The post-pandemic gig economy is ready to grow, with remote work and freelancing leading the way. Freelance writers as well as other freelancers have had their lifestyles and work choices validated by the remote work and work-from-home trends prompted by Covid-19. [Read more…]
You want links and traffic from some of the more popular, well-known bloggers in your niche. You want to promote your content because you you deserve a bigger audience. You want to make money online and need referral traffic to develop the crutial element needed for success. The problem is you’re not sure how to get those popular bloggers to drop you a link, they ignore your emails and don’t write back.
Maybe they are too busy. Maybe your content just isn’t all that great in the first place. At least those are the sort of thoughts that begin to fill your mind when there is lack of response, right?
What you should do, instead of giving into negative thoughts that will weaken your goal is consider how you might improve your chances, if you were on personal and good terms with that “popular blogger.”
It’s not difficult to get a link if you have something relevant and remarkable. However, it is fairly easy if you have prior contact or a close relationship with that blogger.
Let’s take a moment to explore how you should build a prospect list and use it to develop relationships that will benefit you later on.
Marketers define prospects as potential customers. A valuable prospect is sometimes characterized by their loyalty, spending power or level of interest, as it relates to products or services.
When trying to promote your blog, you should look for prospects with an ability to build your brand while sending you traffic. Prospect development is one of the most tedious processes, so I recommend focusing on a core set of individuals with established influence.
Instead of targeting a large number of bloggers, focus on a few that will ultimately matter most. You won’t be able to please everyone, but you can win the favor of a select few. Concentrate on letting them recommend you to their audience.
Build a List of Prospects
Create a list of keywords related to your website or niche. With that list of keywords, run a search on Technorati. This search will provide a list of websites or blogs ordered according to Technorati authority and favorites.
This list is a rough indication of the popularity of a specific blog, according to the number of links it receives from other blogs.
Once you have a list of relevant blogs, subscribe to their RSS feeds. I have created a separate folder in my reader in effort to organize my prospects. Having a bloggers prospect list is ultimately used as a means to get bloggers to send you qualified traffic or perhaps recommend you to their audience. This will help improve your personal brand.
A prospect list is a method you can use to enhance your ability in getting a favorable response from specific bloggers on yourlist. You will be able to adjust the amount of time invested on each prospect, according to its value and how their content ultimately relates to your own.
The second reason is reciprocation. A great deal of cross-promotion you see online is the result of intentional reciprocation; doing something for someone because they did something for you.
Keeping a prospect list helps you to systematically record and reciprocate favors done for you. This will improve the quality of relationship you have and will help you turn bloggers into friends and future assets that can sometimes be leveraged for your business/website.
You should track your prospects with a goal of acting on their content, along with building a meaningful relationship.
The trick is not to think of yourself as just another reader but as a loyal supporter.
Your goal should be to absorb their content, voice your opinion and then share or promote to others who might benefit from it. The result: You react to the blogger’s content while connecting on a personal level.
My personal philosophy to online networking is simply to make more friends than enemies and always seek a mutually rewarding outcome.
Bloggers are just people – just like you! They react more positively to friends or people they know.
Personally, I never forget a favor and I always remember to reciprocate when I can create a natural fit. This can be done in a number of ways, whether in the form of a vote, a link, a favorable mention, a social share, etc. This has become a personal policy I practice and find it does help in achieving personal goals.
I use Google Reader to maintain my prospect list and have my prospects broken down into individual folders based on niche or topic I wish to target.
Working on Your Prospects
Submit their content to social websites – When a new post is created, make an effort to promote it via social sites like StumbleUpon. I do this only when I can provide a natural fit and offer value to my contacts.
Collect articles for a link roundup – While the value of the content is obviously most important, I do pay attention to sites I’ve never linked to before. I bookmark articles of interest via del.icio.us and I will reference them at a later time.
Comment – Comments are a valuable networking tool. It’s usually a good idea to refrain from “pitching” any website unless you have commented on it several times. I usually comment more on new prospects and drop by sites belonging to friends just for fun.
Share links – I tend to track large amounts of news. I like to share links to articles with other bloggers, when I don’t plan to write about it. This is a great way to be helpful and to show you’re not just interested in pushing your own content.
Engage in Conversation – Engaging in conversation about a blogger’s article is a great way to show that you do pay attention.
Keep in mind that you can use any platform or method you like for networking as long as you feel you can manage your prospect list effectively.
