The kids are off to school, editors are back from vacation and ad spending is about to begin. What does this signal? Fall is almost here and everyone is turning their attention back to business. Thank goodness! If you’re a freelance writer, it’s time for you to gear up for the season.
If landing writing jobs has been slow going throughout the summer, now is the time to get the business flowing back in. To that end, following is a fall marketing tutorial for freelance writers that helps you hit the ground running now that potential clients are focused on work again.
FYI, the summer marketing tutorial gave some excellent suggestions that you can use this season as well. Now, on to fall . . .
Fall Marketing Tutorial for Freelance Writers: Focus on the Brand Called You
I was reading a book by the founder of 1-800-Flowers, Jim McCann, this week entitled Stop and Smell the Roses: Lessons from Business and Life. The book is a little outdated, but it’s been in my car for ages. I had some free time between running errands with a friend and I flipped through and landed on the chapter entitled The Brand Called “You”.
Boy, is it dead on for what I wanted to talk about in this tutorial. Even though the book was first published in 1998, one passage that still rings true to this day is, “The only career constant is change, change so fast it can give you whiplash.”
You may be thinking, “What the heck does this have to do with landing more writing gigs?” Well, quite simply, in order to accomplish some of the marketing tasks in the Fall Marketing Tutorial, you have to be open to shaking things up a bit.
4 Things You Can Do to Land More Freelance Writing Jobs This Fall
1. Learn How Negotiate: One reason many freelance writers fail to make enough money to survive on is that they don’t know how to negotiate. In fact, one freelance writer wrote in asking me to answer this very question. She wanted to know specifically “how to negotiate higher rates.”
The first rule of negotiating is to choose a client base who can afford you. In the case of this freelancer, she already has some existing clients. If you’ve been charging a lower rate to a client, it can be hard to get them to pay more. Hence, negotiating may not help with existing clients. In the event that you are stuck negotiating though, following is my number one piece of advice:
Get Specific: Make sure that you and the client are on the same page about what is expected. Sometimes, clients don’t want to pay more because they’re thinking, “you only have to write 350 words,” for example.
But, if you point out that the articles are technical and that you have to spend some time researching in addition to writing, then that doubles the time you’ll have to spend on each article. When you lay out the specifics, then clients see how much work is really involved, hence you justify your higher rate.
There is tons more that could be said on negotiating, but in all of my years as a freelance writer, a lot of the advice you’ll read just won’t work in this line of work. Why? Most freelance writing clients have concrete budgets that they’re working within. Also, there are other writers out there who will do it cheaper.
I’ve found that most clients don’t mind paying a bit more though – if you can point out to them what a project really entails. I do this in a number of ways.
Example: Just last week, a new client was referred to me by an old client. She wanted a rewrite of her web copy. Although it was only three pages, I quoted a project rate of $375, which she agreed to.
This client happens to have an MBA. I proved my worth to her by sending along a list of questions, asking about the demographics and psychographics of her target audience. Right then, she knew that I knew what I was doing – and that I was worth every penny she was going to pay.
***Marketing Made Easy: 7 Ways to Find Unpublished Freelance Writing Jobs***
When you ask questions, lay out specifics and get very detailed, it proves to clients that you are no run-of-the-mill writer, but a professional who knows her trade. And, that costs.
2. Create a Project List: Last Friday, I revamped my professional profile on SEO-Article-Writer.com. Instead of just listing the types of writing I do, I created a list of recently completed projects.
This helps to bring in more work because it shows clients your depth and breadth of experience. If you haven’t updated your professional profile in a while, do so. Use specifics where possible, eg, “Blog posts for $500 million/year technology company,” and “Web copy for online $200 million/year sales & marketing firm.”
Getting across to clients that you have worked with large firms immediately says a lot about your abilities as a writer. And, it helps you to command/negotiate higher rates as well.
Funny Story: I actually had one prospect write back asking me if I was “real” because my rates didn’t reflect my abilities. He actually wrote me the following:
Your educational experience is impressive. . . .at $45 for 300-350 words of original content, I have to ask from what third world country are you drawing these writers? Surely someone such as yourself (if you’re no [sic] fictional) who’s a Masters candidate in expensive New York City would need higher rates than that to survive.
Thanks for your interest in my services. I assure you, I’m a real person — and so are my writers. Many of the writers I use freelance either full-time or part-time. I used to own an editorial staffing agency in New York , and have been recruiting and outsourcing work to writers (and other creative freelancers) for years.
I don’t use third-world writers and if you know anything about SEO, then you know there are writers who will write for as little as $3 per article for 500 words (and many of them are not third world writers, just clueless newbies who are desperate for work).
My rates are not third-world rates — and neither is the copy. I just charge what I think is a fair rate for excellent copy — nothing more, nothing less.
While the first email was a little snarky, he had been burned before, writing:
Your rates just seemed too low to be true. I tried someone who wrote for about the same rate and had to rewrite all of her material. . . . I’d love to give you a shot at one of them [client projects] (and hopefully more thereafter if we’re happy with your work).
Because I kept my cool and proved to him that I am indeed “real,” I was able to turn what was initially a chilly reception into a warm one. But, apparently I’m still too cheap! Can’t win’em all. 🙂
No Projects to List? FYI, if you’re new and don’t have an extensive project list, just create some strong writing samples. And every time you complete a project, list it.
