Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Freelance Writers: Fine Tune Your 2009 Marketing Strategy

If you aren't consistently marketing your freelance writing services – even during the busiest times, you should be. It's what can ensure that you have enough new business coming in at all times. I can't stress this enough. Set aside a certain goal each day or week for marketing. Period.

I know that marketing is time consuming and can take away from time spent working on paying projects. That's usually when freelance writers slow down their marketing efforts in favor of projects that are paying NOW. You need time saving strategies to help streamline your marketing tasks. Here are a few simple ones I recommend:

Create a contact list

Create an ongoing list of businesses you send information to. You can rotate this list to contact prospects on a monthly basis. For example, if you find 10 businesses to send emails to, add the contact emails to your list along with the date you contacted them to stay on track. Focus primarily on businesses in your niche (e.g. PR companies, Internet marketing or SEO businesses, etc.).

Create a basic marketing template

I have a basic marketing letter that I send prospects. In it I briefly introduce myself, my writing experience and services, explain how outsourcing can be beneficial to their business, add a link to my portfolio and rate card information and end it with my contact information. This basic letter can easily be tweaked so that it's more personalized. Always personally address each contact letter you send.

Cross market services with another freelancer

Find a complementary business willing to refer clients to you, and you can do the same in return. I have a graphic designer who refers her clients needing web content or other copywriting services to me, and I do the same for her. It's a win-win situation.

Use social networking sites wisely

There are literally hundreds of social networking sites on the web. You can't devote time to all of them, so the best thing to do is choose a few that can really help you promote your freelance writing services. They are great for socializing, but make sure to leverage their potential to help promote your business. I belong to Face Book, Linked In and Twitter. So far I have gotten a new client from Twitter, and Twitter has also helped me developed a stronger relationship with two ongoing clients resulting in more work.

Considering outsourcing your marketing tasks

If time management becomes a constant struggle, consider outsourcing the task of searching for company contacts and/or emailing contacts to a virtual assistant. The constant flow of business marketing can bring you makes this a worthwhile investment to consider. Entry level VAs charge clients anywhere from $10/hour on up to $20/hour.

Commit to bumping up your freelance writing business revenue in 2009 by marketing your services smarter, not harder.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Your Freelance Writing Web Presence

I'm still amazed at how many freelance writers are operating without a website. I understand how this can be a business you can fall into unintentionally. Maybe you lost your job, or get laid off, and happily started freelancing to make ends meet. Before you know it, you have a rotation of regular clients. Still, at some point, you've got to make the transition from "accidental freelancer" to a business if you plan to make any real money as a freelance writer.

I know there are a gazillion freelance writers websites out there. So why am I making such a big deal about having a web presence? You could just continue applying for freelance writing jobs and emailing your resume and samples. You still get jobs, so is it really that big of a deal. Yes it is, and here's why:

Your website or blog can be a valuable promotional tool

It tells your clients about you and the services you provide. It shows them that you are a professional business and that you take freelancing seriously. Learn a few optimization tricks and you can increase your ranking with the search engines.

Your website helps others find you

There may be thousands of websites on the Internet, but never underestimate the fact that you might stand out among them to a potential client. I was recently contacted out of the blue by a client for a publishing project we are in the process of negotiating. I might have completely missed out on this opportunity otherwise.

Your website is an easy way to share information

When I market my services, or respond to job offers that require samples, I can easily provide the link to my portfolio and rate card information. It's a lot easier than cutting and pasting information into the emails.

Your website doesn't need to be fancy. You can choose a free template online or create a Blogger or Wordpress hosted site and add pages accordingly. Start taking your business seriously so that you can start making some serious revenue in 2009.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Freelancer's Quest for Self-Improvement

I recently received three sessions with a life coach courtesy of our "meeting" on Twitter. She offered the first five people who went to her blog and signed up three free sessions, and I jumped at the chance. I have been hearing a lot abut how coaches help people become more organized, productive and balance work life with family life. I needed help with all of the above. Badly. I wasn't sure how she could cure me in just three sessions, but I was willing to give it a shot.

