The One Best, Easy, Cheap Marketing Method for Freelance Writers

Of all the questions I get asked about freelance writing, there’s one that comes up over and over again. It’s about marketing.

The question takes many forms — here are a few I’ve gotten recently:

What’s the best way for a beginner to start making money?

What’s the best, inexpensive way to market effectively?

What would be a good first step for marketing one’s writing talents to online markets?

What sort of marketing activities can you do if you have very limited time to jump-start a freelance writing career?

What’s the number-one step for someone wanting to begin a freelance writing career?

When telemarketing for work, what’s the best script to use?

What’s a good way for new copywriters to get clients?

How do you find the editors who will hire you?

Ultimately, all these questions are really the same question:

Where is the shortcut to freelance writing success?

Isn’t there one quick, easy, trail around the mountain and down into the valley of great-paying clients that I could show new freelance writers, so that marketing is a snap and they earn big money real fast?

Not that I’ve discovered.

Why? Because every human being, you may have noticed, is different.

The best way to market your writing depends on you.

What sort of writer are you? How brave are you? How willing to put yourself out there? Are you too shy to cold call? Hate parties? Love to schmooze on the phone? Don’t have time to craft individual marketing emails?

Who you are — your life experience, the types of markets you want to write for, your level of drive and commitment — plays a key role in determining your marketing strategy.

There is no one best telemarketing script that works for all occasions.

There is no single marketing method that is fast and easy and works like a charm for everyone who tries it.

What’s quick and effortless to me in marketing might be time-consuming torture for you.

Anyone who’s promising you that if you just pay them big bucks they can teach you their no-fail marketing system — I think they’re full of it.

Yes, you can — and should — learn about different marketing techniques and what’s working today. But then, you need to go out and try some of those methods and see how you feel about doing them, and how they work for you.

And when I say try, I mean a lot. For three to six months, full out. I don’t mean send a half-dozen tossed-off queries and then conclude querying just doesn’t work.

The best type of marketing for you is the type you are willing to do, and keep doing.

Stop wondering where the shortcut is.

Start marketing your business.

That’s the only way you’re going to find out what marketing works for you. For every writer, it’s going to involve some trial and error.

My experience is most writers waste way too much time worrying about the best way and spend way too little time trying some way — any way at all is better than continuing to plan how you might market your business at some fuzzy future date.

Personally, I found answering Craigslist ads very inefficient in getting good clients, while adding key search terms to my writer website and LinkedIn profile was well worth it. In-person networking rocked, too.

What will you discover? You won’t know until you get out there and market your writing.

What’s your best marketing method right now? Leave a comment and fill us in.

 

Image: Stock.xchng – ba1969

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22 comments on “The One Best, Easy, Cheap Marketing Method for Freelance Writers
  1. Tom Bush IV says:

    I am a 76 year old man with the advantage of having several vocations and interests.I enjoy writing short non-fiction stories. i believe my stories have a market in “niche” magazines.
    I don’t imagine writing unsolicited submissions with SASE to an editor is very effective.

    Thjere are so many magazines on the market, there must be multiple opportunities to get my writing accepted (and paid for)

    Any suggestions appreciated.

    Tom Bush

    • Carol Tice says:

      You probably want to grab a copy of The Writer’s Market, Tom, for help researching markets that accept the type of articles you write.

      And yeah, we mostly email our queries these days. There are definitely plenty of paying markets out there, so dive in and take a look!

  2. Hi Carol
    This post has got me thinking. I have made the biggest marketing mistake of all – not doing any. The question – how brave are you? – jumped out at me, which speaks volumes.
    Time for me to get cracking on that score.
    Cheers
    Thea
    Thea Easterby recently posted…Know Your Own Pressure PointsMy Profile

  3. Here’s an idea:

    Deliver a great product or service and treat your customers right.

    As far as I’ve witnessed, in my own career and in the businesses I’ve worked with, this is THE secret to success. As a freelancer, I find that this philosophy can be applied to anything, including (especially) your marketing.

    Make your marketing itself a service to your clients. You’re trying to make their life easier right? So do it right off the bat by focusing your marketing efforts in directions that benefit the client from day 1. Why should they have to search for you through clearinghouses with thousands of writers or do something so old-fashioned as respond to an ad by calling you. How can you make it even easier to hire you than writing an email or responding on LinkedIn? Can you create a service that is already benefiting them before they ever write you a check?

