to look at 300 resumes off a Craigslist ad.

So now you know the sort of situation you want to find — a quality publication or company that needs writer but doesn’t have time to search for them.

Identifying good-paying publications

It’s pretty easy to find publications that pay the best. Besides asking around in your own writer community, you could get the Writer’s Market online. Then you can set their database search to $$$$, the top pay level, and start searching.

Presto! A nice list of top payers to target.

You can also scan publications including the Wooden Horse magazines database, Editor & Publisher, and Media Bistro’s How to Pitch Guides for more publications intel.

One of the best and least-frequently looked niches for good-paying publications is trade publications. Trade pubs cover a particular industry in-depth, for business owners in that field. Daily Variety, for instance, is for executives in show business, and Ad Age is for marketing execs. You can see lists of them at tradepub.com. If you have some related knowledge, think about marketing yourself to trade-pub editors.

Another great niche is custom publications. These are magazines and newspaper inserts created for companies by a publishing company. You can check out custom publishers — many of whom publish many publications in an industry niche — at their industry group the Custom Content Council. I’ve had one custom-pub client — easy, $.50-a-word work on newspaper special sections, where they hand you all the sources. These can be steady sources of good-paying work.

Identifying good-paying companies

The key here is to think big. Many writers get stuck writing for solopreneurs or small businesses. These don’t have big marketing budgets. To earn more, you need to identify larger organizations with bigger budgets.

How big? Well $1 million is a good start, $10 million is better, $100 million better than that, $1 billion really terrific, and the Fortune 1000 are awesome. Depending on where your writing career is at, one of these categories should work for you.

For example, my first copywriting client was a small local startup that sold call-center software. The second was a $1 billion global corporation. You don’t have to pay your dues for years and slowly inch your way up.

To get started, target industries where you have some experience or find the business owner easily accessible. These could be:

  • An institution you have personal life experience with, such as a rehab clinic that took care of your sick mom.
  • A local, independently owned store you love to shop.
  • A small business in an industry where you once worked.

If you’ve got a few clips from small-business clients and are ready to move up, here are seven resources for finding bigger clients who may need marketing writers.

  1. The business section of your local paper. Scan for news of growth, acquisitions, new locations, new products, new funding. All of these may spur new marketing efforts. You can assume most of the stories you see here originated with the business doing publicity to promote what they’re doing. They do marketing, so they may use freelancers.
  2. Your local business weekly. Similar to the above situation, except these are all business news, all the time. Smaller ones may flat-out reprint companies’ press releases or do pages of release-driven “business updates.” Grab an issue, and you’ve got a prospect list.
  3. A Book of Lists. These directories of the top and fastest-growing companies in every imaginable industry are available for more than 60 markets.
  4. An industry directory or guidebook such as the Chain Store Guides. The deal with these is they give free trade-publication subscriptions to all the companies willing to give them their data for the guide…which often includes revenue, so you can quickly focus on larger companies with bigger marketing budgets.
  5. Venture capital news. It’s my experience that newly funded startups spend like big companies — they often need to quickly ramp up their business to satisfy investors. VCAOnline has a great searchable news database where you can search by city name or industry buzzwords to find companies that have landed venture funding.
  6. Your library’s database subscriptions. Many libraries have useful databases they subscribe to that could make your searches easier — maybe they’ve got the paid level of Hoovers or Lexis-Nexis for searching press releases. Be sure to ask your librarian what resources they might have to help you identify companies and their size.
  7. Niche job boards. OK, not all online job boards are bad. Ones that focus on an industry, or where the listers have to pay to post their notice, can have better-quality gigs. Do some sleuthing to find boards that are appropriate for your writing niches. For instance, I got one good-paying blogging gig of a Gorkana finance alert (since I’m a business dork).

Do you have questions about marketing your writing? Learn more in my community Freelance Writers Den – take ecourses, attend live events, ask writing pros your questions in our forums, and use our exclusive Junk-Free Job Board.