I’m really excited because I’ve been working on a blog series I think you’ll love. Of all the questions I’m asked about freelance writing, the questions I get most often tend to revolve around one thing: marketing.
Sure, people care about writing skills, pricing, and a host of other things. But, far and away, my most requested topic of discussion is marketing.
I think that’s because so many people feel that marketing is some big, scary monster of a task. However, marketing isn’t nearly as frightening as some people make it seem. It’s truly a mind over matter issue.
In this series, my goal is to take the fear out of marketing, show you the steps that I take in my own freelancing business, and help you get started. What’s more? We’re only talking about email marketing, so if you thought I was going to make you pick up a phone, you can relax.
Overview of the Series
Let’s talk about the series in general before we get started on today’s topic. This series will span seven days, Sunday through Saturday, and it will walk you through the major components of email marketing. There’s a plethora of issues I could talk about when it comes to marketing. In fact, marketing is such a broad subject, I could write a book on it. (And I did. Check out A Freelance Writer’s Guide to Marketing.) But, for this series, all I want to focus on are the broad steps I take every time I’m looking for new clients. Additionally, I focused on the steps that are typically seen as the most difficult, or the points of the process that can most easily go wrong.
Here’s what we’ll be learning.
Today – Make sure your site and social media pages are ready for clients.
Tomorrow – The easiest way to manage prospects without spending a dime.
Tuesday – Where to find prospects in the first place.
Wednesday– Which person should you contact?
Thursday– What to say in your first email.
Friday – What to do when they say yes.
Saturday – Final tips, tricks, and mistakes to avoid.
Getting Ready For Your Close-up: Creating a Client-Ready Presence
Before you do a single search for prospects, you need to make sure that your online presence is client-ready. Now, don’t get me wrong. You don’t have to make sure that everything is perfect; it never will be. In fact, your online presence should be evolving on a continual basis, so if you’re hoping to create your website or social media presence once and be done with it….well…consider this to be me bursting your bubble.
However, while it doesn’t have to be perfect, it should be presentable and professional.
Think of it this way; prospecting is like inviting clients to your online office. You wouldn’t have clients over if your office looked like a mess, didn’t have a sign out front, and had peeling paint on the inside, right? Then don’t invite your clients to a messy online space.
Your online space is your office. Your website is your storefront. Your social media accounts are your meeting areas and cafe spaces. It’s important to make sure that your online presence is presentable, professional, and approachable. If it looks like a mess, you’ll waste all your time and effort prospecting.
Alright, Courtney, that’s great. But how do I get ready?
I’m so glad you asked.
Have A Website
I know this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many freelancers I talk to that tell me they don’t have a website. Their reasons for not having one vary from not having time to not having the skills to simply not wanting to. However, there’s really no excuse for not having a website, and if you want to be taken seriously by your prospects, it’s crucial to have one.
Websites are expected nowadays. The reason is because of what I’ve already mentioned; websites are like online storefronts or offices. You probably wouldn’t hire a lawyer who sat on a park bench and shouted sales pitches to you, right? I mean, what kind of professional attorney doesn’t have an office?
The same mindset is true of those who look to you for freelance services. If you don’t have a website – or at least a blog – it looks like you’re not serious about your business.
Another reason you need a website, though, is because you’re a freelance writer. As a freelance writer, you’re telling prospective clients that you can create compelling content that sucks customers in like a magnet. Or something similar.
How is any client supposed to believe that you can do that if you don’t even have your own website or blog? Folks, the best way to prove you can create compelling content is to do it for your own business first. Chances are, if you’re talking to a prospect who seems remotely interested in you and what you have to offer, it’s because they saw content on your site that they liked. So when they ask you “How do I know you can deliver?”, you can basically say “Because my own content was good enough to earn your interest.”
Proof before you even start. (This is also a great way to prove your worth if you have zero clips or credentials because you’re just getting started.)
Let’s not belabor the point. Have a website. Do it now. Wix is great. Sign up. (However, do purchase your own domain. Well talk about that in a later series.)
Keep It Simple
Walls of text, flashing graphics, music, auto-playing videos, and white text on bright colors should all be put straight in the trash bin. Do not make your website out to be the online equivalent of an obnoxious, bright, in-your-face Black Friday sign. Gone are the days where being the loudest, brightest, and most talkative online force earned your customers’ attention. These days, that just turns people off.
Instead, keep it simple. My client-facing site for freelancing is ebooksandwhitepapers.com. If you go there, you’ll see that it’s got some animation in the background with the ink in water thing, but for the most part, it’s simple. I have a white background, and my color scheme consists almost solely of orange and teal. (Why? Because orange and teal are complimentary colors, which means they work well together and people like to look at them. Color theory is a great thing to learn.)
I have a fluid home page with minimal text, it’s visually attractive, and it provides the basic information a client would need to figure out who I am and what I do.
But, telling you to keep it simple isn’t helpful, so let’s make this tip a little easier to follow with some actionable steps you can take. Below you’ll find a checklist of things that you should do to make sure your website is as simple and straightforward as possible while not being a bore to look at.
