Posts Tagged ‘networking’

5 Quick Ways Busy Freelancers Can Keep Marketing

Posted in Blog on April 6th, 2014 by Carol Tice – 30 Comments

Busy freelance writerIt’s always great to be busy as a freelance writer. But one problem that often crops up is that it’s easy to let marketing slide.

Then, next thing you know, those current projects wrap. And you find yourself facing the terror of an empty schedule and the plummeting income that goes along with it.

One writer recently asked me what to do about this problem:

“I have some regular clients, but projects are coming to an end. I find now, in 2014, I’m wondering where and when the next client will appear. I have a good-sized social community via Facebook and Twitter, I have glowing testimonials, but the work is simply not there.

“My question for you is a) where do you find your clients? What has worked/not worked for you? and b) do you or anyone else you know sub-contract?”

Unfortunately, just from the nature of these questions, I could tell this writer was probably headed off the financial cliff when her current projects wrapped up.

3 Things that don’t get clients

Inaction. The big thing is, freelance clients do not usually appear magically, without your doing anything. Not good ones, anyway.

The clients are “not there” for all freelancers, until we go out and proactively market and find them. Take responsibility for your business success and realize it’s up to you to get out there and look for new clients (or new projects from current clients).

Wondering how others do it. I could tell you what worked for me in marketing but ultimately, I think it’s not that helpful. Because — at the risk of stating the obvious — you are not me.

Every writer’s portfolio, goals, ideal client, specialization, and experience are different, as are the ways we feel most comfortable doing marketing.

You need to develop your own marketing plan, instead of wondering if there’s a magic rock other freelancers could tell you about, under which would be a bunch of awesome, great-paying clients.

Really, quizzing other writers on where they find clients is just another form of inaction — rather than figuring out your marketing approach, you’re hoping to find one you can swipe. Where actually doing a lot of marketing is what gives you the only useful data on where you get clients.

Asking writers for gigs. Few freelance writers I know have so much work that they’re subbing it out to other writers. If they do, it will be to writers whose work they know well, not writers who are total strangers you randomly ask for work.

In general, other writers should not be your target client. There isn’t a ton of work in that pool.

Which leaves you to do the marketing to find your clients.

Yes, it’s hard to find time for marketing activities when you’re still busy wrapping up those current client projects. But it’s essential that you do it now, or you’ll find yourself falling off the income cliff in a month or two when those projects end.

5 Quick marketing techniques

The good news is there are quick ways to keep your marketing rolling, even during busy times. Here are five of my favorites:

1. Improve your online tools

If you like clients to simply appear without exerting yourself, invest time in improving your writer website to make it a strong inbound marketing tool for your freelance business.

Don’t have a writer website? It’s time to get one. You really can’t present yourself professionally these days without a site.

Making sure you’ve got good key words for your type of writing and/or geographic location on your writer site, and that you frequently update it to help Google think it’s a busy place, can all help you get found on search by the right type of prospects.

Tweaking your site copy is something you can do 10 minutes a day on, and it’s well worth it to up your odds of drawing prospects to you. Inbound marketing is the ideal, versus having to actively pitch prospects — write copy once, let it go out and sell for you endlessly. So this should always be the first priority.

2. Tap your network

This writer says they have decent numbers of connections on Facebook and Twitter — but is she using them? Do your tweeps know you are looking for new freelance clients? If not, now’s the time to put out the word.

Yes, that’s a little tricky on social media since hard-sell messages are frowned on. But usually people won’t flame you if you just ask for their referrals.

The writer who sent this comment may be missing out if they’re not active on LinkedIn, the one social-media platform where self-promotion is more acceptable. There are great ways to troll for clients on LinkedIn — so get busy on there.

My experience is LinkedIn connections are happy to recommend and refer you, if you’ll only ask. And it takes just a few moments a day to reach out. You can even mass-mail your LinkedIn contacts 50 people at a time, but use this option with caution to avoid coming off spammy.

While you’re doing quick online networking, don’t forget to ask your current clients for referrals, too — they can be a great resource for new work.

3. Meet live humans

One of the best ways to build relationships and get fresh leads on new gigs is to get yourself to some in-person networking events. Often, these take place at night when you might normally not be working on client projects, so they can be easy to slip into your schedule.

Yes, some networking events turn out to be a waste of time, but don’t let that discourage you. Keep circulating around to different groups until you find the one where you get promising leads. Be sure to follow up after you meet, too.

4. Short bursts

If you want to send letters of introduction or query letters and feel like you never have time for a multi-hour writing project, you can get it done by splitting up the task into 10- or 15-minute tasks.

Today, just write the introductory paragraph, or maybe do a quick pre-interview with a source so your query has a quote. Tomorrow, write your bio line that’ll go at the bottom. And so on, until your query is ready to send.

