Lessons from the Shark Tank on Freelancing: Spotlight on Barbara Corcoran

In the late 80s in New York City, I worked as a real estate agent. New license in hand, I signed on with an agency that catered to buyers/renters on the Upper East Side. I went into some pretty swank buildings in some pretty swank neighborhoods trying to get listings, eg, Sutton Place (if you live in New York, you know how blue-blood that area is).

I was green as all get out, and the agency I signed on with assigned me a mentor of sorts. It was an older woman who had been working in real estate for years, mainly with high net-worth clients, even though the agency we were working with at the time wasn’t so high-brow and didn’t cater to this market.

This walk down memory lane may be great for you Yuwanda,” you may be thinking, “but what does this have to do with freelancing?”

Hold on, I’m getting there, ok?

How I “Met” Barbara Corcoran

The Ultimate Freelancer's Guidebook: Get BONUS FREE ContentOne time we went to preview an apartment that was listed with The Corcoran Group. After previewing the apartment – my mentor in tow – the agent slipped me a business card at the end and said, “I think you’d be a great fit for our agency. Give me a call if you want to talk about it.”

When I told my mentor about it, she looked surprised, like, “Why didn’t they ask me? Why you?”

During the tour of the apartment, I’d asked lots of questions. I‘m from the south and naturally curious by nature, so I was just being myself. My mentor, on the other hand, was a bit standoffish and cool. She did know a lot, so didn’t need to ask questions, but her affect was one that didn’t put people at ease. It was very “look down your nose” type of behavior.

As an aside, I found this behavior to be somewhat common in certain agents who dealt with certain types of clients in New York. I’m not saying that it’s pervasive, it’s just what I observed during my short stint as a real estate agent in the city. As a young black woman dealing with Upper East-side types, I felt out of place and never gained a footing.

1 Day; 2 Freelance Business Lessons; 25+ Years of Value

I never took that agent up on her offer and left real estate soon thereafter. Maybe that wouldn’t have happened had I signed on with The Corcoran Group, but I learned two valuable things that day that serve me well to this day. One — always be yourself and trust your gut.

I knew this, but that lesson was reinforced that day. And seeing Barbara Corcoran on Shark Tank, I can see that the way the agent who approached me comported herself that day was a “top-down” mentality. Even though she’s uber-successful, there are no airs about Barbara. She trusts the same gut instincts she grew up with to make to make multi-million dollar business decisions.

This is refreshing! There’s no “secret sauce” that the rich get when they become wealthy. Your instincts can be every bit as good as theirs.

Secondly, I learned who The Corcoran Group was and more importantly, about its founder, Barbara Corcoran. I’ve been a fan for years, often referencing her in my work, eg: Freelance Writers: How to Get Repeat Business from A Niche Market — Easily & Continually (2006); and 7 Ways a Freelance Writer Can Expand Your Profits – No Matter What Your Business Is! A Free Marketing Report for Freelance Writers (2011).

What Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran Taught Me about Growing a Freelance Business

Free publicity. A lot cheaper than paying for advertising.”~Barbara Corcoran

Ms. Corcoran has been using what we refer to these days as “content marketing” to get free publicity for her business for years.

Ever heard of The Corcoran Report? It’s what catapulted The Corcoran Group into one of the elite agencies in the crowded, New York City real estate market. An Entrepreneur article detailing how the report came about, states:

The year was 1986. Corcoran was $360,000 in debt and had 18 salespeople on her books. One employee was particularly insistent that the company do more advertising. Corcoran didn’t want to hear it, but the conversation sparked an idea: She would get some publicity.

Corcoran quickly calculated the average sale price of the 11 property units The Corcoran Group had sold that year. She typed up a document with that single statistic and labeled it The Corcoran Report. In an admittedly naive move, she added a fancy tagline indicating the report covered “conditions and trends in the New York City housing market.” From there, she mailed it to every writer at The New York Times.

One week later, she opened up the paper to see herself being quoted in a story the paper ran, and the rest is history – she became the queen of real estate stats. When the paper needed statistics on the real estate market in New York, they reached out to her because, of course, she must be an expert. After all, she published “The Corcoran Report.”

Ms. Corcoran said that after this initial success, she started to publish the report every six months, freely distributing it to media outlets. This one report put her agency firmly on the map for good.  She sold the company for a reported $66 million in 2001; a business she started with a $1,000 loan from a boyfriend 35 years earlier.

The Lesson: You don’t have to have money to get publicity. You can essentially get your business noticed for free.

Barbara Corcoran on How One Little Report Got Her Company Big Publicity

Use Content Marketing Like Barbara Corcoran to Increase Sales & Leads

I’ve used the idea of writing and distributing free reports over the years to market my products and services, eg, in 2008, I published The Freelance Writing Jobs Report. I published an updated version in 2015. These helped me to sell more of my ebooks on freelance writing. I’ve also used it to promote my online writing classes/seminars.

For example, in 2008, SEO writing was still pretty new. I had to do a lot of explaining to potential clients about it to get them to place a content order. Keeping the lessons I’d learned from Barbara Corcoran in mind, I was like, “This service (SEO content writing) lends itself perfectly to this kind of marketing.”

