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21 Ways to Market Your Writing Services

Optimal Writers' Networking Machine

In my mentoring work, I often find myself introducing my mentees to a basic fact of life for freelance writers: If you want to earn more, you’re going to need to market your business aggressively. Answering Craigslist or Kijiji ads is unlikely to get you $1 a word or $100 an hour gigs. To find really good-paying work, you will have to prospect.

This often produces a reaction along the lines of, “I’m shy! I’m no good at networking.”

But there isn’t just one marketing strategy in the universe, there are many. So today I’d like to kick off a two-part post highlighting some of the multitude of ways to market yourself as a freelance writer. Today, it’s 11 different 3-D-world marketing approaches. Somewhere in here, there’s a strategy that would be a fit for who you are and the kind of writing work you want to find.

1. In-person networking. I know you don’t want to hear it. But in-person networking is not only very effective, it can actually be fun. Just think — you get out of your writing cave, have a drink and a nibble, and meet new people who could help you make more money. Unless you are catastrophically shy, I want you to try it.

Bring business cards. Walk around and introduce yourself to as many people as possible. Overcome any shyness you have about plugging yourself by spending most of your time asking others why they came, what they do, and if appropriate what they’re looking for in a writer. If that description doesn’t fit you, try to recommend them someone. Networking is about learning others’ needs and helping each other succeed, not shoving yourself down other people’s throats. You don’t have to be pushy–be helpful. Personally, I have been to two in-person networking events and got great connections that led to wonderful paying clients both times.

Experiment with places to network–I’ve had good success with MediaBistro events here in Seattle, but your city may be different. I’m told the Linked:Seattle in-person events rock, too. Find your networking sweet spot and visit it as often as you can.

2. Direct mail. I’ve never tried this, but many of the top copywriters in this field develop a prospect list, and then audition by sending direct mail–makes sense, huh? One of them is Pete Savage-he sent one DM letter and got $64,000 of new business, and he sells a kit that describes how he did it. I don’t usually plug products, but if you’re interested in copywriting work, this may be worth a look. I can vouch for Pete–he’s the real deal. I can give you one tip I’ve gleaned from Pete’s newsletters–I gather he advocates including a bumpy novelty item in the envelope. Makes it irrestistible to receipient…apparently they feel compelled to open it to learn what’s making the bump.

3. Cold calling. That’s right–just pick up the phone, call a company you’d like to do copywriting for, and ask for the communications or marketing manager. Or call the editor of a publication you’d like to write for. Ask them if they use freelance writers. Be ready to pitch your ideas for stories to editors, or your copywriting services to companies. Many will say no, but persistence can really pay off here. Everyone who tries it reports they get new accounts, and that every 10 or 20 calls, they get a “yes.” Give yourself an edge and check out their existing Web site or other materials before you can call, so you can point out specific weaknesses in their current marketing and describe how the materials you’d create would bring address their needs and bring in new customers.

4. White papers. Create a white paper about the value of your copywriting service, demonstrating the benefits to companies that use you. Much like the direct mail strategy, this one’s especially great if you want to write white papers for companies. If you haven’t written white papers, you should learn about them because they’re the hottest sales tool in copywriting right now, and they pay very well.

5. Free or paid seminars. They can be in-person, over the Web, over the phone, you name it. But holding a class in a topic such as “How copywriting can help your business” can put you in touch with many good prospects in one fell swoop. Some like charging a little for the class as you screen out looky-loos and get more qualified, highly interested leads who are more likely to become clients.

6. Free downloads. Create a helpful article article with advice or tips on how to communicate your business’s value or some other related topic, which ultimately leads to a conclusion that hiring a professional writer will help your business. Put it on your Web site as a free download in exchange for which you capture their email address. Presto,  you’re building a great marketing list and exposing your name to prospective clients while presenting yourself as an expert. (OK, this tip involves a computer…but it’s not social media, so here it is in the 3-D list.)

7. Tshirts and car decals. That’s right, think of yourself like any bike shop or car wash would, and promote the fact that you’re a freelance writer everywhere you go!

8. Contests and polls. Hold a contest for the worst business Web site and give the winner free home-page content, or write their bio page, or whatever you want to offer. Or take a poll on the most important thing to say on a business Web site, and give the winner a free consultation. Entrants will, of course, have to submit their contact information, giving you an instant list of companies that need copywriters. This one doesn’t just get you prospects and a great before-and-after sample, you could tell the local papers and get written up, too.

9. Charity donations. Doesn’t your kids’ school have an annual auction? Donate an article for a business, or a free brochure. Great way to let the whole town know you’re a writer.

