By Kristen Hicks
You know you’re a good writer.
You meet deadlines, craft compelling copy with perfect grammar, and always behave professionally.
So why are you still struggling to find work?
When I started out as a freelance writer, I just wanted to write. If I’m good enough at this basic skill that businesses need, shouldn’t that be enough? No.
Writing skill is an important component in a freelance writing career, but it’s not enough for success.
With the help of other writers and a good deal of research, I realized I needed to change how I viewed my freelance writing career. Thinking of myself as a writer-for-hire wasn’t cutting it.
It was time to switch to the big-picture view and focus on building my freelancing into a business.
If you’re also ready to make that shift and take your business to the next level, here are 5 steps to help you down that path.
1. Create a 5-year business plan that outlines your goals.
You need to figure out where you want to go before you can determine the best way to get there. Having clear goals helps you move beyond taking any work you can get via job ads, and into working strategically towards getting more of the jobs you really want.
You know you want to be a writer, but what kinds of writing do you like the most? Is there a type of client or industry you’d prefer to focus on? A writing format you excel in? Plan out the steps you can start taking to meet the right people and build up the reputation you need to win that work.
You probably won’t follow any plan exactly, but having it in place is the first step to working towards those goals.
2. Actively network, online and off.
Check the local Chamber of Commerce, any local business or marketing organizations, and meetup.com and start adding events to your calendar. Any gathering likely to attract your potential clients, and any other valuable professional contacts is worth your time.
If you make yourself visible in the local community, you’ll be the first person a lot of people think of when they hear someone needs a writer. I’ve gotten several referrals from people I’ve just met once or twice at networking events, and developed partnerships with other freelancers I’ve met this way.
Local relationships are valuable, but the Internet’s brought down the boundaries of making professional connections with people throughout the world. Experts and influencers are more accessible than ever, and often willing to interact with followers on social media, in blog comments, and via email.
By nurturing online relationships in your industry, you can grow your reputation and begin to establish yourself as an expert.
3. Identify your specialties.
You’ll have an easier time identifying and targeting your ideal clients if you carve out a writing niche for yourself. Being a generalist works for many writers, but it’s more of an uphill battle to build up authority in a wide range of topics, than to become an expert in one or two.
Competing on expertise means you don’t have to compete on price. If you have proven expertise in a particular industry, you have a clear edge over other writers hoping to land those clients.
4. Invest in resources to grow your business.
This is a hard one for me personally. I’ve always been frugal and every dollar spent means one less dollar saved.
I’ve had to work to think beyond that mentality and recognize that some spending leads to a stronger business with more money coming in. The advice of other writers in the Freelance Writers Den and the lessons I’ve learned in courses I bought have helped me build skills that make me more money.
Be willing to spend money on tools, courses, conferences, or memberships you feel confident will have a positive impact on your business, but don’t go overboard. If you purchase something you never find the time to use, you’re just wasting money.
Stick with purchases that will help you in the plan you created, and commit the time required to benefit from the investment.
5. Trust yourself.
You have to believe you’re a talented professional before anyone else will.
If you’re trying to make a case to a potential client than you’re the best writer for their needs, you won’t be very persuasive unless you believe it yourself.
You’ve chosen this profession because you know you’re good. Make sure that confidence shows itself in your interactions with clients and other professionals.
Have you tried any of these steps? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Kristen Hicks is a freelance copywriter with specialties in content marketing and education. Check out her blog at Austin Copywriter.