I’m not opposed to finding work via advertisements or “help wanted” listings. I’ve never been a fan of the bid boards, but I know they work for some people. I know that countless writers benefit from the job listings here at FWJ.
However, I don’t spend a lot of time tossing my hat into the ring with hundreds of other applicants for advertised writing positions. I’ll do it occasionally when a particular call for a writer really appeals to me, but it’s not my preferred way of generating business.
I know there are plenty of writers out there who would really like to be busier, so I thought I’d talk about an approach that has worked for me. It’s not revolutionary or anything, but it doesn’t seem to get as much attention as other strategies. I like creating my own gigs.
Here’s the plan, in its simplest form:
- Find someone who has a great product or idea–something that’s right in your wheelhouse or in which you see remarkable potential.
- Think about how your skills could help them.
- Pitch them.
Example One: Occasionally, I’ll watch press releases roll along the river of a popular distribution site’s RSS feed. I’ll look for releases that involve interesting topics or ideas. I’ll pay close attention to those that evidence a need for a much better copywriter. The contact information is right there on the release. The pitch is simple in terms of offering them more effective releases and it doesn’t take long to investigate their web presence and to see what else they might need.
Example Two: Have you ever been searching for something that you wanted or needed and then discovered a real diamond in the rough of a website? Of course, you have. When I find these sites, I will follow up with the owners, telling them how we might be able to work together to improve their business.
I know. It’s pretty simple.
But here’s the interesting thing… It works.
You might think that the percentage of contacts that turn into business would be minimal. That’s not the case. The conversion numbers are surprisingly good. I’m relatively sure that my contact/conversion rate in these situations is higher than most people’s success rate when responding to “writers wanted” ads.
I believe that one reason writers aren’t in higher demand is our collective shortcoming in marketing our gifts and their value. We have a tendency to wait until people see a need for us when we should be telling them why we’re so damned valuable. When you’re rainmaking, that’s exactly what you’re doing.
The trick, of course, is the pitch. You need to be able to show value to the prospective client. You need to demonstrate an understanding of what they seem to be trying to accomplish as well as a vision for what they should be trying to accomplish. You need to make yourself accessible and to let them know that you’re friendly, helpful and something other than a moneysucking mercenary with a keyboard.
I generally make contact with an email. I’ll follow up with a phone call. It’s not a chore. It’s fun. After all, I’m not hoping to find an ad for a job that would be tolerable. I’m isolating opportunities that interest and excite me.
Give it a shot. Take some time to find someone who isn’t necessarily looking for you but who could really use your skills. Pitch ’em. See what happens. You might be surprised.