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Friday, September 30, 2022

Learning My Own Lesson

I have been talking a lot about the importance of marketing lately, but guess who hasn't been actively looking for new clients?  This girl.

To be fair, I haven't exactly been doing nothing.  My horse got sick in April, and quite a few months of the year were spent simply keeping him alive.  I had no time to market; I was lucky when I was able to just get existing client work finished on time.

Since then, I've been working a lot on branding, websites, and my resume and portfolio.  So it's not like I haven't been marketing at all.  I've been working on getting all this stuff ready for potential clients to see, which is important too.

But I have not been looking for new clients, and it is coming back to bite me.

Early this year, just before my horse got sick, one of my regular clients went on hiatus.  They had something in the pipelines that they were working on, and needed to finish it before they could send any further work my way.  It was initially just supposed to be a couple months, but it has gone on and on.  I got a little bit of work from them a couple months ago, but that unfortunately didn't last long before they were back to the drawing board.  I'm still currently waiting to see when they'll be back.

And now, I've just lost another regular client, one I access through a writer site.  They've decided to stop offering client marketing as a service, so they no longer need writers to create marketing content.  It's unexpected and a disappointment, since I've been writing for them for about seven years - a pretty long time for a repeat client.  But it's also a significant loss of income, since they were one of two remaining regular clients.

The only regular client I have left does give me a fair amount of work, and has increased what they give me recently, but it's not quite enough to make up for losing not just one but two clients in one year.  So it's good that I'm almost done working on my website, resume, and portfolio, because I'll need to start actively hunting for more clients soon if I don't want to feel too much of a pinch from the loss.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

The Importance of Marketing for Small Business

The other day, I wrote about why freelance writers need to market continually.  Marketing on a regular basis keeps helps us to maintain our work queue, find new clients, and replace lost regulars.

But it's not just freelance writers that benefit from regular marketing.  Small businesses of all sizes also benefit from regular marketing.

Think about it for a moment.  If even huge, well known companies market themselves, how are the little guys going to ever survive with the big fish if they don't market, too?

Marketing looks a little different for small businesses and sole proprietors, of course.  Big companies can afford expensive prime time TV commercials, for instance.  It's their tremendous brand name recognition that allows them to spend so much on marketing, ironically.  Those kinds of ads will be out of reach for the majority of small businesses.

For many small businesses, marketing means having a stellar website, blogging regularly to keep it higher in search engine rankings, posting to social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, building a mailing list and sending out emails and newsletters, and creating visual content for social media sites like Instagram and YouTube.  These are all free or low-cost marketing that have the added advantage of speaking directly to your target market.

Marketing for small business owners isn't necessarily expensive.  Aside from the cost of paying a writer or editor, most of the expense is in the form of the time it takes to run all those marketing campaigns, which is of course why many small businesses either have a dedicated marketing person or outsource their marketing.

However you do it, marketing is important.  No one is going to know your business exists unless you get it out there, and the client's or customer's decision to buy is often dependent on name recognition at minimum, if not a track record of following you on social media or getting your emails.

Marketing isn't all that complicated, either, once you zoom out a little.  At minimum, you need to figure out where your target market hangs out, find a way to reach them there, and get your business in front of them as much as possible.  As long as you can do at least that, you can give your business a fighting chance.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Using Canva for Social Media Marketing

In a recent post, I mentioned Canva, a design tool I've been using for everything from video editing to marketing materials.  I'm still loving Canva, and was super interested when a self-publishing author support firm whose mailing list I'm on posted a Canva for Beginners virtual class coming up.

I'm not entirely sure I'm a beginner with Canva anymore, but since I'm largely self-taught, there's probably still something I could learn in that course.  I'm considering taking it.  I really like that if you register for the class, you can listen to it live, but if you can't make it live you also get the audio file download afterward.  I'm terrible at making it to things like that on time, so I think I'd probably be dependent on getting the download later.

While I was looking for the My Word Publishing business page and event schedule, I did a little Google search and found a surprising amount of Canva tutorials for authors and small business owners.  I found tutorials for everything from creating ebooks in Canva, to social media marketing for authors.  I'm thinking about reading and watching some of those free YouTube videos before I decide whether to pay $29 for the paid course.  I'd be interested in learning as much as possible about how to use Canva, so I may end up doing all of it.

