Guest post by Paul Dunstone
Like all professional fields, the field of freelance writing is a competitive one. With an endless array of freelance writers out there with incredibly strong portfolios of work, you may be asking yourself, how do I compete?
The key is to take the “one foot in front of the other” approach. If you’re truly committed to becoming a successful freelance writer, then ensuring that you consistently find new ways to improve your skills, market yourself, expand your portfolio and list of clients are ways to get there. By focusing on constantly improving your offering as a professional freelance writer; you will at the very least, be moving closer to your goal.
Regardless of whether you’re looking to secure your first client, stepping up to tender for an enterprise client, or developing a consistent stream of freelance clients so that you can move to full time freelance writing, the process of becoming a more successful freelance writer is one that requires a commitment to life-long learning and mastery of a number of arts.
One of the best ways to expedite your climb up the freelance writing ladder is to study the habits of those who have been successful in your field. Below I’ve created a list of the top ways to help you get ahead in the freelance writing game and provide your freelance writing clients with what they’re looking for. These tips should assist you to be not only in the game, but at the pointy end of any tendering process and hopefully secure more freelance writing work.
Marketing your freelance writing skills: how to get in the game
1. You must have a website
Having a website is an absolute must these days for freelance writers. Just the same as when you come across a business that doesn’t have a website and you find yourself saying “I can’t believe they don’t have a website”, potential clients will be thinking the same about you and in many cases will eliminate you from the tendering process.
Even if you don’t have a portfolio of work to publish on the site there are numerous other marketing activities you can undertake which will aid in impressing potential clients. These include:
- Implementation of quality branding through the purchase of a great domain name
- Implementation of great visuals which sell the quality of everything you do i.e. logo design and screen layout
- Provision of a clear and logical place to provide contact details and links to social media channels you participate in
- Provision of an “About” page which gives the client a feel for the freelancer they may be hiring
- A pricing guide upfront to reassure the client of what they will be getting and how much it will cost
- A list of testimonials and feedback from companies you’ve worked with
- Implementations of a contact form so that you can receive enquiries 24/7.
2. You need to be in social media
Whether you decide to setup a Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus account, you’ll need to be on at least one of these social networks. Why you may ask? Because like it or not, social media has become a major extension of almost all business activities undertaken these days and your customers will be researching you there.
Socially, it has become the norm that professionals in a digital environment are active on social media. Generally it’s Twitter professionally, and Facebook is kept for personal activities, and in the case of a freelance writer I would suggest Twitter as a great place to start.
Twitter is fantastic for connecting with other freelance writers who may be able to help you out if they’re unable to complete a job, or know of a client looking for a freelancer. On Twitter, you also need to be aware that your potential customers will be looking to see what you have to say, how active you are, and what sort of person you are. So if you have career aspirations as a freelance writer, keep it professional and remember to link to your website and portfolio.
3. Group your portfolio by industry
People love to know who you‘ve worked with, and especially if it is with someone in their industry. People often tend to group their portfolio and testimonial items randomly with little emphasis on industry. This mistake is often overlooked. By showcasing that you’ve completed work within a particular industry you can demonstrate that you have prior knowledge of what’s important in the work you are being asked to complete. There have been numerous times when I’ve hired based on experience within a particular field, and this has always worked out for me. I strongly recommend considering this as part of your marketing activities.
4. People love brands
People love brands. They trust brands. They also like to be associated with brands that are successful and that is a major asset for you if you have worked with some well-known brands. They don’t have to be internationally recognized (although totally include those ones), but they should be reputable. Choose wisely which brands you showcase, and when tendering, include those of particular relevance to the client as the focus of the tendering process.
5. The quality of your work is everything
A portfolio that includes all your work is not necessarily a good one. I understand the need to fill your portfolio up with as much work as possible, but this is not the best idea. Only include the work you are really proud of in your portfolio. Unfortunately clients have a nasty habit of clicking on the worst items in your portfolio first, so if you’re not comfortable with any of your pieces, don’t include them. Your quality of work is the most important aspect you have at your disposal, so if you’re not comfortable with it being shared online to the masses, this is probably a good indicator it shouldn’t be in your portfolio.
6. Everything you do is marketing
Unfortunately across most industries, professionals can tend to forget that they are judged not just on their primary skills set, but the way they are conveyed in the marketplace. I can’t tell you how many freelance writing websites I’ve been to which frankly just terrified me, forcing me to leave quickly. So whether it’s business cards or your website, you need to maintain a high standard of professionalism at all times.
You may be thinking…”I’m not a web developer or graphic designer, how am I supposed to create a fancy website and marketing material?” The answer is you’re not. Get someone else to. You’re excellent at what you do, and that’s content writing. Selling yourself through words should be easy, let someone else work with you to present your image. Most importantly, whatever you do, if you’re not experienced in web design or graphic design it’s unlikely that the final product will be at the level you need it to be. So get some help and don’t penny-pinch to save a few dollars. It will cost you more in the long run.
7. Accounting talk travels fast
At the end of the day, transactions between freelancers and clients need to be hassle free. If they’re not, then often a client will just drop a freelancer in place of someone else who causes them less trouble. It seems obvious, but you need to stay on top of invoices, transact across a medium a client can handle, and accommodate their needs effectively. Remember the client has the money, and timeliness and quality of work is what they’re paying for. Keep your books in order and this will go a long way to avoiding any unfortunate discussions about a lack of organization on your behalf.
8. Embrace feedback, and if necessary adjust
Sometimes when we put our heart and soul into projects and they just don’t work out it can be tough. This also goes for freelance writing. If a client gives you some varied or negative feedback, you have to find the positive in the situation and learn from it. Don’t fight it, just learn from it. Even if you think it’s crazy, there’s a lesson in there somewhere.
One of the biggest opportunities from varied feedback is to up-skill. If some criticism of your writing style comes through, or criticism of your research, try to make a fair assessment of the work you completed and what your client is saying. Often there is wisdom in what they’re trying to communicate, even if it doesn’t come across that way. By researching the job further, or making a special effort to improve a piece, you can really learn a lot and endear yourself to a client as they will respect you listened to them and made a concerted effort.
Paul Dunstone has worked in the digital media industry since 2004 and currently holds the position of Chief Executive Officer at Job Stock. Paul overseas numerous operations at Job Stock including the Job Stock blog which discusses issues pertaining to the freelance industry, and the Job Stock freelance marketplace due for release later this year.