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Sunday, January 6, 2013

10 Ways for Freelance Writers to Market Themselves


Hi, readers! Got a query you're struggling with, and would like some feedback on? Had a query rejected and wish you knew why? Or simply want a pro to take a look at your latest pitch? 

Stay tuned--I'll soon be offering my Query Critique series, where I edit and comment on readers' queries (anonymously) here on the blog. (It's a bargain--my consulting/coaching clients pay me $100/hour for this kind of work--so get your query ready to submit when I announce the upcoming critique series!)

And do me a favor. Please comment on this post if you're planning to participate and let me know! Thanks.  
            
Now, onto my latest post: 

New to freelancing? Feel like you're doing nothing more than sending out queries and getting, well, nowhere? 
            
Welcome to the club. When you launch a freelance business, you spend the majority of your time marketing. As you develop experience and work for clients, though, you can expect to spend less time overall selling yourself. Yet you should plan on devoting a significant chunk of time, at least 20 percent, to marketing your business.
            
The way you market will depend on the type of work you do, which means that the strategies that work for a freelancer who writes for magazines won’t work for a copywriter. That’s why I suggest you create your own marketing plan, selecting different techniques that will vary depending on the type of work you do. In addition to those dreaded cold calls, here are ten effective techniques to use:

  • Query letters. If you write for magazines, whether print or online, a powerful query is your first line of attack. Every query should open with a compelling lead, make the case for the story, show the editor how you plan to approach the topic, and describe why you’re uniquely qualified to write it. 
  • LOIs. Second only to query letters in the freelancer’s arsenal is the LOI, or letter of introduction. You should have a template on hand that you can customize for potential clients, whether you’re contacting a custom publisher, a business, or a potential ghostwriting client. A template you can tweak lets you strike fast if you see a freelancing post or find out about a possible gig. The client will usually hire one of the first qualified responders, so you want to be as close to the head of the line as you can.
  • Your website. You need one. Period. Your website should be designed to attract your primary target clients. If you’re writing for businesses, play up that aspect. If you freelance for magazines, include clips on your site and a list of publications you’ve worked for. At the least, your website should include: a description of the kind of work you do; a brief biography; and contact information. You may also want to list of prior projects or publications or client testimonials as well.
  • Your email signature. One of the easiest yet overlooked ways to market yourself is to create an email signature that describes the work you do. Change it occasionally to highlight different aspects of your business.
  • Satisfied clients. Clients who are happy with your work are one of the best ways to market yourself. Once you’ve proven yourself, ask your editor if she knows of other editors looking for freelancers. If you feel that’s too pushy, at least ask her to pass your name along to colleagues who might hire you in the future. 
  • Article and book sources. I’ve interviewed hundreds of sources over the years, most of who are professionals in the health and fitness fields. I let them know that I ghostwrite and coauthor books, and have had work come through recommendations because of the way I treated a source. 
  • Online job posts. Believe it or not, I’ve found good-paying work through online jobsites like craigslist. Check out http://craigslist.org, www.elance.com, www.online-writing-jobs.com, and www.guru.com for freelance job postings. Yes, most of the work is low-paying but there are legitimate gigs to be found if you don’t mind trawling through the dreck.
  • Networking. Hate the word? Put a different spin on it. Don’t call it networking. Don’t call it anything. Just make an effort to create relationships with other humans, help them when you can, and connect. The person you connect with may not be a potential client, but he may know someone who is. The more people who know what you do, the better.
  • One-on-one meetings. Every year, ASJA holds its annual writers’ conference in New York. Members can attend “Personal Pitch” to meet editors and agents. If you do a lot of work for businesses, it’s worth it to join your local chamber of commerce or attend other local networking events to introduce yourself to business owners.
  • Social media. Unlike a website, a blog isn’t essential, but it can help you market yourself and your business. Same goes for your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts. Each should contain a brief blurb about the kind of work you do, again targeting potential clients. 
            Bottom line is to avoid a common marketing mistake, and one I’ve made in the past. You get busy with work and you don’t market for a while. Then after you crawl out from under your deadlines, you discover that you have to scramble to line up assignments.
            That’s why you should set aside some time, even if it’s just a few hours a week, to market. That may mean sending out a query or two, touching base with your regular clients, or checking online sites for possible gigs. Consistent marketing will make for more consistent work, and consistent money. 
                    ***This post is drawn from Secret 18: Market constantly, from Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success