What I’m reading: Wheeling Motel by Franz Wright
What I’m listening to: Sometime Around Midnight by The Airborne Toxic Event
Happy 2017! Now let’s get busy.
The new year is just into its second day, but it’s business as usual here.
Because it’s a new year, it’s a perfect time for this guest post by none other than Peter Bowerman, the mastermind behind the Well-Fed Writer books and blog. Peter has an exciting new course, which I’ve had the pleasure of seeing prior to release — Well-Fed Craft: The Fast Track to Marketing-Writing Mastery — and this post is just one more reason why you should check it out.
Today is all about putting some skill into that money-making machine that is your business.
Boost Your Skills, Boost Your Writing Income
Do Your Freelancing Income Goals Match Your Skills?
By Peter Bowerman
Had an email chat recently with a freelancer at a networking function. He’d read my book, The Well-Fed Writer, and had been doing freelance article/blog posts for a number of clients. He was trying to break out of the low-fee trap—the occupational hazard of having writing skills no better than thousands of others like him—and was asking my advice on how best to do that.
“How are your marketing-writing skills?” I asked. “Well, I don’t really have much in the way of a marketing background, but I am writing articles and blog posts for companies, so is that considered marketing writing?”
Well, not really. The short, simple and logical answer to his question? To boost your writing income, you need to offer writing skills that far fewer writers have. Taking the 30,000-foot view, it’s how anyone, anywhere, and at any time makes far more than those around them: By offering a skill set that few others have.
So, What Are Those Uncommon Skills?
From 23 years in the business, I know this: precious few freelancers know how to think like a marketer and it’s from that place that all good marketing-writing springs.
So, what makes for good marketing writing? Well, a lot of things, but first and foremost, good marketing writing reflects an understanding and an internalization of these four foundational sales and marketing principles:
1) Audience: Always know who your target audience is for any project, along with their “pain points” and the words or communication style most likely to get through to them. “Who’s the audience?” is the first question you need to ask when starting any project.
“Audience” is a concept we all understand intuitively, and practice every day: a young person speaks differently to his friends vs. his parents: an employee speaks differently to her coworkers vs. her boss: you speak differently to someone who wants something you have vs. someone who has something you want, etc.
2) Features/Benefits: If Company A is marketing to Company B, an effective marketing piece would begin with benefits—the things Company B cares most about (i.e., profitability, competitive advantage, industry reputation, etc.), And then follow with features—all about Company A and their products and services.
3) USP (Unique Selling Proposition): Figure out what the company you’re writing about does better than anyone else (OR, whatever is not being highlighted by the competition, even if they do it, too), and showcase that advantage in all your marketing materials.
4) The Curse of Knowledge: The last cornerstone is my personal favorite, and, to my mind, the most important. The definition of The Curse of Knowledge:
“A cognitive bias, according to which, better-informed people find it extremely difficult to think about problems from the perspective of lesser-informed people.”
And I’ll introduce it by describing its results.
We’ve all seen it: Websites that are wildly unclear about what the company does or sells. How-to guides that assume far too much knowledge and understanding on the part of the reader. Brochures and sales sheets that leave the reader with more questions than answers. Emails that have you scratching your head as to their meaning.
So, when creating any marketing piece, make sure you can answer yes to this question (not always the case but far smarter to assume IT than the reverse):
If I knew absolutely nothing about this subject (very possible), was in the middle of doing something else when it crossed my path (highly likely), and had a short attention span (a given), would I “get it” quickly?
And if not, rework it until you can say yes.
In addition to intimately grasping these four fundamental principles, good marketing writers…
- Know that the structure of a piece—how you “build a case” for something—is just as important as the words you use.
- Are masters at identifying the benefits of a product/service, and conveying those benefits in language their audience understands and will respond to.
- Are comfortable working on brochures, ads, direct mail, web writing, landing pages, “content” (case studies, white papers, etc.) and much more.
And those writers get paid significantly more than general “freelance writers” because they know how to ask the questions and gather the information necessary to effectively build a case for a company’s products or services. Not just write articles or blog posts for that company.
Learn those skills and you’ll boost your value to the kinds of clients who have healthy budgets for writing, and for whom—and this is key attribute of the ideal client you want to work with—a superior, predictable outcome virtually always trumps the money. Translation: they’re willing to pay handsomely to get effective marketing pieces.
Peter Bowerman, a 23-year veteran commercial freelancer, is the author of the multiple-award-winning Well-Fed Writer series on the field, and the creator of the new training program on commercial-writing “craft”—Well-Fed Craft: The Fast Track to Marketing-Writing Mastery—an 11-module program designed to dramatically boost your marketing-writing skill set, so you can confidently take on any high-paying commercial-writing assignment. Check it out at Well-Fed Writer (click on the Well-Fed Craft link on the top left menu)