Search the Archives

Monday, August 03, 2015

6 Signs Your Freelance Writing Business May Fail

What's on the iPod: Fade Into You by Mazzy Star

Another wildly busy weekend. My son was visiting, so we were happily busy for much of the weekend. Because we're still painting the upstairs, he had to stay at his sister's house, which worked out well.

Since we seem to be a revolving door when it comes to guests (and I do enjoy it), we've been looking at furnishing these rooms we've just painted. A few weeks ago, we stopped by the local blind and shutter place. We shop locally whenever we can, so we thought we'd give this business a try. I looked up the store hours, then we headed off.

Closed. Taped to the door was a note saying hours are by appointment. There was a number to call. We did. The person on the other end of the phone was pleasant and happy to hear from us, so he made an appointment for us. For three days later. And because of my husband's work commitment, we had to postpone.

Anyone see the problem? There we were standing outside the door. We were motivated to buy. We wanted to buy right then. Only the business is set up so that you have to wait.

So why have a store front at all, I wonder?

It may seem a minor inconvenience, but we're under a serious time crunch. We have guests arriving within 12 days. No way will we be able to order custom blinds and have them installed in time. It's not as though we hadn't left enough time. But now we're going to have to put up something on the windows, and this store won't be the store that sells it to us.

It's not a new business model. The bridal shops all do it, though their reasons are to keep the weekends from becoming insane with all the newly engaged throngs rushing in. And I do suspect our blind guy is a small, two- or three-person shop wherein much of the work is installation and off-site.

Still, you should have someone in the store. Our order would have been a few hundred dollars at the least. Now, we're forced to go elsewhere. It's like the custom drapery business in town. I'd love to order from them because they have such great reviews. Alas, they're open from 10 am to 5 pm on weekdays only. If you work all day, as many in our area do, there's no hope of catching them when they're open.

So, freelance writer, how are you inadvertently turning clients away? Each time you fail to understand your clients and what they need from you, well, that's your own foot you're shooting.

Here are some ways you may be sabotaging yourself:

1. Not understanding your client. Beyond knowing what a client wants from the project, you should know who your ideal client is. Company? Individual? Big business? Startup? With whom do you work best? Also, what is their business? Would you be able to describe their company/product/service in one sentence?

2. Making it tough for them to reach you. By all means you should not be tied to your computer or your phone. But do you have a website? Do you let potential clients know you exist? Are you answering calls within 24 hours during your business hours? Do you advertise? Do you answer those emails that come in from that contact form? I know I've waited years for responses from companies that put up those infernal forms and never go back to check the messages. Make sure you have a routine for following up, and apply it consistently.

3. Not focusing on building your business. Ed Gandia had a podcast recently that talked about how freelancers are their own toughest challenge. It's true. There are a lot of freelancers who are aiming their careers, but not really guiding it or setting goals and processes to reach them. Don't just throw darts at a target -- build a path right to it.

4. Not diversifying. Today's clients are just as quickly tomorrow's memories. No client relationship is permanent no matter how much they love you. If you have fewer than four clients who hire you either regularly or on occasion, you're in serious danger of losing your revenue stream. Time to beef up your client base. Don't worry that they'll all call you at once for work. Better too much work than not enough.

5. Casting too wide a net. When you first start out freelancing, you look for any warm body with a checkbook. But it's not long before you realize you're taking work that doesn't pay well or just plain sucks. Instead, figure out what kind of client you want to work with, what kind of work brings you the most satisfaction, and what kind of income you want to earn. Ditch the clients who aren't paying you what you want to make or whose projects make you cringe or drop from boredom. Actively seek clients who will appreciate your skills and compensate you accordingly.

6. Chasing the money. That's exactly the opposite of what you should be doing. Chasing the money means you end up with a handful of one-off projects that aren't necessarily going to lead you to a more meaningful career. Want to build a stronger, more viable business? Build a plan that includes your client prospects, your growth and earnings goals, and your marketing. Find the right clients and the money will come.