Visualize your success

One of the first things she explained to me was how her methods are largely based on the Law of Attraction. She instructed me to create a "visualization board." I could do it on my computer if I were technically savvy (which I'm not), so I chose to do it the old fashioned way. I listed my personal and professional goals and spent quality time with my kids cutting pictures out of magazines that illustrated those things for me ("O Magazine" is great for this kind of project, BTW!).

Declutter your surroundings

I think it's true that a cluttered space can clutter up everything else in your life. I am a minimalist married to a closet hoarder. I am slowly decluttering our space, secretly taking things to Goodwill while he's at work (not his sentimental things though).

Welcome to the 21st century

My coach spent a lot of time coaxing me to join her in the 21st century. Now that's funny considering I make my living with a virtual business. But I still rely on old-school ways of doing things – I write everything down in a day planner instead of using Google Calendar's awesome features as she suggested. has a post revealing 50 useful applications for writers you'll find interesting.

For many of us, the end of the year is a wonderful time to reflect and prepare to have a better new year. I'm getting ready – how about you?

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Freelance Writing Mom's Panic: Thanks a lot, Winter Break!

I don't know about you, but I'm completely snowed under with freelance writing projects right now. Yes, I consider it a good thing, but after trying to wrap up the biggest ones by this coming Friday, I finally realize it's not going to happen. I'm faced with another week of working furiously on a plate full of projects, only this time there will be four kids ranging in age from two to seven testing the little bit of mental balance I have left right now.

Next time, plan ahead

Now I knew this was coming, and I know what it's like to work while my kids are home all day – begging for never ending snacks, arguing about who did/said/took what from whom, whining about being bored, disagreeing over what to watch on TV – fun, fun, fun.

What to do, what to do...

Clearly I can't neglect my freelance writing clients, but I can't neglect my kids for two whole weeks either. The only solution I've come up with is to wake up at least two hours earlier than everyone else so that I can get a good head start on work. That should allow me to set aside some time to spend hanging out with the kids, and then get back to work later in the evening for a couple of hours.

A wahm's challenge

Working from home is not as easy as it sounds. You have to keep yourself motivated, on task, and there are so many distractions that pop up unexpectedly. To find out more about how to make working from home work better for you, check out Deb Ng's recent post.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ebook Review: "How to Make $250+/Day Writing Simple 500-Word Articles"

I promised to share helpful tips for building a lucrative freelance writing business, and today I want to share one of the very valuable resources I've come across. When I first became interested in making a living as a freelance writer during the summer of 2006, I was on a social forum lurking around when someone posted a link to Yuwanda Black's Associated Content page. From there I linked to her freelance writing blog, Inkwell Editorial, and I was hooked. She offers very practical advice about creating a freelance writing business. She has authored several ebooks about the business of freelancing, but if you are determined to start freelancing in 2009 I highly recommend "How to Make $250+/Day Writing Simple 500-Word Articles."

SEO content writing

SEO article writing is a great way to get started as a freelance writer. You'll find lots of freelancers who look down on SEO content writing. Maybe they think all writers are writing $1, $2, or even $5 articles. But there are companies and individual clients out there who know the value of quality content, and they're willing to pay you for it. Yuwanda's book shows you how to get started. She advises starting off charging $25 per article. Nice.

An ebook that delivers

I experienced a slump over the summer and wanted to find more clients. I kept coming back to this ebook, debating over whether or not I really wanted to shell out $39.95 (can you believe I missed out on getting it when it first came out at $9.95?). I was tired of buying ebooks filled with vague information that glossed over how to actually do whatever they were promising. Since writing the ebook, Yuwanda has collected several testimonials and actual case studies of people sharing their experiences from putting the advice outlined in the book to use. I figured if I got one client it was worth it. She doesn't promise $250/day without putting in some work. Consistent marketing is a big part of the plan she lays out, and she shows you exactly how to do everything from drafting a marketing letter to creating your contact list.

