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Archives for March 2011

Freelance Writers: Should You Charge for Consultations?

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had three client consultations. This is somewhat unusual for me because most times, when prospects contact me, they’ve already been to my website and they tend to know what they want. As my (SEO) writing company lists rates, they also know how much it’s going to cost them.

Why Freelance Writers Will Have to Give More Consultations

This uptick on consultations signals three things to me:

(i) Clients are spending more money on content, as we touched on in this post on content marketing; hence, they want to know more about what they’re getting for their money;

(ii) Clients are starting to realize the value of SEO and content marketing. The recent Google Panda update shook up the rankings. While many gained, lots of firms lost rank and are doing what it takes to climb back to where they were; and

(iii) Clients are seeking freelance writers who can provide them with a range of writing services. In fact, the trend I see is that many companies are looking for a “writing company” they can outsource most of their content needs to.

The reason I believe this is the three consultations I’ve had in the last couple of weeks, and the queries I’ve been getting in the last six months or so.

Freelance Writers: 3 Things to Consider to Help You Decide Whether to Charge for Consultations

should-freelance-writers-give-free-consultationsBut, back to should you charge for consultations: well there’s no cut-and-dried answer, but following are some guidelines to help you decide.

I. Does the Prospect Know What They Want?

Many times you’ll discover that potential clients don’t really know what they want/need. Or, it may differ significantly from what you think they need based on what they’ve told you. For example, a recent consultation I had with a technology firm.

They’ve developing a new software (nothing like it on the market) for the real estate industry and are merging with a large real estate agency. They contacted another writing firm, who wanted to co-op with New Media Words (my SEO writing company) because this firm knows real estate writing, but we know SEO.

While talking with the company reps, we quickly realized that they didn’t know exactly what they wanted/needed (FYI, this happens far more than you’d think with prospects). Hence, the consultations we’ve had thus far have been more about helping them clarify what they need.

As a matter of course, my firm doesn’t charge for consultations. But, if there was an instance where I was going to, this one was it. So far, there’ve been two phone consultations and a proposal sent over. Total time invested has been about two hours (a bit more for the other firm I’m working with as it’s their client and they’re taking the lead).

This could be a lot (a lot!) of ongoing work, so that’s why I haven’t minded so far. But, time is money and it’s getting to the point where a signed contract has to be forthcoming or the deal will be a no go.

Otherwise, it’s like giving away your expertise for free.

Freelance Writers: A Note about How Much Info to Give Away in Free Consultations

I believe in guiding clients and giving them insight into what I think they need and why from an SEO standpoint. After all, it’s so new to many of them. That’s one of the reasons I wrote the SEO internet marketing guide (.pdf file) and distributed it for free.

But, be careful of how much time you spend helping clients to devise a strategy and there’s no forthcoming work on the table for you. This is exactly what seasoned consultants do and they charge a mint; and, they’re worth every penny I might add (if you hire the right one).

II. How Much Upfront Research Is Involved

Piggy backing on the above, if there’s a lot of upfront research involved, you might want to consider charging a freelance writing consulting fee.

For example, back to the above-mentioned prospect. In addition to articles, they want a press release, revisions to a marketing brochure and a rewrite of an almost 20-page PowerPoint presentation.

Of course, to come up with a proper proposal, you have to dig through this stuff.

Once I started to dig through it, I realized that what they commissioned didn’t match what they forwarded (hence, the back and forth so far).

III. Are They Willing to Put in the Work?

One of the ways I’ve avoided a lot of consultations I think is by turning the tables a bit. To explain, with this prospect, instead of spending hours going through all of the material, I devised a list of questions that would help me clarify exactly what they needed.

This does two things: (i) it shows them that you know your stuff; and (ii) it gives you an idea of how  invested in the process they are.

If they answer your questions, or get back to you to let you know, “Hey, we hadn’t thought about that but based on what you said . . .” then you know they are serious. But, if they brush your questions off or tell you to “just do your best with it,” then be wary. Why?

Because even if you do a stellar job, there may be problems because what you give them may not be “exactly what they were looking for,” and they’ll want you to add this, change that, cut this out, etc.

You see, it’s easy to pick apart a finished product. But when you started and they had no clue about what they wanted, then you got them a finished document, bells start going off for them. They may realize all kinds of things they want to add and directions they want to go in.

All because they have a defined path now — the path you defined for them “doing the best you could” with the little direction they gave you. And this is exactly why many freelance writers do charge for consultations. In fact, I’m leaning towards it now.

Freelance Writers: How Much Should You Charge for Consultations?

I’m not even going to go into detail here because there are too many factors to consider: type of project, scope of project, niche; etc.

What I will say is, base it on your hourly freelance writing rates. Every freelance writer should know what they average on an hourly basis, even if they don’t charge like this a lot (many charge by the project, for example). But, projects are priced based on how much time they take to complete.

And, usually these are broken down by the hour. 

