What I’m listening to: Timeless by The Airborne Toxic Event
Recently a family member expressed interest (and a little frustration) in starting a small business. He’s doing it right — starting with his circle of contacts, spreading word to their contacts, and using social media to get the word out.
He’s also running into the same thing you and I did when we tried to start a freelance writing business —
It’s tough not to find those sorts of people when you’re starting up. You need the experience. They need a bargain. On the surface, it seems like a good match.
It’s usually not until someone stiffs you, nitpicks every detail, or argues payment months after the fact that you realize your mistake — people not willing to pay a fair rate for your services have already shown you no respect.
That’s not to say you, freelance writer, should be making $100 an hour on your first gig. It is to say, however, that the $20 an hour you’re settling for is so far below market value (even for beginners) that serious clients won’t even find you.
However, this isn’t a post about rates. You want to talk rates, go here.
If you want to talk about how to market your services to a better class of people without going broke, read on.
I’m a big believer in all writers having these things:
- A website that shows your clients what you’ll do for them
- Business cards
Both can be had for free, but I highly recommend you pay for both. You’re just going to get better quality if you fork over some cash.
But marketing doesn’t have to cost you a thing at the beginning. In fact, most writers I know will still be using free sources of advertising throughout their careers.
Here are some great (free) ways to build awareness and attract clients:
Social media sharing: Be selective in what you share. Your articles, your accolades and such should be shared, albeit sparingly. No one likes the same “Look at how special I am!” messaging. Sharing means exactly that — share what others have to say or offer. Build relationships by showing up and being generous. And take full advantage of cross-posting to other social media. And do I have to say it? Use hashtags wisely.
Business pages: I don’t do this as my clients aren’t connected to my Facebook account (on purpose), but you can create your business page there or on LinkedIn. Then invite people to like it.
Twitter chats: Yep, you can host one even if you’re not an expert in the topic. Let’s say you want to attract people who are decision makers in the healthcare field. Why not plan a chat that addresses the current issues in HIPAA laws or patient safety? Prepare about five questions. When it’s time for your chat (and you should definitely schedule it and promote it well in advance), put out one question. Discuss. In five minutes, put out another. And make sure to have a hashtag that is unique enough to keep your conversation in one thread (such as #HCChat).
Schmoozing PR people: Ask your favorites for referrals. I love a good PR professional. They have solid ideas, great clients, and they’re willing to bend over backwards to help. Give them help in return by using their clients in articles when they fit.
Network in person: Too many people hate this idea. No, you don’t have to. But people want to do business with a real person. Putting a face to your business can be extremely beneficial. Just make sure you’re networking in the right group. There’s no point in networking at the Chamber of Commerce if your ideal clients are in corporate finance.
Letter of introduction: This will remain a fantastic way to introduce yourself, gauge a client’s interest, and make a connection. Establish a list of 100 potential clients (and look at their websites to make sure you really want to work with them). Then every week, send out a letter to five people on that list. Next week, do the same thing. The week after, do it again, then follow up with the people from week one. Chart it to keep track of who you should be following up with.
Writers, what are your favorite free marketing moves?