Market, market and then market some more

Honestly, I should be more consistent with my own marketing, but whenever I do follow her marketing plan I always receive an interested reply. I currently have five new, steady clients from following the clear advice outlined in this book. What started off as simple SEO content writing for me has evolved into more lucrative writing opportunities including website copy, blog posts, press releases, ebooks, reports and whitepapers.

Make your 2009 dreams of becoming a freelance writer a reality

If you want to take the leap and become a freelance writer, there's nothing to do but jump. Even if you work a full-time job, you can start freelancing part-time. Making the choice to do it is completely up to you, as Yuwanda plainly expressed in yesterday's blog post. Having a plan is essential, and Yuwanda's ebook can help you create your own path to freelance writing success.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Use Testimonials to Increase Your Business

Whenever I read testimonials on a website or sales page, I'm instantly hooked in. It's reassuring to know that the product or service I'm considering has worked successfully for someone else. I immediately feel like I can't go wrong making the purchase.

Testimonials are those quotes of praise from customers. They're popular in a number of weight loss products and DVDs featured on infomercials where ordinary folks like you and me transform themselves thanks to the new ABC exercise program on DVD. Testimonials aren't just for infomercials – they can work for your freelance writing business too.

When you have testimonials on your business website, prospects get to see proof of what your writing services have done for your clients. Testimonials add real selling power if you know how to use them.

Use Real Testimonials

Don't make them up. Fake testimonials just won't come across as sincere – no matter how well you think they sound. If you do a good job, your client's won't mind sending a little praise your way. And that's what you want – testimonials that honestly complement your writing skills.

Use Testimonials that are Specific

Make sure your testimonials clearly show how your writing services were beneficial. This adds value to your business.

Include as Much Information as Possible in Your Testimonials

Include the client's name, title, company, city and state when you can. Using anonymous testimonials can lack believability.

Ask Your Clients for Permission First

It may seem okay to use that flattering email your client sent regarding the latest project you completed. It's always better to extend common courtesy and ask first. You can send off a simple email with the quote you're interested in using. Ask to use it for your website, any ads and other promotional material.

Prospects will be impressed to see that your clients are so happy with your writing services and can lead to more business for you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Charging Freelance Clients Late Fees

My freelance writing business operation is never quite as tight as I think it is. For instance, last week I waited much longer than I should have to get paid for projects I worked very hard to turn in on deadline. Now to be fair, these clients have never been late paying before, so I'm sure the holiday had a lot to do with it. But my bills could care less about Thanksgiving.

Are Late Fees Really Necessary?

On the one hand I want to be understanding. These clients have never had a problem paying on time before, and they did pay me immediately on yesterday. But on the other hand my business pays the majority of our living expenses right now. I don't expect my money the same day or the next day after completing a project. I provide a generous grace period of 14 business days to receive a balance due. I am open to negotiating that time period based on individual circumstances (e.g. a corporate client who invoices monthly, etc.). However, until I build up a surplus of income, I cannot afford to be left hanging when the bill is due.

Late Paying Clients Can Cost You

I'm fortunate that I haven't had many problems with deadbeat clients who never pay. I once had a client who only managed to pay me once on time. The rest of my time working with him was spent trying to get the balance due before we could start on a new project, or getting the down payment in time to start a project and meet his projected deadline. Needless to say we soon parted ways. But that experience helped me tighten up my client contract. I just didn't realize there was still more work to be done, so I have once again updated my contract.

Protect Yourself from the Unexpected

Most of my clients pay by Pay Pal, which aside from those pesky fees I pay to receive my money is very convenient. I do have one or two clients who prefer to send checks. Can you believe that I had never included a returned check fee on my contracts? Thankfully I've been primarily dealing with professionals. As of this past weekend, I have now added a late fee. Now all I need to do is add this information to my rate card and I'm all set.

I had never considered including a late fee before because it had never been an issue. But why wait for something to become a problem before addressing it? If you charge late fees, how has it affected your client relationships? How often have you had to charge clients for making late payments?
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