After realizing that I wasn’t actually as good at singing, acting and dancing as I had so adamantly believed (cue sigh), I switched my college major from musical theater to English. My extreme naiveté was evident in the fact that I believed I could not make a living as an actress but, instead, would be able to as a general studies English major. Through that winning combination known as hard work and dumb luck, I landed a career that gave me a lifestyle I enjoyed. And when I realized that a full-time desk job wasn’t conducive to raising a family with four combined children, I decided to take my work home with me—permanently.
One thing I’ve learned since that realization? There’s never been a better time to be a writer. Sure, I’m speaking largely from my own firsthand experience, which has shown me that there really are no boundaries for what writers (particularly women and moms) can accomplish in today’s marketplace. I’ve talked before on my own blog about tips for finding writing work from home and ways to keep sane in a home office environment. If you, too, are exploring a writing career, consider the following tips to help you market yourself—and increase your chances at long-term success.
Create a business website. You may not have a specific product to sell, but don’t discount the power of owning your own domain—after all, you’re selling your writing skills and your personal brand, right? After about a year of sending links from all over the web to prospective clients with promises that I was legit and could also send contact info for references, I wised up. I went to an online web design company and began piecing together my own simple website, complete with contact information, services and even referrals all in one spot. I view it as my digital business card and pass the URL out constantly.
Put yourself out there. A website is a must-have reference, but don’t expect to be “found” by companies needing writing work with a domain alone. Even if you have the big budget to pay an SEO consulting firm to bolster your page rank, it’s admittedly tough to land writing work solely through your own website. Instead, add profiles to many contractor-friendly sites. Some of my favorites include Guru, Elance and iFreelance. Most legit contractor sites have a free option for hosting your profile and charge service fees for upgrading accounts or using the site for transactions. If you want to be found by people that need writers, go to the places where those decision makers will be looking. The less work they have to do to find you and information about what you can offer, the better your chances are at securing more clients.
Integrate social media. There’s no denying that social media is powerful—and there’s no reason you shouldn’t capitalize on this asset as part of your larger personal branding strategy. I recently read an article that made an interesting analogy: social media is a businesswoman’s golf course. Social channels are a place in which to tout your skills, capitalize on your connections and rub elbows with other people in your industry. Plus, maintaining an active social media presence is a great way to build your network and better position yourself to hear about future writing opportunities. Just don’t forget that the emphasis should be on conversation and helping others, whether that’s by providing interesting, informative content, answering questions or making introductions. No one wants to be the person in the room who’s only interested in talking about themselves—and you don’t want to be that person online, either.
Forget what you learned in college. Okay, okay—you might want to at least keep your style books handy. In general, however, the rules about contemporary writing are always changing. Don’t pigeonhole yourself by labeling yourself as a specific type of writer, which may lead to writer’s block (and a decreased number of opportunities). Instead, learn a variety of writing formats and work with a range of clients so that you can easily tackle a larger number of projects. Sure, you might find that certain specialties emerge as you continue your career. But don’t discount the power of diversification, too, which will help you carve out a niche as a continued asset in today’s rapidly evolving marketplace.
Another tip? Too much preparation isn’t always the best course of action. A good friend of mine wanted to get her feet wet as a freelance writer and kept sending me links for online courses and seminars that she felt she should attend before getting started. I visited a few of the sites she sent over and gave her my honest opinion: forget all that stuff. Listen to what clients want, research the type of writing in which you are inexperienced, and learn as you go. The rules are always changing, especially when it comes to writing for the web, so gear up for a wild and boundless ride.
Katie Parsons is a part-time writer for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes in business news affecting major markets, as well as small business marketing. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and the more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.
Image by peteoshea via Creative Commons