You’ve Got to Work Your Joint: Promoting Yourself Needs to be an Ongoing Activity

If you have ever walked through a midway at a summer fair or a carnival, you will have noticed that you are constantly being invited to partake in one or more of the games available. Carnival workers refer to the process of trying to get a potential customer’s attention by shouting out to them as “working your joint.”

The concept of taking steps to promote your business and what you have to offer is not only confined to people working the fair circuit. If you don’t want the term “working writer” to be an oxymoron, you need to make some noise and let potential clients that you are here and ready to work with them.

There are many ways you can promote yourself, but today I want to focus on one of the basics: the business card. If you are serious about making money working as a freelance writer, I would suggest that you have some made up. They don’t have to be anything fancy; what you want is something with your name, your business name (if you have one or “Freelance Writer” if you don’t) and your preferred contact method. Go to a print shop or look into one of the free biz card templates available online and print them off on card stock.

Keep a supply of cards with you at all times and distribute them freely. Any time that you meet someone new, don’t just say your name, give the person your card, too. At the same time, be prepared to tell the person a little bit about yourself and what you do. Write a 30-second “elevator speech” that you can rhyme off any time you need to.

If you are not used to doing this, it may be uncomfortable at first. Over time, it will get easier. The idea here is to spread a big net out to make contacts. It may not happen overnight, but someone you gave your card to may turn out to be someone who can give you some work, or they may know someone who needs writing done.

What I want to convey here is the idea that we need to be constantly open to the possibility getting more (and better paying) jobs. I honestly believe that we have as many opportunities as we create for ourselves and if you want to get more business, you need to let the people know who you are and what you can do for them.

So get out there and start working your own joint…just stay away from the carnival games. (They can be won, but either there is a trick involved or the odds are highly slanted in the House’s favor.)


  1. Lana Taylor Figgs says

    You’re so right,….as painful as it can be, we HAVE to put ourselves out there in the public eye. Business cards are a great method. Then there’s free websites (ONLY temporary to get started), blogging builds skills AND exposure, and the dreaded Cold-calling that’s promoted by gurus Bob Bly & Peter Bowerman…

  2. Deb says

    I always have business cards with me. Vista Print offers free cards – you just pay a couple of dollars for shipping. Everyone is a potential client.

    Hi Jodee and everyone! I miss you!

  3. says

    I’ve just had business cards printed up for myself, using a free Vistaprint offer through Elance. Now I’m on the lookout for opportunities where I can distribute them, like local networking events and blogging and social media conferences.

  4. says

    I love Vistaprint! I recently learned that my yoga teachig job will be ending next week (studio’s closing) so I had some cards print there to give to my students. On the front has all my yoga info/availability for privates, etc. On the back, I paid a few extra bucks to have freelance writing info. If I get work in either field, it’s a win. Generally speaking, though, I’m awful at self-promotion because I’m very shy. I really need to get over that. I only have a stady paycheck for another week!

  5. says

    I agree that business cards can be powerful. However, I am notoriously buying business cards that I am proud of (200 of them at least) handing out ten of them, then changing my email address or something like that which makes the cards obsolete. My business is done online but that doesn’t mean that I can’t promote myself offline. I have to remember that.

  6. Phil says

    Though VistaPrint might be less expensive, printing one’s own cards makes it easier to change items when needed. For you oldtimers, think of the Rockford Files. He did business cards for everything (and, if I’m not mistaken, did them on a typewriter).

  7. says

    Great advice. I think that the card idea also goes a long way to show others you take your business seriously, and it isn’t just that “writing hobby” you did in college. Thanks for the thoughts!

  8. Jodee says

    @ Phil: I really enjoyed that show. Jim Rockford did have a lengthy list of aliases, and each one had its own business card, you’re right!

    @ Nacie: Thank you…I’m glad you found it interesting.

  9. says

    I’m going to both agree and disagree with this post and comments. I agree that business cards are essential. They are also part of your first impression when meeting potential clients. To me nothing screams “amateur” as much as having a business card printed on Avery card stock, or using free Vistaprint cards and not paying the $20 to have the Vistaprint logo taken off the back. It’s part of image presentation. If you don’t care enough to invest in business cards, you might be sending the message that you don’t care enough about what you’re going to produce as a writer. And besides, it’s tax deductible! 😉

  10. says

    I’d definitely back paying the few extra bucks to have the VistaPrint logo removed from the back of the cards. You’d think nobody would look at the back, but with the first batch I handed out, *everybody* turned them over and looked at the logo.

    Having just impressed somebody with your professional image, it’s really undermining when, less than a second later, they see a line explaining you got the cards as a freebie!

  11. says

    Amen to John’s comment!

    Handing out those ‘free’ cards is ultimately more expensive than paying the extra couple of dollars for the blank back.

    It shows you are not serious about your business, or confident in your ability to make it work.

    And self-promotion only really seems awful until you realize the true nature of sales… connecting people with needs to people who can help them!

    Excellent post, Jodee!

    Sue LaPointe

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