Freelance Writers: 4 Tips for Better Understanding Your Target Market

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on August 3, 2010 in Marketing
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If there's one thing that can help you earn more through your freelance writing business, it's understanding your target market. You can't jump into business blindly and expect to succeed -- or at least not excel. Are there cases of dumb luck? Sure. But don't expect to be one of them. Instead you need to focus on two things: what you're selling, and who you're selling it to.

Those two things will guide a lot of your decisions as a freelance writer. For example, they'll determine your pricing strategy, overall marketing plan and the level of competition you'll face. But how do you get to know your target market well enough to make these kinds of decisions effectively?

Here are five tips you can use to better understand your target market for your freelance writing services:

Observe.

If you work with local clients and you have the ability to network with prospects face to face, pay attention them, what they do, and what they say. For example, do they seem to talk a lot about budget problems? Knowing a prospect is having financial trouble could help you decide not to waste time pitching them on a high-budget project. Or maybe it would entice you to do the opposite if that project could directly lead to higher sales conversions for the company (like writing a new sales page or sales copy for their website).

Ask.

If you really want to know what your target market is looking for, what problems they have, and what you can offer to help then go ahead and ask them. Conduct a survey. Ask them one-on-one. Ask questions at conferences, seminars, or other events. Just ask. You can't give someone what they want if you don't know what that is.

Spy.

Do you want to know what kind of marketing already works to attract members of your target market? Spy on the competition. How are they reaching out to clients? How are they building visibility? What kinds of services are they offering (and what are they not offering)? What kinds of clients do they work for (look at their portfolio or client list on their website when available)? There's nothing wrong with doing this. It's a pretty basic form of market research, and one we can easily forget about (especially if you're the type to forget that colleagues are also competition; it's okay to think of them as both -- they often are). Just don't waste your time "spying" on competitors who aren't already doing as well as you. A newbie or someone who's awful at marketing themselves won't teach you as much as looking what more successful folks are doing. And no matter who you are, someone is more successful than you and worth paying attention to.

Engage.


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Interacting with your target market doesn't stop at asking questions. Engage with your prospects in other ways too. Read their blogs and comment on them. Give them a call. Set up an appointment to go talk to them. Interact with them via other social media tools. Listen to what they're saying. Make yourself known to them. You never know when a simple conversation with lead to a long-lasting mutually beneficial working relationship.

    If you jump into offering freelance writing services without knowing and understanding your target market, you're setting yourself up for failure (or at least a more difficult road ahead). Why not give yourself an edge? To the market research up front and you won't waste time targeting the wrong clients, or potentially turning off the right ones.

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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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    9 Comments

    1. Cathy Miller August 4, 2010 Reply

      I like the Spying one-but that could just be my alter ego talking. :-)

      Great, concise tips, Jenn!

      • Jennifer Mattern August 4, 2010 Reply

        It’s fun. I know competitors do it to me. I’ve even had some try to hide that fact. lol I don’t mind doing the same to them occasionally. And I don’t bother trying to hide it. Of course the point isn’t to steal their ideas, words, etc. It’s to get a more balanced look at what’s working within your specialty area (so it’s important to “spy” on several competitors to get that balanced picture rather than just one).

      • Mcx Tips trial November 9, 2010 Reply

        A useful post. I’ve had issues with trying to reach my target market as a health coach and eventually just got on with optimizing my blog content for organic traffic. However, it seems an uphill struggle to sell a service and perhaps selling products is easier!

    2. Paul August 5, 2010 Reply

      Since you have expanded lately it is hard to recognize who is actually posting when I take a peak on my rss feed. It seems that you have sacrificed quality for quantity as I now rarely look at your(the site) posts. Might be a better move for you but my reading of afw is evaporating. Loved it when I knew you were posting. Ciao. Seems to be a lot of fluff- “somebody write a post!”

      • Jennifer Mattern August 5, 2010 Reply

        Sorry you feel writing from others here is “fluff,” but unless they choose to go they’re staying. The reason we brought in a team (which most readers seem to appreciate) is because I can admit that I don’t know everything. I’m not a financial expert, but finances are important. So I brought in a financial writer. I’m not a parent, and there are a lot of topics regarding work-at-home parents that are appropriate to my audience here. We have a humor writer to balance out some of the snarkier posts of my own (and Yolander’s — who will be sticking around regardless because she’s my partner on the Freelance Theater project, now rolled into AFW). We have Catherine because I’m not a print writer so I can’t fairly cover those topics like she can, and again it’s something of interest to our readers here. And with an 80% increase in traffic in less than a year since bringing on the team, I can’t really argue with the numbers. I do understand that I can’t make every person happy all the time, and that’s just a part of being in this business.

        That said…. I think it’s awfully silly that the Feedburner feeds make it such a mystery by not including author names. So what I can do in the meantime is take a look at the settings there or reach out to them and see if there’s anything that can be done to fix that issue. I can’t promise that there’s a solution through them, but… there is one other option.

        If you only want to subscribe to posts from one particular author here, there’s generally a way to do that — just visit the author page (the links here are in the sidebar for those) and add /feed to the end of the URL. Then you only have to get posts from the authors you want. However, it appears the plugin we use to convert to feedburner feeds for the main feed URL is redirecting those to that main one. So thanks for bringing up the issue in general, or I might never have noticed that!

        When I clear up my client work for the day, I’ll disable that plugin and manually change the main feed links to Feedburner ones so we can enable author feed links again, I’ll add those author feed links to each of our current authors’ profile pages and bio boxes below their posts, and I’ll see if I can get the main Feedburner feed to start calling author names so there aren’t any surprises for those who subscribe to the full feed.

        Fair enough compromise? :)

      • Jennifer Mattern August 5, 2010 Reply

        Paul,

        Another reader pointed out that Google Reader does indeed show the author name on each post even though Feedburner doesn’t directly. Out of curiosity, how were you subscribed to the feed? Just curious about what service is delivering the feed in your case so I can tell if that’s really an overall feedburner issue or something I’d need to address with another service too.

      • Jennifer Mattern August 5, 2010 Reply

        Author-specific feeds are now re-enabled. They can be accessed by visiting an author link in the sidebar and adding the word feed to the end of the URL. Here’s an example to my own feed. I’ll add these links to author profile pages as well.

        http://allfreelancewriting.com/author/jenn/feed/

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