You’ve worked out who you think your target market is for your freelance writing services. Today in our marketing bootcamp series, I want you put together a platform-building plan with that target market in mind.
Why do you need a platform-building plan?
It’s really just a combination marketing plan / PR plan that you’ll use throughout the rest of this series (and beyond I hope). It will serve as your blueprint, showing you how to build an effective freelance writer platform that will attract the attention of the “right” kind of people — the people you want to sell to.
You don’t need a fancy template for this. Just go through the exercises below and jot the information down in a notebook or type it up in Notepad or your favorite word processor. This isn’t meant to be a final draft of anything. Your platform-building plan is a “working document.” It will change and grow with you (as you should see in tomorrow’s bootcamp session).
- Pull out the target market information you worked on yesterday.
- Create an outline with the following basic sections:
- Problems / Opportunities
- Write down at least three problems or opportunities you’re currently faced with in your freelance writing career. For example, a problem might be that no one in your niche or industry knows who you are, so clients have no reason to seek you out. An opportunity might be that you’ve recently completed a new degree that could add to your credentials in a possible specialty area. These are the reasons why you want to build a platform and greater visibility.
- Think about it for a few minutes, and then write down an estimated budget. You can choose to list the the budget in several ways: startup budget, yearly budget, or monthly budget depending on how far in advance you want your plan to cover. Saying “none” is not an option. You will spend money if you’re serious about improving your career. I don’t care if it’s just $7 for a domain name and $5 per month to host it. Then write down $67. It will pay for itself. Figure out what you can realistically invest up front. It doesn’t have to be much, but I want you to tell yourself what you think your future is worth. Do it now.
- Jot down a quick list of highlights from your experience, educational credentials, etc. They don’t all have to be with one particular target in mind. If you have a degree in engineering, write it down. If you’re a parent a twins and that gives you special insight into some parenting issues, write that down. If you’ve been an avid stamp collector for a couple of decades, write that down too. When you’ve listed everything you can think of that you’re honestly knowledgeable about, choose something to focus on for your freelance writing. This will be your specialty. When choosing a specialty, I strongly suggest you do at least some preliminary research to see if there’s any demand within your desired target market. Get creative and move beyond the obvious. You’d be surprised what there’s a demand for out there. For example, you might want to target executives and larger corporate clients for business writing work, but you realize the specialty area that would be best for you is cooking. Don’t assume that means you have to write recipes and reviews for food sites. Instead think about all of the kitchen gadget manufacturers out there that hire copywriters, technical writers, and other business writers to write everything from their package copy to their instruction booklets. What’s your specialty? Write it down. Tomorrow we’ll talk about researching the market more in depth, and that might mean ripping your idea to shreds and coming back to this list for another specialty area. But you have to start somewhere.
- Now I want you to pull up your favorite search engine. If you were trying to be found by prospective clients through search engine placements, what keyword phrases would they likely be typing in to find someone like you? Search for it and see who the top 3-5 writers are. Those are the people clients are able to find. Where are you? Well, you’ll get there. But for now visit the sites of those competitors. Look at their portfolios for a better idea of the type of work done by specialists in this area. Look at their client lists to see what types of companies are hiring writers like you. Look at their credentials if they’re included on the site. And then search again for each of those writer’s names and see what kind of marketing tactics they’re using in their own platform. Have they published any books? Does it look like they’re being interviewed anywhere? Do they blog? Are they active in other types of social media? Write down anything you notice.
- Now I want you to write down 1-3 strengths you have over your competition that you just researched. For example, they may have been writing longer than you (let’s say as a finance writer), but you have 20 years’ experience as an investment analyst for a major firm under your belt. That’s an obvious edge you’ve got there. You might not feel like you have a strength, but you have at least one. Figure it out. If you can’t find a plus side to hiring you over the competition, then you have no right to expect anyone else to.
- And now you should do the opposite. Write down your weaknesses in relation to your competition. In this case, if you can only come up with one weakness, you have a serious ego problem. Get over yourself. I want a minimum of three — your three biggest, but ones that you can find a way to overcome. Jot them down.
- Now that you know your strong suits, your weaknesses, who your competition is, and who you want to target with one specialty, tell me why those potential clients should hire you. What value can you offer them – why are you right for their projects over someone else? And by value, don’t you dare say low prices! If you think a USP (unique selling position) for services should ever revolve around low pricing, then take a step back. You’re nowhere near ready to manage a serious career as a freelance service provider. Instead focus on those credentials and strengths, and figure out how they best set you apart in the specialty area. For example, I have a degree in public relations. Obviously that’s a worthwhile credential to have if I want to be a public relations writer. But it’s nothing special. A lot of people have them in the industry. However, I also was trained in auto mechanics, won a state award in automotive marketing as a student and fared well in national placements, and studied mechanical engineering for a few years. When I combine those, I have an obvious USP that would set me apart when it comes to technical PR writing or automotive PR writing as opposed to competitors who solely have the background in PR. What’s your USP? And yes, you definitely have one.
- Now you know who you’re targeting, about what, and what USP / marketing message you have going in your favor to get them to hire you. Turn that information into concrete goals. Make them specific and measurable. For example, “I want to be a full-time writer” is not a goal. “I want to earn an annual salary of at least $35,000 in my first year” is a goal. There’s a concrete income goal, and it’s measurable (you want it to happen over the course of a year). Come up with no more than a handful for your freelance writing career, and what you want your platform to help you do. Write them down.
- For each goal you’ve listed, I want you to now come up with one or more strategies to do that. The strategies will be the general plan for reaching those goals. For example, given the goal of $35,000 in your first year, a strategy might be to grow your referral network. Strategies don’t have to get more specific than that. Alright. Give it a go!
- Now you can get more specific. For every strategy, I want you to make a list of every single possible tactic you could use when pursuing that strategy (whether or not it’s something you really want to do). Don’t take the lazy way out and just list the same old crap everyone does (join social networks, join a professional organization, comment on blogs, etc.). List everything (for example, posting just to link to other blogs so they’ll see your site in their trackbacks and maybe come check it out and get to know you, or perhaps taking an adult education course where you think you might meet executives in the industry who are working to further their education).
Okay. You’ve done enough today. Come back tomorrow to have some of your ideas ripped to shreds, and others refined until you have a real working platform-building plan to get you the kind of freelance writing jobs you really want.