20 Things You Can Do Today To Market Your Freelance Writing Services

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on October 19, 2009 in Marketing
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Do you know that you need to work harder at marketing your freelance writing services, but maybe you're not sure where to start? Well, we're all about the business and marketing side of freelance writing here at AFW, and moving forward I'll be offering Monday marketing tips to bring you new ideas each week for promoting your services.

To kick us off today though, I won't be sharing details on one particular marketing tactic for freelancers. Instead, I'm going to give you a list of twenty simple things you can do today (yes, today!) to market your services more effectively. Marketing isn't always about big campaigns. Sometimes the little things can make the biggest difference. Here are some ideas to get you going:

  1. Write a blog post -- Every time you write a post for your blog, you're potentially putting your name in front of every one of your subscribers (some of whom may be prospective clients, and some of whom may be colleagues who could refer work to you).
  2. Submit a guest post -- Writing a post for another blog has a similar benefit, even if it's not a "top" blog in your niche. You'll have an opportunity to get your name in front of someone else's subscriber list (with similar benefits to writing for your own blog).
  3. Comment on  blogs in your niche -- Whenever allowed by the blogger, include a link to your website in blog comments. Just remember to make comments that add to the conversation rather than ones that amount to little more than spam.
  4. Update your professional site -- You might not even think of this as marketing, but it is! If your sales copy on your site isn't converting well enough, update it. It's time to try something new. A key to effective copywriting is testing. Never forget that.
  5. Email past clients -- Did a client hire you for a big seasonal project recently? If so, they might be interested in something similar now. Think about the season, upcoming holidays, etc., and see if there are any ideas you could pitch to previous clients to bring in more work.
  6. Update your email signature -- I'll admit it. I don't always use my email signature to my best advantage. But it's such an easy fix. While you're emailing clients anyway, go ahead and make sure your signature includes a link to your professional site and / or blog (and don't forget a call to action!).
  7. Update your portfolio -- Do your portfolio pieces really reflect the type of work you're interested in taking on? If your focus has changed (or if your portfolio pieces are just out of date) consider updating them. They could make a difference between a sale and a lost opportunity.
  8. Post to forums and social networks -- If you're already active in online communities where your potential clients hang out, spend some time there. Don't go to post advertisements though. Contribute something of value instead. Answer questions. Offer tips. Demonstrate that you know what you're talking about to your client base, and you'll increase your chances of attracting clients. Just make sure you have a link to your professional site in your signature there if it's allowed. This way they can click to learn more or contact you if they like what you have to say. (And from experience I'll tell you that you'd be surprised at the level of clients who do frequent forums and social networks, even if very subtly.)
  9. Join a new forum or social network -- Sure, it's best if you're already well established in an online community when it comes to meeting new clients. But if you're new to it or you've tapped your market elsewhere, find a new niche community and give it a shot.
  10. Offer a sale -- If you need a sudden boost in client work, a sale can be a great way to pull in new clients. For example, you might offer 20% off of a client's first order. The key is in making sure they like your work enough to come back again (at your regular rates).
  11. Offer referral incentives -- If you have a large previous client base, but no one seems to need you for projects at the moment, ask them for referrals. Your clients are probably well-connected with like-minded business owners. You could offer them a future discount, free report, or something else as an incentive to send referrals your way.
  12. Offer yourself as an authority source -- You chose your specialty for a reason. Chances are good that you're an authority at something. So tell people about it! Use media directories and expert exchange sites to offer yourself up as an interviewee within your specialty niche or industry. Getting interviewed elsewhere helps you build visibility. And don't limit yourself only to major media sources. While a lot of people don't realize it, there's quite a bit of value in being featured on smaller sites, blogs, newsletters, or other publications in your niche. Not only will you be exposed to a highly targeted audience, but those publishers often go more out of the way to promote their content and their guests than larger publications do (where they're moving onto the next thing far more quickly).
  13. Give something away for free -- I've said it before and I'll probably say it again: giving something away is one of the best marketing tactics for service providers. It doesn't have to be much. Just a simple 5-page report can do wonders. Educate prospective clients about something which shows that they need services like yours, then end it with a call to action to get them to contact you (and hopefully hire you).
  14. Advertise -- If you have the budget for it, go ahead and advertise. That could mean buying banner space on sites your clients frequent, buying a decent ad in the Yellow Pages, running a pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaign, or any other type of advertising relevant to your specialty area and target market.
  15. Use Q&A sites -- Visit sites like Yahoo! Answers to search for and respond to questions in your niche. Leave a link to your professional site or blog when appropriate.
  16. Launch a contest -- People love contests, because they love having the opportunity to win something. Come up with a prize idea and figure out how you can use that prize to promote yourself -- get more blog comments, get more referrals, etc.
  17. Send a query letter -- While I'm personally a supporter of the query-free freelancing approach, that doesn't mean it's for everyone. If you prefer querying, then go ahead and do it! Write a query letter (or two, or three) today and pitch ideas to potential clients.
  18. Send a pitch letter -- Similar to a query letter, but more in line with offering yourself up as an authority source, send a pitch letter today. Come up with a story idea for a blogger or journalist in your industry or niche and pitch it to them. In this case you're not offering to write the article, but offering to serve as a source. It can increase your chances of coverage when you offer ideas you'd be a particularly good fit for.
  19. Update your branding -- It's possible that your branding could use a fresh approach. Think about your business name (if you use one) or your website URL. Do they really work for you? How about your slogan? Your logo? Your business cards? If anything feels dated, update it (or think about hiring a designer if you have the budget and you want a more professional look than what you might be able to put together on your own).
  20. Write (or update) your marketing plan -- There's no good excuse for you not to have a marketing plan laid out for your freelance writing services. It's your roadmap. It's how you determine which marketing tactics are right for you before you waste time on them. Just do it. Create one. And if you have one but it's been sitting around for a year, then go ahead and dust 'er off and update it. Chances are good that your situation now (or what you should be doing to change that situation for the better) is different now than it was then.

