Back in 2014 I started writing my friends’ CVs for them, to help them out during their job searches.
Last weekend, I was talking to a friend about how some freelancers we know have gone back to a desk job, and how they struggle with the required discipline and structure needed – and implemented – in most offices. We dwelled on the idea how, many years ago, writers, developers, and designers found themselves looking at a goldmine simply working at home – in jammies or not.
Today, though, I think that many of you will agree that if you really are serious about making freelance writing a steady and reliable source of income, you have to treat freelance writing as a business. Otherwise, it is so easy to fall into the trap of “it’s fun and I make money while I’m at” mindset.
Not that that kind of thinking is necessarily bad, it’s just that if you consider freelance writing as your career, then you need to tap into the business person inside of you.
That being said, part of running a business is promoting it. In case you need some ideas on how to promote your writing business, here are several…
Don’t forget the people in your neighborhood.
We may make a living online, but that doesn’t mean the real world doesn’t keep turning. When was the last time you went to a bar or a restaurant? Did you notice how horrible the copy on their menu was? Have you checked the web sites of local establishments?
Maybe these small businesses can use your help. Don’t hesitate to look around for clients!
Along the lines of looking for clients in the (local) real world, you can make use of promo items or tokens that promote your writing business. The traditional way is to hand out business cards – but we know where those usually end up! So, how about considering other custom tokens such as pens instead of a business card?
You can also go for flyers. Yes, this seems so outdated, but if you have a local farmer’s market during the weekends, for example, they are perfect venues to reach out to potential clients.
Use social media wisely and tastefully.
Everyone seems to be a guru when it comes to social media these days, but anyone who spends a lot of time on social media platforms will know that self-promotion and over promotion just doesn’t bring a lot of positives. Indeed, you’ll probably be labeled as noise and end up being ignored.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you should not take advantage of social media to promote your writing business. In fact, you have to have a decent social media presence in order to be noticed. The trick is to choose what to post and when to post.
More importantly, don’t just be a broadcaster. Respond to tweets. Engage in conversations. Share other people’s work that you find interesting. Be human.
Also, using tools such as Buffer and Hootsuite will help you optimize your social media activities.
Be active in writing communities.
It’s not all about Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. There are many writing communities – FWJ being one of them – online that offer support (both work and personal). Don’t isolate yourself. Join these communities and participate in discussions. Even if it’s only commenting on Facebook, you can make a connection that can lead to future clients.
What methods have you tried to promote your writing business? Share them in the comments!
Freelance writing is not an easy profession. While many might connect it with a laid back lifestyle, there are many challenges which writers face on a regular basis, but they are all obstacles which can be overcome.
There are thousands of freelance writers out there, and for every single job, you will have to fight off plenty of talented writers. You may have to undergo specialist training or have a wealth of experience in a particular field in order to write about specific niches. Of course, if you have this training then you will have less competition, but work in niche fields is by no means constant, so writers end up taking less skilled jobs for less money.
There are increasingly more and more writing markets that will pay nothing, or just enough to cover your costs. While this is okay if you are just starting out in the business and looking for experience, it is not enough to sustain a business. It is up to the individual writer to find the markets which pay the most and which play best to your strengths.
Because there are so many freelance writers out there, it can be incredibly hard to find long-term clients. One key is to set yourself up as a professional business, instead of just working as a small fish in a big pond. Make yourself look professional to stand out from the crowd. If you have a website, make sure you ask previous clients to post feedback and reviews to help improve your reputation online. Nothing helps you to fight off the competition quite like a page full of good references and links to previous work.
As with any creative profession, your style of writing may not be to everyone’s tastes. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to freelance writing and so it is inevitable that you will face rejection at some point in your freelance writing career. It is sometimes difficult to get back to writing after facing rejection as it can seriously knock your confidence. But just remember that even the best writers get rejected at some point or another. The important thing is to remain professional and focussed.
Some editors will completely butcher your pieces so that they no longer resemble anything that you wrote at all and this can be incredibly frustrating. But it’s important not to take things personally. As a freelance writer, you have to learn from the changes editors make, so that you know exactly what they are looking for in the future. The same goes for any negative feedback you may receive from clients. Take a step back and look at it objectively; you may learn a valuable lesson.
As time goes on, the fashionable styles of writing will inevitably change. It is important for the modern freelance writer to keep up with the times. With so much being done online, the market changes extremely quickly and writers may find themselves having to constantly learn new skills to keep up with demand. New tools and ways of writing are constantly emerging, so no matter how busy you are, it is important to spend a bit of time assessing the market to keep up with the changes as they come along. If you learn more quickly than everyone else, then you will give yourself a definite competitive advantage in the future by staying one step ahead of everyone else.
