In my mentoring work, I often find myself introducing my mentees to a basic fact of life for freelance writers: If you want to earn more, you’re going to need to market your business aggressively. Answering Craigslist or Kijiji ads is unlikely to get you $1 a word or $100 an hour gigs. To find really good-paying work, you will have to prospect.
This often produces a reaction along the lines of, “I’m shy! I’m no good at networking.”
But there isn’t just one marketing strategy in the universe, there are many. So today I’d like to kick off a two-part post highlighting some of the multitude of ways to market yourself as a freelance writer. Today, it’s 11 different 3-D-world marketing approaches. Somewhere in here, there’s a strategy that would be a fit for who you are and the kind of writing work you want to find.
1. In-person networking. I know you don’t want to hear it. But in-person networking is not only very effective, it can actually be fun. Just think — you get out of your writing cave, have a drink and a nibble, and meet new people who could help you make more money. Unless you are catastrophically shy, I want you to try it.
Bring business cards. Walk around and introduce yourself to as many people as possible. Overcome any shyness you have about plugging yourself by spending most of your time asking others why they came, what they do, and if appropriate what they’re looking for in a writer. If that description doesn’t fit you, try to recommend them someone. Networking is about learning others’ needs and helping each other succeed, not shoving yourself down other people’s throats. You don’t have to be pushy–be helpful. Personally, I have been to two in-person networking events and got great connections that led to wonderful paying clients both times.
Experiment with places to network–I’ve had good success with MediaBistro events here in Seattle, but your city may be different. I’m told the Linked:Seattle in-person events rock, too. Find your networking sweet spot and visit it as often as you can.
2. Direct mail. I’ve never tried this, but many of the top copywriters in this field develop a prospect list, and then audition by sending direct mail–makes sense, huh? One of them is Pete Savage-he sent one DM letter and got $64,000 of new business, and he sells a kit that describes how he did it. I don’t usually plug products, but if you’re interested in copywriting work, this may be worth a look. I can vouch for Pete–he’s the real deal. I can give you one tip I’ve gleaned from Pete’s newsletters–I gather he advocates including a bumpy novelty item in the envelope. Makes it irrestistible to receipient…apparently they feel compelled to open it to learn what’s making the bump.
3. Cold calling. That’s right–just pick up the phone, call a company you’d like to do copywriting for, and ask for the communications or marketing manager. Or call the editor of a publication you’d like to write for. Ask them if they use freelance writers. Be ready to pitch your ideas for stories to editors, or your copywriting services to companies. Many will say no, but persistence can really pay off here. Everyone who tries it reports they get new accounts, and that every 10 or 20 calls, they get a “yes.” Give yourself an edge and check out their existing Web site or other materials before you can call, so you can point out specific weaknesses in their current marketing and describe how the materials you’d create would bring address their needs and bring in new customers.
4. White papers. Create a white paper about the value of your copywriting service, demonstrating the benefits to companies that use you. Much like the direct mail strategy, this one’s especially great if you want to write white papers for companies. If you haven’t written white papers, you should learn about them because they’re the hottest sales tool in copywriting right now, and they pay very well.
5. Free or paid seminars. They can be in-person, over the Web, over the phone, you name it. But holding a class in a topic such as “How copywriting can help your business” can put you in touch with many good prospects in one fell swoop. Some like charging a little for the class as you screen out looky-loos and get more qualified, highly interested leads who are more likely to become clients.
6. Free downloads. Create a helpful article article with advice or tips on how to communicate your business’s value or some other related topic, which ultimately leads to a conclusion that hiring a professional writer will help your business. Put it on your Web site as a free download in exchange for which you capture their email address. Presto, you’re building a great marketing list and exposing your name to prospective clients while presenting yourself as an expert. (OK, this tip involves a computer…but it’s not social media, so here it is in the 3-D list.)
7. Tshirts and car decals. That’s right, think of yourself like any bike shop or car wash would, and promote the fact that you’re a freelance writer everywhere you go!
8. Contests and polls. Hold a contest for the worst business Web site and give the winner free home-page content, or write their bio page, or whatever you want to offer. Or take a poll on the most important thing to say on a business Web site, and give the winner a free consultation. Entrants will, of course, have to submit their contact information, giving you an instant list of companies that need copywriters. This one doesn’t just get you prospects and a great before-and-after sample, you could tell the local papers and get written up, too.
9. Charity donations. Doesn’t your kids’ school have an annual auction? Donate an article for a business, or a free brochure. Great way to let the whole town know you’re a writer.
10. Put out a press release. Have you expanded into a new field? Hired a virtual assistant? Moved your office? Many local papers have business columns that publish these news tidbits, along with your photo in some cases. If not your local paper, try your Chamber newsletter (you belong, right?).
11. Partner or reciprocal deals. Do you know a business whose products or services you use, who could use Web content? Make them a barter deal–you do their site over in exchange for free stuff, including a free plug on their home page that you wrote the content.
Tune in later this week for the final 10 marketing tips in 21 Ways to Market Your Writing Services: The Social Media Edition.
Photo source: Flickr user Richard-G