Most of these marketing tactics can be done in a single day. By all means you shouldn't try to tackle all of them at once, but pick and choose. Figure out which tactics will work best for you and your market, and start putting them to use (or if you already are, consider changing your game plan a bit). A little bit of responsible marketing really does go a long way. Don't let it go neglected.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.


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12 Comments

  1. Matt Willard October 19, 2009 Reply

    Of course, you have to remember to DO these things, and not fall into the trap of reading about them. As for me, today I’m focusing my marketing guns on free video content to develop my brand further.

  2. Jennifer Mattern October 19, 2009 Reply

    That’s what to-do lists are for. They’re my best friend in all things business.

  3. JoAnna October 19, 2009 Reply

    These are good suggestions. I don’t have a marketing plan, so I’m definitely going to look into that. Thank you.

  4. LaToya Irby October 20, 2009 Reply

    Even better…do at least of these things everyday. I have list like this (that wasn’t this long until today) and I try to do something off the list everyday. That way, you’re always marketing yourself.

  5. Jenn Mattern October 20, 2009 Reply

    That’s what I tell other writers all the time — do something to market yourself every single day. It doesn’t matter how small that thing is. Post one blog comment. Send one email. Even just evaluate your site stats. It all adds up! :)

  6. Matt Willard October 20, 2009 Reply

    Well, I have to disagree there. I think the best marketing actions are the ones with the highest return of investment. That’s why I’m focusing on guest posts and video content – people get the most out of them. It depends on your niche, though.

  7. Jenn Mattern October 20, 2009 Reply

    In general, yes. And your ROI should be factored into your overall marketing plan. But the reality is that most writers won’t do larger-scale marketing work every single day… but there’s no excuse why they can’t at least make time to do something small. And that’s the point I’m making — not that you should ONLY do these little things, but that when you can’t do a lot, it’s always better to still do something.

  8. Yolander Prinzel
    Yolander Prinzel October 20, 2009 Reply

    The thing is, you don’t know which efforts will and won’t produce return–or when. So I spend the bulk of my time on proven methods, but I never leave out the little things. You wouldn’t believe the work I’ve gotten from crap I never even expected to result in anything. You can not assume anything.

  9. Matt Willard October 20, 2009 Reply

    That’s true. A lot of this is testing to see what works. That’s what I need to see for my own marketing efforts – if they’ll really get me the results I want, when applied for the right period of time.

  10. Jennifer Mattern October 20, 2009 Reply

    Testing is incredibly important. Just remember, before you jump into testing a significant part of your marketing plan should have been devoted to market research. When done properly, that research will give you a better idea of what types of marketing tactics will work for you and which ones probably won’t. So solid market research first to narrow down the best options for you, and then testing to really hone those marketing efforts.

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