5. Job alerts

Yes, online job ads often lead you to lower-quality clients. But if you target niche job boards or boards where the employers have to pay to post, such as LinkedIn’s Jobs, you can hit some nice pay dirt.

To make this quick and easy, set up alerts or saved searches on your key words and get sites to feed you relevant openings for your types of writing. A quick 5-minute scan a day of that can help you find at least a few leads.

Be sure to template some stock language you can cut and paste together and quickly personalize for the client’s situation so that it’s quick to respond when you spot a job ad that looks right for you. Also save time here by being picky and only responding to listings that sound like a perfect fit and ask for experience you have.

 

Whatever you do, try to commit at least a few minutes each day for some sort of marketing activity. You’ll be a lot less anxious about how you’ll pay the bills and keep your freelance business thriving when the current rush ends.

How do you fit in a quick hit of marketing when you’re busy? Leave a comment and share your approach.

Why It’s Never Been Easier to be a Freelance Writer

Posted in Blog on April 1st, 2014 by Carol Tice – 43 Comments

Freelance writer doing research on mobile phoneDo you feel like today’s freelance writing marketplace is just too difficult to break into? Too competitive for you to move up and earn well?

Well, I disagree. In fact, I believe there’s never been a better time to be a freelance writer.

You might be thinking: How can I say such a thing, in this era of the terrible economy (actually in steady recovery since late 2009)? When the Internet has put writers in competition with everyone who’s ever slung a sentence together anywhere on the globe? And when there are so many shocking low-priced gigs on offer?

For a perspective-setter, let’s contrast the freelance writing scene of today with that of the pre-Internet era. That’s the time period when I first broke into freelance writing, so I’ve got painful firsthand experience with how it used to be.

No, I’m not going to regale you with tales of how I walked three miles through the snow to turn in my articles to my editor. Mostly because I lived in California when I broke in.

But being a freelance writer was definitely a far more difficult process than it is today. Here are some of the ways life has gotten better for freelance writers:

Shoe leather vs Internet research

Then: When I wanted to find new magazines to write for, I got in my car and drove to the library. There, I headed for the reference section, where I could hunt for interesting publications in the Gale Guide. Long hours of leafing through Gale’s tissue-thin pages and hand-jotting contact information ensued.

Researching businesses was usually limited to companies you knew in your town, or read about in your local business journal. Or you could head back to the library and go through their publication archives. I have literally combed through the library’s stacks of phone books from other major cities to find phone numbers or addresses for businesses in other towns. Talk about a time-killer.

Now: Fire up your computer and tap the online edition of The Writer’s Market for instant updates on newly updated listings. Quickly sort by topic or which publications pay the best, and you’re in business.

Want to write for businesses? Your market research is sitting on your desktop — hit the Internet, compare local business’s websites, find the worst ones, and pitch. Or quickly look up major companies anywhere in the world and find contact information in a minute flat. Boom, you’re done.

In-person events vs social media

Then: Want to meet other writers or potential clients? Head on down to your local Chamber of Commerce and spend all night pressing the flesh — and more time the next day following up. More in-person meetings with prospects followed.

Now: Don’t have time to get out? No problem. Your writer website and LinkedIn profile can call out your areas of specialization and help the Internet send you prospective clients, 24/7. Join a few LinkedIn groups, or a writer community to make more connections. Tweet an editor an idea. Take a Skype call with a prospect and quickly nail down an agreement.

Editor gatekeeping vs online publishing

Then: Nothing got published without an editor’s blessing, and the number of publications was fairly finite. You submitted to editors and prayed. They were a hurdle you had to vault in order to become published.

Now: If you strike out with print publications, you can turn to the growing number of paying online markets. Not having any luck getting your ideas out there? Start up a blog and use it as a writing sample, or tap a content mill or bidding site such as Elance to find clients if you’re short on marketing time. Sure, rates might not be the greatest, but you can at least get clips fairly easily.

Outside control vs self-publishing

Then: As a writer, you either got a staff job or hustled freelance gigs. Getting a print book contract was another huge gatekeeping exercise with a few print publishers pulling all the strings.

You had one boss or many. But either way, your ability to earn was in someone else’s hands.

Now: Want to diversify your income and achieve independence? Build a website, draw an audience, and self-publish your own e-books on Amazon with the touch of a button.

SASE and xeroxes vs instant response

Then: Want to send a query letter to a magazine? This laborious process involved heading to Kinko’s to get copies of my print articles, purchasing big envelopes and small ones for that return rejection letter than often came, and then composing my query. Then the best part: Waiting three months or so to find out if the editor was interested in your work.