Alice Jenkins is a writer for How2become.com, a leading career and recruitment specialist. How2become currently offers over 140 different titles across a wide range of careers, providing insider information to help you prepare effectively.
Image via Tristan Honscheid
For the past three years, I have run my own virtual writing and editing company, Desired Assistance. Born out of my ability to write and edit, paired with the increasing demand for virtual assistants, I combined the two to create my own business. This journey hasn’t always been easy, but it has certainly been worth it. Along the way I discovered things about myself, my writing, and business in general. Here are some of the lessons I learned.
Work Your Network
When I first launched my freelancing business, the majority of my clients came directly (or indirectly) from my college and church networks. The relationships I’d made and work I’d done in those environments set me up for great testimonials before my business even started. You never know who is observing you and the impressions that you’ve made.
You Don’t Work for Them, You Work for Yourself
This is something that took a while to get into my head on my first (long-term) freelancing job. The individual that hired me was under the impression that I worked for him. I thought this too until my business advisor set me straight.
It’s the same with doctors, dentists, mechanics, hair stylists, and others. We are service providers. It actually helps to see it more as a temporary partnership: they provide the funds and you provide the services to produce an expected end.
If you can grasp this concept now, you will gain a new level of freedom in your business.
Cheap Rates & Frequent Discounts Breed Cheap Clients
This one’s a toughie. When you are passionate about a talent that comes naturally to you, it can be hard to charge and charge rationally at first. This is especially true if you are surrounded by individuals or a community with a pervading poverty mindset. EVERYBODY wants a discount.
But guess what? You need to get over it. Set a new standard.
Think of it this way: Wal-Mart offers cheap prices and frequent discounts. Bergdorf’s does not. Accordingly, each store attracts a certain type of customer. Which end of the spectrum do your clients swing to?
You are a professional. You deserve to make a good living by the work of your hands.
Writing Farms Suck
I hate, loathe, and despise writing farms! Someone or some entity that herds writers like cattle (hence the term writing farm) and expects you to do excellent work for crappy pay. Stop the madness!
Most of the individuals who work in this environment speak and write English poorly. They get hired for pennies on the dollar and when a high-quality writer comes along nobody wants to hire them because they’re content with sub-par work at cheap costs.
If we band together against this modern day indentured servitude, then the world of writing will undoubtedly be a better place.
Stay True to Yourself
I’ll try not to preach on this one, but what is your foundation? What are your guiding principles and values? I’m a firm Christian, yet have been approached by New Age gurus, mediums, and more who have attempted to hire me for projects. And even though at times I entertained the thought, I had to remain true to my values which usually meant turning the gig down. (I’m trying to figure out how they overlooked the titles plastered on my website like Godly Government and Faith and the Imagination!) And let’s be honest, it’s probably best for the conflicting brand to choose a freelancer who’s likeminded or at least familiar with the subject matter.
I refuse to prostitute my talents to support a lifestyle or career that clashes with my worldview.
You may not believe as I do, yet I bet you have your own set of guiding principles which have shaped who and what you are today.
And the issue may not be something as large as religion. It could be filthy language, sexually explicit content, praise of drugs and other unhealthy actions.
Consider this: would you want your professional brand affiliated with the brand or project in question? Would you want to be thanked in the Acknowledgments? How will this truly affect your business?
You must remain true to your brand, whatever it is.
Bottom line: you must value yourself as an individual, artist, and professional. One size does not fit all! And why should it? There are more than enough freelancing gigs to go around if we would only seek them out.
About the Author
Desiree M. Mondesir is an author, columnist, blogger, and entrepreneur who has run her own virtual writing and editing company, Desired Assistance, since 2010. She loves to help writers become better through her writing consultations and coaching classes. Her books include Godly Government, Faith and the Imagination, and How to Write Fiction that Doesn’t Suck. If you’d like to hear more from Desiree, sign up for her email updates and get some great free gifts. You may also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Desiree is 27 and resides in Charlotte, NC.
There have been many advances in the field of freelance writing over the last few years: for most publications it is no longer necessary to send in an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) query; electronic payments outpace snail mail checks; social media has made it easier to connect to other writers and editors, etc.
The business side of freelance writing has gotten easier with more online applications streamlining mundane tasks many writers loathe. Shoeboxed is one great app that moves shoeboxes full of receipts out of the closet and into cyberspace.