Freelance Writing Business Advice: How to Cut Down on Consultation Time and Still Land Clients

Develop a new client intake form. It makes your firm look professional and it helps prospects clarify what their needs are. This way, you can cut down on the talk, and get down to the paying freelance writing work!

Here’s to a great rest of the week!
Yuwanda

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P.S.: Want to start a successful career where you have the mobility to live and work where you please? Visit our freelance writing bookstore for a ton of opportunities (freelance writing and internet marketing) to get you started.

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Opportunities in Freelance Writing: Where the Jobs Are & Specific Advice On How to Get Them

Yesterday, I read an interesting report from the Content Marketing Institute on large companies and their content needs. As I was reading it I thought to myself, “Wow, this report really lays out where the jobs in freelance writing are going to come from over the next few years!”

Wanna Know Where the Opportunities In Freelance Writing Are? Look No Further Than the Content Marketing Institute

FYI, if you aren’t familiar with this organization, take some time to explore their site. It’s an excellent venue for learning the trends in freelance writing (aka content marketing), where the jobs are, what companies are spending money on, types of content they’re looking for, types of organizations to target, etc.

So much jumped out at me that I wanted to do a quick rundown here so fellow freelance writers (like you!) can possibly start thinking about how to put together a marketing plan to get some of the business that’s out there.

And make no mistake, there is a ton of work available for freelance writers, especially web and SEO content writers. But, you have to be proactive enough (and knowledgeable enough) to know how to go after it.

Questions from Existing and Aspiring Freelance Writers about How to Find Freelance Writing Jobs

The thing that got the wheels to turning for me when I was reading this report are a couple of questions I received from freelance writers over the last week. An existing freelance writer struggling to get decent rates wrote:

Hi Yuwanda,

I have been a subscriber for a long time and recently bought your ebook on SEO article writing.
 
I’m writing to let off steam because so far I have had no joy from freelance job sites at all and have wasted loads of time just browsing and looking for work. It is so depressing to see ‘professional writers’ offering $1 articles. I cannot write for that price and make a living, yet have not found any better-paying gigs on elance, freelancer or peopleperhour. To top it all, some bids are now just limited for UK, US and Canada writers. I’m a native speaker but happen to live in another country…
Do you think writing to SEO companies to offer my writing services as you suggest in the ebook will net me better results?

FYI, I advise freelance writers to stay away from sites like the ones mentioned because the rates tend to be so low and the competition so intense. My quick response to this writer was:

See Testimonial #6 here: http://inkwelleditorial.com/e11-excerpt.This freelance writer, John, is from Scotland, moved to Spain and has successfully been doing SEO writing for clients worldwide since buying my ebook in 2008. So the tactics work, no matter where you live as long as you have command of the given language you’re targeting clients in (eg, English) and can prove you know how to write SEO copy.
 
And FYI, there’s no need to state where you live on your website. As long as you have the skill, it won’t matter to clients. Good luck!

Why You Can Land Clients No Matter Where You Live as a Web and/or SEO Writer

As many of you know, I’m an American, but I live and work from abroad (at the moment, Jamaica). I’ve also worked from Spain, Argentina, London, New York, Miami, etc. So location truly does not matter as an SEO writer, as long as you can prove your writing ability to clients.

Another aspiring freelancer wrote:

Your articles seems really inspirational, and often, easy to achieve. I’ve tried most of your SEO tactics, and been on a client hunt for the last few months, but with no significant results than finding some guys who pay $1 per 100 words. Any advice?

Oy vey, here we go again with there’s no work and how do I find clients willing to pay me a decent rate.

I didn’t respond to this second writer because she didn’t tell me which tactics she’d tried specifically and for how long. When clicked through to her website, it wasn’t a freelance writing website, so I don’t know how she’s marketing, what type of samples she’s sending out, types of clients she’s targeting, follow-up methods she uses (if any), rates she wants, etc.

The thing is, as I’ve said here ad nauseam before, there are so many factors that go into achieving freelance writing success. But the common thread is consistency, consistency, consistency in marketing.

Related Post: SEO Copywriting: 5 Tips on How to Find Content Writing Jobs No Matter Where You Live

There Are Tons of High-paying Freelance Writing Jobs Out There: Here’s Where to Find Them

So, as I was reading the report from the Content Marketing Institute all I could think was:

How can people say there are no high-paying freelance writing jobs out there? There are tons! And this report is basically a blueprint of who’s looking for what and why.

Content Marketing Institute Report: Synopsis to Help Freelance Writers Land More Jobs

Following are some things that stood out to me in the report as a freelance writer that can help you land more writing gigs:

Types of Writing Clients Need: Web articles, blog posts and newsletter content. To a lesser degree, case studies and white papers. FYI, these last two in particular are the higher-paying freelance writing niches.

Focus of Content Clients Want: Overall, brand awareness, customer retention and lead generation.