Networking is a very important factor for success. Anyone who has launched a new website knows how important it is to have a group of supporters willing to give you a little attention from the earliest stages.
My Comment Commitment: If you leave a comment on any of my posts, I will visit your blog and “share it” in some way whether on StumbleUpon, Twitter or Facebook depending on if I can find a nice fit. This is my way of saying thank you!
You may not want to be a famous online figure, but you do want attention. You want to be a thought leader, a valued contributor to the greater conversation (whatever the hell that means), the recipient of search engine traffic, a recognized name brand, the “go to” person for whatever it is you do, a bestselling writer, a fully-booked and well-paid consultant or something.
You want a presence. Gravitas. Authority. Whatever. You want people to find you. You want them to know who you are. You have your reasons. They’re probably related to maintaining a sufficient balance in your checking account.
So, how are you going to do it? How are you going to go from being just another of 13,397,988 freelance writers to Famous You?
Here are a few models to consider.
Too Legit to Quit
You have a nice, clean website. You do good work for your clients. You participate in online and traditional networking. You may have a blog you use as a platform to provide well-written and well-reasoned perspective on your areas of interest. You participate in visible activities that truly match your personality and to which you feel you can provide a quality contribution.
Congratulations. You’re a pro! If the cream really does rise to the top and if you’re half as good as you think you are, you’ll eventually develop a good reputation and well be held in high-esteem by others. People will begin to find you.
Unfortunately, it’s going to take some time to make this work. It isn’t a recipe for fast fame. And if that “cream to the top” stuff isn’t really true–or if you’re not THAT good, you’ll disappear into the vast sea of other rather traditional professionals who find that very few people are thrilled by the prospect of dealing with Mr. of Ms. Bland. With all due respect to Huey Lewis, it isn’t particularly hip to be square.
Five-Way Bullet Train Collision
You make the standard Internet train wreck seem mild. You’re willing to do anything for a set of eyeballs or the repetition of your name. You’ll cuss as if you’re at a Tailhook reunion party. You’ll pick fights for fun. You’ll scream for attention. You’re Amy Winehouse and Paris Hilton wrapped into one person, in front of the press on a stage littered with Fredericks’s of Hollywood thongs and hypos brimming with smack. You WILL do what it takes to end up on every front page.
Congratulations. People will know you. If you get wild and crazy enough, you can become a truly famous person within your niche. You will receive all of the attention your little personality disorder-cursed mind can handle!
Unfortunately, it’s not the kind of attention that turns into big stacks of cash (or even steady smaller stacks). When’s the last time you’ve heard about a sideshow freak retiring early and luxuriating in his or her wealth? People will gawk, but they won’t take you seriously.
The Pet Mouse
You want a little attention, but you’re a little nervous about the whole thing. You have a friendly little blog connected to a non-threatening little website and you only write safe things about safe ideas. No waves. You may not yell out opinions, but you’re quick to offer friendly, sweet encouragement at every turn. You’re just active enough that people notice you commenting on others’ blogs, even if they don’t read yours. When people see your positive comments, they smile a little bit. You’re so cute, just like a timid little pet mouse!
Congratulations. You haven’t pissed anyone off. Everyone will consider you a friend and you’ll develop some worthwhile professional connections in the process.
Unfortunately, they won’t take you too seriously and they’ll only think of you if you peek out to say hello before scurrying back to the safety of your little nest.
Mr. Big Shot
You’re looking good, feeling great, doing well and want everyone to know it! Either that or you’re completely screwed, struggling like mad and are engaging in an all-out effort to “fake it until you make it.” You substitute bombast for substance and will never hesitate to discuss your numerous triumphs (real or imagined).
Congratulations. For reasons only psych professionals understand, some people are actually attracted to that kind of over-the-top self-adulation. If you’re lucky, you might end up with a little online cult to call your own.
Unfortunately, things generally don’t turn out so well for charismatic cult leaders. Ask Charlie, David, Jim or that dude who had everyone slide into some black Nikes as the magic comet approached. You’ll have a fan club, but most people will find you sleazy, egomaniacal and thoroughly unattractive.
You realized that you don’t really need to be little ol’ Eunice Powelisky of Enid, Oklahoma. You can be a tall, svelte former supermodel prospect who left the vacuous world of high fashion just as she was about to get her first COSMO cover in order to pursue a highly successful career as a journalist which then led to a freelance career. Now you write better than anyone and know all of the secrets to success. You might consider selling some of them. The fact that the State of Oklahoma is about to cut off your unemployment benefits and that your 1982 Citation is up on blocks on the red clay in front of your trailer are minor details. This new persona can change things around. You can reinvent yourself and profit in the process.
