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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Have you Overlooked this Lucrative Niche? Writing for Businesses

Many writers are drawn to freelancing because they want to write magazine articles and books, and that’s great. But if you want to make more money as a freelancer, don’t overlook one of the most lucrative writing niches there is: freelancing for businesses and corporations.
It used to be that a “real” journalist wouldn't consider doing public relations or corporate writing. It wasn’t seemly. Now that's changing, and plenty of freelancers are finding that business writing can boost their income. More writers are branching out into various types of corporate work, whether it's writing for external or internal corporate publications, or doing public relations or marketing work.
           You needn’t have an MBA to write for businesses, but you do need to understand your clients’ needs and be able to deliver what they want. If you’ve never written ad copy, for example, you’ll need to get up to speed on the difference between features and benefits, and know what a call to action is.  
           For example, a 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible may have a 6.2 Liter 430-hp V8 engine. That’s a feature. A benefit of the same car to the fifty-something-year-old man who considers buying it might be the way it attracts young women or lets him relive his lost youth. The call to action is what spurs the reader or listener to do something, whether it’s making a phone call or purchasing the product. (Check out Peter Bowerman's excellent books including The Well-Fed Writer and The Well-Fred Writer: Back for Seconds, for advice about breaking into and succeeding in the field.) 

In the past, companies tended to use local writers for work, but today you’re just as likely to work for a long-distance client if you can impress them with your portfolio and experience. Starting out, you may want to write complimentary brochures, advertisements, or website copy for a small company you have a contact with (you can help out a family business!) or a nonprofit organization to create a portfolio. 
Companies will want to see samples of your work before they hire you, so this is one situation where I’d disregard my never-write-for-free rule. In fact, I did a lot of volunteer work for Big Brothers/Big Sisters as a new freelancer so I had samples to show potential business clients. You needn’t reveal to a potential client that you did the work for no pay, after all!
Once you have some samples, it's time to start reaching out to solicit potential clients. I'll talk about how next post.  
***If you want to add ghostwriting to your freelance repertoire, my first-ever online class with Writer's Digest, Ghostwriting 101, starts on September 10, 2011. The class will give you all the tools you need to launch a ghostwriting career, including a personalized marking plan, letter of introduction, and an understanding of what you can offer potential clients. 


  1. Kelly,
    For three years I've toyed with going to our local chamber of commerce's business expo to see if I could meet potential clients and maybe get some business. However, I talk myself out of it every time for various reasons (shyness #1). But now I think I'm past that.
    So, would you recommend having a table/display for people to come to me. Or, would you walk around talking to people and introduce yourself as a writer and hand out your card. Or, do I have the wrong venue entirely?

  2. Hi, Carol--
    I think that's a great idea. I think you'd be better off walking around introducing yourself than investing in a table. Practice a brief (two-sentence) speech about what you can do for companies/chamber members and make it your goal to ask about the companies there and what they do. If you're genuinely interested in the people you meet, you're more likely to get business out of it than if you just shill yourself to everyone. Make sense? :)
    Let me know what happens! :)

  3. This is a good market to round out your freelance writing. I'm interested to read your next post. I've found that passing your resume along to staffing agencies for creative hires is a good way to get your name out there.

  4. Are you kidding? My friend and I were waiting for a to go order next to a chamber get together.
    I wandered over to check on interest. Didin't have a bus card yet or anything.
    I told them about my copywriting interests, apologised for not having a card and ended up getting theirs.
    I ended up starting something more formal because of that.
    Next meeting I was better known, picked up more cards. By the 3rd meeting I had cards of my own and my business had manifested itself.
    Just talk to people. Tell em what you do. Go to the networking meetings and just hang out. As they get to know you, business will naturally come in (as long as your word of mouth is good too).