The other thing I found while looking up the Canva for Beginners online class is that My Word Publishing also sells access to recordings for past classes.  Click here for their list of events and recorded classes.  I'm potentially interested in the Basics of Email Marketing and MailChimp and Instagram for Authors recorded classes.  Perhaps not yet, but hopefully next year I'll have to start thinking about starting to market.  But again, me being me, I'll probably check and see how much of that information is available online for free first.

A note about My Word Publishing: I found out about them a few years back, when they reached out to the Denver area NaNoWriMo MLs to let us know they were having some free related seminars during October and November.  I went to one or two of them, just to check things out.  They were, of course, ultimately marketing their services to wrimos, but I remembering still feeling like I walked away with some valuable information.

The bottom line is: There is so much you can do with online marketing these days, and knowing how to use tools like Canva to your best advantage is so important!

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Freelancers: The Importance of Diversifying Your Client Base

Like my last post, this post is more for other freelancers, although some clients may find it applicable to them as well.

As a freelancer (or any small business person, really), it's important never to focus all of your work in one place.  Freelancing is about working for more than one client, after all, as working for just one employer would be essentially full-time employment without any of the benefits - and what's the point in that?

More importantly, though, spreading out your work between many clients is what protects your livelihood.  If you work for many clients, even if they are repeat clients, you have a buffer if you should lose one.  Yes, you might miss that income and you might have a tight month or two if it takes you a while to replace the lost work, but you will still have your other clients.  It's the modern-world equivalent of putting your eggs in more than one basket.

This is also why marketing is important for freelancers, as I discussed in the last post.  If you're marketing regularly, you should have some work already lined up.  Plus, if you're marketing on a weekly or even daily basis, you may even be able to fill the opening before you get through the queue and start to feel the pinch from the lost client.

Diversifying also has one other benefit that isn't often discussed: It helps protect you from burnout.  It's really easy to get burnt out when you're writing too much of the same thing all the time.  One of the benefits of freelancing is that we have a little more power over what we choose to write, so exercise that power, and make choices that keep the work interesting to you.

It takes a dedicated freelancer to juggle regular marketing plus multiple clients and a project queue, or perhaps I should say a dedicated small business person and entrepreneur - as that is what we are, after all.  If you feel overwhelmed by the many hats you have to wear as a freelancer, or if you worry that you don't have the skills to juggle all of this, find some productivity tools (like these that I suggested not too long ago) that will help you accomplish what you need to do to freelance successfully.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Ebb and Flow: Why Freelancers Need to Keep Marketing

This post is more for freelancers, although small business clients who hire writers could use some of the marketing insight as well.

You may have heard other freelancers talk about marketing.  But what is it, and why is it important to keep it up?

Marketing can take many forms.  Cold calling or writing to clients is marketing, yes.  But browsing freelance job boards and responding to job postings is also marketing.  Reaching out to past clients or following up with current clients to see if they have more work for you is marketing.  Posting your resume, building your website, blogging, posting to your writer Instagram: all marketing.

Simply put, marketing is anything that gets your name out there and helps to build your brand.  Sometimes marketing may see immediate impact, such as cold calling, responding to job postings, or following up with past clients.  Those actions can result in work right away.  Other times marketing doesn't pay off for a while, such as when a client doesn't have any work for you yet (but your follow-up keeps you fresh in their mind when they do have some work).  And sometimes, marketing doesn't really have any direct payoff, but contributes to building your brand or online presence, so it's beneficial in a cumulative sense.

Lately I've been working a lot on marketing materials for my businesses: overhauling my websites, settling on visual branding, rewriting my resume, and updating my blogs.  It's been a ton of work, and there's no immediate benefit of any of it, but it's still important.  Once I get everything updated the way I want it, I intend to make a habit of trolling the job boards on a daily basis.

I used to search for work daily.  It was how I started out every day: I read email, I caught up on the blogs I followed (yes, this was when blogs were the primary source of social media), and I searched the job boards.  I would do quick searches of all of my favorite job boards, saving all of the ads I wanted to respond to, and then I would spend some time responding to each one.

I haven't done that in a long time, but I need to start doing it again, for the simple reason that marketing regularly helps you to avoid any gaps in work (and income).  Not every query or cold call or job ad response will lead to work, so doing a few a day ensures that a freelancer can keep plenty of work queued up.