    Carol, how many of your Den-folks were reading your blog and applying your strategies before they signed up? All of them, I’d bet. Perfect example of putting your service exactly where the customer needs it, so “working” with you is a formality, you’ve already developed the relationship.

    Next, treat your customers right. Not enough people do this, even though everyone says they do. Treating customers well isn’t a strategy. It’s just being good people. We all know how to do it.

    Oh yeah, give people free things. It’s easy to spend so much mental effort on demanding fair fees and feeling confident charging what you’re worth, that you can forget to give breaks where they are due. Any client who has work for you every month and doesn’t haggle you too hard on your rate, deserves a comp here and there.

    Why? Because they’ll tell everyone about you. Very early in my career I found a small graphic design studio with a few clients and a small budget. I cringed and took some tiny fees to build my portfolio and crossed my fingers hoping I wasn’t screwing myself. Today, they’re my biggest client and I get every penny I ask for on every project and most of our clients come back in 3-4 months for more services. I hardly have to market at all because I treated ONE client right.

    There are thousands of ways to prospect but there is only one way to be you. Be really good at that and we’ll all be rich.
    Brendan McCrain recently posted…Why You Should Let Your Kids Play With Your iPhoneMy Profile

  4. Renée says:

    My best advice is attend networking events and keep filling that pipeline. Just last week I received a call from someone who had been referred to me at a networking session back in March. We had one call and nothing came of it so I put this potential client out of my mind. Needless to say I was pretty thrilled to have this client contact me and offer me a nice plum project! In that same week, I also received a call from someone who said they got my card at a recent event and would like to know about my services. You just never know… A note about networking, though: be selective about where and with whom you network. Smaller events make it easier to work the room and avoid places where there are likely to be more job-hunters than business owners and decision makers.

  5. Doc Sheldon says:

    Good stuff, Carol! I suppose it’s just human nature to always look for the easy way to achieve our goals. As a few have said, there IS no silver bullet, yet there are people out there eager to break out their credit card for any “easy” offering.

    Personally, I’ve chosen to limit my marketing efforts to word of mouth, and it’s served me well. The vast majority of my business comes to me via referrals, and with only four of us writing, that’s enough to keep us busy 7 days a week.

  6. That “no one thing works for everyone” may be the best job-seeking-related comment I’ve ever heard. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s nearly had a nervous breakdown over the “mass-telephone-cold-call” approach that so many recommend. With all due respect to Peter Bowerman, who launched a major freelance writing business in six months with that technique, I’m a writer and I feel much more comfortable approaching potential clients in WRITING–traditional queries, “cold call” e-mails, social networking, etc. Actually meeting people face-to-face at networking events helps, too: joining the local Chamber of Commerce and at least one other professional group (those with small-business foci are best for one-person writing operations, especially if you hate the high rates and red-tape requirements of corporate-oriented organizations).

    One approach recommended particularly for job seekers (freelance and otherwise) who struggle with people skills is found in the book “Developing Talents,” by Temple Grandin and Kate Duffy. Summed up, the key points are: don’t waste time envying those who can sell themselves naturally by force of personality; build up an impressive portfolio (or collection of samples) that by itself showcases your skills as irresistible; get to know (and listen to) people who know the business and know people in the business; develop a solid mental picture of what exactly you want to be doing; and concentrate on back-door opportunities rather than the hugely competitive world of job ads. (The book was written for those whose lack of natural people skills is due to actual disability–i. e., certain forms of autism–but the approach itself has potential for many others.)
    Katherine Swarts recently posted…The Silence of GodMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Temple Grandin is so awesome, isn’t she?
      But she cuts right to it — if something sounds wretched to do, it’s probably not the marketing format that’s going to be for you.

      Others love the mindlessness of not having to research companies and just picking up the phone. You can get a lot of reach-outs done quickly.

      Personally, I’ve never done cold calling, I prefer warm emails. So that’s what I do. The trick is to experiment, find out where your marketing comfort zone is, and then WORK IT.

