Monday, August 31, 2009

How to Get Private Clients, Part 1

Lately I’ve been receiving emails from new freelancers wondering about how to go about getting private clients. I’ve also noticed that the same question being kicked around on a couple of writers forums.

Working directly with private clients rather than a middle man means more income for you. Effective marketing involves a strategic approach. The obvious answer is to just start cold calling/emailing people; however, there are a few important things you’ll need to figure out before taking that step.

Know your goal

If your goal is to sell your freelancing services to a certain number of clients, make sure you’re completely clear about the services you’re trying to sell. Believe in what you do, and stand by your ability to deliver high quality writing to your clients. This can be hard in the beginning when your confidence may be wavering. As the old saying goes, “fake it till you make it.”

Know your client

You’ll need to know exactly who your ideal client is. It makes it much easier to convince them that they need your services. Try to get inside your target market’s head. Think about the demographic you’re going after; really narrow in on the details to make a powerful impact.

Know all about the freelance writing services you’ll offer

Make sure you know all there is to know about the type of freelance writing you’ll be providing. This is much easier if you have a specialty. For instance, a medical writer would need to be familiar with medical terms others may not know. A financial writer, legal blogger, or academic writer could focus on learning as much information within their specific niche as possible.

Once you have clear direction in these three areas, you can move on to contacting prospective clients. Marketing without direction can be a big waste of time.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tips for Handling Deadbeat Clients

Being a freelance writer comes with a lot of great benefits: a flexible schedule, being able to work from home and no there’s difficult boss to worry about. Unfortunately there are risks involved, like clients who don’t pay.

There’s nothing worse than repeatedly hearing “the check’s in the mail” when it really isn’t. You work hard to provide your clients with stellar writing services and deserve to be paid. Waiting for payment when there are bills waiting to be paid can be stressful. Fortunately most clients are professional and take making timely payments seriously.

Deadbeat clients are a reality of the freelance writing business. While you may not be able to avoid the risk of running into them, you can take steps to protect yourself from becoming an easy target.

Get it in writing

I suggest using a contract EVERY time with clients. Some freelance writers don’t feel it’s necessary as long as they correspond with clients by email. True, email could stand up in court if it comes to that, you leave a lot open to your client’s interpretation of your payment terms. There is less likely to be a loop hole with a signed legal document.

Get payment upfront

Some freelance writers are reluctant to request payment upfront because they believe that a client will consider them pushy. But think about services you pay for. Many service providers require at least a portion of the payment upfront as a sign of good faith.

Some freelance writers require full payment in advance while others ask for a down payment to get started. A client that pays something in advance is more likely to follow through when the final balance due. Even if he turns out to be a deadbeat client, you will have collected some payment instead of nothing at all.

Make the call

It’s easy to keep making excuses via email; but if you pick up the phone and contact the client directly to find out when they will be sending payment, it can motivate them to move more quickly. If you get a voice mail message, make sure to request a return call.

Don’t make threats

Always keep it professional. Don’t resort to making threats or engaging in negative behavior. Remain calm and let them know that you have not been paid for your services and need to know when and how they will submit payment.

Keep record of all correspondence

Keep a record of all emails from you and the client. Make a note of phone conversations too. Be sure to keep a log noting the date, time, person you spoke to and conversation details.

Report them

The reality is that you may never see a dime of the money you’re owed. As a community we owe it to other freelance writers to protect them from similar experiences. You can submit the client’s information to online sites that warn others from falling into the same trap. Freelance writers can contact, or to share what they experienced.

Take them to court

Even if you decide to take a client to court, keep in mind that it’s no guarantee that you will receive payment. The courts don’t really do much when it comes to collecting a judgment, an if your client has filed bankruptcy, you won’t get paid.

Learn from your mistakes

Think about what you can start doing to protect yourself. If you’ve been doing business without contract, change that. If you have been providing services without requiring payment upfront, change that. When you work for yourself, there is a big learning curve. Reconsider the clients you currently target for business. Are they a payment risk? Always be willing to learn from your mistakes and keep writing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Reveiwing Your Freelance Writing Goals

As I excitedly count down the days until school starts on Monday, August 10th, I am also taking time to look over my three month and six month goals to see how I’m doing so far, and reviewing my 12 month goals to make sure I’m on course. Goals are an important way of measuring progress for any business.