Shoeboxed organizes and stores receipts, business cards and documents online. I signed up for Shoeboxed’s free trial and have fallen in love with it. I chose the ‘most popular’ $29.99 option that gives users:
- 150 items scanned by the company,
- 500 catch up scans
- 2-3 turnaround time for mailed in items
- Access to the Shoeboxed mobile app for smartphones
in addition to the unlimited self-scan option that is available on all of the other plans.
Initially, I worried about sending my receipts and precious contact info (via business cards) off to some random address. Fortunately, Shoeboxed provided their own cute blue SASE envelopes to send my items in AND I was able to track the envelope’s progress through the Shoeboxed system. The company returns all materials within a couple business days, which is great for buyer’s remorse or tracking rebates.
The turnaround time for my mail-in receipts was quicker than the plan indicated. Instead of 2-3 business days, I found my receipts online by the end of the next business day.
Using the app for iPhones was just as easy as popping the receipts in the mail and maybe even easier because I could do it as soon as I received the receipt. A couple camera clicks and a business lunch was logged and added to the expense tracker – it would make any tax accountant proud.
I do have an issue with the unpaid plan. The business card scanner app automatically sends an email to the contact information provided. Potential new client? Bigwig you want to impress? Shoeboxed is going to send them an email and the only way to disable this feature is to upgrade to a paid plan. This is one feature Shoeboxed should remove from the mobile app.
I really didn’t want to learn a new system and spend gobs of time reconciling it with the programs I already use for invoicing, taxes, etc. Good thing this program interacts seamlessly with other popular bookkeeping programs like Quicken and Freshbooks and all the information can be exported into Excel and CV files.
The open and self-explanatory interface makes it easy to find the information you need, while the reporting areas makes it easy to figure out where the money is spent. The program organizes your receipts by type and creates reports to show the amount of money spent on each category including online purchases – a great tool for any business owner.
The business card tracker is just as helpful. It puts the information from the card into a contact management system that you can edit. The front and back of the card is scanned so any info you need is available when you need it. The best part is the info extracted from the card can be downloaded to most popular contact management systems like Gmail, iPhone/AppleMail, Yahoo, Blackberry, etc.
Shoeboxed made it easy for me to keep my finances and contacts organized for the whole month. I didn’t miss my weekly input chore and I was able to access info from anywhere. Using the Shoeboxed reports helped me define a better budget for both my business and home. I don’t like spending money, but this app is well worth it.
What apps help you keep your business moving?
Full Disclosure: FWJ’s parent company, Splashpress Media, has an affiliate connection, however that relationship had no bearing on the nature or content of this review.
I wanted to share a comment with you that was posted here the other day:
I have been in a bit of a dry patch since Christmas! I worry more about how I’m going to get the payment off my client than how I’m going to get the job. There are so many people out there that are ignorant, cheap and lousy. They don’t pay enough, they want the best possible work for $5 and then when it comes to payment they sneak off.
I fully appreciate being concerned about whether or when payment is going to be made, and yes, there certainly are people around who are not very polite. The problem with this mindset is that you go into discussions with a prospective client with a chip on your shoulder.
Not everyone who wants to hire a writer is “ignorant, cheap and lousy,” and looking to take someone’s work and run off without paying. If you get into the mindset that working with someone is going to be like that, you are going to run into problems. You will project that attitude to others, and it will make it much more difficult for you to get hired by the type of client you really want to work with.
If you aren’t getting the rates you want, you may need to change your marketing strategy so that you are targeting a different niche. The slump you are in will not last forever, and going through a down cycle can force you to think about what it is that you really want from your writing career. This is an opportunity to think about who you really want to work with and what rates you are prepared to accept.
How do you deal with a slump in your writing career? Do you see it as an opportunity to learn and grow, or do you just count the days until things start to pick up again?
So far in the Building Your Freelance Writing Brand series, you’ve learned:
- The fundamental steps of building a brand
- How Google and the social Web can help you build your brand
- Tips for responding to negative or erroneous publicity
- How to develop and manage your online brand reputation
- Fundamental SEO tips
- How brand loyalty, brand advocacy and word-of-mouth marketing can help your business reach new levels of success
- How to position your brand in consumers’ minds and against competitors
That’s a lot of information! Today, you’re going to learn the fundamental strategies that you can use to market your business and fight against your competitors. In the world of freelance writing, there is a lot of competition, and taking the time to build your brand can help you land more jobs than ever!
There are many ways that businesses use to fight their competitors, but there is no sense in coming up with tactics unless you understand the strategies that drive those tactics. Depending on your market position and market environment in which you’re doing business, your competitive strategies can fluctuate. You need to prepare both offensive and defensive strategies, and fortunately, there are marketing theories that can help you understand and execute attacks and responses from both sides of the field.