Congratulations. You figured out how MeMe Roth gets on television talk shows and how Taylor Marsh manages to secure readers for her political “analysis.” Very few people will bother to find out if you’re full of shit or not! You’re walking the same path several skeezy-but-wealthy Internet marketers have blazed before you. It might just work.
Unfortunately, you’ll probably blow it. Being a fictitious character on a full-time basis is tough and there’s always someone smart enough to connect the dots who’ll be more than willing to blow the whistle on your shenanigans. That’s why MeMe Roth doesn’t have her own empire. It’s why Taylor Marsh still isn’t on the radio. For every successful poseur, a few thousand “alts” have died humiliating deaths.
The Right Answer
You don’t have opinions. You know the right answer. Every time. Those who don’t share your opens down to the very last smug remarks are sad little fools who should spend less time drooling on their shoes and more time licking yours clean. You can parlay your certainty and unwavering confidence in the veracity of everything that has ever crossed your mind into an online presence that reeks of authority.
Congratulations. There are plenty of people who absolutely adore people who are willing to do all of the thinking for them. You’ll develop a loyal fan club. A girl from Kansas, her dog, a lion, a scarecrow and a tin man may even march all over technicolor to find you because they’ll just know you have the knowledge they need.
Unfortunately, that ragtag crew will eventually figure out that there’s a flawed, sometimes wrong person hiding behind the curtains of your website. If they don’t blow your cover, the intrusion of real life and the fact that you will eventually be proven Incredibly Wrong about something will. Oh, those followers are only loyal as long as you’re right. They’ll find another wizard, guru, mommy, daddy or nanny to handle their thinking once you’re exposed.
You split-test everything. You optimize every blog post for your primary keyword and at least one tertiary keyword. Your on-site SEO is solid gold and you have a carefully devised backlink campaign that’s humming right along. You pore over your analytics like a G-Man trying to put a mobster away on a tax infraction. You don’t take a shower in the morning without checking trend data and performing market research.
Congratulations. You’ll get more than your fair share of traffic and you’ll always know which way the wind is blowing. Your mastery of detail and scientific understanding of credibility building and reputation management will have you resting atop the SERPs–for now at least.
Unfortunately, you’ll probably find out that intangibles have values that don’t always appear on your spreadsheets. Your lack of soul will make you cold and dull. People will see what you’re doing, but they won’t love it. It won’t change them. It won’t forge a meaningful (or profitable) connection. Robots are incredibly practical, but no one takes them home for dinner and a make out session.
You see the dangers in these other approaches and recognize their potential benefits. You act accordingly, taking the aspects that work for you while leaving the nonsense that doesn’t. You may not be a technical guru, but you’ll get the basics down pat. You may not be willing to start the First Church of You, but you’re not going to let a little shyness keep you down. You’ll present yourself in the best possible light, but you’ll do it without padding, fluffing and outright lying. You’ll find your place on the continuum that runs between the man in the gray flannel suit and the crazy cat woman who hides in the bushes behind the bus stop screaming about the Freemasons, pork irradiation and how everyone is out to get you.
Congratulations. If you’re sincere, talented, interested, interesting and willing to keep improving, you can make this whole thing work. It won’t always be easy and it may occasionally be difficult to opt for integrity over caricature, but you can do it. Work hard and prepare for life among the sufficiently famous.
What approaches did I forget to cover? I’d love to see additions from the FWJ community.
I hate to admit it, but I know I’ve embraced a few ugly aspects of these strategies from time to time on my site and elsewhere. Fortunately, I tend to come to my senses pretty quickly. Did you see yourself on this list (even a little bit) before we got to the “You” category? If so, are you going to change your slightly evil ways or you proceeding full speed ahead?
If you’ve been following me for a while you know I believe there are no right or wrong ways to use social media, and often complain of “social media police” telling us how we should Tweet or use Facebook, However, that doesn’t mean I don’t believe we shouldn’t use social media to give our careers a boost. There may be no exact rules, but there are certainly tried and true methods for using the social networks and other social media tools to achieve success.
What I like about using online tools for networking and landing clients is how they’re so easy to use. In most cases, all it takes is a user name or email address and password. With that said, I also know plenty of writers who don’t care to use these tools because they either “don’t get it” or they’re uncomfortable exchanging ideas and conversing with others online.
