Lori Widmer is one of my absolute favorite freelance writing bloggers. She has a successful freelance career and she shares her experience and advice at her Words on the Page blog and at her membership site AboutWritingSquared.
Lori just released Marketing 365: Daily Strategies for Entrepreneurs and Small Business, which I read ravenously as soon as it arrived. It’s chock full of excellent marketing advice for all types of freelancers and small-business owners — and it’s especially relevant for freelance writers who need to improve their marketing skills. (And doesn’t that include all of us?)
Lori generously allowed me to reproduce 6 of her tips in this post, AND she answered my questions about her career and the book itself. We’ll start with the tips, and then get to the interview. Read on!
Marketing 365: Sample Tips for Freelance Writers
17. Offer a package deal.
Sometimes it takes just a little more for a client to buy. If your client is purchasing one product or service from you and is having troubles deciding, give them a reason to say yes. For example, if you’re a writer and your client is close to signing your brochure project agreement, sweeten the deal. Offer say a newsletter and brochure package for one price. Make it a discount – not a buy-one-get-one-free deal, but something like a 20-percent discount on the total package if your client agrees to those two projects completed within say six months.
Another way to sell a package deal – offer discounts on multiple project orders. If your client orders a newsletter, secure ongoing work by working up a discounted price for twelve newsletters. You get the signed agreement and guaranteed work for a year. They get a great product at a discounted rate.
8. Ask for the referral.
You’ve just finished a great project with your client. You’ve done follow up to ensure satisfaction. Now is the time to ask.
“Do you know of anyone else who might need my services?” Tap into your customer’s network to expand your own. By asking for a referral, you’re able to spread the word about your business by asking for an introduction from an already satisfied client. It’s word-of-mouth marketing kicked up a notch.
Even if your client doesn’t have any referrals for you right now, make it easier for them to spread the word. Give them a small stack of printed business cards, brochures, or your V-card and tell them you’d appreciate it if they would pass your information along should the opportunity arise. Arming them with your cards, especially in electronic form, helps them to be your advocate.
With each job you complete, remember to request a referral and supply them with the materials needed to get the word out quickly.
7. Borrow from other businesses.
What companies or service providers stand out to you? What makes you notice them? Research other companies – even those not in your specialty – and see what they’re doing that works for them. What messages are they sending? Can you tell whom they’re targeting by what they’re saying and how they’re conveying it?
How can you apply that same thinking to your marketing? Look at their marketing materials. What language works for you? What about the images? What is that saying to you? Circle or highlight the words or phrases in their messages that capture your attention or compel you to look deeper into the message.
Conversely, look at companies whose messages are falling flat. Why? What doesn’t work for you? Is it because you’re not their customer or they’re not reaching anyone in particular? What can you learn from their mistakes? Again, circle or highlight words that work for you, and this time, put a line through phrases that don’t say anything, confuse, or turn you off.
Customers buy because you’ve touched on an emotion –happiness, success, hipness, inclusion, trust, safety, or fear. When putting together your own marketing message, think like a buyer. What would make you pay attention? What concepts in those successful messages can you introduce into your own messaging?
157. Remove a roadblock.
Time management is the biggest reason people tell me they’re not marketing more. Today, look at the reasons you use for not getting more done. Are they valid, or is it that you’re not managing your time wisely? Do you play one too many games on the computer, or are you answering every email as it comes in? How many interruptions do you allow in your schedule? How many of those can be prevented or eliminated?
Remove that roadblock and fill that time with marketing. Schedule it and make sure you don’t allow anything to interrupt.
156. Keep your political and religious views to yourself.
These are strange times. Political parties are polarized and religion is as volatile a subject as ever. As a business person, you have every right to your opinions. However, you’d be making a large error in assuming all your customers and potential customers share your views. You may also assume incorrectly that those who share your views actually want to hear them. They don’t. They want you to provide a product or a service.
Don’t mix business with either politics or religion. Leave a neutral impression even if your clients are political- or religious-based clients. You’re conducting business – not a debate on the values of government or of one’s church habits.
57. Team with a partner who has what you don’t.
You’re a superb commercial copywriter, but you haven’t a clue how to write for the consumer market. Yet your client is a retail store wanting a sales ad written. What to do?
