Freelance Writing Marketing & Promotion: How Much Is Too Much?

Make time to market your services.

How many times have you read that bit of advice?

Well, it’s rock-solid.  If you aren’t making a point of marketing yourself, the risk of falling into that ugly feast/famine cycle is exceedingly high.  If you aren’t building marketing time into your schedule, it’s tough to move up the income ladder.

So, make time for promoting yourself.

But not too much time.

I’ve been working on redesigning my workflow lately in an effort to improve my efficiency, boost my bottom line, maintain something approximating sanity and to provide ample opportunity to catch a number of weekday afternoon Royals games this summer.  Following some good advice, I’ve been more conscious of what I do every day and I’ve made a discovery:  I spend too much time on the marketing and promotion side of things.

I know that many writers get good results by working through job listings, but I’ve responded to exactly two of those ads over the years I’ve been in the business.  I secure client work via repeat clients, word of mouth and rainmaking.  It keeps my busy.  Maybe too busy.  I’ve realized that I need to take my foot off the gas.

Yesterday, for instance, I saw a little Facebook status update from someone I’ve hired in the past to do some non-writing related work.  I couldn’t resist dropping him a line about the project he mentioned and discussing a content creation option that might be of interest to him.  We had a nice back-and-forth and it might lead to something.

Later, while doing some research on another project, I wandered into a fascinating website that was chock-full of great information.  It also looked like it was put together in 1995 (sparkly animated GIFs and the whole works), even though the business is still updating it.  I could immediately see how its over-long, rambling pages of almost-impossible-to-find text and images could be broken into individual pages and posts within a WordPress framework to produce a much better site.  Some good organization, a lot of rewriting, a little new material, some keyword research, some basic SEO and a few other bits of “this and that” and they’d have something really effective instead of being discoverable only by those staring at a business card or finding it via a link on an almost equally obscure site.

So, I pitched them cold with an email.  They responded this morning.  Looks like another client.

I don’t keep stats on my rainmaking efforts.  However, they produce clients more often than you might think.  That’s great–until you find yourself looking at more work than you can handle without cutting other things out of your life.

There are at least four ways I might control the over-marketing problem.  I can bump rates to control my workload.  I can work on ways to better scale my business for increased growth by bringing in additional people and resources.  I can be less aggressive in the rainmaking department.  I can say “no” more often.  I’m dabbling in all four, but I know this will be a tough nut to crack.  Sometimes, I think I need a Twelve Step program on this front.

But fixing my personal issues isn’t really the point of this post.  I think the whole over-promotion thing stems from a common fear experienced by many freelancers–what will happen next?

Even those of us who’ve been doing this for a long time have a hard time fighting that nagging feeling that we could wake up tomorrow with nothing profitable to do.  The last few years have crushed the old idea of job security for just about everyone, but freelancers don’t just work with an economically ravaged safety net–we don’t have one at all.

We’ve all heard (or have survived) the famine side of the feast/famine cycle at least once and we don’t want to visit that territory again.

In an effort to build a more secure business, we’re always prospecting for work.  Some of us do it even when we really don’t need to do so.

So, I’m wondering…  Are you successfully managing a promotion addiction?  If so, how?  Do you consciously limit your business-building efforts or do you just “let ‘er rip” and then deal with the consequences?

Comments

  1. I did let ‘er rip… and am reaping the consequences! good $, but not much sleep lol!

    Lisa

  2. I’m with Lisa on this one.

    At the start of the year, I set out somewhat of a plan and decided to make a conscious effort to increase my client base, my productivity and my turnover.

    We’re half way into March and things are great – they’d be even better if I could get by on three hours sleep.

    I’m not complaining – not at all – and I firmly believe that you should take any opportunities that you can, when you can. However, I think there does come a point where you physically can’t take anymore work on, no matter how much you want to, which is when it comes in particularly handy to have a network of colleagues to outsource or completely pass on work to.
    .-= Dan´s last blog ..Interview With A Blogger – Tamahome Jenkins =-.

  3. I completely shut down my networking and marketing attempts in February. Why? I was spending 3 hours a day or so working on networking and marketing. Waste of my time. Why? I have more than enough work, and I was beginning to spend 7-8 hours a day “working”.

    No thanks. 4 hours a day is all I want. My days of nose-to-the-grindstone are over.