Ancillary Services Freelancers Can Offer: There are a couple of services that stood out that freelancers can easily add to their roster.

(i) Social media – it’s huge with large companies now. This is an easy service to add to your freelance writing business, as a social media expert I recently interviewed detailed; and

(ii) Content Distribution: This can be article marketing (which my SEO writing company offers), social media (another service we offer), video marketing (this is becoming more and more popular), etc.

Note: Ebook on Social Media for Freelance Writers

Nina Lewis and I will be co-authoring an ebook on how to successfully add social media marketing to your list of services. We’ve completed the outline and the book will be available from both of our sites, and on Amazon, on April 1st. Of course, I’ll inform you when it’s available.

Update: April 2011. The social media consulting ebook is now available.

How to Land Freelance Writing Jobs from Companies Who Want Content

These companies outsource – a lot—so the work is there. The report states:

Larger firms are much more likely to outsource content creation than their peers at smaller companies. Seventy-seven percent of large firms outsource some of their content development, compared to 55% on average.

But what they need are experts. One of the biggest problems companies had when it came to content was the following, according to the report:

 Like their peers, marketers at large companies cite producing engaging content as the biggest challenge.

So your job is to set yourself apart. If they want “engaging content”; figure out what this means for them and give it to them. Specialize in offering “engaging content for “X niche.” Market the hell out of that niche!

Hone your writing skills; devour what “engaging content” means to a certain niche; come up with a questionnaire to help them help you figure out what engaging content is for them; package “engaging content” services; etc.

FACT: More than 90% of Large Firms Use Content Marketing (They NEED Freelance Writers)

The bottom line is there is tons – and I do mean tons – of freelance writing work to be had. Proof? The report states:

For B2B marketers at large organizations, using content to market their products and services is mainstream. Ninety-one percent of large company B2B marketers report using content as part of their marketing efforts . . .

Are you grasping this? More than 9 out of 10 large companies use content (the very stuff you want to be paid to produce) to get the word out about their products and services.

And as we discussed in this post on content marketing, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Firms are just NOW realizing the value of good, informative, ongoing content. So yeah, there’s work; but you have to be prepared (skill wise and marketing wise) to produce it.

Read the entire report from the Content Marketing Institute on Large Companies and Their Content Needs.

I hope this helps you to really grasp where the jobs in freelance writing are these days, and gives you some insight on how to go about landing them.

Best,
Yuwanda

Want to be Featured on InkwellEditorial.com? Submit a Guest Post. Get the guest post submission guidelines.

To subscribe and get special deals and discounts on all products, see the sign-up box to the right (top of column) on every page of this site. Once you subscribe, you will immediately be emailed the latest post, as well as all previous posts where a subscription is required.

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Quickly Become a Published Author This Year! FINALLY get that ebook you’ve been wanting to write done in Inkwell Editorial’s “How to Write an Ebook in 3 Days Market It & Start Getting Sales within a WeekEbook Writing & Publishing Tournament.

P.S.: Want to start a successful career where you have the mobility to live and work where you please? Visit our freelance writing bookstore for a ton of opportunities (freelance writing and internet marketing) to get you started.

Read more.

Freelance Writers: Are You Sticking to Your 2011 Freelance Writing Goals? 3 Reasons to Pull Out the List & Assess Where You Are

Back in December, in anticipation of the New Year, I laid out my list of freelance writing goals for this year. As we’re about a quarter of the way through the year, I thought it was a good time to go back and assess how I’m doing….

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A Freelance Writer’s Life Abroad: Inside Peek at My Life as an American Living in Jamaica for a Year, Part XIX

My Visit to Little Bay, Jamaica: Fresh Fish, White Rum, Bob Marley’s House & More

Last weekend, I went on another little excursion here in Jamaica – to a local fisherman’s spot, “Gilbert on De Rock,” in Little Bay. Spent the day eating fish, drinking white rum (waaayyyy too much white rum), and just hanging out.  Never has doing a little of anything felt like doing so much of everything!…

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Freelance Writers: Insight on How to Use Twitter to Land Clients

In last week’s newsletter, we gained insight from social media expert Nina Lewis from Nina Online! on what it takes to successfully offer social media marketing to clients if you’re a freelance writer. …

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A Freelance Writer’s Life Abroad: Inside Peek at My Life as an American Living in Jamaica for a Year, Part XVIII

This was the road trip I talked about in the last post in the living in Jamaica series. So, let’s get to it – let me expound upon what you’re going to see in this almost 8-minute video. It’s about a 5-6 hour drive from Negril, which is where I live….

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Social Media Marketing: A Pro Dispenses Advice to Freelance Writers on What It Takes to Successfully Offer This Service to Clients

In last week’s newsletter, we discussed 5 reasons freelance writers should add social media to their list of service offerings. At the end of that newsletter, I promised to give you some pointers on how to successfully go about offering social media marketing to your clients. …

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