Writers! Don't commit these 8 marketing misdemeanors

Let's be frank... freelance writing can be a rewarding way to make a great living and stretch your creativity. But it's also darn hard work, often times a grind just to make ends meet. So if you’re making the following marketing misdemeanors, you may as well forget the whole thing.  Check this list: are you committing any of these marketing crimes?  

1. No Writer Website

This is one thing freshman freelance writers or even seasoned writers overlook or dismiss. Having a writer website is a crucial marketing machine for your business. If you don’t have a website you might as well be invisible.

Your website should include a separate page that boldly sells prospects on your various writing services/specialties. Make sure to link all of your social media platforms to your website. Every tweet, LinkedIn connection, and Facebook message is an opportunity to feature your writing services. 

2. No Clips (Not Enough Marketable Clips)

Building a robust and varied portfolio will open doors for a freelance writer. The more marketable clips you have under your belt, the better. If you’ve just started freelancing – or are concerned about your current writing clips – it will be hard to muster the confidence to pitch that dream prospect. Here are a few ideas to grow your portfolio:

  • Write brochures for local businesses that need updated content. Start with businesses you patronize or new businesses.    

  • Write Front of Book (FOB) pieces. Almost every magazine has a front of book section (mini articles, usually 300 words or less) that features bite-sized nuggets of information. FOBs usually involve researching data and interviewing sources. Some publications pay up to a $1/ word for such stories.

  • Volunteer to write newsletters for charities, libraries, and organizations. Visit your local library, Salvation Army, or civic organization and offer to contribute to their monthly publication.

  • Get a gig on UpWork or other content marketing website. Writing for content mills (sites where you have to bid for projects) isn’t advisable because the pay is so bad. But if you search for gigs paying at least $50/hour this can be a viable option. Make sure that the content company is reputable and the project isn’t ghostwritten. Get a link to the finished document and use it to market to bigger prospective clients.

3. Targeting Low Paying Prospects

Freshman freelance content marketers may be super tempted to snatch any writing job they can get. No writer (especially you) should be paid a measly $25 (or less) for slaving away on a 1,000 word blog post/ article. That’s why it’s important to continually reach out to top quality prospects. 

Target good paying opportunities by visiting sites like Crunch Base, Who Got Funded, and Angelist. These sites will tell you if a company recently received funding and how much. Target companies with funding of $3 million and up – they’ll have the marketing budget to pay you reasonable rates. Visit the company site. Is their blog up-to-date? Do they have case studies?  If so, do they need more? What writing services can you offer them?

4. Striking out With Dull Pitches

For your pitch to stand out it must be professional but fun. Avoid the urge to be ultra-professional when reaching out to businesses and editors. It can lead writers to overcompensate and write dull copy, equivalent to a 1960s business letter. Here’s a couple of easy tips for writing new pitches.

  • Use contractions and keep the style conversational.

  • Use your unique voice – companies want to see your style.  

5. Not Rolling the Dice

I nearly always write – just as I nearly always breathe.
— John Steinbeck

Besides writing, freelance content marketers should be good at playing the numbers game. It takes a lot of tenacity. To make your writing business work, you have to send out 50, 100, 200 or more pitches a month! Yeah, we know it sounds crazy, but that’s why it’s a numbers game. The more you pitch, the more responses you’ll receive and the more projects (and cash) you’ll make.

If you’re not marketing, ask yourself WHY? Are you waiting until you feel like it? Is fear and anxiety of not doing it perfectly holding you back? Marketing doesn’t have to be perfect but it must be done, and done consistently. 

6. Using Black Hole Email Addresses

It's a shame to spend time writing a kick ass marketing sales pitch only to have it lost in the cyber ether, a.k.a. generic email addresses?  We’re talking about those editor@pubication.com or sales@businessname.com email addresses.  

Usually, these are slush pile, black holes addresses. Unless you’re targeting a specific person, you're probably out of luck. It’s much better to take the time and sleuth out an actual person's email address. Use this super easy Google formula to sniff out editors/marketing manager's business email addresses:

Type into Google:  “editor (or marketing manager) at publication name (or business name).” Make sure to use quotation marks. LinkedIn search results usually pop up. Use these to jump down the rabbit hole and find the right person. Then try the following email format: firstname.lastname@companyname.com or firstinitial.lastname@companyname.com. BOOM!

7. Not Following Up

Magazine editors and marketing managers are mega-busy. So busy that they take lunch at their desks. Ughh. So, if you send an excellent proposal and get no response after a week or two, send a follow-up email!  Remember to be courteous and professional, nothing pushy or snippy.  Keep track of all your leads with a Client Relationship Management (CRM) system. Insightly is great, and the free version offers efficient management of your prospect list and follow-up reminders. A simple Excel/Google sheet is also effective. The important part is staying organized and on top of leads. 

8. Forgetting Your People

Freelancing is a lonely endeavor. Your family and friends might not understand why you choose to be a writer instead of getting “a real job.” While they may never understand – or even support your daily efforts – there are thousands of people who can. Other freelance writers! It’s so easy to see other writers as the competition, and while this is 100% true, they can also offer support, a shoulder to cry on, and even hook you up with a great client. Use Google to find local writer networks in your city. There are some amazing writing groups on social media.

Freelance content marketing is a huge opportunity for talented people (like you) to offer much needed services to business and publications. Now, stop reading and start pitching!

title image by Christian Gonzalez