So I wrote up a special, 21-page report detailing what SEO was, common questions about it, and how it could help clients get more traffic and sales from their websites/blogs. It world liked gangbusters, bringing in consistent sales easily for a couple of years.

How I Used a Free Report to Land a Freelance Writing Client

I remember when I was first writing this report. I had a potential client on the hook for a new article marketing package I was offering. At the time, the price was $595. This was when article marketing was all the rage.

The client was asking a lot of questions, so I said to him, “I’m almost done with a report I’m writing up that goes into detail, answering a lot of the questions you’re asking. It’ll be ready tomorrow and I’ll send you a copy.”

He was like, “Can you send me a copy today? I want to read it on the train (subway) home.”

I said something like, “It won’t be perfect because I still have to proofread it.”

He responded, “No problem. I just want to know more about the service, even though based on your site, I’m pretty sure we’re going to go with that article marketing package for $595.”

I emailed him that report sometime around 6 or 7 that evening – unproofed and unedited. Sure enough, the next morning, he had already logged onto my SEO writing company’s site and bought the $595 article marketing package.

That report was widely circulated for a couple of years, and it’s what put me on the map as an “SEO expert.”

Since then, I’ve written four or five ebooks in the SEO writing niche, and developed/teach an online SEO copywriting seminar – which students have paid as much as $1,495 for. I even held an SEO writing seminar in Jamaica which students came to.

So do you think that report has paid off for me? Heck yeah! In fact, as I write this, I’m like, “You really should do more special reports!”

Writing and distributing free special reports is a service I’ve sold my freelance writing clients on to.  As I detail in this article, I’ve earned as much as $1,500 writing 5-10 page reports for clients as lead generators, eg:

I had a client who taught online marketing strategies to businesses nationwide. One of their seminars was on pay per click marketing. They hired my firm to write up a report that detailed how pay per click campaigns could help online businesses generate leads and sales.

The report was written for a set fee, eg, $1,000 for 5-10 pages. … While this is nowhere near what top copywriters charge, just producing one of these per week can earn proactive freelancers a very good living. FYI, most of the special reports my firm created have been in the 5-15 page range, and the cost is anywhere from $750 to $1,500 dollars.

Why Information Increases Sales and Leads

Content marketing can be used to effectively start and promote any type of freelance business because what do people search for these days before making a decision? I-N-F-O-R-M-A-T-I-O-N. Proof?

According to a 2015 study, 69 percent of Americans seek out advice and opinions on goods and services before purchasing — on everything from electronics to vacations.

Information rules the world — and if you’re starting a freelance writing business, you are literally in the cat’s seat on a number of fronts! Meow! 🙂

When’s the Best Time to Start a Freelance Career?

I get asked this question a lot. And my pat answer is, “When you’re ready.” In good times and bad, people need freelancers. In bad times, it’s usually because budgets are cut and stuff needs to be outsourced.

In good times it’s because many are expanding and need the extra help. Now you may have to jigger prices and change offerings (eg, bundle services or offer new, in-demand services)  to get the business depending on what the economy is doing, but there’s always a market need for freelancers, which brings me to my favorite quote by Ms. Corcoran.

In good times I tried like crazy to move my business ahead, but the big guys with all the fat wallets were outspending me, outmaneuvering me, outmarketing me, but when the bad times hit and they went to sleep at the wheel, that was my heyday and that’s when I worked my way up the ranks.

The little guy always has the corner in creativity, when the big guy has the corner on money.

Bad times are good for little guys.

The reason that this is my favorite quote is because many think that a slow/down economy is a bad time to start a freelance business. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. It can be especially good for freelancers, so don’t let “the market” dictate when you decide to pursue your dream. YOU decide – and work your butt of to make it work because, guess what?

No matter when you start, hard work is always going to be part of the equation – but you knew that already, didn’t you? 🙂

Create a Sales & Lead-Generating Report for Your Freelance Business

What kind of free report can you generate and distribute to get exposure for your freelance business? Hint: Think of a need your target market has. Explain/answer frequently asked questions about that need.

Write up a special report and send it to influential bloggers in your niche. Also post it as a free download from your site and reach out to the media who cover your niche. Consider making it a monthly, quarterly or annual report. Then, watch the benefits roll in.

Next “Shark” in the Spotlight: Daymond John, What He Knows about Branding that Can Help Your Freelance Business

P.S.: I’m Ready to Put This Info to Use and Start Earning $100-$250+/Day as a Freelance Writer.


How to Start a Freelance SEO Writing CareerGet the exact knowledge that pushed my freelance writing career to the next level – allowing me to travel and live abroad, get out of debt and really “live the freelance life.” One freelancer wrote:

Hey Yuwanda,

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!

P.P.S.: FREE Bonus Content for The Ultimate Freelancer’s Guidebook

Special Report: 5 Things You Should Know about Freelancing in a Global Economy That Will Land More Clients. To get this bonus content, send the receipt for your pre-order to info[at]InkwellEditorial.com on/before September 1st. Put “Pre-Ordered UFG” in the Subject line. On Sept 1st, you’ll be emailed the special report.

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