Now: For the vast majority of publications, you can email off your query with links to your online clips. Often, get a response within an hour, or a week. Cost: Free.

In-person meetings vs online meetings

Then: Businesses and magazines mostly worked with local writers because of how difficult and expensive it was to meet in person otherwise. If you had out-of-town corporate clients or magazines, you got on a plane or drove to meetings, killing days worth of productive writing time.

Now: Go after clients anywhere in the world, because you can meet virtually. Hop on Skype to chat, or use Basecamp or Google Drive to collaborate instantly on evolving drafts.

Stuck at home vs write from anywhere

Then: In the pre-mobile era, being out of town was a nail-biter. Who was emailing me? Who had called? Would my editor hear my voicemail and get my hotel fax number to send me the revisions she had?

Now: Mobile phones go with us everywhere and bring the Internet along. Use online tools such as GoToMyPC to tap into that desktop at home from your hotel’s business center, or bring your laptop and file a story before you even get home. On a recent trip, I helped an editor meet a print magazine deadline with edits I did while at the airport and in a cab.

Credentials required vs wide-open market

Then: In all my 12 years as a staff writer, I was always the one freak who was a college dropout. Everyone else seemed to have gone to Columbia or Medill. Or at least had an English degree.

Now: Then came blogging, and the ability for writers to prove their mettle without sitting through stultifying courses on the history of journalism. These days, I find, nobody cares if you learned your craft at Columbia or under a freeway overpass or from writing 1,000 blog posts on your personal blog. It’s a snap to show what you’ve got, and write your way to the sort of markets you want.

Writing conferences vs online training

Then: Want to learn about emerging issues in the world of freelance writing or take a class to improve your article-writing craft? You could buy a print book at a bookstore and try to suss things out on your own. Or maybe take a college extension class that would take months of in-person class time. Or you could invest hundreds to fly to a writer conference. Spend several days marooned away from your computer.

Now: Free online trainings abound! (Like the first session of Article Writing Masterclass that I made free to all comers in April 2014.)

For more, take a paid, in-depth course you can view online as your schedule permits — and review whenever you like for a refresher. Get instructor feedback without having to go anywhere via live Q&A calls and support forums.

 

Personally, I’d give anything to have become a freelance writer now compared with what a slog it was back then.

One thing hasn’t changed, though — you need the confidence to put yourself out there in a competitive marketplace. But there are so many more types of writing and ways to earn today. For anyone who’s got the moxie, it’s the Golden Age for freelance writers.

Do you think it’s easier or harder to be a freelance writer now? Leave a comment and let us know.

Article Writing Masterclass

5 Ways Introverted Freelance Writers Can Do Painless Marketing

Posted in Blog on January 16th, 2014 by Carol Tice – 33 Comments

Shy freelance writer peers around computerBy Nillu Nasser Stelter

If you’re anything like me, one of the reasons you are a freelance writer is that you enjoy solitude.

Whether you write best in a hideaway or in a crowded cafe, you’re comfortable inside your own head.

But good writing skills and original ideas aren’t enough to make you a success in this business. You need kick-ass marketing skills, too. If you’re an introvert, you may find marketing doesn’t come easily.

You still need to do it, though.

Here’s how you can market yourself painlessly if you’re an introverted freelance writer.

1. Use social media that suits you

Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn … the sheer number of social media options out there is daunting.

To do social media well, you need to update your content regularly, so why not play to your strengths?

If you’re a succinct communicator, you may take well to Twitter.

Happy to share personal information? Then Facebook may be a good fit for you.

Or if you prefer connecting in a professional capacity, try LinkedIn.

Do what comes naturally and don’t spread yourself too thin.

2. Try one-on-one, in-person queries

If you’re an introvert, you may balk at going to networking meetings. If too much interaction with strangers drains your energy, there are equally effective alternatives.

Build confidence by arranging one-on-one meetings with prospective clients where you can impress with your research and attentiveness. You may even win extra brownie points for taking the initiative.

3. Make your business cards a talking point

If you must attend a large meeting, make life easier by bringing business cards that are a cut above.

Show off your creativity by opting for handcrafted cards over standardized ones. Create a talking point by including a generous offer for first-time clients — a free consultation, perhaps — or using a memorable logo.

Stand out from the crowd on your own terms.

4. Let your website do the talking

For the introverts out there, a strong writer website can do the hard work for you in presenting your brand to the world.

On your landing page, tell prospective clients about what you offer them. Write an engaging bio, add a picture of yourself, include your contact details — you are good to go.

Hundreds of repetitive conversations saved, and you can breathe easy.

5. Choose to listen

It’s a competitive market out there, but who said we have to compete on the same terms? Allow your personality to work for you and turn your pitch upside down.

