Monday, November 30, 2009

The Value of LinkedIn for Freelance Writers

Yesterday someone in my online writers group inquired about LinkedIn. She asked other writer members of the group, “What do you think? Is it worth it?”

A lot of freelance writers are wary about becoming too involved with social networking. We don’t need anything that takes away from time spent working on our precious projects. Many are learning about the promotional value of sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – when used in moderation.

Most of us have no trouble finding our way around Twitter and Facebook, but consider LinkedIn a whole other animal. I knew Linkedin was worth it when I began receiving inquiries about my services by people who had come across my free profile. Freelance writer Yolander Prinzel reportedly received over $6000 worth of work within four months from LinkedIn, so you tell me if you think that it’s worth it.

If you’re new to LinkedIn, or have no idea what to do with the account you have, here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Present your best foot forward. Create a profile that will impress prospects. They should know exactly what you do and what you can do for them. Make sure to provide links to your website, blog or portfolio.

2. Optimize Your Profile. Optimizing certain keywords (e.g. your name/name of your business, writer, marketing, copywriting, etc.) can give you good search engine results making it easier for prospects to find you online. Even better if you are the top result on LinkedIn when your specialty is searched on the site.

3. Get Recommendations. A recommendation on LinkedIn is like having a testimonial. Anyone who finds your profile will see that you come highly recommended. Make sure they’re relevant and reflect the services you provide.

4. Use Applications to Your Advantage. If you have a Twitter account, you can allow your Tweets to show up on your LinkedIn profile. If you have a Wordpress blog, you can set up the application on your profile to show your most recent blog posts.

5. Contribute to Group Discussions. This is where you can really stand out and reveal your expertise. Linked in has hundreds of groups you can join. It’s a good idea to choose groups that reflect your specialty. For instance if your specialty is in the legal field you can join groups within that industry. Sometimes group members will post questions related to copywriting or marketing. Providing the right answers can get you new clients in no time.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What a Way to End the Week

This week ended on a very nice note; I picked up two new clients. One of my new clients is a testament to trying something new. The client’s assistant initially contacted me for the contact information for a magazine I used to freelance for. I clicked on their signature link at the end of the email message which took me to their website and was impressed with the business. But I sensed they might need some assistance. I sent a reply email providing the requested information and offered my web writing services if they were ever in need.

The client responded with interest requesting more information about the services I offered, rates, etc. What do you know; he just happened to have two projects that needed a writer.

Try something new

Now I don’t usually approach clients like that because I’d never considered doing it before. But this particular time I thought, “What have I got to lose? The worse that can happen is they will decline my offer or I never hear from them again.” Being a freelancer I’m already used to both of those things happening. I took a chance and sold my services and it paid off. I spent eight years in advertising sales. How odd that I have never really put much energy into selling my freelance writing services. Although I send out queries which is a soft sell, I've never really utilized my selling skills to net clients like I should.

Have you tried a new way of marketing or promoting your services or doing business that’s worked for you recently?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Unlimited Freelancer: On Sale NOW!!

I’m a little late with this information (sorry!!) but I wanted to let you guys know that The Unlimited Freelancer is 50% off the regular $29.00 for the next three days. If I didn’t like this book so much, I’d be royally pissed off about the fact that I paid full price for the hard copy (I like having a hard copy resource to refer back to). Honestly, this book is helping me go back and redo some things differently so that going forward my business is built on a solid foundation that can handle the growth that’s coming.

No one's paying me to say nice things

Now, I’m not an affiliate – yet. So if you buy this book I don’t get a dime. That said, I highly recommend it for two types of freelancers: 1) those just starting their business; and 2) those with a business that has grown so fast they are utterly overwhelmed with work and sometimes find themselves fantasizing about working a regular nine to five (believe me, it can happen!). This book focuses on the business side of freelance writing. You get 200 pages of information you can start putting to use right away. Besides, author’s James Chartrand (Men with Pens) and Mason Hip (Freelance Folder) offer a 100% money back guarantee, so what have you got to lose?

Book review coming soon

I like to provide you guys with an honest review before deciding to become an affiliate of a product. I plan to provide a full review before the end of this month, so please keep your eyes peeled.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Neglecting Your Freelance Writing Business

A good friend of mine is always irritated about the many unfinished projects in her home. She still needs a new kitchen counter top, the cracked tiles surrounding her fireplace need replacing and the home’s exterior needs to be pressure washed and panted. I think what irritates her most about these impending projects is the fact that her husband is a contractor by trade. He's extremely busy fixing up clients’ homes; especially as the holidays approach. His own house gets put on the back burner. I can relate.

