Becoming a freelance writer is often a shocking experience. You go from having a steady paycheck and schedule to marketing endlessly for clients at all hours during the day and night.
If you’re someone who has been sending off dozens of emails, updating social accounts, and participating in forums with not much to immediately show for it, you should know this — establishing relationships matters most in freelance writing, not immediate returns.
Coming to Freelance Writing from the 9-to-5 Corporate World: The “Paycheck” Mentality
A lot of freelancers, like myself, came into freelancing from working regular 9-to-5 jobs. When you start freelancing after years of experience in a “regular” job, you bring with you that paycheck mentality. You want to reach out to companies and publishers and have them hire you because they’re so impressed with your writing savvy. However, that doesn’t often happen.
The truth is, being a freelance writer is a business. So if you want to succeed, you have to have a business owner’s mentality. And that means breaking down and segmenting markets – and deciding which ones you want to target.
What Is Commercial Freelance Writing (aka Corporate Writing)?
In case you don’t know, B2B stands for business to business.
If you’re a writer who markets his or her services to organizations, including businesses and nonprofits, then you’re engaging in B2B marketing.
FYI, if you target the B2B segment, you’re known as a commercial freelance writer. It’s also referred to as doing “corporate writing.”
Types of Corporate Writing
▪ promotional (e.g., web copy)
▪ explanatory (e.g., client case studies)
▪ educational (e.g., white papers) and
▪ developmental (e.g., books).
And get this — which should be empowering to freelance writers who want to penetrate this niche — rotten writing’s antithesis, quality writing, is rare indeed. Eighty percent of executives consistently (since 1988) cite writing as one of the most vital components of business success – and . . . the most neglected skill in the business world. [Source: Show Me the Money: Breaking into Corporate Writing]
The B2B Client: Why It’s Such a Lucrative Market for Freelance Writers to Target
This market is so attractive mainly because they’re all about business – and hence, there’s less upfront selling and hand-holding you have to do. In fact, you rarely have to do this at all with this segment. They usually know what they want, and it’s just a matter of if you’re a good fit at the right price for them.
In B2B marketing, one thing it’s important to keep in mind is that it’s all about making a warm connection; it’s NOT about getting the immediate assignment (although sometimes it does happen that way).
Profile of a B2B (Corporate) Writing Client
Your typical B2B customer — probably the business owner, marketing director, or content editor at the company — already knows exactly what the business needs.
They have likely already worked with freelance writers before, or are at least aware of the problems they’d like to solve by hiring a freelancer. Serious B2B professionals tend not to bargain hunt when it comes to writers. Their aim is to maximize the company’s profits, and they’re willing to pay for high quality.
There are a number of reasons why making the connection should be your focus, not making the sale.
Why a Connection – Instead of an Immediate Sale – Can Be More Profitable in the Long Run with B2B Clients
*They may not need you right now. When you email a contact, they will likely fall into one of three categories: 1) They don’t hire outside writers; 2) They do hire outside writers, but they don’t need one right now; and 3) They do hire outside writers and you just happened to email them while they were looking for one.
The second scenario happens often.
As an example, I sent an email to a prospect back in February of this year, and in June the content editor emailed me asking if I was still available. In B2B marketing, you throw out a lot of lines and you never know when you’ll get a nibble.
*You want to emphasize the value of the relationship. Ideally, you’re not looking for one-off projects. You’re looking for a company that will want to come to you regularly with their writing work.
Therefore you want to emphasize why you would be a good addition to their trusted stable of writers; not just a one-shot deal.
*You want them to see you as professional. If you’re aggressively trying to hard sell your services to a company, it comes off as pushy and unprofessional. This is why writers send letters of introduction, not sales letters, to prospects.
Sales letters are for consumers, not businesses.
Why You’re Practically Guaranteed Corporate Writing Jobs if You Play “The Numbers Game”
When you first start writing for businesses, marketing is a numbers game (or as Yuwanda is fond of saying, “Marketing Success by the Numbers”).
If you send out a hundred emails, you’ll likely get a 2 or 3% response rate (That’s 2 or 3 emails out of 100). It can feel like a long slog, but the effort is worth it. Eventually, clients will come to you by word of mouth and by finding your website or social media account online, but for now you must play the numbers game.
How to Significantly Increase Your Odds of Landing B2B Writing Jobs Playing the Numbers Game
Here are some ways to tip the odds in your favor.
*Use LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great resource for finding company contacts. I like to search my 2nd connections to see if there is anyone there who would need my services. Having a connection to someone in your network helps because it increases the sense of trust and familiarity. InMail is also a great tool for contacting prospects.
*Contact the right person. Try to avoid sending your email to that catch-all firstname.lastname@example.org address. Instead, try to find the exact person who handles hiring freelance writers. If you’re really not sure, it’s okay to call and ask.
*Use a great subject line. Using subject lines like “Need a pro blogger?” and “Professional Freelancer For Hire” work well because you’re solving a problem that your prospect has.
If you found this prospect through a mutual colleague, then using “I got your info from so-and-so” gets a very high open rate. Again, you’re using familiarity and establishing trust.
*Use “You” instead of “I.” Try not to talk about yourself too much. Instead, talk about what pain points the customer is likely experiencing, and how you can solve that problem.
For example, if your prospect needs content to deliver to their clients, demonstrate that you understand their need for a talented content writer who delivers on time.
*Use your personality. Don’t treat your introduction like a business interview. Instead, demonstrate that you have a conversational tone that can attract readers.
*Be helpful. Keep your name in front of prospects by showing interest in helping them.
If you see an article or blog post that they’d be interested in, send it over. Follow them on Twitter and retweet their content if you find it helpful. You don’t have to be overbearing or stalkerish, but staying in touch by being helpful is a good way to warm a prospect up to you.
Conclusion: Getting Corporate Writing Jobs
Remember that as a freelancer — especially in the world of commercial freelance writing — it’s important to keep a business owner mindset because relationships are particularly valuable assets. Hence, the focus should always be on building high-quality ones that both you and your B2B clients will benefit from — for years to come.
About the Author: Tiffany Howard is a freelance writer whose work includes articles, press releases, blog posts, eBooks, white papers, special reports, and sales copy, and her concentrations include science and nature, real estate, travel, and nutrition and wellness. When she is not at the beach or playing tag with her little one, she can be found blogging about online marketing and social media. Connect with her on Twitter @THowardWriter.
P.S.: Learn everything you need to know to start a successful online commercial writing business from the comfort of your home — and take up to 6 months to pay.
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