Here are three ways I use social media to bring in clients:
- 1. Engage: I’m not a big fan of elevator pitches mostly because I don’t enjoy being cornered to hear a sales pitch, and I don’t know many others who enjoy this either. However, I also know there are ways of learning who is hiring or may be hiring simply by having conversations online. When you create conversations with your friends and followers they learn what you do. When they have questions about writing or hiring freelancers, you’re the one they come to. Also, by having conversations and learning more about the people in your network, it will create situations where you’ll be able to say, “It looks like you might be in need of a freelance writer. Can we talk offline?” or “I have some thoughts about your situation, can I email?” Conversational marketing can land more clients than job boards or waiting around for someone to contact you.
- 2. Follow: I enjoy finding new people to follow on the social networks, even people I don’t know. There are several types of friends I look for. I find the folks who make me laugh and share interesting links and experiences. I also seek out people who share my same interests, and, also, I follow many writers, bloggers and people who hire writers and bloggers. To me, the key to finding clients and readers for my blogs is to learn where they hang out and interact with them. In addition to following those who you know, follow the people in areas of interest. You never know when they could use a writer.
- 3. Join: To add to the above, join the forums and social networks in the niches and genres that would best boost your career. A mistake many freelance writers make is to ONLY join writing forums and online groups. While this can help, certainly other writers have valuable tips and advice to share, people who hire writers hang out at other places too. If you write about health and wellness, go where people are discussing medical stuff. If you write about green living, visit the environmental communities. If you’re a music writer, hang out at the music blogs and forums. This will serve many difference purposes: you will be conversing with and learning from others, you’re building up your expertise, your name is being associated with certain circles, folks may view your writing, and, finally, you might pique the interest of potential clients within that niche.
What I like about social media is that it isn’t rocket science. The tools are easy enough to use, and unlike methods such as cold calling, you can stick within your comfort zone. In most cases it’s simply chatting with people online and, as the relationships develop, taking them offline or through a different channel of communication to do business.
What are some of the ways you can think of to use social media to boost your client base?
I went to South by Southwest and all I got was a stinking t-shirt and a bunch of Zone bars….oh yeah and a kick ass part time job offer and publisher interest in my book. Yes, this is another post about why you need to step away from your laptop and meet people face to face. My extended weekend in Austin for SXSW is proof of this.
It’s so easy to spend all our time behind our laptops without ever having to meet anyone. You might even be able to earn a very good living doing so. I did this for several years and was perfectly content to never have human contact.
Until the day I decided to be brave.
- I joined local networking groups
- I attended conferences
- I met with potential clients face to face
Things changed for me. My business picked up and I received more lucrative offers. I wasn’t trolling the job boards each day because the people I met remembered me and contacted me on their own.
This past weekend, I attended a conference in Texas, many miles from my family. The reason I do these trips is because I believe in the power of talking to people face to face. Conferences are hard for me because I’m really not into crowds and parties, and I don’t like being away from my guys for too long but sometimes they’re worth it. Like this time.
On this trip I:
- Spoke with reps from a stock photo agency about offering a major discount to the FWJ community so they can use affordable stock photography for their blog posts and articles.
- Spoke with a rep from a publishing company to pitch my book.
- Received a part time job offer, one so nice I don’t think I can refuse
Would I have been able to have these conversations if I didn’t attend the conference?
I think not…
- The stock photography thing came out of a conversation I was having with a representative. It wasn’t something I would have even considered doing this if not for an idea sharing moment
- Would I have been able to get interest from this publisher if not for attending SXSW? Maybe, but maybe not…and not this quick, that’s for sure. I was able to talk to the publishing company rep because two people took me to a publisher party and got me an introduction. Nothing may come of it, but if something does it will save a lot of pitching, hunting for agents, making phone calls and more. That wouldn’t have happened if not for my trip.
- The job offer probably wouldn’t have happened if not for a dinner I attended with the owners of said business. If we didn’t have a face to face conversation they wouldn’t see the passion I have for what they do. I wasn’t even looking for a job with this organization. We were out that night as friends. If not for face to face, we wouldn’t have talked about the things we talked about and I’m almost positive I wouldn’t have had such an awesome job offer
Can you be successful and never have to meet anyone or talk on the phone? Absofrigginlutely. You can stay at home and do what you do and still be productive and profitable. For me, I always achieve new levels of success after meeting with real, live people.