- Simplify your color scheme. Choosing white with two complimentary colors is a great way to go. (Complimentary color combinations are as follows: purple & yellow, red & green, orange & blue.)
- Get rid of “walls of text”. Break up what you have to say into small chunks. Your goal is to get your prospect to contact you for more information, not to make them read a novel detailing every aspect of your business.
- Use headings and bulleted lists (or numbered lists) wherever possible to make your content easier to follow.
- Include photos, icons, and visual aides to help with the “wall of text” look.
- Incorporate a fluid sequence of informational sections. (See my home page for an example).
- Make your contact information easy to find. A tab with “contact me” or something similar should suffice.
- Buttons are a great way to direct your viewers to different locations. See the “Get Started” button on my home page.
- Host a blog on your actual site. That way, your site benefits from your blog and vice versa. This blog is separate for now, but it will eventually be incorporated with the Freelance Writer’s Guide To site.
- Be professional. Get rid of anything that has to do with politics, religion, crude language or humor, or sex. (Unless, for some reason, that’s part of your branding, but for most freelance writers it won’t be.)
- Have a third party look at your site and give you feedback on how it feels from the visitor’s side. I do offer site reviews for $25, so feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Site Review Request” if you’d like more info.
Managing Your Social Media Presence
Your website or blog isn’t the only place you live online. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, your website is your online office, but your social media accounts are like the lounge or cafe space. You might use Twitter to chat with prospects, or you might post informative articles on Facebook.
It’s just as important to have a presentable social media presence as it is to have an approachable website.
So, what should you do to make your social media accounts look stunning? Here’s a list of actionable steps you can take to make sure your social media accounts are client-ready.
- Have consistent branding. Make a profile picture and a banner that include the same color scheme, font style, images, and logos as you do on your main website. Consistency is key.
- Don’t post anything personal. You need a separate Twitter account for your freelance business. Don’t use your personal account. Your clients want to see your business activity, not what you had for lunch or how much fun you had with your friends over the weekend. A personal touch is fine, but don’t invite clients to your personal social media pages. You’re inviting them to your office, not your house.
- Include images in your social media posts that relate to whatever you’re posting. This isn’t always possible, but when it is, you should do it. Visual stimuli are far more compelling to most people than text or a link. Grab their attention with that image.
- Post content that will help your clients. I focus my business on content types rather than industries, so everything I post should be related to how these types of content have helped businesses in the past, etc.
- Speak with authority. Your goal is to become an expert and an authority on whatever industry or content type you’re writing for. Make sure to eliminate language that weakens your content. (For example, “Whitepapers have proven successful for Fortune 500 businesses and local florists alike,” is much better than “In my opinion everyone should have a whitepaper.”)
- Build relationships by re-tweeting or sharing content that your prospects post, if appropriate. (I know this tip is jumping ahead a little bit, but it’s still important pre-prospecting work.)
Understand Your Goals
We’re almost done, but I want to mention this part because it’s so important. You must be clear on your goals if you’re going to have any success with marketing. If you’re not sure who you’re targeting, why you’re writing, and what you want to get out of your business, then you’re probably going to flounder and fall for bad clients who don’t pay you what you deserve.
I focus on long-form content (and ongoing projects, like blog posts, with a minimum order of four posts). The reason I do this is because I’m not interested in chasing down smaller orders and having to land 10-20 clients a month just to make ends meet. While some industries are high-paying, they’re not usually my favorite industries to write in. So, I decided that since my goals were to make high-grossing sales, I’d focus my business on types of content instead of a specific industry.
By focusing on whitepapers, eBooks, large blogging gigs, corporate histories, and annual reports, I can write about a range of topics while ensuring I hit my financial goals. How? Because these are the highest-paying content types as of right now. An experienced freelancer can earn up to $10,000 for a whitepaper.
My goals are to do large projects that are worth big money so I can focus my attention on each client and really give it my best. I want to build relationships with powerful influencers in a variety of industries and establish myself as a go-to freelancer for large projects.
But here’s the thing. It took me three years to figure that out. Freelancing is tough. There’s no guide map or book to help you. No employee manuals exist. The best part about freelancing is often the most frustrating part: there’s no one right way to do it.
That’s why it’s important to know what you want out of your business. By getting clear on what you want, how you want your daily life as a freelancer to look, and what you need to earn, you can eliminate some of the options and narrow down your strategies.
Take some time to figure out what you like to write about, the types of content that interest you most, and who you’d like to write for. Answering those three questions can go a long way to helping you establish a marketing plan for your business and design your brand.
Keep Track of Your Marketing Efforts
Finally, you’re going to want to make sure that you know how you’re going to keep track of your prospects, when you contacted them, where in your sales cycle they are, and how to transition them over to your client list when they purchase.
No idea how to do that? Well, you’re in luck. Tomorrow, we’ll be learning all about how to use a free tool to make prospect tracking easier than ever before.
I’m so excited to share this information with you! See you next time.
If you haven’t subscribed, be sure to do so. That way, you won’t miss out on the rest of the series!
What are you hoping to gain from this series? Let me know in the comments.
PS: A Freelance Writer’s Guide to Marketing is still available on Amazon for even more information on marketing.