3. Create Effective Email Queries: I’m always sending out email queries. It’s how I land most of my new clients (I get a lot of referrals, which I’ll address in a minute). I have three or four that I use practically all the time – because they work.
If you’ve been sending out a lot of queries with little success, it’s time to change your marketing message. Most email queries are too long. They should be short and to the point, with links out to your website for more detail (you do have a website, don’t you?).
I target two groups with my queries – individual website owners and small/medium companies. I have email queries that address the pain points of each group. FYI, in marketing speak, a pain point is a client need that you can fulfill. For example, for my smaller clients, it’s time. So I may start off with a series of questions, eg:
When was the last time you updated your website?
Is it bringing in leads and orders like you had hoped?
Don’t have time to write copy that can drive traffic and increase sales?
If you’re not marketing online, you’re losing money, blah, blah, blah.
Here’s who I am (name), here’s what I do (list of services), contact me to get started today. This is my basic message. Hit a pain point, link to the services you provide that can relieve that pain, and move on.
4. Ask for Referrals: One thing that many freelance writers fail to do is actively seek referrals. A quick, simple email to your entire client database once a month or so can change this. Just a simple, “Do you know anyone who can use my services. I’d love to talk to them. Please send me their contact information, or forward mine to them.”
Inevitably, especially if you have provided good service to existing clients, they will refer you to others. I have one “client” who hasn’t even used me for his firm, but he’s referred me twice – and I landed the gig both times.
If you take the advice here, coupled with the more direct marketing strategies discussed in the summer marketing tutorial, you will be primed to bring in more business than you can handle.
Freelance Writing Questions from Readers
In the 8/28 blog post, I asked readers to write in with any questions they wanted me to answer for this tutorial. I received the following questions:
1. Pricing (e.g. what to charge for rush jobs, etc.): I rarely charge a rush fee because usually, I can’t fit in rush projects. But years ago, I used to charge 15% for rush projects. Now, make sure rush is clearly defined so clients don’t think you’re taking advantage of them. Usually, most clients can wait an extra day or two and avoid a rush fee. But, if they’re insistent, 15-20% is standard.
2. Price negotiation- how to negotiate higher rates with existing clients without scaring them away. As I said earlier when discussing negotiation, sometimes, this is just not possible. Some clients will bolt at any price increase.
But to lessen the chances of them bolting, call it a “standard rate increase,” and give them a timeline as to when it will be implemented. In other words, don’t announce “effectively immediately our rates will change.”
I recently raised rates on one client for a series of blog posts I do for him. But, I gave him almost three months notice to adjust to it and/or to find another writer if he felt that he couldn’t afford it. His response, “I want to stay with you, but I’ll be ordering less.”
Bottom line: When it comes to rate, be prepared to lose the client, but also start targeting higher-paying markets where you don’t compete so much on rate.
3. Avoiding writer burnout (I think most SEO writers need help with this at one time or another). One of the ways to avoid writer burnout is to raise your rates. You will probably make more.
Since I raised my rates from $25 to $35-$50 per article, I’ve gotten fewer orders, but my income has remained steady. And as witnessed by the snarky email from the potential client above, you’d be surprised that you might be losing clients by charging too little because they don’t think you turn out quality work.
Besides raising rates (my first option for avoiding burnout), quote longer deadlines. I usually turn projects around in 2-3 days. But, I tell clients 3-5 days, depending on the project. Trust that most will wait for it, and many even expect it will take that long.
4. I received several, “what should I charge” questions from readers. These are impossible to answer concretely, as they depend on so many factors (eg, experience, niche, deadline, word count, research time, etc.).
So, I’ll just point you to a couple of articles where you can do some additional reading to figure out for yourself what to charge.
5. I’ve really enjoyed some of your recent articles – especially the creating passive income for retirement one (I’m in my 50s!). If I want to create a blog with the aim of making money from it, which blogging platforms would you recommend? With so many to choose from, I’m finding it hard to choose. Am I right in assuming that free sites like blogger.com are not suitable for monetizing?
I answered this question in the post I did for Meryl.net back in July entitled 7 Things You Must Know Before Moving Your Blog (see points 2 and 3).
As a quick recap though, I recommend getting your own website hosted on your own domain and designed by a professional designer. The reason is, if you’re going to monetize a site, then you can’t look amateurish. The web has advanced to a point where surfers expect professionalism – especially when you’re asking them to fork over money.
FYI, a blog is just a website. For more on this read What’s the Difference Between a Website and a Blog?
If you decide to go the free route, I recommend a wordpress blog over a blogger blog. I think they look more professional, and they have more interactive features (eg, most popular posts, latest post, related posts, etc.).
But, be careful. You can get booted for violating terms of service, which is what happened to me at wordpress. This is why I advise that if you’re going to monetize your web presence, register your own domain name and build your web presence there from the start.
Want a great host / domain name registration company? Read why I use HostGator.
P.S.: Submit a Guest Post: This site and its sister site, SeoWritingJobs.com, accepts guest posts. Get the guest post submission guidelines.
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