Defensive Strategies to Fight Your Competitors
There are four primary defensive strategies in marketing theory:
- Innovation Defensive Strategy: This strategy is also called “the position defense,” and you’re probably already using it. The main idea of this strategy is that you’re maintaining your existing business and working towards growth while protecting your position in your market through innovation. That innovation could be enhancements to your client offerings such as adding a new form of writing to your list of services or promotions like a discount offered on certain writing projects.
- Preemptive Defensive Strategy: If you are constantly on top of what your competitors are doing and know them really well, then following a preemptive defensive strategy could work well for you. Using this strategy, you would attack a competitor before he or she attacks you. For example, if you learn that your top competitor is going to a particular networking event to meet potential clients, you can reach out to those event attendees beforehand to make sure you’re on their radar screens before your competitor even has a chance to say hello. Of course, you need to be at that event, too.
- Counter-offensive Defensive Strategy: This strategy is most effective for the existing market leader or a brand with a big budget to tap into. In short, when a competitor attacks, you respond quickly and launch your own attack against the competitor that is even better. For example, if you learn that your top competitor is going to a particular publisher’s conference to network with potential clients, then you need to not only make sure you’re there t0o, but also thwart your competitor’s plans by ensuring your participation in that conference trumps whatever he or she is planning.
- Strategic Withdrawal Defensive Strategy: If you’ve expanded into areas that aren’t helping you meet your goals or are hurting your business, you need to know when it’s time to withdraw from those areas and reinvest your time and effort into other opportunities that can better help you meet your goals.
Offensive Strategies to Fight Your Competitors
There are three primary offensive strategies in marketing theory:
- Direct Attack: As you might assume, a direct attack happens when you attack your competitors head-on. It’s typically expensive and requires a great deal of planning to effectively attack a competitor successfully. Direct attacks only work when you’re attacking a very specific competitor weakness and clearly differentiating your business from the competitor’s business. However, that differentiator has to be meaningful to your target audience or no one will care.
- Opportunistic Attack: An opportunistic attack is more creative than a direct attack, because instead of attacking head-on, you try to attack more than simply one of your competitor’s weaknesses. You look for opportunities to make yourself look better. With an opportunistic attack, you offer a solution and fill a gap the competitor left open. The attack is more subtle and quite effective.
- Guerrilla Attack: A guerrilla marketing attack is a popular technique for small businesses and entrepreneurs who want to steal market share from larger, established competitors. A guerrilla attack strategy consists of numerous little attacks that are continual and repetitious. The attacks are typically so small that larger competitors aren’t threatened by them and ignore them. The result is often a slow build of awareness that leads to sales for the smaller business.
As your business grows and changes, along with consumer attitudes and the macro-environment in which you do business, you’ll find yourself using a number of different types of offensive and defensive attack strategies to fight your competitors. As long as you have clearly defined goals and a solid understanding of your competitors and customers, then you’ll be equipped with the knowledge you need to effectively fight the competition to grow your brand and your business.
Read Parts 1-9 of the Building Your Freelance Writing Brand Series
In Part 10 of Building Your Freelance Writing Brand, you learned about brand positioning in terms of owning a word in consumers’ minds. There is another part of brand positioning that you need to consider before you begin to develop strategies to market your business within your industry.
There are three basic positions that your brand and business can hold in the marketplace — market leader, market challenger, or market follower. It’s important for you to evaluate the position your business currently holds in comparison to your competitors in the market today, and determine if that is the correct positioning strategy for you to pursue in the future.
First, you need to understand those three positions, which are described in more detail below:
1. Market Leader
The market leader is usually the first-to-market and offers a new solution. Market leaders are often referred to as the pioneer brand. They are considered to be innovative and creative, and they usually hold the majority of market share in their categories. As a market leader, they have to invest a great deal of money to build awareness, recognition, and sales, but if they’re successful, the rewards can be significant.
Later entrants into the category can compete against the market leader, and they might even surpass the market leader in terms of sales, revenues or market share. However, the pioneer brand will still be perceived in the minds of consumers as the market leader. Usually, something drastic has to happen for a market leader to fall from grace in consumers’ minds.
2. Market Challenger
Market challengers are considered to be innovative, but their creativity is quite different from the market leader’s. That’s because a market challenger typically recreates a product, brand or service that the market leader originated. However, the market challenger brings something new to the table and might even reinvent the category. Market challengers strive to differentiate their products, services and brands as very different from the market leader. They might even attack the market leader and point out the leader’s weaknesses (think of the Mac Guy vs. PC Guy commercials).
A market challenger strategy requires a significant investment to drive awareness and clearly differentiate the challenger from the market leader or pioneer brand, but if it works, a market challenger can be extremely successful.