10. Put out a press release. Have you expanded into a new field? Hired a virtual assistant? Moved your office? Many local papers have business columns that publish these news tidbits, along with your photo in some cases. If not your local paper, try your Chamber newsletter (you belong, right?).

11. Partner or reciprocal deals. Do you know a business whose products or services you  use, who could use Web content? Make them a barter deal–you do their site over in exchange for free stuff, including a free plug on their home page that you wrote the content.

Tune in later this week for the final 10 marketing tips in 21 Ways to Market Your Writing Services: The Social Media Edition.

Photo source: Flickr user Richard-G

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Mailbag: How to Successfully Blog

How to Successfully BlogNow that we’re getting settled into our new home at Make a Living Writing, it’s time to open the mailbag and answer a reader question.

Maureen recently wrote me with this introduction and a question about blogging:

I worked for years in book publishing, [for] 2 literary agents, then finding books to adapt into screenplays and teleplays.  I had a health catastrophe which has been straightened out in the past two years, thank goodness.  Before that health crisis occurred, I had already decided that I wanted to be the writer.  So I am an apt pupil to anyone who is a good writer, and able to support him/herself through this.

I’m outlining a book which will be less of a memoir and more of a cautionary tale to other people who suffered the same health problem, and don’t feel I’ll have any problems with that.  Also, drafting two screenplays.

My question for you is how does one successfully blog?

I’ll take a stab at this even though I’m not entirely sure what Maureen means. If you’re asking how blog format is different from writing articles, I think it is distinctly different — more casual, shorter and ideally offering links to readers that allow them to read more on other sites if they’re interested.

Don’t know if you saw this post I did on whether blogging is for you – maybe useful in thinking about blogging success.

Or maybe you’re wondering how to physically get your own Web site where you can blog? There are lots of sites that can help you with that — just discovered this one recently, which is free:  Yola.

If you’re asking how you earn money by having a personal blog, I would recommend you check out Leo Babauta’s great free ebook on how he got 100,000 subscribers for his very lucrative blog, Zen Habits. Essentially there are only a few ways to make money off your blog — affiliate marketing, selling ad space for an up-front fee on your site, selling information products, and using the visibility to get other writing jobs.

For me, I feel like I am successfully blogging. I hope I’m a success in that I’m providing useful information to my community. As far as earning from it, I’m just launching my monetizing strategies. So I’ll have to see how it goes.

Also, what’s your definition of success — You have 100,000 subscribers? You make $100K a year with it? You get a major publishing-house book deal? You simply manage to post two blogs a week? You get a lot of comments? You get linked to a lot? You get to polish your writing and develop your style? You get article assignments from $1-a-word magazines?

Everyone defines success differently. Also, what’s your blog about? Different blog topics monetize in different ways.

I haven’t made a dime directly from my blog at this moment but consider it a huge success in building a community of writers who’re interested in earning more from their work. That has been my immediate goal, and I’m very happy with the progress I’ve made on it.

It’s helped me get great-paying jobs blogging for companies. The exposure has been great, I’ve met wonderful new writing friends some of whom will help me promote my ebook in future, and it has helped me learn a lot about how to write impactfully in this new format.

It also led to the great opportunity I got recently to be a regular blogger for the WM Freelance Writing Connection, exposing me to a whole new audience.

I’m getting 300-400 visitors a day, or was before the move, which I’m very happy about for just starting this blog in ’09. I’m hoping to explore ways to earn from my blog that help my community and don’t annoy them…count on all of you to let me know how I’m doing.

Maureen — write back and let us know if you start a blog, and if so how it goes.

Readers — how do you define blogging success? And how is your quest for blogging success going? Leave us a comment and tell us what you think it takes to successfully blog.

Join my freelance writer community: Freelance Writers Den

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10 Negotiation Tips for Writers

Negotiate Your way to Better Writing JobsOne of the questions I get a lot is how to negotiate a good rate. Writers who’ve written for mills usually have no experience with the dynamic of working out a rate with a client.

You’ve seen a million job ads that insist you send a rate quote, even though you’ve been provided almost no details about the proposed project. Or you meet a prospect at a networking event and they ask you to send a bid on the white paper they want done, or on rewriting 10 pages of their Web site. How to respond?

Here are some of the negotiation strategies I’ve used:

1. Be vague. If you absolutely must submit a bid to be considered, give them a big range. As in “In the past year, I’ve done copywriting jobs ranging from $.30 to $1 a word. I look forward to learning more about your project so I can pinpoint an appropriate quote for you.” This way, if they’re a penny-a-word or $10 article type of client, you can screen them out fast and move on, but if they’re paying anything remotely appropriate, you can hopefully stay in the game long enough to learn more. Then you can decide if the pay rate makes it worth your while.