Writers, what mistakes did you correct in your career that have helped you grow?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Online Writing Persona You Didn't Know You Had

What's on the iPod: Anna by Will Butler

It's been a good week so far. I've had a conference call with a new client, have worked on a project for a newer client, finished a project for an existing client, and have had time to relax a little. And paint. There's one more bedroom to paint. While I'm not looking forward to it, I'm thrilled it's not another bathroom. The bathroom took me eight hours -- too many corners and high, unreachable spots.

During a recent Facebook break, I was reading the daily informative/vacation-related/diatribe posts that litter the site. I will say I doubt anything anyone has posted on Facebook that's littered with hate and blame has ever changed another person's mind. Yet there you are -- tons of it.

Because I don't connect with clients on Facebook, I figure what these friends say is their business. However, some of the people in my professional network are on FB, and what they're posting is leaving a really bad impression.

I won't point fingers because my opinion is just that -- mine. You may find their posts right on target. Still, in one case, I felt chastised for simply showing up and reading.

It's happening everywhere, not just on Facebook. Business professionals are letting their professional guard down online. It's more than words, too. Some photos I've seen not only do not belong on a professional website, but probably don't belong online at all.

We've lost our ability to filter.

Maybe we need a reminder of just how long the Internet memory can be. Know that rant you posted five years ago on a blog? It's still there, even if the blog isn't. How about that time you bitched about your neighbor openly on a forum? Archived. Did you really post that photo of you holding a gun to your husband's head? Even if it was a toy gun, that might not go over well with your nonviolent clients. And your no-makeup-bad-hair-squinty-eyed look you think is a good casual shot could be making you look a little like a loose cannon who can't get herself together.

So let's examine our online impressions. Here are some areas to consider:

Photos. Unless you truly don't have your clients as friends on Facebook (and you've taken the extra step to hide your page), don't post provocative, suggestive, or unflattering pictures of yourself. That goes for your website, as well. Surely you want to be seen as a pro, not a wanna-be. Think about what your photo says about you to people you don't know.

Politics. I say politics don't belong connected to your professional image. Not long ago, the president of Starbucks sent around an email encouraging customers to vote a certain way in the upcoming presidential election. Even though I was voting that way anyway, his message, in my opinion, wasn't appropriate. Plus he ran the risk of alienating a huge portion of his customer base. To me, politics and career should be separate (unless politics is your specialty).

Religion. That's another biggie to me. If you're a religious/spiritual writer, fine. If not, I really don't think your customers want to be sent Bible quotes or see your so-called "Christian" diatribes on how we must all repent. It's not up to you, despite your church's teachings, to evangelize when you're conducting business. There's a time and place.

Hate messages. While we're on religion, I would like to remind those who consider themselves religious to stop reminding us just how un-religious you are as you litter Facebook and Twitter with hate-filled posts that have nothing to do with reality. That's for anyone who feels the need to lecture the rest of us or point the finger as if to say "A-HA! Told you so!" You're achieving the wrong goal because now, no one is listening.

Client bashing. Not every client is a winner. Even if that client treated you horribly, keep it offline. Vent in a safe place -- your house, your friend's email, your password-protected writers forum. I remember referring a writer to a client only to see her blog post bashing by name the client. Disagreements happen. Scream to the four walls, then move on.

Stretched facts. Yes, you did. You said you worked for that magazine, yet your name isn't anywhere to be found. You sent out a tweet that was filled with your own, made-up statistics based on hearsay. You're a writer. Even if you're not trained in journalism, it's your job to make sure what you put out there, even casually, is as factually accurate as possible. If you can't verify it, don't post it. Otherwise, you might see your credibility hit bottom when someone who does know the facts comes along.

Writers, in what ways are you seeing professionals ruin their professional image?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Relationships and the Writer

What's on the iPod: Sweet Dreams by The Eurythmics

Remember when weekends were relaxing? Since my kid and her husband moved out (just over a week ago), we have been working nonstop to paint bedrooms, a bathroom, clean carpets, and furnish the empty rooms because, you guessed it, another kid is moving in.

