A report from Inc.com states that around $3.1 billion is being spent by blue chip businesses for remedial writing training, $2.9 billion of which is spent on current employees and not new hires.
This indicates that quality writing and impeccable written content production remains to be highly in demand these days. By recognizing the importance of this type of content, more and more businesses seek the services of a good freelance writer. However, in spite of the demand, the great number of freelance writers and firms offering content services on the internet seemed to find it hard to land clients.
Strategizing Your Writing Business
What separates decently paid and frequently hired freelance writers from the rest of the pool is how they position themselves in the market. It is not entirely about reaching out to get noticed, it is also about creating a good portfolio, being found by your clients, and establishing a credible online persona.
I have two full-time writers on my team, a part-time editor and several freelance writers on retainers. We receive 20+ pitches a month for guest posts and freelance gigs and the vast majority of those aren’t well-suited for our audience.
This is why I’ve compiled a list of business strategies for freelance writers and content firms for my network which could help you generate higher revenue by working with some decent clients.
1. Build an Outstanding Blog
At first, you may have to start with some freelance networks or your inner circle until you get some traction. In the meantime, make sure that you have a professional blog that outlines your skills in the best possible manners.
Publish great content on your blog that’s tailored to your audience. Define your niche and write exclusively on one or a few topics, generating content revolving around those areas.
Add a professionally-looking photo of yourself. Bonus points for stage photos from conference talks and the like.
Feature your guest posts in reputable sources once you land ones.
Add a prominent “About” page and a “Contact” page including at least three contact points.
The more your blog grows, the better you will rank organically and the more trustworthy you will appear to prospects.
2. Leverage Social Networks
Create a Feedly account or use a relevant RSS reader including reputable industry sources creating great content. Queue the best stories in each account. Figure out the best posting hours by reading studies and through trials in your own account.
Interact with your followers and people you want to connect with. With time, your network will keep growing and you can cross-promote content across different sources (and promote your blog entries as well).
Here’s what my friend Aaron Orendorff has accomplished and how he structured his Twitter profile accordingly:
3. Develop Your Personal Brand
Make sure you build a personal brand that is consistent across the web. Define your main areas of expertise and your ideal customer persona.
Write your bio in a way that relates to your prospects. Feature your best work and include “call-to-action” points for people interested in your work.
Use the same profile photo across different networks. People would recognize your face whenever they see it.
Engage in partnerships, offline events, community projects or volunteering work in order to build your credibility and receive some testimonials and endorsements for your work.
Work on videos, webinars, podcasts, collaborative content and other forms of stories which would help you become “top of mind” for your audience. For instance, here is the business card of Neil Patel:
He has built several successful companies and blogs, generated millions of monthly views worth of read content, contributes to various sources, creates YouTube videos, collaborates with Eric Siu on “Marketing School” (a wonderful podcast) and crafts magnificent content for marketers.
4. Focus on Lead Generation
Your content should be engaging. If you are capable of crafting the right type of content to your audience, take it to the next step and create an incentive for them to subscribe to your newsletter or read more of your work.
Create ebooks, cheatsheets, email courses or other forms of content add-ons that your audience would be willing to read. Make them stand out and feature them on your own website – as sidebar widgets, exit pop-ups, and inline boxes at the end of your posts.
You can convert some of your long-form posts into shorter pieces that people would use – worksheets or other light handbooks worth downloading.
5. Create Several Incredible Pieces
Some writers focus on volume while other stress on quality work.
Great quality is generally important for obvious reasons – you want your prospects to see that your content is steady. But even if you put less time into some of your posts, that’s not necessarily bad if you have several killer articles that really make a difference.
Spend the time to distribute your top content and promote it on a regular basis. Connect with influencers and other peers in your network for help. Include stats, quotes, industry news, techniques, strategies, workflows, infographics – anything that could serve as a mini-course for people interested in that field.
Submit it to Stumble Upon or sites like Inbound.org for your industry. Respond to comments and create engagement as best as you can.
A lot of customers care about viral content or impeccable quality. Those articles could be your go-to portfolio when connecting with new customers. This would also attract the higher-tier of clients that you are probably interested in.