2. Ask, ‘What’s your budget?’ If at all possible, get the client to tell you what they can pay. Try to put the onus back on them to quote a price. Every time I’ve done this, I’ve discovered the figure they had in their heads was bigger than the one I had in my head. I asked a business-book agency this question recently, with the thought that I’d ask for $10,000. Their figure: a range of $17,000-$21,000. Let them speak first, and get paid more.

3. Defer quoting. Ideally, you’d like a prospective client to get to know you well before you put in a bid. So I resist blind bidding in response to online ads. When I respond to job ads that ask for a price quote, I usually indicate that I’ll need more information to develop a quote. This gives me a chance to show how thorough I am, while putting off quoting, hopefully until after I’ve had a more detailed conversation with the prospect.

4. Don’t lowball bid. Many online job solicitations and jobs on portals such as elance or odesk set up a competitive-bidding contest where the job will go to the lowest bidder. I personally don’t get involved in these, as when you win, you lose – you’ve gotten yourself a slave-wage gig. Though I’ve heard from people who say they’ve ended up with good-paying clients through these sites, I believe it’s a real long shot, and there are better ways to get good clients. In general, companies that would hire whoever bids lowest regardless of qualifications aren’t companies you want to work for.

5. Bid per-project instead of by the hour. This is always a better way to go for both sides. You know exactly what you’ll be paid, the client knows exactly what they’ll have to pay, and if you’re new and it takes you a bit longer to do the project, the client doesn’t suffer for it. Clients also seem more satisfied with per-project rates than when they’re thinking, “Sheesh, this guy is making $95 an hour!”

6. Bid by the word instead of by the hour. One quick, easy way to come up with a project bid is to simply add up the proposed wordcount and multiply. I usually bid somewhere between $.50 and $1 a word, depending on degree of difficulty and client size. As with a flat fee, this gives the client the reassurance of knowing exactly what their project will cost.

7. Consider all the hours involved. Remember that projects take a bit of time to get set up and rolling, especially with new clients – files need to be created, initial emails exchanged, contracts negotiated, meetings taken. You should bill every hour of this time, and figure those hours into any per-project bid you submit.

8. Know industry rates. Try to do some research to help you determine an appropriate rate. You should belong to some writers or copywriters forums online where you could describe your project and prospective client, and ask members to comment on your rate proposal. I’ve gotten really useful feedback this way.

9. Get details. I’ve developed a questionnaire at this point for clients to fill out to help define their project. One of the biggest problems in copywriting is that companies know they need some content…but they’re often very fuzzy on exactly how much, what form it should take, when they’ll need it by and other issues that can greatly affect my quote. I’ve had proposals for 400-word quick blogs turn into 700-word fully reported stories I’m ghostwriting rather than getting a byline on. Scope creep is a major problem in the writing world — so get it in writing so you can renegotiate for more if the client changes the project parameters.

10. Make a counter-proposal. There is no law that says you have to accept the first price a client throws out there. See How I got paid $300 a blog on The WM Freelance Writers Community for details on how to successfully bid up your contract during negotiations.

I’m proud to report that I took my own negotiating advice this week. I was approached out of the blue by a major company I’d actually had on my list of prime targets, to write articles for their site. I was excited…until I heard their rate, which was a lot lower than I was expecting. I told them I was surprised by their price, and could they do any better? They raised their flat fee $50 a piece immediately. I could easily end up writing 50 or more articles in a year for them if the relationship continues…if so, that’ll be $2,500 more I make just for asking the question.

Got any other negotiating tips? Feel free to share them with the group in the comments.

Photo source: andyrob

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7 Great Ways to Break into Freelance Writing

Break into Freelance Writing, makealivingwriting.com
By Carol Tice

For those of you who have begun freelance writing in the past few years, I’d like to provide a short history lesson. Up until six or eight years ago, most writers who started their freelance career did it without ever writing for a content mill. Content sites didn’t exist yet. How ever did we manage it?

Each of us found some other way to get our career started. I bring this up because as I read the writer chat forums, it’s difficult to recall that there was ever another bottom rung of the writing-career ladder! But there was. And I think the pre-mill routes are still better ways to quickly establish your career and start earning well.

Even better, the traditional routes to good pay have been enhanced in the past few years by all of the new pay opportunities that have arisen online.

What are the other ways to start a writing career that can get you earning more, faster? Below, I count the ways I earned in my first couple years. Almost all of these paid more than mills from the very first assignment. The hourly rate wasn’t the greatest at first because I had so much to learn and wasn’t efficient, but they very quickly became good earning options on an hourly-rate basis, and led to work that paid very well.