Maybe. The stepson and his new family are in between homes (selling one, buying another), and the timing was slightly askew. It wasn't until we were nearly finished on Sunday afternoon that we found out their visit may be delayed, if it happens at all. Not that I mind either way -- guests are great, but so are newly decorated rooms. The work needed to be done no matter what. So I spent a few hours on Saturday and nearly nine hours on Sunday painting. My hands, neck, shoulders, and feet were killing me.

I was talking with my chum Jake Poinier, a.k.a. Dr. Freelance, about a joint project we're working on. He shared a copy of his latest e-book, The Smooth-Sailing Freelancer, which I think every writer should download it for free today.

Jake has a great writing voice. He personalizes content so that you feel part of his world, and you can see right away the relevance of what he's saying. That in itself makes it a good read.

But the real gem is in the content. Here is your complete guide to freelance success. Each chapter details one more step in the freelance process -- from cold calling (and how it transformed his business) to finding business to closing deals to losing bad clients. It's all here. Moreover, Jake shows you (with pie graphs even) why client diversity is essential to the health of your business. Plus there's an entire section devoted to getting referrals via persuasion.

I think what resonated most with me was something Jake said early in the book -- this is a business of personal connections. The way in which you approach your prospects has everything to do with your chances of winning the client's business. And in his usual style, Jake gives a terrific example of how one writer did it and lost him completely.

Think about it this way -- if someone walks up to you on the street and asks you for money, what's your first reaction?

Duck the head and walk faster.

Why? Because we feel pestered, put on the spot, maybe even a little taken advantage of. Someone is asking for us to extend courtesies without us knowing who they are, why they need our money, and why it should be our issue to solve.

The same goes for finding writing clients. Or it should, right?

So where are you going wrong as a writer?

Skipping the dating stage. When you sent a note to that client prospect asking for some work, you went from zero to married. Slow it down a bit. First, introduce yourself. Tell your prospect why you're writing -- you work in their field, you wanted to make contact to see if they would have a need at some point, and you're inviting them to a longer conversation. Keep it brief, friendly, and noncommittal.

Asking too much. I had this happen a few times. In one case, a writer I barely know (I remember connecting with her once about seven years ago) had written to me asking for me to pass along "overflow" work. In no time over those seven years had she ever interacted with me. Worse, her note was a group note. While I sympathized with her need, I didn't feel like she cared enough to ask properly.

Oversharing. Yep, same note. I learned the reasons why this writer had a sudden, urgent need. It was almost uncomfortable reading the sordid details (and there were details). If your prospect is uncomfortable, you're probably never hearing from them again. And you're probably going to be sent right to the Spam folder from now on.

Not personalizing at all. Like the example above, I've received notes with no personalization. Recently, one writer sent a note with no "Dear...." Just launched right into the need without saying anything that sounded like she was talking with me. Instead, she talked at me. Since I suspect the note wasn't personalized because other writers were receiving it too, I figured she didn't need my help. If you don't show your prospect that they matter, you'll have a tough time convincing them you'll personalize their project.

Fixing what may not be broken. I remember one client actually doing this to me -- in a conversation, he stopped me mid-sentence and said "You really need to lose your accent." Why? Because he had, and we had grown up in the same area. He was a public speaker. I am not. So who cares if I have an accent? It comes out when I talk to other people from my hometown. Don't assume because a client may need you that you need to be telling them how to run their business.

Writers, what mistakes have you seen that are turning off clients?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Free Advice Friday: Turning Ideas Into Article Queries

What's on the iPod: Have Love, Will Travel by The Sonics

What a week. Unlike most summers, I've been working to the point where I had to postpone my vacation a few weeks just to get caught up. I did, but more came in. No matter -- I'm out of here either way. I need the mental break.

I was reading some interactions on a forum recently that was interesting. There was a discussion about how to find article ideas, which I've covered already this year. Then the discussion moved into how to turn those ideas into a query.

Great topic for today's Free Advice Friday, don't you think?

The Idea
So let's start with an idea. I opened Bing news and saw this:

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! premieres and gets all the Twitter buzz.

Yes. We're talking about Sharknado. There's an article in it. Trust me.