Writing down goals is a good idea. It serves as inspiration and a reminder about the areas of your business plan that require more effort. I take time to write down three month, six month and 12 month goals accordingly. As with any other goals, you want to make them realistically attainable, yet challenging enough to continue growing your business. Here are a few goals to consider:

Income goals

You’re in this to make money, right? Even if you’re just getting started, setting an income goal can help you access your progress. Start by setting your rates. Decide whether you will provide hourly services or charge a flat rate. Be careful not to undercharge your freelance writing services in the beginning.

Once your rates are set, determine how much money you need to cover your living expenses. From there you can figure out how many projects you’ll need to meet your monthly goal. As you gain experience, you may decide to increase your income requirements accordingly.

Marketing goals

In order to get clients you’ll need a marketing plan. First, you’ll need to figure out who you’re marketing to. Think long and hard about the type of client that would pay for your services. Think about what type of business he would run, and the best way to appeal to him: a phone call, email, brochure or direct response package? Develop a consistent marketing plan to get their attention and go for it!

Make sure to track and record your results. This is important because you will learn which methods work and which is a waste of time.

Networking goals

As a mom of four small kids, the majority of my networking experience over the past two years has been online. However, as my business grows, I am turning to a mix of online and offline networking opportunities. I frequent certain writer and marketing forums and participate in social media conversations on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. But this year I’m venturing out of my comfort zone to join my local Chamber of Commerce, a couple of groups and a realtors association (one of my niches). I have also accepted an invitation to speak at local event at the end of the year.

Services goals

It’s a good idea to review the writing services you offer. You may be missing one or two that could bring in extra money or you may offer one that no one ever seems to need. In most cases it’s just a matter of tweaking your marketing strategy so that you’re targeting the right market.

Many experts advocate specializing rather than being known as a jack-of-all-trades. They say it’s better to be known as the go to person for a certain industry or type of writing (e.g. sales letters, ebooks, SEO copywriting, etc.). I actually agree with this to some degree, but if you don’t have a specialty, don’t panic. Take your time to find out what you like by doing a little bit of everything.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Marketing Non-Stop

For the past 31 days, I’ve been anxiously awaiting each post from Thursday Bram’s special series “Market Your Freelance Writing in 31 Days.” Thursday provides freelance writers with FREE marketing tips to locate clients in need of their services. Many new freelance writers neglect marketing because they find the process intimidating. In most cases the real problem is that they just aren’t sure how to get started.

In order to be successful as a freelance writer, you’ll need to market your services on a regular basis. I’ll even go so far as to say that you should be marketing 24/7. It’s a lot easier to get started than you might think and your marketing campaign doesn’t have to be complicated or cost you an arm and a leg. Here are a few simple marketing tips to increase visibility:

Set up a website. These days there’s no reason for a professional freelance writer not to have a website. Sure some get along without one, but many clients will take you more seriously with one than without. Your website is like a storefront that’s available 24 hours a day. It can be one of the most valuable marketing tools at your disposal. It provides potential clients with everything they need to know about you and the services you provide. You can even post your portfolio for review.

Start blogging. A professional blog allows you to further establish yourself as an authority – especially if you are a specialty freelance writer who covers topics like finance, alternative health, agriculture, etc. You can inform clients about topics of interest in the industry, and build a community of followers through interactive dialogue.

Contact clients directly. This seems to be the best way to acquire well paying clients. If you’re looking to escape low-paying content mill and bidding sites, then you’ll need to develop a marketing strategy that appeals to your target audience.

Email marketing. Even if you always produce outstanding work, you risk losing clients if you don’t keep in touch. An email marketing campaign is one of the best ways to keep in contact with current clients. It can also be a great way of acquiring new clients by collecting contact information in exchange for an informative newsletter, special report or ebook.

Social networking sites. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can result in business opportunities if you update information regularly and engage in genuine conversations with others.

If you’re not marketing, you’ll find it difficult to bring in new and repeat clients; and without clients you won’t be in business for long. It can take a little time to find the marketing formula that works for you, but once you do you’ll find it easier to keep the momentum going.

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