Ninja Freelance Blog

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Five Ways Freelance Bloggers Can Grow Their Business By Marketing Offline

Five Ways Freelance Bloggers Can Grow Their Business By Marketing Offline

For writers just embarking on a career writing for hire the idea that clients will pay them for their work is liberating. The only problem is that writers are often private folk who may at times prefer the company of their keyboard and dictionary to "business contacts" and "potential clients." Not that writers are misanthropic by nature, but they are often shy and sensitive people who would rather study human nature than interact with it. So once a writer takes that jump into launching a freelance writing business, the immediate thrill can be quickly replaced by anxiety as the writer realizes that somehow he or she has got to find some clients.

Even though a writer's good work can happen in relative isolation, the going out and getting of clients to commission that good work requires that he or she enter the wide world of business where even today so much business is done via personal connections and networking. So how do writers take on the daunting task of marketing themselves outside the keyboard-friendly online realm?

  1. Seek out writing opportunities in print. Print publications such as local newspapers, newsletters, and magazines are having a hard time financially. People still love to pick them up and read them, but not at the rate advertisers are willing to pay for it. As a result, publications have had to drastically cut pay for writers. While this is bad news for writers in general, you may be able to get some free exposure by offering to write small pieces for local publications. Offer your services to write a short piece for free in exchange for having your name and/or business's name at the end with your website and a brief line indicating you write blogs and other online content. Make sure your free piece captures your best blogging essence and style so that potential customers will read it and want to replicate your snappy style on their blog or business's website.

  2. Volunteer. Volunteering is a way for shy writers to motivate themselves to network. Even if no business comes directly from people met while volunteering, at the very least you have done some good in the world. Consider volunteering at an afterschool program for students or volunteer to write a newsletter for a nonprofit organization. Volunteer to help with an organization's public relations materials or with grant-writing. You can even create a buzz for your business by volunteering in a situation unrelated to writing but that is of interest to you. Just be sure that you are getting to know the other volunteers or managers of the organization and let them know what your profession is so you will be on their minds should they be able to help make connections for you at some point. If you serve on a board of a nonprofit you will definitely be in a position to meet people with good connections who may know people or businesses with money to spend. Don't feel guilty about networking while volunteering unless that really is the only underlying purpose for your good deeds. In that case you should feel guilty!

  3. Network strategically. A writer friend of mine started her business a couple of years ago and was invited by friends to all manner of different networking groups, each with its own vibe, focus, schedule, and requirements. She felt most at home with a women's networking group, but several of the members were doing similar work to hers with blogs, social media, marketing, and other creative industries in which they were naturally good writers themselves. Another group she enjoyed but where she felt a little less comfortable had a more diverse mix of men, women, ages, and industries. She targeted this group to join because, frankly, they needed her more.

    The group had successful members who were good at their business but did not have a talent or the time for writing. She started out doing work for folks within the group, which she did for a reduced rate. They were so pleased that they announced their satisfaction at group meetings and gave her tons of referrals for which she could charge her full rate. After a few meetings she felt she knew the members well enough to feel comfortable. She told me she had been skeptical of her need for such a group, but not only had they helped her secure that first big round of work, she found she really enjoyed being able to bounce ideas off other business people instead of relying on her solitary self and her computer all the time.

  4. Speak for free. Even if your business is primarily blogging, if you are making a living writing you know more about writing in general than most people. I have spoken to law school students about résumés, networking groups about business cards, and a chamber of commerce small group about writing an effective "About Us" page for their businesses' websites. Great exposure. Be sure to have helpful handouts people can use as resources with your name and contact info on it in case they ever need of your services.

  5. Use business cards. Even if you are a writer part-time and have another full-time job, get business cards for your writing business. Writing is hard work even for those who are good at it, and people who don't write well appreciate very much people who do. They will be happy to take your card that they can look to when they are in a writing jam or need a super-good blog post in a hurry. Writers sometimes sell themselves short. A good-looking professional business card gives you the physical sense of validity you already deserve. People will take you seriously. I promise.

Even though marketing yourself is often the hardest part about making a successful living writing, it is worth the effort of putting yourself out there. Not only does it make your dream of making money from your best and most-loved talent a reality, but each foray into the wider world of business and networking - whether successful or not-so-successful - always guarantees one thing writers are always in need of: material!

Bill Post, Small Business Research Analyst, provides research on issues of concern to small businesses for Custom Business Cards. Prior to his involvement with 123Print, Bill was a small business owner himself, providing marketing and branding services to other small businesses in the Washington, DC metro area. Before working with 123Print on Business Cards, Bill also spent several years after receiving his degree in the fast-paced corporate world. It was there that Bill not only honed the skills he uses to help small businesses get ahead, but where he realized that he'd rather help the little guy prosper than make huge corporations money.

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