Brainstorm Topics
Now that we have our news item, let's brainstorm. I see a few ideas in here -- the popularity of cult classics, the factors that make a really bad show really popular, how cult classics are born, ideas for creating a social media frenzy (oh yes, they did), activities for your next Sharknado Party...

Since I'm more of a technical writer, let's go for the social media angle. Remember, at this stage your ideas are concepts -- they can change as you need them to.

Find a Good Home
Now that we have an idea to work with, let's look at the magazines. Where are we sending our ideas? Let's create a list of magazines that would be interested in social media topics. Open your search engine. Type in "Social Media Magazines."

Here's what came up for me:
  • Inc.
  • The Social Media Monthly
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Net Magazine
  • IR Magazine
Ah, but let's not forget other magazines that could have an interest. Here are some:
  • Marketing Today
  • Target Marketing Magazine
  • Forbes
Here's another idea. Type in "social media articles" and see who's printing articles on the subject. Here's what I found:
  • The New York Times
  • Chicago Tribune
  • LA Times
  • Time
  • US News
  • The Guardian
I could go on, but you get the idea. Plenty of places for you to shop your idea around. So let's choose one. Let's go with Inc.

Research the Magazine
Start with this post I wrote a while ago on how to research magazines. Let's look at Inc. We want to know:
  • Who their reader is
  • What topics they cover
  • What the focus of those topics are (what angle do they use most often?)
  • How they answer the 'what does this mean to the reader?' question
  • Where your idea fits within the magazine format
  • How your idea should be presented for the best fit to that magazine
A note right here: forget trying to convince any magazine that doesn't cover a particular topic that your idea is right. They know best what their readers want. It would be arrogant and foolish of any writer to tell them what they need.

Find Your Angle
With these questions in mind, let's look at Inc. Their articles are, for you, little gold mines. These articles show you exactly what the magazine wants to publish. (Just remember a blog post isn't going to compare to the article you're proposing, so make sure to search the main section.) Yes, the blog gives you hints, but blog post material is usually less formal, quick-and-dirty approaches to topics. Nothing wrong with that, but we're looking to write an article.
  1. Who is their reader? - business owners and decision makers at all levels of business success.
  2. What topics do they cover? - innovation, business growth, technology, etc.
  3. What's the focus? - managing and growing business
  4. What does it mean to the reader question - how are trends impacting business, how to leverage knowledge into profitability/growth
The last two questions are where the real work begins. How are we going to take Sharknado's social media success and turn it into a story for this audience?

Match Angle to Need
Here's how. Creating a Viral Sensation: How Sharknado's Creators Surfed the Twitter Wave to Social Media Success. Why this angle? Because after having studied the magazine (not the website, but the magazine issues) we see that they tend toward articles that personalize trends. Here are three articles from the latest issue: 
  • How Dollar Shave Club Rode a Viral Video to Sales Success
  • How Soulcycle's Co-founders Split the Job of Company Leadership
  • How Zulily Maintains a Startup Vibe as a Public Company
You can probably come up with at least four more ideas for this query topic, but let's say for the sake of argument this is the best one.

Now you write your query. Refer to the quick links to the right of this post for my query-writing posts. Don't forget to come up with questions, potential interview sources (in this case, the writers or producers), and the name of the appropriate editor.

Writers, how do you turn your ideas into queries?
What other ideas can you come up with from the Sharknado headline?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Guest Post: 3 Steps to Vetting Writing Experts

One of the best people you can possibly befriend in this freelance world is Paula Hendrickson. Paula is a sharp, intuitive, and skilled writer who is  as fun as she is generous. You've read here about the LOI? Paula introduced me to that method. In fact, her first post here was teaching us all about the letter of introduction.

Plus, Paula has helped me out a few times on the blog -- once when I was out of the country on business and the other when I was laid up in a hospital for nearly two weeks.

Paula's also someone with a finely tuned BS meter. Recently in a conversation, she related some of the things that bothered her about a good number of self-proclaimed experts -- the inflated resumes, the one-sided conversations, the focus on profits rather than service, etc. Somewhere in that email conversation, I asked Paula to put her insights into blog post form. 

Here is that post. Thank you, Paula. Once again, you've taught me something valuable. 