3. Market Follower
A market follower simply follows the path of success which the market follower already carved out. Market followers aren’t particularly innovative. Instead of trying to bring something new to the table, market followers are simply trying to get a piece of the existing pie of proven success. Market followers position their products, services and brands as just different enough from the market leader that they appear to deliver added value while still meeting the expectations consumers have for the market leader. As you might assume, a market follower strategy is the least expensive positioning strategy, because the market leader does all the heavy lifting. The market follower simply tries to be in the right place at the right time to pick up all the extras.
Don’t read the above positioning strategies and think you need to choose one and stick to it forever. Most businesses find themselves shifting from one position to another over the course of their life cycles or within niche segments of its offerings. The important thing that you need to determine in order to build your freelance writing brand is where you are now and where you want to be in the long term. Think about your long term business goals and determine which position will help you reach those goals.
Stay tuned for the next part of the Building Your Freelance Writing Brand series where I’ll talk about strategies to fight against the competition.
Read Parts 1-9 of the Building Your Freelance Writing Brand Series
Brands aren’t built by companies. They’re built by consumers who develop emotions for brands after they interact with them or experience them in some way. The consumer perceptions that develop enable consumers to develop expectations for those brands. If a brand consistently meets those expectations in every customer interaction and experience, consumers will get a sense of security from that brand, which turns into loyalty and generates word-of-mouth marketing. Suffice it to say, building your freelance writing brand can offer significant advantages to your business and bottom-line in the long-term in the form of sustainable, organic growth.
The most powerful brands own a word in consumers’ minds. That word is often an extension of the brand’s position relative to its competitors and is typically born of the brand promise and consumer perceptions of the brand. The strongest brands are highly focused, leaving little room for consumer confusion. Instead, consumers know what the brand promises and they can depend on that brand to meet their expectations again and again. In other words, it’s easier for a focused brand to own a word in consumers’ minds than it is for a broad brand. In fact, broad brands are more often linked to the type of consumer perceptions and confusions that cause people to turn away from a brand in search of one that they can count on to meet their expectations and needs consistently.
I usually refer to car brands when I’m explaining the benefit of owning a word in consumers’ minds when I teach branding to clients and at seminars. Take a look at the car brands below along with the words they own in consumers minds (remember, there are always exceptions to every rule):
- Hyundai: inexpensive
- Kia: even cheaper than Hyundai
- BMW: performance
- Cadillac: luxury
- Bentley: extravagance
In order to build a powerful freelance writing brand, it’s important to determine where your focus will be. What word do you want to own in consumers’ minds? Always lead with your strengths and your brand focus on your website, LinkedIn profile, resume, and so on. In other words, hype your brand focus, or your niche, so you become the go-to-person for that type of writing. It won’t happen overnight, but with consistency and persistence, your brand will grow.
Stay tuned for the next part of the Building Your Freelance Writing Brand series in which you’ll learn how to fight against the market leader.
Read Parts 1-9 of the Building Your Freelance Writing Brand Series
I receive a lot of emails and comments on Freelance Writing Jobs posts asking the same question:
I don’t live in the United States. Can I apply for U.S.-based freelance writing jobs?
Since it’s such a common question, I want to provide an answer publicly. Here goes…
Can you apply? Yes. The hiring manager will determine whether or not they’re willing to work with a writer outside of the United States. You’ll never know if they’re willing to do so if you don’t apply.
When it comes to freelance writing, you’re not an employee. You’ll either be paid as a contractor or a vendor and that means you’ll receive that payment as miscellaneous personal income or as earnings for your business. Tax rules vary from one country to another, so what really matters is how the client is willing to pay you and how they want to report those payments to the Internal Revenue Service.
These days, many clients are happy to pay via PayPal, which offers an automatic currency conversion (which may or may not require you to pay fees depending on how both your account and your client’s accounts are set up). That means they can simply send money to you via PayPal as they would any other vendor and PayPal takes care of the rest. Banking-related issues that used to make it more difficult for clients to pay vendors outside of the United States are not as prevalent anymore thanks to tools like PayPal.
Keep in mind, I’m not an accountant, and this answer is based on my own experiences writing for clients outside of the United States and witnessing clients who pay multiple writers in various countries around the world without any problems. However, the bottom-line answer to this common question is still yes. There is no reason why you can’t apply for freelance writing jobs if you’re not from the United States unless the job description specifically restricts applicants to U.S. citizens.
A final suggestion: it is worth your time and effort however to consult with someone in your country who understands business, income, and tax-related issues so you set your freelance writing business up in the best way from the start.