Image is everything

Like many freelance writers, I spend my time perfecting my client’s marketing materials and neglect my own because my clients are paying me. My website content needs updating and that should be at the top of my list considering I send prospects there whenever I market or send out emails. I mean my website address is in my signature, on my business cards and all of my marketing materials for crying out loud.

Invest time in your own business

Yesterday I decided to just do it. Writing for pay is much more alluring, but investing time in sprucing up my own website and marketing materials is just as important. It’s a representation of what I do, what I’ve done for others (e.g. my portfolio page) and shows that I take what I do seriously.

I check for dead links, update information/rates, freshen up the content, add/switch samples and so forth. I’ve fallen behind on my blog posting there, but I’ll have that problem fixed by the end of the week. Honest.

Prepare for the new year

For many freelance writers, business may start slowing down a bit over the next month. This is the perfect time to perform maintenance on your website and other marketing materials so that you’re ready to go come 2010.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Should Rates be Posted on Your Website?

About a year ago, when I was first getting started, I set up a very simple website using a free online template. It was nothing fancy, but it allowed me to establish an online presence and post a portfolio so that prospects could review examples of my work.

Since at the time I only provided a couple of different writing services, I thought it might be a good idea to post my rates. Whenever I would send out queries to various online businesses, I included a link to my portfolio page which included rates.

Clients like knowing rates upfront

I liked doing this because if someone felt my rates were too high, they could simply move on instead of wasting time emailing back and forth about services they had no intention of paying my established rates for. If a prospect liked my portfolio and found my rates acceptable, things moved along rather quickly since they had already seen everything spelled out on my website.

Rates may vary depending on...

Fast forward a year later. I tweaked the name of my business, had a designer create a custom website template, and added a few new writing services to the mix. This time I decided not include rate information because as I explain in my FAQs, each project is unique and requires a different approach when it comes to research, development, etc. Mind you, I still offer a few flat rate services as well (e.g. press releases and blog posts); I just don't post the rates.

Some writers say they don’t include rates on their websites for reasons similar to mine. Still, I can’t help noticing that when I did post prices for everyone to see, I spent a lot less time dealing with prospects that thought I charged too much. Posting rates seemed to weed those guys out.

To post or not to post rates

I spent some time reviewing a few freelance writing websites over the weekend and of course found a mix of some writers who choose to post rates and some writers who prefer not to. What’s your position about posting hourly or flat rates on your website?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Want More Clients?

I’ll be brief because we have been dealing with power outages on and off since last night due to heavy storms. No beating around the bush: if you want clients you have to go out and get them. That means marketing.

If you’re new to freelancing that might sound like vague, intimidating advice. The following links can give you the specifics you need to get going. Start putting in the effort now and you may be a whole lot busier when 2010 rolls around.

How to Marketing Tips Revisited

How to Find Clients Part 1

How to Find Clients Part 2

How to Land More Gigs in a Difficult Economy

You Can Attract New Freelance Writing Clients (Even During a Recession)!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hard Times

This weekend I spent some time surfing the web reading some of my favorite blogs. I came across this post written about a year ago by a fed up, frustrated Naomi Dunford venting about how overwhelming life had become as her home life and work life had collided creating one big mess. I can relate.

An impressive beginning

When I first started freelancing, I was very fortunate to get clients quickly. They kept me busy and allowed me to support myself nicely without worrying about going back to the nine to five corporate grind. I carefully scheduled projects, send out contracts, invoices and collected money in a timely manner. I had all the energy in the world to work on my business, and life was good.

Things fall apart

But then the work started coming in too fast and I began having a really hard time balancing obligations to my business with obligations to my family. I dreaded checking my email each morning. I wondered what I’d gotten myself into. When you “fall” into something, there isn’t much time to plan for growth and day to day management.

I began wondering whether or not I was really cut out for this business. Thankfully I slept on it and realized a few days later that it was mostly the lack of sleep talking. Still, I was dealing with a serious situation and needed to figure out how to make it work. I decided to slow waaay down, take a few steps back and make a few important changes I wish I’d thought to make in the beginning. I’m working on creating systems that will help me become more organized, and receiving coaching to learn a new facet of commercial writing that will hopefully allow me to target my services more toward a certain specialty.