Instead of focusing on what you can offer your client, tease out their concerns with insightful questions. Then, impress them with your ability to recognize the subtle nuances of their business. Close by wowing them with your perfectly tailored solutions.

Regardless of your personality type, in a world where many are shouting “look at me,” the quiet ways you market yourself may be the most effective.

How do you play to your strengths when marketing? Tell us in the comments below.

Nillu Nasser Stelter is a fiction and freelance writer living in London, UK. She identifies as an ambivert and is married to an introvert. Learn more about Nillu at NilluNasserStelter.com.

4 Reasons Why Grammar Police Make Terrible Writers

Posted in Blog on January 5th, 2014 by Carol Tice – 140 Comments

Grammar policeman points out errors in your writingby Linda Formichelli

The other day I received this email in response to a marketing message I sent out to my subscription list:

Basic grammar forbids the use of double negatives, “…using the wrong
set of skills for the wrong job”. An authority on writing must master
the rules of writing before they can be taken seriously.

(I so wanted to let this guy know that “the wrong skills for the wrong job” is hardly a double negative, and that some of the greatest writers of all times used double negatives for emphasis — Shakespeare, anyone? But I took my own advice and hit Delete.)

And here’s a small excerpt of a 400-word comment I got a few months ago pointing out two typos in a post:

This the very first article of yours that I have read and I already have an image of you built in my mind. A harried, hair all over the place woman who rushes around to get her work done! Not very flattering, is it.

I DO NOT think that of you, but I could and all because of two little mistakes in your writing! A person’s writing is a reflection of them, is it not? Given that you are teaching writers how to make a living from this wonderful craft, is it not prudent to be as perfect in your advise as possible?

I know other professional writers get all kinds of emails pointing out their typos and grammatical errors.

So what’s the problem? People need to know when they’re wrong so they can improve, so why not be the one to let them know — right?

Wrong. Here’s why you should retire your Grammar Police badge forever.

1. Grammar Police aren’t perfect

Did you notice the mistakes in these two Grammar Police messages I received? In the first one, he put the period outside of the quote marks. (And I know he’s American, so he has no excuse.) In the second, he wrote “advise” for “advice.” (And there were many more mistakes in the rest of the 400 words he posted.

People in glass houses and all that.

If you want to criticize someone else’s writing, you better make damn sure yours is absolutely perfect. And who wants that kind of stress?

2. Grammar Police waste time

The time and energy you spend policing other people’s grammar is better spent elsewhere — like, say, writing.

I just had to look up the guy who unsubscribed from my Morning Motivations emails because of a perceived double negative, and discovered that he has a book on Amazon. A book with a flabby three-star average rating (out of five stars). And reviews calling the book “boring.”

With all the time he spent getting PO’d about my grammar, writing and sending me an email, and unsubscribing from my list, he could have improved his own writing by reading a writing blog, reading chapter of a book on the writing craft, or editing some of his own work.

I guarantee you will never see, say, Stephen King shooting off an email to a writer admonishing her for a typo. He’s too busy, you know, writing bestsellers.

3. Grammar Police have bad attitudes

I love it when people write to me and say, “You may not have noticed this, but I wanted to let you know you have a misspelled word in the title of your post.” That is constructive criticism and that writer doesn’t earn the moniker “Grammar Police.”

I think the term “Grammar Police” refers specifically to people who berate you for your grammar errors — all out of proportion to the severity of said errors. Those who tell you your writing won’t be taken seriously with typos, or who paint a picture of you as a frazzled writer who can’t cope with life.

If that’s the attitude you display to other writers, you’re going to have a hard time networking and making friends in the writing community. And we all know how important contacts are in this industry, right?

4. Grammar Police have trouble writing

People who are sticklers for grammar and who blow up over typos tend to be perfectionists who never get their writing out to the world because they’re too concerned with making it perfect — which it will never be.

When you see a writer who is über prolific, you’ll find that they make the occasional error. That’s because they don’t get hung up on getting it perfect — they get hung up on getting it done.

Also, show me someone who gets hyper about grammar and I’ll show you someone whose writing is probably stilted, businesslike, and boring. I mean, “An authority on writing must master the rules of writing before they can be taken seriously”? Snooooze.

Good writers know how and when to bend — and break — the rules. For example, sometimes purposely breaking a grammar rule adds emphasis, or makes a piece of writing more conversational and reader-friendly.

Okay — time to hang up your Grammar Police uniform for good, and instead spend your time writing, writing, writing.

Ever had a run in with the Grammar Police? Let us know what happened in the comments below.

Linda Formichelli has written for over 130 magazines, is the co-author of The Renegade Writer and blogs about writing at The Renegade Writer. Her new book is Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race and Step Into a Career You’ll Love (Carol’s link there. Appreciate your support!).