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:
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).
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.
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.
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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