Freelance Writers Wanted – Apply Within.
If you have always wondered whether you could become a freelance writer or not, I have good news for you. The demand for freelance writing gigs online is exploding. So too is the opportunity for freelance content writing for local business.
The most common complaint I read about in the online forums, groups and communities is that it is hard to find good freelance writers. The competent writers are all over-booked.
There are several good reasons for this:
- Many small businesses tend to use their own staff to create the content the business needs – from product information to website content. Their staff resources are almost always limited and inexperienced at writing.
- We live in a knowledge-based society, where information is everything. As the demand for information soars, so does the demand for writers.
- By controlling the webpages shown to users, the search engines have a huge influence on web traffic. In the past it was possible to “game” the search engine system to drive traffic to your site. Today search engines use sophisticated technology, like Latent Semantic Indexing, to assess the quality of content and use it to determine a webpage’s position in their results pages.
Traditionally, writing was considered to be the domain of skilled wordsmiths. Most people thought that, to write content that others would read, you had to be a trained author or journalist.
Not anymore! Much of what is read today is read not so much for literary pleasure as for information.
If you want to learn about the freelance writing opportunities and how to take advantage of them, read on …
There are two main opportunities for freelance writers – writing for small businesses and writing online content. They come with different challenges.
Here’s A Quick Way To Build A Business Writing Small Business Content
The opportunity to write content for others is often in front of your nose. It just needs to be unlocked.
What To Offer
Think about the small businesses and professional practices in your area – doctors, dentists, accounting services, retail outlets or restaurants. They all need written content to attract customers and grow their sales.
But, here’s the catch. Virtually all of them will tell you that they don’t employ freelance writers. They would rather write their own content.
So, what’s the solution? Don’t sell writing services, sell solutions. Don’t approach the business with a cookie cutter offer. Ask for a half hour discussion about “how I can help you grow your customer base”. Few business-minded people will refuse that.
Then, ask lots of questions about things like their source of customers, marketing methods, printed material, website and social pages. Listen actively and take lots of notes. When you are asked a question, answer in general terms, so that you don’t commit prematurely. At the end of the discussion, ask permission to provide them with a structured proposal.
More often than not, a proposal will be quite unexpected and it will give you a huge edge. Start by researching what the business currently has – webpages, printed material and social media pages. Look for gaps, broken links and opportunities to add value. Then, write a succinct, but comprehensive proposal that addresses their complete needs, from copy to completion. If there are aspects that you cannot provide yourself, like graphic design perhaps, partner with a complementary freelancer.
Here are a few ideas for writing services that can be suggested as part of your solution:
- Ghost blogging – writing blog posts on behalf of the business.
- Instruction manuals for using their products.
- Customer loyalty program material.
- Email marketing content.
- Product or service brochures.
- Static website content.
Armed with your well-written, carefully proofread proposal, you are all set to sell your services.
How To Sell Your Small Business Writing Services
The key to successful selling is to realise that most small businesses and professionals don’t realise that they need your services. A veterinary practice may never have considered the benefits of sending out a regular newsletter to its clients. A restaurant may not have thought about promoting its menu specials on a Facebook page or a Twitter profile.
For this reason, the most important sales rule is this: always present your proposal personally and verbally. Never leave it for the business owner to read later. If necessary, rather schedule a meeting for another time. Remember, you own the proposal and you can choose whether to leave it for them to read or not. Choose not to.
The reason for always presenting the proposal verbally is that it gives you the chance to elaborate, deal with questions or concerns and adapt your proposal to suit your prospective client’s needs on the fly. It gives you the opportunity to negotiate you would not have if you weren’t present.
It is very likely that the client will need to fit your services into an existing budget. You need to convince them that your solution will replace the need for some of their traditional marketing expenditure.
Also, and this is essential to building a profitable writing business, always charge a project fee, not an hourly rate. This article, about maximising the income from your service business, explains why it is so important.
One of the most powerful sales tools is a real life example. If you are starting out, use a relevant case study that illustrates the benefits of your proposed solution. Even better, if you have completed a project for another client, ask for permission to use it as part of your portfolio.
“Tell me one last thing, said Harry. Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?
Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” – Dumbledore
See How Easily You Can Become A Freelance Writer Online
In principle, becoming a writer for hire online is very similar to writing for local business. Because the market environment is different, though, you need to adapt your competitive approach.
In particular, there are two aspects to the online marketplace that you need to adapt to:
- Your communication will invariably be written only. And, people tend to scan online content rather than read it carefully. So, your proposal needs to be very focussed and easy to scan. Never use two words when one will do.
- The barriers to entry are lower, so you will have much more competition. You will have to stand out from the crowd. The way to do this is via a clear USP.
What is a USP? A Unique Selling Proposition is an element of your solution that only you can provide. It needs to be meaningful and relevant to the client’s particular needs. For example, if the client needs content for pages on a review website, offer to include content for product category pages at your expense. All it will cost you is some time.
What Kind Of Work Is There And Where Do You Find It?
The problem with writing work online is not so much finding it as identifying work that compensates you fairly for your time and skill. Because the barriers to entry are very low, there are many writers, mostly with poor skills, who are prepared to work for a pittance.
There are four popular sources of work opportunities for freelance writers:
- Sites like Constant Content and Helium allow you to post articles and pay you based on the number of visitor views. It is easy to write content for these sites, but they are criticised for treating writers harshly and paying poorly.
- The main sources of freelance writing gigs on the web are sites like elance.com, odesk.com, guru.com and freelancer.com. You will find a variety of projects posted by clients, like writing website content, ghost writing ebooks, translation or graphic design.
- A third alternative is an employer like CloudCrowd, which is accessible via Facebook. You need to pass some tests to earn credentials and then you will be able to write articles for a fee. Once you have passed more tests, for which you will need to read The Chicago Manual of Style carefully, you will be given editing work, which pays a higher rate.
- Forums, social network groups and communities. The WAHM Magazine Freelance Writing Forum is a good example of this source of work. The benefit of sourcing work this way is that you can establish a relationship of trust before any work is commissioned. Clients also get a sense of security from the fact that the freelancer’s reputation in the group encourages them to deliver quality output.
Online Freelancing – How To Start And Build Momentum
There are two options. You can write some articles for a site like Constant Content and then use them in your portfolio when bidding elsewhere. Or, you can start bidding straight away on a freelancer site, but use an entry strategy.
What does an entry strategy involve? It involves applying regularly for jobs where you can leverage your USP. Bid for jobs as soon as they are posted. Avoid older jobs.
A good entry strategy is to bid for jobs over the weekend, when many of your competitors will be less active.
Before you bid, be sure to prepare a short, focussed resume with lots of visual content and punchy headings for readers who scan. Be sure to read the bid request carefully and refer to it in your proposal.
Use selling phrases such as “I am attaching examples of my work that are relevant to … (what they are seeking)”.
Make sure that you will be able to deliver on time and never undercut your competitors. By doing so you would be creating a rod for your own back – you would be lumbered with historical low rates.
Building momentum is all about referrals and repeat work. Once you have a successful track record, your bid success will skyrocket. But, you must ask for testimonials to use in future bids.
The old adage “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” was clearly referring to a freelance writing business.
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