In the big discussion of Demand Studios’ IPO last week, some questions came up about how to find better-paying clients. It’s something I’ve discussed before, but we can never talk enough about the many ways you can move up and earn more money here on MALW. So today, I thought I’d tackle one of the easiest types of clients to find — businesses that need Web content.
This niche is really like shooting fish in a barrel. Why? Because you can just look on the Internet at Web sites, find the ones that suck the worst, and call the company.
It’s really that simple. Here are some steps to take to identify good Web-content prospects:
1. Find local companies. Possible strategies for finding prospects: Get a Book of Lists for your town. Grab your local Chamber’s business directory, or visit the Chamber and grab one of every brochure in the rack. Or just drive through a local business park or your nearest downtown shopping district, and make a list of local business company names.
If you’re just starting out in copywriting, or in Web-content writing, I recommend focusing on companies in your town. You’re more likely to be able to make a connection with a company you can come down and meet with in person. If you have a special knowledge area — legal, retail, nonprofit, accounting, whatever — further narrow your search to companies in that industry. You may not have Web content samples, but maybe you have articles, brochures or other work in their industry, which would help pave the way to convincing them you’re the writer for the assignment.
How can you zero in on better-paying clients? Try to get a sense from their site of the value of what they sell. What do you think this company makes in a year? A medium-sized law firm, for instance, likely has a very healthy cash flow. A successful, growing retailer with multiple locations — same. You can also do Google searches to see if the company has gotten any press, and if so, if they mentioned company revenue. In my experience, business-to-business companies are more desirable targets than consumer-focused companies…it may be me, but they seem to more often have substantial marketing budgets. If a company sells $500,000 engines to automotive companies, they’re probably a better target than one that sells $5 toys at craft fairs.
Prioritize companies that are good candidates for ongoing work — they constantly introduce new products, or want to keep a blog updated weekly. Steady clients that will have work each month are always more desirable — and end up generating more revenue — than those seeking to simply add a few new Web pages to their site and call it done.
2. Look online. Now take your list and find all the company Web sites in your target geography and industries. Take a browse through them. Shortly, it will become clear to you that some of their sites are awesome and detailed, while some have real problems. The losers have important pieces missing — no strong “About us” page, no team bios, no details on what their products or services do and how they benefit customers. Reading the site, you can’t figure out what they do, how long they’ve been in business, who their clients are, who the people are running the company. These are your prospects.
3. Prepare a pitch. Take notes about the state of the Web sites. ABC company has no verbiage whatever on their home page, just a list of links! XYZ company has no media page with press contacts. RFQ company has a blog set up, but it hasn’t been updated in three months. And so on. Create a pitch tailored for each one that goes something like this:
“I’d like to introduce myself — I’m a local freelance writer. I was looking at your Web site recently, and noticed it doesn’t have ______. I’d be happy to take a few minutes to talk with you about how adding a ___ to your Web site would help drive more traffic to your site/get your company noticed/build your reputation and bring you more clients.” (If you haven’t pitched companies before, know that everything you say should tie in to the company finding more business. That is why they hire writers — they’re hoping your words will attract more customers.)
4. Call or email prospects. I’ve had good luck with both methods of reaching out, but do whatever you feel suits your personal communication style. Some writers give great phone, while some craft really catchy emails that get results. To start, identify the businesss owner (if it’s a small biz) or the marketing manager (if it’s a medium to larger one). Find their phone number or email address, and get in touch.
5. Have examples. If you don’t have examples of your own Web content work, just find a few sites that you think are well-done (by competitors of your target, ideally) so you can show them what effective content looks like and point up how their site is lacking in comparison. Business owners don’t like to feel they look lame when compared with similar businesses.
6. Be prepared to build a relationship. In my experience, your first contact with a small business about writing Web content will often not result in an instant sale (though sometimes it does!). More often, you may need to have several conversations that may string out over weeks or months as the company decides exactly what new content should be written. Start a tracking system for staying in touch periodically with these prospects. Send them interesting articles about why adding a blog would help their business…don’t necessarily hard-sell them every time you chat. Don’t invest a ton of time, as this may or may not pay off, but show you’re a useful resource who knows about how to use the Internet to help businesses grow. This week, I’m finally signing a lucrative contract with one financial-services consultant who I’ve been speaking with all year.
7. Quote a decent rate. Web-content rates are all over the map. If you’re new, start at $100 a page at least. And know that Web pages should be short — 300-400 words is plenty. If they have more to say, they should create subpages (which you should also charge $100 for!). They want blogs? Think $100 per. Pay can range up to $1 a word, $150 an hour, and more in my experience. Rates will depend on the complexity of the information you need to convey on the company site. Need to write about foreign currency trading or actuarial consulting? It’s probably going to pay more than writing about a pizza parlor.
But remember: If you quote a lowball rate, you’ll write for low rates. Try to get the client to mention a budget first, and then negotiate from there. Stick to your guns on what you think is fair pay.
Photo via Flickr user nickHiebert