How to Break Into New (and Higher Paying) Freelance Writing Markets

on August 20, 2010 in Freelance Writing, Marketing & PR

Yesterday I asked on Twitter what All Freelance Writing's readers wanted to learn about here. Courtney Ramirez responded saying that she wanted to learn more about breaking into newer and better freelance writing markets. It's something I talk about a lot on this blog -- setting higher freelance writing rates and how that often involves re-targeting your market. Now let's talk about how to make that happen.

Why Target New Writing Markets?

Your target market as a freelance writer isn't a marketplace. It's the group of potential clients you're going to target with your marketing, networking, and PR efforts -- the people you want to attract, who have a need for your services (and who can afford to pay your rates). There are several reasons you might decide to completely change your target market. Here are a few of them:

  • You want to earn more money. -- If you started out charging very low rates because you assumed you could just raise them later when people would realize how great you were, you might have been in for an unpleasant surprise. Yes, you can get members of a target market to increase rates modestly (even doubling or tripling very low rates is "modest" in an overall financial sense), but you would be a very unlikely exception to the rule if you could go from let's say $.02 per word to $.20 per word or more without changing your target market. If you want high paying freelance writing jobs, breaking into a new market might be a necessity rather than an option.
  • You want to offer new types of freelance writing services. -- If you decide that you either want to add new services or change the services you currently offer, you might find that your current market has no demand for what you want to provide. You would have to choose between staying with your current market and offering services they need, or offering the services you want to, and finding a market that has a need yet to be filled.
  • You want to change your niche or industry focus. -- Many writers have more than one potential specialty area. But targeting multiple markets can be incredibly time-consuming. If you're doing it well, chances are that you'll target them separately (twice the marketing effort) unless they're very similar. If you wanted to go from writing about dog training to writing about travel destinations in the Northwest United States, the same people aren't going to want to buy your content. You need to change your target market, and how you approach marketing your freelance writing services to them.
  • You want to work with a different type of client. -- Another reason to change your target market is an interest in a new type of client. For example, perhaps you're fed up with the corporate world and you decide that you would prefer to write for small business owners instead. You would appeal to those markets in very different ways, and you would again have to change your target market and the approach of your marketing plan.

I'm sure there are other reasons a freelance writer might opt to change target markets. But no matter what your reason is, the process of doing so is generally the same. Here are some tips for breaking into a completely new market as a freelance writer.

Tips for Breaking Into New Markets

If you want to break into a new freelance writing market, you have to think about it from the perspective of a newbie. The reputation you built within your previous market doesn't exist within your new one. You start fresh. At the beginning. It might sound scary, but remember that you've done this before. You have experience now that you didn't have the first time around. And you can do an even better job of breaking into this market. Here are some tips to help you do just that.

  • Narrow your focus. -- Many people jump into the freelance writing industry with no real marketing plan in place. Even if you were one of those people, don't make that mistake again now. Start by brainstorming. Write down all of the things you want in your target market -- the size of the companies, average spend / budget per project or per hour, the kinds of customers or audiences those prospects are targeting with their own businesses, etc. For example, you might be a sales copywriter who wants to write for mid-sized corporate clients targeting new moms with baby product sales, and you're looking for clients who could afford to pay your target rate of $75 per hour for copywriting work. That gives you a starting point. Until you're able to narrow down a focus you can't do anything else.
  • Conduct market research. -- You now know what types of clients you want to target with your freelance writing services. But does the market exist? Is there a need for your services. Or is the market already saturated? Market research doesn't have to be complicated. Visit a few sites of potential clients within your planned target market. Does the copy need work across the board, as though non-copywriters are throwing something up on the site? Or is it already polished to a point where it looks like they have no need for you? You might already have specific pitches in mind at this point. Also do some searches related to your target. Try to identify competitors. Are there many? Just a few? What do their client lists and portfolio pieces look like? Can you compete on the same level? What are their rates? Are your planned rates too low or too high compared to theirs to appeal to members of the same target market? (Remember, competing on low rates as a service provider is always a bad idea -- lower prices do not always equal more work, especially not the kind of work you're looking for by changing markets in the first place).
  • Write up a marketing plan. -- Once you have some basic research down, start evaluating the situation more, and laying out a marketing plan that will help you compete. It's going to serve as your roadmap moving forward. If you want a simple option, you can use our free one page marketing plan template (we also have a one page business plan template for freelance writers). Or you can put together a more thorough plan. Here are a few resources that can help you do that: Marketing Plan Outlines, Sample Marketing Plans, Generate a Business Plan and Marketing Plan Online. Remember that a marketing plan should cover your goals for marketing your freelance writing business, but also the larger strategies and individual tactics you plan to use to achieve those goals.
  • Start building your writer platform. -- If you want to compete in a new freelance writing market, you have to make yourself visible. Building your platform will help you do that. Your platform is essentially what you do to build an audience -- people with an interest in what you do and say. Creating a professional website and blog are both elements of many writer platforms. For other ideas you can refer to 30 Ways to Build Your Writer Platform. Your platform is what will eventually have clients coming to you.
  • Get pitching. -- While your writer platform attracts clients to you, you still need to get those first few clients while you build your visibility. And even though I'm a proponent of query-free freelancing, I'm not against pitching clients directly in the early phases. Remember how you looked up some prospects' sites earlier? If any of them looked like they could use your copywriting help, go ahead and pitch them some ideas. Just be tactful. "Hey, your website copy sucks. I think you should hire me if you want to increase sales," probably isn't going to land you much work.

Those are some steps to get you started when you decide it's time to break into a new freelance writing market. Just remember not to fall into any traps you might have fallen into when targeting your previous market (like undercharging for the value of your work), or you might find yourself going through this semi-startup phase yet again before you know it.

Thanks for sharing!
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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. Through her company, 3 Beat Media, she operates All Indie Writers,,, and numerous other blogs.

Jenn has over 15 years experience writing for others, over 11 years experience in blogging, and 9 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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  1. Carol Tice August 20, 2010 Reply

    I think the key one there is: Write up a marketing plan! Many writers have the sense they need to move up, but it needs to be translated into some concrete goals for this month and this year. I make lists of the actual publications and Web sites that are my prime targets. Then I read them! Subscribe to their email digests and immerse myself in what they’re doing so I can develop pitches that are right for them.

    Using that strategy, I’ve developed five new prospects that pay $1 a word or more this year, and have gotten firm assignments from two of them and am in talks with at least one more. Focused marketing really does pay off!

    As does building the platform and having clients find you…a couple of really good clients — including one Fortune 500 company! — reached out to me after finding me on natural search this year, which blew my mind.

    Great piece Jenn! Your blogs are so long and packed with information, I think you should charge double… 🙂

  2. Courtney August 20, 2010 Reply

    Thanks so much for taking my suggestion Jenn! The article was packed full of not only good information but *actionable* information! And Carol’s comment was too.

    Thanks also for restoring my faith in freelance blogs… many are focused on “Demand Media is awesome!” You’re actually looking at the business of writing and how to make it work.

  3. Jim Lochner August 20, 2010 Reply

    Yet another great post. I just put down on my “To Do” list to complete my marketing and business plans. Now I have some great things to think about AND some templates! Win-win!

  4. Wolf Shadow August 20, 2010 Reply

    Once again, a very helpful post. Also, Carol’s comments are also very useful.

    Also a wake up call to me; time to start targeted marketing vs randomly throwing my name and info at companies.

    Thank you.

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