Every now and then I like to focus on the business of freelance writing and how things have changed over the past 25 years. Though I wasn’t freelancing in the mid-80’s to late 90’s, I worked with many freelance writers. I helped to assign articles and chased those who were late on their deadlines. I also acted as a sort of liaison between the accounting department and freelance writers to ensure they received payment. Mostly, I gave them my ear. As assistant to the Editor in Chief, I was one of the few in our company who had my own office, complete with oversized cow-spotted comfy chair. My office, in front of my desk, was where freelance writers congregated and discussed their craft and their business.
I was thinking about my old office yesterday and many of the conversations I had with freelancers “back in the day.” In comparing some of today’s freelancing tales with the freelance life of 20 years ago, it’s occurred to me that although much has changed, very little has changed.
Let me explain and you can see what I mean.
Freelance Writing in the 80’s and 90’s
I worked in publishing which meant the majority of freelancers hired were for magazine articles. Many queried or sent complete manuscripts which ended up in a tall, towering pile in my boss’ office. Once a month or so, we’d sit on her floor and go through all the queries and manuscripts. I was in charge of calling or writing each writer with the response. We also hired writers to create media kits, brochures, sales letters, marketing reports and more. When I moved from publishing to work as an editorial assistant in a graphic design firm in the 90’s we hired writers for all our projects including catalogs, brochures, one sheets, corporate reports, and yes, even web content.
Though we had a roster of freelance writers on call, we also found freelancers via word of mouth. We rarely took out ads. The best places for freelance writers to find work was through artsy or hip type newspapers such as the Village Voice. The New York Times also ran occasional ads for the freelancers but that was rare.
The majority of freelance writers found work via cold calling, pounding the pavement and personal recommendations from friends. As you can imagine, it was a lot more difficult to break into freelancing back then, but the same channels freelance writers used to find work, are the same channels we use now with a few exceptions.
Freelance writing pay
Freelance writing pay in the 80’s & 90’s ran the gamut. There was a big uproar over non-paying newspapers and magazines, but many freelancers took these opportunities to get a boot in the door. While there were some magazines paying $1 per word, there were also plenty of magazines and newspapers paying $5 to $50 for an article. Most old schoolers considered these rates awful and wanted nothing to do with them, criticizing those who stooped to these levels.
Networking and Marketing
Freelancers networked at networking events, writing workshops and conferences. They carried portfolios with them to show writing clips to potential clients. Many New York City writers went door to door to seeing which businesses needed their services, or cold called for business. They placed ads in the Yellow Pages and wrote up index cards to place on coffee shop or laundromat bulletin boards. Those who were trying to break into freelancing begged established friends and colleagues to introduce them to contacts. Business was generally local.
Freelance Writing Today
Today there are so many freelance writing opportunities to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start. Writes can create content for websites, write for magazines and newspapers, do some copywriting for businesses or even create their own passive income streams.
Today’s freelancers also find work through a variety of channels including word of mouth marketing, cold calling and cold emailing. They query magazines and and answer want ads in newspapers. The majority of freelancers, at least the majority of freelancers I speak with, find work using various online job boards until they’re established. Once that happens they continue to find work thanks to repeat client projects, and referrals and recommendations from other freelancers. Though there are more jobs in 2010, there is also more competition thanks to a global marketplace. Freelance writers are no longer confined to a region.
Freelance writing pay
Freelance writing pay in 2010 runs the gamut. There is a big uproar over non-paying websites, but many freelancers take these opportunities to get a boot in the door. While there are some magazines paying $1 per word, there are also plenty of magazines and web content sites paying $5 to $50 for an article. Many old schoolers or established freelancers consider these rates awful and want nothing to do with them, criticizing those who stoop to these levels. The best thing about being a freelance writer in 2010 is the freedom of choice and the variety of opportunities available at different pay levels.
Today’s freelance writers network using many of the same methods from 25 years ago, but thankfully they don’t have lug portfolios from place to place. In addition to networking events, freelancers also take advantage of social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook in order to build relationships with potential clients. Online forums, blogs and nichey social networking groups allow freelance writers to share tips and ideas and get to know the people who are hiring.
The more things change, the more they stay the same…
There are more opportunities now with more freelancers vying for each. However, the nature of the business hasn’t changed much at all. It still pays to build up relationships with clients so they’ll continue to seek out our services. To find the highest opportunities, we may have to pick up a phone or pound the pavement. In the end though, we’re still enjoying the freedom and flexibility that makes us determined to succeed.
When did you start freelance writing. What sort of changes have you seen since that time…and what hasn’t changed much at all?