Three Steps to Vetting Experts
by Paula Hendrickson 

Back when I started writing, there were only a few ways to get expert advice on launching a writing career: magazines, how-to books, workshops, and seminars.

The authors and editors of those books were big draws at the workshops and seminars, and often served as expert sources cited in the magazine articles.

That made it fairly easy to determine which experts were worth following.

Today anyone with a blog or a website can pose as an authority on pretty much any topic. Some charlatans are obvious, but with others the sizzle can be so strong it’s hard to tell if they’re selling steak or blowing smoke.

The internet has made it easier than ever for slick marketers to make a quick buck off eager freelancers. Some marketers provide valuable information, others don’t. Before you decide to pay for a webinar, class, or e-book, take a moment to vet the people trying to lure you with their expertise.

A few years ago I encountered someone who was so desperately trying to position herself as an expert that she claimed to have written for a publication I’d contributed to for over a decade. I searched the publication’s online database for her byline, but her name never came up.  Next, I Googled her name and discovered she had far less experience than I had at that time. Yet she was —and still is — charging new writers a hefty price to get small doses of her supposedly vast knowledge.

Before you believe the claims of so-called experts, do a little homework. Here are three simple steps to help you vet the credibility of an expert before clicking “send” on PayPal.

Step 1: Do a quick online search of the expert’s name and/or claims.

Let’s use Lori as an example. She won’t mind.

Search “Lori Widmer” and you’ll find a link to her professional website. It looks good. But it’s her website. Lori could say she’s the Shoe Queen of Ireland, or claim to be a New York Times best-selling author if she wanted to. Click over to her Project Successes page where she lists several clients and publications. Click one or two of the links and see what happens. Where have her articles been published? Who are her clients? Now go to a couple of the publications’ websites and look for her articles. If there’s a byline, is it hers? Check, check, and check.

Lori’s LinkedIn profile also shows up in the search. Is she connected with anyone from the companies or publications mentioned on her website? You bet she is. (If she didn’t have any such connections, it would be a clue that some claims on her website might be false, or at least greatly embellished.)

Our initial search also shows a link to an author’s bio for one of the publications Lori says she writes for.  That would not exist if she weren’t a contributor.

Now switch the search parameter to “by Lori Widmer” to see how many clips come up, and when and where they were published. Impressive, huh?

Lori passed Step One of the litmus test. Can she pass Step Two?

Step 2. Evaluate the expert’s social media accounts.

Yes, anyone can have active social media accounts. But having thousands of followers doesn’t make anyone an expert. Now you’ll glean valuable insights — and spot possible red flags — by checking the expert’s Twitter feed.

·      What’s the ratio of Followers to Following? The numbers don’t need to be equal, but if someone has a couple thousand followers, common sense says he or she should be following a couple thousand in return. When a non-celebrity has 10,000 followers but only follows 500 people, that disparity is a good indicator the person is more interested in boosting his platform and marketing his next book, webinar, or event than in interacting with his followers. 
·      View the Tweets & Replies. How many tweets are self-promotional? How often does she interact with her followers? When was the last time she shared a link to something other than her own site or blog? Does she thank people for retweets? If most of her tweets are self-promotional, she’s probably not worth following.

You can take a similar approach with other social media accounts. On Pinterest, does he re-pin and like lots of things, or just his own products? On LinkedIn, is he active in any groups? If so, how do other members react to his comments, and how does he respond?

By following at least as many people as follow her, engaging respectfully with others on LinkedIn, and keeping self-promotional updates to a minimum, Lori easily passes Step Two as well.

Step 3. Dig into the expert’s blog.

At one time or another, most people who blog about writing have found their posts pop up on random blogs. Sometimes the posts have been outright stolen. Other times another blogger made a couple minor changes before plagiarizing it or using it in a “mash up.” Occasionally perhaps even re-blogged with proper attribution. Unless you’re intimately familiar with both writers’ blogs, you might never know if the content is original or has been pilfered. But blogs hold other clues about the integrity of their owners.

