How to Brand Yourself as a Freelance Writer
In this final part, we’re going to discuss how to brand yourself as a freelance writer. When you do this, you can command higher fees, outmaneuver the competition and really turbo-charge your freelance writing career. Before we get started, let’s talk for sec about what branding is.
What Is Branding?
Yesterday on SeoWritingJobs.com, this blog’s sister blog, I defined branding and gave an example of what it is. To quickly recap here, branding is …
The process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers’ mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers.
An example of a clearly defined brand is McDonald’s.
You see the golden arches, and you know it’s McDonald’s. You can be in the next room and when the jingle comes on the TV — “Duh, duh duh duh duh, I’m lovin’ it’” — you know that a Mickey D’s commercial just ended, right? You know that they’re a fast food joint that sells primarily burgers and fries.
All of this [messaging] is done on purpose by marketing firms the fast-food giant spends millions with.
This bolded part of the line above is very important to branding. On-purpose, consistent messaging makes you memorable –- and valuable.
Brand Yourself in 3 Steps
Now that you know what branding is, following are three things you can do to brand yourself as a freelance writer.
1. Write for Free.
Waaiitttt, wait, wait! Don’t get mad and click away. This really can be valuable –- if you know how to leverage it. To explain, during my search for writing jobs, I kept running across ads like this seeking “premium bloggers” or “bloggers for high-authority sites.” Some of these sites are listed below.
Most of them don’t pay, however, content marketing agencies and potential clients looking to get some high-profile coverage will pay you more if you have this type of credibility, as the job ad above illustrates.
Beyond that, can you imagine how valuable a writing credit like The Huffington Post or The Wall Street Journal is when pitching clients? You’ll stand head and shoulders above other freelancers. So this type of “writing for free” can pay huge dividends –- again, if you know how to leverage it.
While some of these sites can be a bear to get featured on, it’s not as hard as you think to get a piece on others. What it basically boils down to is your pitch.
FYI, here’s a great article by a writer who’s been featured on tons of high-profile sites like these. He gives some great tips on how to get your pieces accepted.
Even if you just got on one or two of these sites and started contributing regularly, it can greatly expand your freelance writing brand.
12 High-Authority, High-Traffic Sites that Accept Freelance Submissions
I linked to the submission guidelines of each site and where possible, I linked to posts that provide more insight about how to increase your odds of getting featured. You may want to bookmark this post for future reference if you decide to submit to any of them.
- Inc.com (Fast Company): They don’t pay for stories, like most of these high-profile sites.
- The Huffington Post: In this post, 5 bloggers reveal how they got on the site. Hey, next it could be you!
- BusinessInsider: They accept previously published pieces also; they don’t pay though.
- Entrepeneur.com: Here’s some first-hand advice from Stephen J. Bronner, a deputy editor at Entrepreneur, on how to get published on the site.
- Business.com: They want you to be able to contribute at least one post per week for six months, and are accepting applications for new “experts” until May 31st.
- TechCrunch.com: One entrepreneur explains how he got on TechCrunch; a lot is revealed about how to pitch this site.
- The New York Times: Here are some some details from a travel editor at The Times that can help improve your odds of having a piece accepted.
- About.com: Here are some step-by-step instructions on how to become a contributor to this site.
- Mashable: Here’s some invaluable information on how to get your social media story featured on Mashable -– from the site itself.
- Forbes: One freelancer gave step-by-step details on how they got published on Forbes – and how you can too!
- Men’s Health: Pays between $200 and $400 per story. Here’s some insight on what it’s like to write for them.
- The Wall Street Journal: Here’s how one freelancer got featured. He didn’t get a story published, but this can be just as good.
- Engadget: Darren Murph, a former managing editor at Endgaget gives some advice on how to write for this successful tech site.
There are many more of these types of coveted publications that clients are looking for access to through freelance writers; these should be enough to keep you busy for a while though.
2. Niche It.
Remember above when we talked about McDonald’s and how consistent their message is. The reason they’re able to be so consistent is because they’re a niche restaurant. They’re the burger joint. They don’t try to do steaks, or Mexican food, or sushi –- at heart, they’re a burger and fries joint (even though they sell a lot of other stuff) –- and they stay true to that message.
As a freelance writer, your niche is your core. You can write on a whole bunch of stuff, but it’s so much easier to brand yourself if you specialize in a niche and focus on that in your marketing.
When you specialize, you tend to learn a lot more about the players in that niche –- their pain points; how much they pay; how much content they need; type of content they need; what the professional organizations are; what publications/sites/blogs they read –- and a ton of other stuff that help you to land writing gigs.
And, you can command higher fees too. One thing combing a few hundred job ads made me realize is that work is easier to get when you specialize, ie, the ads were targeted, calling for an “auto writer;” “a gaming writer;” “a tech writer;” etc. FYI, here’s an interesting article that poses the question, “Can freelancers afford to be generalists?”
That’s not to say that you can’t make a good living as a generalist (I have for years), but in my opinion, you can command higher fees and land more assignments if you specialize.
3. Create a Consistent Message.
Everything from your website, to your logo, to your blogging habits should reflect this. One simple way to create a consistent message that makes it easy for people to remember you is to have a slogan. It could be as simple as, “Your Real Estate Writer.” Put it everywhere – in your email tagline, on your website, in your newsletter header, etc.
As you can see, branding yourself is not hard as a freelance writer. It’s all about staying consistent, even though it can get boring and make you feel like you need to “shake it up” sometimes. Resist this urge, or at the very least, question it before changing anything because the very thing you change could be the thing that someone who needs your services remembers.
Think about brands you recognize without their names being mentioned, ie:
Just do it (Nike);
Because you’re worth it (L’Oréal); and
Melts in your mouth; not in your hands (M&Ms).
You can be as memorable as these brands, if you stay the course.
And don’t worry if you don’t have a brand. I have a reputation on the web as an SEO expert, but I don’t have a brand, per say. I’m working on building one. Good luck as you go about constructing yours.
I hope you’ve found this series helpful, and welcome your feedback.
Have questions about branding? Are you a branded freelance writer? Have you written for any of the site above and can provide some additional insight. Please share in the comments below.
P.S.: I’m Ready to Start My Freelance Content Writing Career
I hope all is well! I just wanted to let you know that this month marked the first month that my writing income surpassed that of my day job.
Thanks to your help and inspiration, I have more work than I know what to do with and have successfully landed a number of clients that give me recurring work. Thanks again for your advice!
SEO writing changed the trajectory of my freelance writing career. It can do the same for you!