    I have so many other irons in the fire as well. My wife’s crafting business is slowly taking off, and I help her with that…my fiction continues to circulate and sell…and my spec-fic zine takes up a good portion of my time (4 hours a day at least), so it’s not like I’m not “working”. It’s that I only spend 4 hours a day freelancing.

    To be honest…I don’t think it will ever expand beyond this. My wife’s family runs a large company (25 million Euro at present) that is only expanding, and when she finishes up her Masters degree she’ll be heading into the family business, and I’ll be switching over to fiction full time. At the moment I’m freelancing purely to pay the bills while she finishes school, but I have no intentions or desires to pursue this for more than another 2-3 years. It’s great money….but I’d rather be writing fiction.

    I have zero desire to work 60-80 hours a week. Sure, I could break 100k a year if I wanted to, but why would I want to? I live like a king working the hours I do, and it doesn’t require me to break my back marketing and networking. I get a full 8 hours of sleep every night, I never work Saturdays or Sundays, and I get to spend my life enjoying life, rather than slaving away to make a paycheck according to someone else’s standards.

    check please :)
    .-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Your Online Reputation =-.

    • @T.W. Anderson: Great comment! You seem to have balanced out your approach to really succeed in the long term. I think many of us wouldn’t suffer half as much burnout if we took a similar approach.
      .-= Kevin Freeman´s last blog ..Why Use Freeman Writing Services? =-.

      • Kevin:

        Long-term was what first made my wife and I decide to move out of the States to a place where we can actually see/use our income. I won’t clutter up this thread with it, but check out my post on the numbers between Italy and the States (http://www.completewritingsolutions.com/2010/02/obsession-with-numbers/) where I delve into some of the differences in costs of living/wages. Pretty staggering figures. And I live somewhere where the cost of living is even lower :) Our total costs for the year, including entertainment (movies, eating out, etc.) peak at around 10k USD. Cost of living is only around 7k a year. However, I’m also debt-free, however, and we don’t own a vehicle…we take public transportation (big city; no need for a car).

        I haven’t been burned out since we moved here 2 years back. There was one summer in Colorado when I was still doing construction when we had 48 hours to do a house and I was lined up for some track homes in the Denver area, and we were banging out 3 of them a week…for 1800-2k per house. Long days, though…4 a.m. wake up, work 6 till 8 or 9 at night, get a few hours of sleep, crash hard on Sunday, do it again…we were so burnt out after that summer, but it was great cash. However…money isn’t everything, and I wouldn’t go back for anything in the world.

        Every thing we do is based upon 2-3 year plans. Right now we are making small investments…helping a friend start a business that my wife will be helping to run…investing in real estate this year, as well as a construction company…next year is a vineyard, we hope…plus we should have a good 30k chunk set aside by the end of this year for our first house furnishings, which is being built sometime in the next 2-3 years.

        Will everything work out as planned? Who knows. But the point is the only way to make things happen is to take charge of your life instead of letting society and other factors dictate terms to you.

        For me…I decided all that time marketing and networking was a waste of my time. I don’t really have a desire to grow my business beyond what it is now, because it’s only a means to an end. I’m not everyone, however…just one fish in a great big sea.
        .-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Your Online Reputation =-.

  4. I’m going through a bit of a marketing addiction relapse at the moment, since I moved to a new state a month ago and took the opportunity to rebrand my entire business. I was just noticing today how difficult it is for me to pull myself away from the computer, or to feel at the end of the day like I’ve done enough to promote my business. Before my rebranding I liked to think that I was pretty good at separating my work life from my personal, but since I’m basically starting over, marketing is requiring a lot more of my time than it used to.

    I’m okay with that for now. I realize that my business needs that kind of attention right now for it to grow, and as it does, I’ll be able to pull back a little and regain some “me” time. (Sounds a lot like parenting, come to think of it…)

  5. Hi,

    I have recently re-launched by writing services and as a result have found myself in constant search of new and invigorating marketing ideas. Since I have been away from the advertising circuit, I have discovered that certain places dont work as well anymore because the standards of many clients have dropped – shocking news.

    As a result of the slow pick up, I find myself often analyzing my services (as any freelancer should) to see what I can introduce or take away to get better results. Just last night I ended up with 3 hours sleep as I started adding a new service and couldnt leave it alone until it was complete. I know its difficult to pull yourself away from marketing, but have any of you experienced the problem of not being able to leave your own website alone?
    .-= Antony Hayes´s last blog ..Research Tips for Writing Articles =-.

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