  •  Look for click bait. Every blogger wants to draw more page views, but a blogger who favors misleading or sensationalistic headlines is probably more interested in getting click-throughs than providing useful information.
  • Read the comments. If everyone seems to agree with the author about a controversial subject, chances are dissenting comments have been deleted. The only people who delete non-spam comments are those who are overly concerned with their image. You know the type: know-it-alls who hate being called out when they’re wrong.
  • Sift through a few posts and pay attention to how often the expert says “I,” “me,” or “my” compared to “you” or “your.” It’s a subtle, but often accurate, indicator of whether they’re out to help their readers or just themselves.
What do you know? Lori passed Step Three as well!

I’m sure there are dozens of other ways to investigate the veracity of so-called experts’ claims. When freelance writing experts spend less time writing than marketing their expensive webinars, books, and courses — especially when one is a stepping stone to another — chances are the bulk of their income comes from their expert sales skills, not from selling their actual writing.

How do you differentiate between actual experts and false prophets?

Paula Hendrickson is a full-time freelance writer whose byline has appeared in dozens of publications including Emmy, Variety, American Bungalow, and Creative Screenwriting. She also provides copywriting and editing work for a select group of clients. Instead of trying to sell her services as a mentor, she freely offers her advice to new writers — sometimes whether they want it or not. Follow her on Twitter @P_Hendrickson.

Friday, July 17, 2015

6 Hard Facts About Freelance Writing

What's on the iPod: Dirty Dishes by Deer Tick

What a week. My daughter and her husband are moving out all this weekend, starting yesterday. Amid a good bit of work, and with more work coming in, I had to pause and help clean, unpack, and sort. Today will be more of the same.

I was talking with writing friends recently about freelancing. Some of us have or are freelancing, so we were discussing career insights -- one of my favorite things to do because you learn so much. In one part of the conversation, one of the writers said how with freelancing, there is no time where you can sit back and the clients will come knocking.

Isn't it the truth?

I had to agree with her. I've been doing this full-time freelance writing thing for just over 12 years now, and plenty of part-time freelancing before going full time. I've worked hard to build a niche, nurture connections, build relationships, and work hard to create a solid reputation.

And still I have to market.

That's the hardest fact you'll ever have to come to terms with, too. No matter how big you get, no matter how many clients sing your praises, you're going to have to work just as hard to get the next client. And the next.

Why should it be otherwise? Look at any major corporation. Let's take Apple, for example. Apple is a household name; you'd be challenged to find one person who hasn't heard of Apple, and possibly even one who hasn't used an Apple product (iPod comes to mind). Apple is a global company with a killer market share. Yet they don't wait for you to come to them, do they?

They advertise.

It makes sense, doesn't it? If Apple didn't advertise, you'd quickly forget them. Sure, you may love your iPhone or your iPad, but if they simply sat back and waited for you to come to them, you might eventually be lured by a company that is putting its focus on reaching out to you. In fact, I'd argue that Apple did just that when Microsoft was the 300-pound gorilla in the market.

Apple innovated, sure. And that innovation got your attention. But so did their marketing, which convinced you it was cool to own an i-anything. Windows was the boring old suit who couldn't get a date for the prom.

Apple stayed in front of their customers and gave them a message that made them want to be associated with them.

Writer, why should you be any different?

Here are the hard facts:

Freelance writing careers are hard work. You're never going to get a free ride. Ever. If you want a career in which you don't ever have to market, you'll find there's a W2 attached to that dream. So weigh your options -- do you dream of a freelance lifestyle, complete with its ups and downs, or do you dream of a no-brainer approach to your career?

It gets easier, but it will always be a challenge. If you are consistent in your marketing and networking, then yes. It will get easier. But if you get lazy, even for a minute, it's going to get tough again. You forget to revamp your marketing, reach into new areas, or lose touch with clients and boom. You're sitting idle.

The amount of energy you spend is relative to what you receive. At first, it's an uneven equation. You'll work your ass off, make mistakes, learn some things, and eventually get something in return. But once your feet are under you, you will get out of this career what you put into it. If you're waiting for the phone to ring, you're going to be spending a lot of time playing solitaire (more ways than one).