  7. Gip says:

    I like the idea of contacting at least one new prospect every day. I’m not nearly organized or motivated enough to contact 10 before 10, but doing one per day would mean that the wheels are always turning.

    The best way to market yourself is to keep trying, I think. In fact, “keep trying” seems to be the answer to most of life’s problems.

    Gip
    Gip recently posted…City Living vs. Rural Living: Which Is Simpler And More Responsible?My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Right on, Gip. Early on, for my ebook I interviewed Nathan Hangen, who told me about blog monetizing, “Don’t give up before it pays off.” I think about that quote nearly every day! Applies to everything in freelance writing.

  8. It’s super easy to waste time looking for a shortcut when the answer is that it just takes time and effort. I come across this with businesses as well.

    Some of the businesses I work with expect their website to be a silver bullet that attracts thousands of customers with zero effort. The reality is that a website is one tool in the marketing tool box. Often cold calling can lead to more customers than putting money in the slot machine named Google AdWords, but a website is a critical complement for cold calling since most customers will also want to check out a companies website.

    So I agree: It’s more important to keep trying to find out what works than to spin your wheels attempting to divine what the best way will be without actually experimenting. 🙂
    Joseph Putnam recently posted…The Easiest (and Cheapest) Way to Get a Beautiful Blog DesignMy Profile

  9. Craigs list is full of cons wanting to take advantage of writers. Sad thing is a bunch of bad apples ruin things for the rest.
    Freelance by Sasha recently posted…Sasha’s Weekly Round UpMy Profile

  10. I have been in sales related professions for years and still have to remind myself there is no silver bullet. In the short time I have been marketing my writing I have found most people to be receptive and polite and the response to my emails has been way higher than I would have anticipated. I’ve also found that by being out there, checking on websites, clicking through to related sites I am finding all kinds of leads I wouldn’t have known were there if I hadn’t been actively looking. I love the 10 before 10 mantra…not only does it help with focus but I know I’ll feel great if that much prospecting is behind me so early in the day. Thanks Ruth for that idea.
    Celeste Smucker recently posted…Improving Your Search Engine ResultsMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      It’s amazing what happens when you start actively marketing, isn’t it? It’s like you were in a dark room with only one pinlight that shone on all the crappy-ad jobs…and then suddenly the room lights come on and you realize the world is FULL of prospects that pay real rates.

      Yeah, I like Ruth’s 10 before 10 suggestion too! Anything that gets you doing proactive marketing routinely, I’m in favor.

  11. Had to laugh when I saw the title for this post. (After I clicked through to read it because I thought maybe you had found THE answer.)

    As a marketing consultant, I’m ALWAYS being asked that question (for any industry). “There are no magic bullets folks,” has become a mantra…(I wonder if that would make a good promotional item? A fake bullet engraved with the words, “I’m not really magic — call Tea if you want some great ideas and solid advice.”

    Thanks for writing this one, Carol. Even with my vast 20 years of marketing experience, I apparently still needed a reminder.
    Tea Silvestre recently posted…Visual Marketing: A Review and Interview with the AuthorsMy Profile

  12. Lara Stewart says:

    I’m still establishing myself, but, the one thing I’ve found that has been a great help has been getting out and letting people know what I do. I try to attend at least one networking event a month.
    Lara Stewart recently posted…Have a blog? You know something most Fortune 500 companies don’t.My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I think all writers should do in-person events. My motto is: People give you gigs, not computers. Meet live humans.

      Also gets you out of your writing cave and dressed nicely. And there’s so much power in simply saying over and over, “I’m a freelance writer.” Helps rewire your brain so that you believe it.

  13. There is no one method, no magic pill – indeed, everyone is different. But in my experience, I have found that doing one thing consistently makes a huge difference.

    Prospect each and every day.

    I try to reach ’10 before 10′. 10 targeted prospects, before 10:00 am, by email or by phone, every single day.

    Okay, it’s not always 10, and it’s rarely before 10:00, but I use it as a mantra. Fuelling my sales pipeline every day, by reaching out personally to prospects, is the only way that I’ve found new business keeps flowing.
    Ruth – Freelance Writing Blog recently posted…Genius Freelance Writing Lessons Learned From a Pesky Extra ChromosomeMy Profile