Monday, July 30, 2007

The importance of marketing

I get Suzanne Lieurance's weekday newsletter, The Morning Nudge. Recently I started subscribing to her MySpace blog as well. Just yesterday, she posted about the importance of marketing as a freelance writer.

It amazes me how many writers say to me, "I don't have time to market," or even, "I don't have time to look for higher-paying work." I understand being busy, but still -- why would you condemn yourself to working long hours for low pay, just to make ends meet?

It's true that marketing takes time. However, it's time that pays off in the long run, because you will find more work, better work, and higher-paying work.

Marketing isn't necessarily cold calling, like many writers think it is. Perhaps the distaste or even fear that most people have of marketing is what makes them "too busy." I have to admit, I wouldn't be comfortable cold calling people either. Luckily, there are much easier ways to market.

Here are a few ways that you can market yourself without cold calling:

1) Searching for freelance job ads - A well-written resume and cover letter/email are an important part of searching for jobs. Most people don't think of this as marketing, but I think it is. After all, it means getting the word out about your services. Oftentimes, even if you don't get a job the client will keep your resume on file or pass it on to someone else who is looking for a writer. It also gives you an "in" to contact potential clients directly looking for work, without it feeling like cold calling.

2) Advertising - You don't have to break the bank to do this one. Craigslist ads are free in most cities, and you can repost your ads every 48 hours.

3) Networking - Hey, chatting with other writers can be considered a method of marketing! Several times in the past, I've gotten work through the recommendation of other writers with whom I'm friendly. I try to share the goodwill myself, too -- after all, what goes around comes around. This business should be about helping each other, not competing with each other.

4) Blogging - Yep, this is marketing too! It drives traffic to your website, helps you create a brand name with potential clients, and introduces you to other writers.

5) Article marketing - There are a lot of article distribution sites out there. The one I've written for in the past is EzineArticles.com. Although you are basically providing free copy for other people, they have to reproduce your article in full, which means with links leading back to your site. Outside links to your site can help boost your website's pagerank, not to mention drive more traffic to your site.

6) Cold emailing - Trust me, this is SO much easier than cold calling. Say you see a website that you know you could improve, or a distributed press release that leaves something to be desired -- you just email the contact and attempt to sell them in writing on why they need you. Spend some time putting together a few sales pitches first -- say, what SEO is and why it's important, or why a press release has to be interesting in order to be effective. When you email someone, you can insert the applicable sales pitch, changing it as necessary so that the email reads like a personal note instead of spam.

7) Maintaining a website and online portfolio - Although it's tempting just to post a website and forget about it, try to make updates every few months: Post new clips to your portfolio, fine-tune the copy, and expand the site as needed. Your website is the basis for your online presence, so it needs to be able to impress potential clients.

Although these approaches do take a certain amount of time, as you get more work you won't have to spend as long on marketing. In other words, the effort pays off: after more than a year of spending an hour searching for work every day, I have not had to look for work in several months, as most of my business now comes from repeat clients, referrals, and even from clients who just happened to stumble across my website.

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