No one owes you their loyalty. You may think you have those clients eating out of your hand. Yet despite how much they love you, they could disappear tomorrow. Their budgets dried up, they hired someone to write, they forgot about you because you didn't stay in touch, someone more eager/cheaper/compelling came along and stole them....your clients today may very well be your memories tomorrow. Never get lazy enough to assume any client relationship is permanent.

You're never too big or too important or too educated to work hard. Ask Jenn Mattern. Peter Bowerman. Ed Gandia. No successful writing professional would ever assume they can kick back and wait for the clients. While each of these writers may have different methods for attracting business (Jenn writes no queries), they are actively seeking work every day.

You are responsible for your own success. That's right -- you. Not your clients, not your friends and family, not other writers. If you fail because the client isn't happy, that's on you to fix. If you aren't making what you want because no one is calling, that's on you, too. If you spend no time marketing or thinking in new directions (innovating, in other words), yep. On you. Blaming the market, the clients, or the industry you're working in doesn't change the only variable you have control over -- you. Fix your weaknesses and avoid projecting your lack of effort on blameless entities.

Writers, do you agree?
When did you realize the correlation between your success and your efforts?
What can you add to the list?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

7 Ways to Attract Your Ideal Client

What I'm reading: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
What's on the iPod: A View That Almost Kills by We Invented Paris

Since Monday, I've gotten quite a bit done. I have to -- my daughter and her husband move out tomorrow and we'll be busy. Then Monday I'm off to Ontario for some quality time with the fish. So client projects had to be expedited. I have one more thing on the agenda before I sign off on Thursday evening, then I can get busy with personal stuff.

I was reading some really bad article on how to get more clients. Really bad -- pretend you're not busy? I'll never understand why anyone thinks desperation looks good to a client. Plus it puts the relationship in an uneven foundation -- you, the writer, are putting your own needs aside for the client. Where does that stop? My guess is it won't. I say admit you're busy and offer options. I just did that on one project, and it was no big deal. We simply moved the date ahead.

Aside from setting boundaries, like we've talked about recently, there are ways to attract not only more clients, but those clients you want to work with.

Start with a list. You may already know what clients you'd like to work with. If not, do a little research. What types of clients catch your attention? Which projects do you enjoy most? Who might need those types of projects? Who can afford you? Take some time to get to know yourself and those client prospects whose needs and qualities align with your own. Try to find at least seven prospects.

Study. Now it's time to dig deeper. Who are these prospects? What have they been doing the last five years? What changes have they gone through? Are there any red flags that suggest they're struggling financially? Spend time on their websites, blogs, and on search engines looking for information. While you're on their website, locate the name and contact info of their head of marketing or sales development.

Make friends. Once you know as much as you can about your ideal client prospect, send a note. I tend to head to the marketing group as they are usually the ones who know what needs they have. If it's a smaller company, go right for the CEO/owner. Send your LOI and include a little of your background (relevant to their business) and ask questions about what you've uncovered in your research. Ask for a conversation by phone to see if your skills match their needs.

Follow up. Unless they flat-out turn you down, stay in touch. I've had prospects tell me they don't use freelancers. I still stay in touch, but just once a year to see if their needs have changed. Their needs may never change. Still, if they do, I want to remind them I exist.

Send relevant items. If you see something newsworthy -- a study, a legislative decision, etc. -- that you think they'd be interested in, send it along with a brief note "Thought this might be of interest to you." You're not asking for work, but you are showing them you understand their business.

Be seen where they are. I love this one. Be it LinkedIn forums, Twitter, or at conferences, I love connecting faces to names. I've found that regular attendance in which I'm engaging people pays off. Let your ideal client prospects see you participating in the industry.

Carry on a conversation. Again, social media is a great tool for illustrating your commitment to a particular industry or topic area. Not just that, you can use any method to engage your prospect in a conversation -- email, phone, newsletter, etc. One really great way is to write articles for industry blogs or magazines that your client prospects would read. (Hint: They're reading the magazines where their own articles are appearing.)

Writers, how do you determine your ideal client?
What ways have you found to attract their business?
How has your ideal client profile changed over the years?
Words on the Page