Starting over

Some might not think having a business grow quickly from zero to 60 in such a short time is a bad thing. I’m sure it works out just fine for some, but it can become a nightmare if you cannot manage the volume and fast changes.

There have been tons of responses to Naomi’s post dating all the way back from when it was first written to just a week ago. Those responses are proof that my experience is not unique, and not to give up. Even though I'm not actually starting all over again from scratch, I like knowing that I can start over if I need to. I love what I do and am determined not to go quietly.

Friday, November 6, 2009

And the Content Mill Debate Rages On…

For the past three weeks or so there’s been a lot of controversy stirred up in the freelance writing community about content mills. I’ve visited this topic before and prefer taking a “Switzerland” position on the whole thing.

I have no problem admitting that I started off writing as an online freelancer for a California content mill making $20 an article about two years ago. I kind of fell into writing for the web during a time when my husband (our family’s breadwinner for the previous four years) closed down his business and had no income. Believe me Georgia Power and Bell South could care less about any sob stories I had to tell. That content gig plus a couple of private clients helped me make mortgage and car payments, feed my family of six and essentially get us back on our

Is freelance writing a job or a business?

The thing is back then I didn’t think of the service I was providing as a business. I was working from home, which was great; but I was also limiting my income potential. I just didn’t know it. I did absolutely no marketing, and made my living strictly by applying for writing jobs on job boards and waiting around for existing clients to send me work. For most of us that wouldn’t work so well these days.

Online research

When someone goes online searching for information about how to get started as a freelance writer, what they’ll find is lots of information detailing which content mills and bidding sites are best. But if they dig a little deeper they will eventually come across an established freelancer’s blog providing valuable advice about why it’s essential to treat freelancing as a business (e.g. marketing, querying, establishing a portfolio, rates, etc.). The trouble is these blogs and other resources rarely provide the specific information many newbies are looking for to help them get started or improve their operation.

The real business of freelancing

Speaking for myself, it’s been a journey of trial and error to some degree. Early on I’d see lots of writers posting on a forum about how great Elance was so I joined only to discover that wasn’t the case for me. Thankfully I also came across blogs like Words on a Page, Inkwell Editorial, All Freelance Writing, Catalyst Blogger, Thursday Bram and Freelance Writerville. The writers of these and other blogs gave me a new perspective.

I began to realize marketing was important if I wanted clients, but had no idea where to begin or even what to put in an email query. I didn’t know who to target as a potential client or how to get their attention. I didn’t know that many of the best clients don’t advertise. All of this can be really overwhelming for a writer getting started who needed to pay the rent yesterday. So they turn to cranking out volume content for content mills instead where to their relief all expectations are on the table.

Here’s what I really think about content mills…

Personally I don’t think content mills are such a bad place for writers to cut their teeth and build confidence – as long as they aren’t those dreadful $5-an-article jobs. I know, some of you might clutch your pearls as you read that sentence. But I also think writers with a serious intention of building a business should prepare to move onward and upward to bigger and better opportunities as soon as they can. Writing for content mills day in day out quickly leads to burnout. Plus, you’re only getting a small portion of what you could get paid if you had approached a client to work with them directly. Don’t let the recession fool you; there are opportunities out there.

Monday, November 2, 2009

How Do You Become a Better Writer?

I’m try hard to keep myself as educated as possible about this industry to improve my writing or learn something new about the business side of copywriting, SEO and Internet marketing strategies. Mostly I depend on books, trade publications, select blogs and online research. Recently I completed an online course outlining Wordpress basics.

Learn a new skill and make more money

Last week I came across an offer for one-on-one web copywriting coaching that I just couldn’t pass up. Alice Seba, also known as the “Internet Marketing Sweetie,” recently opened up her copywriting coaching program for sales copywriting for the low - only $97. It’s normally priced at $397, so I’d say I got a deal. Clients are requesting sales letters and other persuasive copy more often from me these days, and I thought it wouldn’t hurt to brush up my skills in this area.

Having a copywriter and Internet marketing expert critique my writing could really help me continue improving the services I provide for my clients as well as the marketing materials I create for my own business.

Continuing education keeps you up to speed

I’m a firm believer in doing whatever is necessary to keep your skills sharp when running a business. Because I do consider my freelance writing service a business, continuing education in the form of books, online courses or classes at a local college are necessities. If you provide editing services, you might consider taking a grammar class every two years or so to stay on top of any changes.

Is continuing education a part of your business model?
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