6. Regular Guest Posting
Top writers are often contributing to established magazines or blogs. It’s not uncommon to find columnists for Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur, HuffPost in your network. Even low profile magazines may do the work once you start.
But guest posting will help you in various ways:
- You will reach a different audience outside of your own network.
- You can educate and inspire people with a different background.
- Some of those peers may follow you and start interacting with you.
- Backlinks from your bio or post will help you rank higher organically.
- Some magazines will promote you via their social media accounts.
In terms of credibility, clients will often be interested in your content process and relations with other bloggers and journalists. Great writers spend a lot of time within the community – after all, that’s what they do for a living.
If you think that only beginner writers engage in guest posting, think twice. I recently got approached by Timothy Dearlove of HubSpot whom I’ve been following on Quora for a while. He connected with me on LinkedIn and suggested to write a piece for us.
7. Connect With Prospects Before Pitching
Once you grow your network and create enough content for starters, outline some prospects and connect with them.
Follow them on social media and subscribe for their blogs. Keep in touch with them and be helpful – share their content, comment on their activities, offer them support with editing or some industry stats that would support a claim or cause of theirs.
For instance, we’ve been looking for a couple of new freelancers for specific types of articles and I thought of someone I’ve been following online for a while. I thought I may connect after the holidays, until she responded to a tweet of mine today and reminded me of my plan:
Recurring interactions will warm up cold prospects who will actually take the time to read your email once you approach them for business opportunities.
8. Plan and Execute Ongoing Outreach
Outreach is not a one-off, either. Freelancers often work on various one-time projects which requires a specific effort toward the sales funnel.
Build email or social lists of your prospects – ideally the ones you’ve already interacted with. Running a successful email lists through your freebies is often helpful as you can email blast them and offer a new solution from your own packages.
In the meantime, make sure you reach out to new prospects on a regular basis and track your success rates. This will help you improve your outreach emails and the follow-up workflow until you reach a good conversion rate.
9. Create Content Packages
Let’s face it. Everyone loves pricing pages that don’t end up with “Contact us for a quote”.
Being able to price your work publicly is best. That’s not always possible – but it’s still a great way to attract a wider audience with a fixed budget.
Regardless, you still need some sort of pricing for your own services. And content packages are a pretty great alternative.
Content packages will define a monthly volume of work for specific clients. For example, you can bundle 4 monthly posts and one email newsletter campaign at a given fee. Or 2 posts along with one ebook used for lead generation.
Packages may vary but larger organizations looking for long-term contracts would be happy to browse your portfolio and see what they will get at what cost when working for you.
This is what hooked me in with one of my freelancers – they pitched me a PDF with several packages and I picked one of them. That was over a year ago and we’re still working together – even if the work volumes vary as we order additional services. Here is an extract of the packages PDF she sent over in her initial outreach email:
10. Learn From the Best
Follow roundup posts aggregating the “Top Freelancers of 2017”, “The Most Prominent Marketers”, “Best Content Rockstars” and the like.
Connect with the writers and allocate some time weekly on catching up with their content. They have been featured for a reason – the type of content they produce stands out. It’s viral, it’s engaging, it’s inspirational and educational at the same time.
Same goes for your particular industry if you work in a given niche. There is always a network of reputable writers who get plenty of ongoing work and write for some of your ideal customers. The more you delve into their workflow, the more you will learn about structuring the right type of content for your audience.
11. Always Keep Improving
In addition to that, writing is a never-ending adventure. The rules of the English language are somewhat standardized – but that’s not the case for writing blog posts, sales pages, or LinkedIn posts.
Online mediums evolve with time. People want to read less or more on a given topic. Videos are on the rise. Different social networks become more popular than others. Some influencers adopt different writing styles that convert better for their niche.
Never stop learning and experimenting with different writing styles at all times. Measure your results and see what works and what – not. Something that works now may be obsolete in 6 months from now – and monitoring the trends will be a competitive advantage for you.
Like other businesses, writing firms need to grapple with different business challenges like the ones I outlined in the article The 31 Biggest Business Challenges Growing Companies Face. Having proven effective and fitting business strategies for freelance writers and content firms can help you overcome these hurdles, land new clients, and even grow your business.
Which of the above strategies are you already doing? Are they working for you?