I've gotten a little stuck in my routine and lately have been getting all my work from just a couple of clients on one freelancer site, but it's time to start marketing again, as I don't like being dependent on just a couple of clients.  I had a third client who stopped needing work from me early this year while they worked on their software, and the loss of income from that client has been really rough to deal with, on top of an already really difficult year.

With all of this in mind, my next post (also for freelancers) will talk about the importance of diversifying.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Create Your NaNoWriMo 2022 Project Today!

This just in from NaNoWriMo HQ: Project creation for November 2022 is up and running!  Click here to create your NaNoWriMo 2022 project.

You can see my project for November in my list of NaNoWriMo projects.  I'm linking to the entire project link rather than this year's project, just in case I change my mind on what I'm going to do this year.  I don't want to break the link if I change the project title, since the project title is in the URL.

For now I'm still planning on working on the Ruby Ransome rewrite during NaNo this year.  It makes the most sense, since 1) it's fiction, so it's more appropriate for NaNoWriMo, and 2) I would love to get that novel published next year, just for the appropriateness of publishing it exactly 100 years from when it takes place.  I think it'll be a lot harder to stay motivated and "win" if I work on one of my other projects.

I did think about working on one of my other fiction projects (I have several that are in various stages of progress), but decided not to add them to my list because as much as I'd love to finish them, there's less of a time crunch on those.  I have a couple of novels in progress, one that's part of a larger project that I was working on last year (but didn't get very far), as well as a shorter juvenile novel that's almost done.

Even though it's early, I encourage you to decide what you're going to write and create a project.  Even if you might change your project later (like I might), it's good to get started thinking about it now.  I've found that the NaNo projects I've been more successful with have been ones I've had plenty of time to plan.  Last-minute projects are much less likely to succeed, at least in my own experience.

What are you planning to write for NaNoWriMo?

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Choosing This Year's NaNoWriMo Project

It's that time of year where I'm starting to think about what I'll write for NaNoWriMo.  I have been working a lot on my websites lately, overhauling the older sites and developing some much-needed visual branding.  But that has brought to mind a lot of potential projects that I could work on this November.

Remember, I've often been a Rebel (someone who breaks the traditional rules of NaNoWriMo, and writes something other than a novel started on November 1st), so this opens up a variety of possibilities for me.

Projects on the table for NaNoWriMo:

  • Revive work on Ruby Ransome, my 1920s vampire series.  I determined a few years ago that the novel needed a complete overhaul based on something I realized about my main characters' motivations, but around that time I decided to shelve the project for the time being.  If I revived it for NaNoWriMo, I would have to read through the existing first novel prior to November, reacquaint myself with the story and my research, and mark out the passages that I want to rewrite (which is most of it, but there are a few I could possibly keep).  The big motivation for working on Ruby in November would be so that I could self publish it in 2023.  The first novel takes place in 1923, so publishing in 2023 seems appropriate.  On the down side, it wouldn't be income generating for a long time, and would be the start of a fairly time consuming project.
  • Work on my DIY doll stringing ebook and related tutorials.  I've had a restringing tutorial for sale on my DIY Doll Stringing website (formerly Doll Stringing Extravaganza) for years, and it desperately needs to be updated to reflect current ebook publishing standards.  While some of that would be updating the ebook template, some of the copy needs to be updated.  In addition, I've been planning on writing several related tutorials and expanding my ebook line.  Working on this in November has its draw because it would be income generating much sooner than my novel series.  Unfortunately, it wouldn't generate 50,000 words (which is what's needed to "win" NaNoWriMo), and I've found in the past that writing nonfiction during NaNoWriMo is much more difficult.
  • Blog-o-vember.  I've done this before, and used November to form better blogging habits.  It works well, but 1,666 words is a lot of blogging per day.  Possibly not a bad thing, since I've got multiple blogs, but still.  It feels like a bit of a copout, even though I know it's still valid writing work that I need to get done and that will benefit my websites.
  • Write what you will.  I've done this in the past, too, with somewhat less success: Made my goal to write 1,667 words a day, on any of my personal projects (client work doesn't count).  That might be blogging, working on my ebooks, or working on my novel.  I find that not focusing on just one project actually seems to sap my motivation during NaNoWriMo, though, so while it's a valid effort and not quite off the table, it's not my preference.
I am still going back and forth over what my goal will be for November, but most likely I think I'll either choose to focus on Ruby, or if I can't get organized in time, do a hybrid "write what you will" of business writing (blogging, ebooks, etc.).

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