Read more ›

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Subscribe–or Resubscribe–to Make a Living Writing

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Time to subscribe!

Hi all —

It’s been a rocky week trying to get everything working here on the new Make a Living Writing site. A couple problems remain that only you, the reader, can resolve.

If you subscribed on RSS to this blog back on caroltice.com…you need to resubscribe if you want to keep getting the posts. If you’re on email, we should be able to enter you from here. But if you’re on RSS, we don’t have your contact info, and apparently we cannot flow you over here. You have to do it.

Of course, if this is your first visit here, please feel free to subscribe for the first time! Generally I post free tips and thoughts about how to earn more from your writing twice each week.

There’ll be lots of great stuff coming up, including special subscriber discounts for my upcoming ebooks. Hope to be giving you details on that before too long.

Until then…if you missed Content Mill Week over at The WM Freelance Writing Connection…head on over there for a full week’s worth of perspectives on this often-controversial subject. Here’s my entry from last week: Content Mills: Why Aspiring Writers Should Avoid Them.

This is my last double-post that’s going on both sites…so if you’re getting this from caroltice.com, migrate over here and subscribe so you don’t miss anything.

Thanks all!

Source: derrickwa

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Content Mills: Why Aspiring Writers Should Avoid Them

By Carol Tice

As many WM readers and readers of my Make a Living Writing Blog may already know, I am not a fan of content mills. I advise the writers I mentor to avoid them, and many of my mentees approach me with the specific goal of kicking their mill-writing habit.

I think there are many types of people for whom these sites are a superb option — but in my opinion, those types don’t include writers who’re serious about building a good-paying, sustainable writing career. To clarify, I mean people who want to earn $50,000 a year and up from their writing. People who ultimately want to have unlimited earning capability from writing.

Let me explain why I’m down on content mills. In my experience, here are the career problems writers may experience who rely mostly on content-site assignments:

1. It does not teach you to report. Most of the stories on content sites are written with light Internet research or off the top of your head. They don’t help you develop newsgathering abilities, which are a bedrock skill needed for most good-paying byline reporting and corporate writing work. You don’t develop interviewing skills since you generally aren’t conducting interviews. If you dream of earning $800-$1500 for a single article, mill writing is not helping you get there.

2. It does not teach you to research. A lot of good-paying writing assignments call for extensive research. I recently wrote a $650 article for a regional magazine about all the stimulus money our state got and how it was spent. I wrote a $1,500 article about where Seattle’s trash goes and what happens to it. I’m doubtful that anyone cutting their teeth on mill stories will ever be able to write stories like these. Writing for mills does not teach you how to do investigative reporting, how to dig deep into documents, understand them, interpret them, or synthesize complex information. Copywriting as well can demand a decent amount of research and ability to dive in-depth into a topic.

3. It does not give you nurturing editor relationships. I would be nowhere today without two or three amazing editors I worked with earlier in my career. Editing at mills is usually cursory at best, and not the kind of close, one-on-one relationship you want where someone will really take you under their wing and take the time to show you exactly what you need to do to improve.

4. It does not teach you to market. Many mill writers have spoken in ecstatic terms of how much they love never having to market their writing. But marketing your writing is a key skill for those who want to earn big. Generally, you go out and find the really lucrative magazine connections and corporate clients yourself…they do not fall in your lap. Every week you write for mills is a week you don’t learn this critical skill.

5. It does not enhance your reputation. While some mill writers have reported they were able to parlay their clips into better-paying assignments…I usually find when I nail them down that their definition of “better paying” and mine are very different. They often mean something like they’ve worked their way to $50 an article. Know that many editors at quality publications discard outright the queries of anyone who offers clips from mill sites, so this work can slam a lot of doors for you.

6. It’s a model that may disappear. There’s been much discussion online of the possibility that Google may soon find a way to screen out mill sites in its search results. If that happens, the entire article-aggregator industry, which sprung up to serve Google’s ranking analytics, will disappear overnight. As it is, mill sites go out of business on a regular basis, taking any promised “lifetime” residuals they owe writers along with them.

If you write for mills, ask yourself how you would replace that income if this model goes away? What other client types could you find work with?

There’s already signs that even if it survives, the content-site model is changing — check out ProVoices, the new site that wants professionally reported articles for up to $250. The trend is toward rates going up, and more work being demanded of mill writers as these sites seek to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

If content mills are such a career dead-end, you may ask, how are writers to break in and start a freelance writing career? Plenty of ways. Tune in next week for my guide to better approaches for breaking into freelance writing and earning more sooner.

This post originally appeared on the WM Freelance Writer’s Connection.

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