Partner. Create a partnership with another business owner whose specialty falls just outside your own. By partnering with someone else, you enhance both your businesses because you can both now market your combined skills separately. That opens up new sales channels for you both.
Lori Widmer Interview
What’s your background as a freelance writer?
I started back in 1988, actually. My “big start” was winning The Pittsburgh Press Sunday Magazine Bad Writing Contest. I’d say that start pretty much defines who I am as a person – a bit of a contradiction. However, that gave me enough courage to approach the regional press, then regional magazines, until I’d worked my way up to my first sale at a national magazine. Since then, I’ve worked as senior editor for a national trade magazine, where I developed my specialty – insurance and risk management. I work with corporations, mid-sized businesses, and individuals. I’ve handled everything from ghostwritten book projects and corporate white papers. I’ve been freelancing full-time since 2003.
When I started, I made all the mistakes. I didn’t market until I was finished with my last project. I would scramble to find work and on one occasion had to take a temp position until the work came in. I realized that the smart ones market all the time. That’s when I changed my approach.
Why is marketing fundamental for success as a freelance writer?
They can’t hire you if they don’t know you’re out there. That’s why I tell writers that every day should involve some marketing. Marketing isn’t brain surgery, either. If you connect with potential clients via Twitter, that can be as successful as sending a direct letter of introduction. (I don’t often separate the terms “networking” and “marketing” because to me, networking is every bit a function of marketing.)
If you’re looking for a steady stream of clients and paychecks, you have to be lining things up all the time. It’s work at first, but once you develop your own sense of what works for you and what doesn’t, it becomes much easier.
Also, consistent marketing can help you fast-track your career. There’s a point in every writer’s career where they’re wanting to advance. By putting a more conscious effort into marketing, writers can really grow a business and get to a point where the marketing not only becomes second nature, but becomes less necessary.
What inspired you to write Marketing 365?
I’ve seen writers and other small business owners absolutely daunted by the word “marketing.” There’s this perception that marketing requires committees, expense accounts, and tons of time-consuming work. It doesn’t have to be. In fact, marketing is something you do the moment you introduce yourself to a new person. I wanted to de-mystify the process, to show people how easily they could market without really putting much effort into it. I’m an advocate for daily marketing, and what better way to advocate that than to provide one marketing strategy per day for a year? The goal for me was to get people into the habit of marketing so that it becomes a natural part of the work day.
Who can benefit most from Marketing 365?
Anyone who owns a small business, really. Writers are small business owners, though many of them don’t perceive themselves as such. I started writing the book with writers in mind, but then realized that any small business could use some help. For that reason, I tried to make each strategy adaptable to any number of business situations. As I say in the book’s preface, you won’t use every strategy in the book, but that’s not the point. The point is to get you thinking about marketing on a daily basis.
One of your marketing tips is to write an e-book. What was your process for writing Marketing 365?
I really wanted to build my reputation as someone who understands marketing from what I’d consider to be a sensible level. So I started with the idea – how was I going to present marketing information in a way that readers would actually use? From there, I brainstormed. I filled a page (over time) with one-line strategies and a few bullets underneath. From there, I went back through them to make sure I hadn’t repeated myself. Then I wrote.
It really starts with the idea. If the idea isn’t strong, there’s no point. I felt so strongly about helping people develop marketing mindsets that I knew I had to write the book.
How will the publication of Marketing 365 help your freelance writing career?
I suspect it won’t hurt it. I think the goal for me wasn’t so much huge profit (though I wouldn’t turn it down!) but to create something that really defines my philosophy and my own approach to my career. I’d love to be able to use this book as a springboard to being seen as someone who is knowledgeable about small-business marketing. Do I want to make money from it? Sure. I’m all about us writers being rewarded for our efforts. This one was a lot of effort, but it’s also something I’m really proud of, and something I use myself.
My Take on Marketing 365
This book contains 365 gems of wisdom for freelancers, including freelance writers. Buy the book, peruse it, and use what you need right now. Then come back every week to find something new (or every day for, say, 365 days).
Disclosure: Lori provided me with a free copy of the book. I think it’s great and that’s why I’m happy to feature it and Lori here. I have no affiliate connection with the book and am not compensated in any way.
Please share your thoughts and experiences regarding any of the six tips presented here, or anything else related to marketing or Marketing 365.